The Orioles’ current catching situation shows Austin Wynns and Chance Sisco on the 40-man roster and recent addition Carlos Pérez and holdover Martin Cervenka as two of the top catchers on the farm. Andrew Susac was designated for assignment on Friday.
That leaves the team pretty thin at the position right now, with not much big league experience on the roster. Can the Orioles get enough out of that group of four, or do they need to add a veteran catcher?
Caleb Joseph was non-tendered by the club but remains at least on the team’s radar, and colleague Roch Kubatko has reported that Joseph has continued to talk with the Orioles.
One ranking of those four right now could go this way - Wynns, Perez, Cervenka and Sisco.
Here are the remaining catchers available via free agency:
Drew Butera (35)
A.J. Ellis (38)
Nick Hundley (35)
Caleb Joseph (33)
Martín Maldonado (32)
Devin Mesoraco (31)
René Rivera (35)
Stephen Vogt (34)
Matt Wieters (33)
As for those currently in the organization, Wynns made his major league debut last June 5 at the New York Mets and singled in his first at-bat. The club’s 10th-round pick in 2013 got into 42 games with the Orioles and hit .255/.287/.382 with four homers and 11 RBIs. The 28-year-old Wynns threw out 32 percent last season with a catcher ERA of 6.02, for what it’s worth. Wynns certainly brings effort and intensity to the job and was completely invested in his pitcher each inning he was out there. He made winning and defense jobs one and two. He brings big-time energy to the field.
Sisco likely has to head back to Triple-A to begin the coming season to kind of jump-start his career again after a tough 2018. He hit .181 in the majors and .242 at Triple-A Norfolk. He seemed to battle his confidence at times. And even though he got off to a fast start throwing out runners and caught 3-of-3 on April 21, he ended up at 31 percent with a catcher ERA of 5.02.
Joseph, an Oriole since the team drafted him in 2008, is officially a free agent at the moment. Joseph threw out 33 percent last year and had a catcher ERA of 5.00.
The Orioles recently added the 28-year-old Pérez on a minor league deal. Pérez is a strong defensive catcher, and one scout rated him with an above-average 60-grade arm and cited pop times to second base in the 1.95 range. Pérez also gets praise for calling a game, pitch framing and handling a pitching staff.
Pérez has hit .215/.257/.319 in 212 major league games with the Angels, Rangers and Braves. He hit .143 in 28 games last year with Atlanta and Texas. Pérez has hit much better on the farm, producing career numbers of .290/.368/.421.
He’s a career .301/.363/.437 hitter in 280 Triple-A games spread over six seasons. Pérez has thrown out 38 percent of runners attempting to steal in the majors. He’s thrown out 36 percent in the minors.
This past season for Double-A Bowie, Cervenka, who is a native of the Czech Republic, hit .258/.317/.457 with 22 doubles, 15 homers and 60 RBIs. He was an Eastern League All-Star and his bat really took off in July, when he hit .364/.436/.758 with seven homers and 25 RBIs. For that, he was named the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month and also the Eastern League Player of the Month.
Cervenka, who turned 26 in August, has two tools that stand out: arm strength and some power in his bat. His pop time to second base, according to one scout, could get as low as 1.85. Another scout had him more in the 1.95 range and sometimes higher. The Orioles didn’t add him to their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, but no one selected him.
So is this foursome enough? Probably not in terms of having a need for a veteran to catch a young pitching staff. Here is an interesting thought - a reunion with Wieters. We know he will bring solid defense and leadership for the young pitchers. His catching and handling of staffs drew praise in both Baltimore and Washington.
He was limited to 76 games with the 2018 Nationals due to oblique and hamstring injuries. But he could be the vet to help the staff and also work with a group of young catchers backing him up. Wieters probably can’t be counted on or asked to catch 120 or 130 games any more, but he might have enough left to provide defense and leadership for a rebuilding Orioles team, at least in 2019.
What about the O’s catching situation for next season?