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Oakland A’s sign catcher Chris Herrmann

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It’s a one-year contract.

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s finally made an offseason addition on Tuesday, signing catcher Chris Herrmann, reports Jerry Crasnick. It’s a one-year deal, notes insider Jane Lee, and the salary is $1 million, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred. The team later confirmed the move.

The A’s will be Herrmann’s fourth team. He came up with the Twins for several years, spent two seasons in Arizona, and then played last summer for the Mariners. In 2017 he set career-highs with 106 games played and 10 homers, both nearly double his next-highest totals, but otherwise he’s mostly been a backup utility player who doesn’t offer much with the bat. His numbers in 898 plate appearances over seven seasons:

Herrmann, career: .205/.282/.351, 68 wRC+, 24 HR, 9.5 % BB, 27.1% Ks

He only managed two dingers last year in 36 games for Seattle, but one of them was a walk-off against Emilio Pagan and the A’s in late September the day after Oakland clinched the Wild Card. Meanwhile, down in Triple-A, he walked in over 20% of his plate appearances, serving as a reminder that drawing free passes at an above-average clip is the one thing he definitely does well at the plate.

While Herrmann isn’t much of a hitter, he’s at least a left-handed batter, which is something the A’s need more of. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Josh Phegley, a right-hander who needs a platoon partner. Oakland has shown interest in bringing back 2018 starter Jonathan Lucroy on a one-year deal, but so far the two sides haven’t been able to agree on salary terms, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

Even after the signing of Herrmann, the A’s will “continue to monitor the catching market,” reports Lee. They are also still negotiating with Lucroy, says Slusser, so he remains on the radar. Slusser refers to Herrmann as a backup, but notes that a Herrmann/Phegley platoon is one possible outcome at the position if nothing better comes up.

Analysis

It’s unclear what exactly Herrmann’s role will be. Is he pairing with Phegley for regular MLB catching duty, or is he more of a utility man? After all, he’s also seen time in the outfield and occasionally at first base, and the A’s usually need as much versatility on their bench as they can muster. Furthermore, his defensive reputation behind the plate is decent at best, with only his arm drawing particularly positive reviews.

Oakland was never looking to spend more than $5 million for their new starting catcher, says Slusser, but even still the 31-year-old Herrmann would seem like an underwhelming choice if that indeed turns out to be his job. He’s got an MLB contract, though, so presumably he’s not just Triple-A depth (i.e. the Beau Taylor role, third-string emergency catcher toiling in Las Vegas). It seems like he’ll be part of the puzzle somewhere or other, and Phegley is out of options so he won’t be going down to Vegas either.

Stay tuned for more details about Herrmann as the story develops. And as always, remember that there will be many more moving parts this winter, and the looming presence of top-top prospect Sean Murphy in Triple-A could make the 2019 catching position a partial-season stopgap situation.

Here’s the updated 40-man roster, featuring 37 players. Those in italics haven’t yet debuted in MLB.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Daniel Mengden (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Tanner Anderson (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Grant Holmes (R)
James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Aaron Brooks (R)
Catchers

Chris Herrmann (L)
Josh Phegley (R)

Infielders

Matt Chapman (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
Nick Martini (L)
Dustin Fowler (L)
Luis Barrera (L)
Skye Bolt (S)