With about two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training at Salt River Fields, the Arizona Diamondbacks have brought in another catching option into the fold by signing veteran catcher Gerald Laird to a minor league deal on Monday.
Laird, who turned 35 just past November, spent the last two seasons in Atlanta with the Braves. In 53 games last year, the former second round pick hit .204 with no home runs and 10 RBI while backing up Evan Gattis.
Over the course of his 12-year career, Laird has a .244 batting average with 44 home runs and 238 RBI with stints in Texas, Detroit, St. Louis and of course Atlanta. His best seasons came when he was with the Rangers where he started his career.
The D-Backs of course have been looking for a backstop option ever since they traded Miguel Montero to the Chicago Cubs during the winter. General manager Dave Stewart has been looking at options at the trade market, but hasn’t had much luck on that front.
"“I’ve decided that I’m not going to pursue another catcher. I talked with my people and my coaching staff. They believe that (Peter) O’Brien is going to be around sooner than later. If that does happen, there’s no need to go out and get another guy. We would have had to trade somebody we didn’t want to trade to make it happen. We’re going to be patient and allow the progression of O’Brien to take place and stand pat on that.”"
While the club waits on O’Brien to develop, there will be a camp battle between Laird, Tuffy Gosewisch and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez on who will earn the most playing time behind the dish throughout the season. Laird and Gosewisch are probably the favorites given that they have big league experience.
Hernandez is an intriguing option though. He’s only 21 years old and hasn’t hit above Single-A, but Hernandez has tremendous upside as a hitter. If Hernandez doesn’t make the club out of spring training, the D-Backs must offer him back to the Tampa Bay Rays at $25,000.
The catching battle will just be one of many interesting things to watch during the spring for the D-Backs.