The Oakland A’s activated catcher Josh Phegley from the injured list on Friday, the team announced. To make room, fellow catcher Dustin Garneau was designated for assignment.
We last saw Phegley on July 28, when he exited that day’s game early. He was later diagnosed with a left thumb contusion. After a couple weeks, and three rehab games in the minors, he’s now ready to go. His rehab was briefly interrupted when he was hit in the shoulder by a pitch in Triple-A, but apparently that didn’t develop into any kind of problem.
Other than this IL stint, Phegley has enjoyed one of the better years of his career. A hot first half helped him to personal bests of 10 homers and 47 RBI, and even after cooling off lately his 84 wRC+ is still decent enough for a catcher (MLB catcher average is 87).
Phegley, 2019: .243/.283/.427, 84 wRC+, 10 HR, 3.9% BB, 16.2% Ks
Unfortunately, someone had to go to make room for his return. That turned out to be Garneau, whom the A’s picked up two weeks ago as an emergency replacement after Phegley went down. Garneau only played seven games for Oakland but made the most of his time, with a few clutch hits and some key RBI.
Garneau, OAK: 5-for-17, 1 HR, 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 4 Ks
Over the next week, the 32-year-old Garneau will either be claimed on waivers by another club, released, or accept a non-roster assignment to the minors.
This is the second time in three days that the A’s have DFA’d a catcher. On Wednesday they cut Beau Taylor off the 40-man roster, to make room for the addition of 2B Corban Joseph. Taylor, who had been in the organization since the 2011 draft, was claimed off waivers on Friday by the Blue Jays.
Regarding the current MLB squad, Phegley once again joins lefty-hitting Chris Herrmann as the duo in Oakland. They are now the only catchers remaining on the 40-man roster.
My takeaway from this series of moves (pure speculation) is that either Sean Murphy or Jonah Heim could be coming up from Triple-A in September.
Let’s start from the beginning. Athletics Nation had come to love Taylor, and Garneau was the hot hand, but they weren’t part of any long-term plans. The team seems to prefer Phegs and Herrmann as its favorites for the rest of this year, and Garneau was only here covering for Phegs anyway — let’s remember that Garneau has a carer 61 wRC+, so as fun as his hot streak has been, it wasn’t going to last forever.
Meanwhile, Murphy (one of the team’s blue chip prospects) and Heim (another good prospect) both need to be added to the 40-man roster by November anyway, to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft where they would definitely get taken. Along with Phegley (who still has one more year of arbitration), that makes three catchers for the 40-man, and there was simply a zero percent chance they were going to open the offseason with four catchers on the roster.
That means Taylor was going to get DFA’d at that point anyway, and Garneau would have been too if he’d lasted that far. They weren’t going to stick on the roster through the winter and into next season anyway, and they were no longer imminently necessary for this season, with Phegley and Herrmann healthy, and Murphy and Heim both healthy in Triple-A after their own brief recent injury stints.
All that’s left is the next six weeks, during which a third catcher is usually brought up when rosters expand in September. One of the prospects can serve that deep-backup role just as well as Taylor/Garneau could have, and those prospects need to be rostered soon anyway, and Taylor/Garneau needed to be cut in a few months, so all we’re doing here is just getting on with it all instead of delaying the inevitable. In the meantime, Joseph got a roster spot earlier this week without having to prematurely cut any pitching depth to make room.
That said, there’s always the chance that Cameron Rupp could be that third September catcher, but the veteran hasn’t hit a lick in the hitter-friendliest league anyone has ever heard of. And even if he did get the call, he’d just be cut again in November in favor of Murphy/Heim anyway.
Since Garneau was out of options, he had to be DFA’d instead of just sent down to Las Vegas, but of course that limitation is the same reason the A’s were able to get him in the first place (since his previous team couldn’t option him either). As an extra bonus, Garneau’s vacated 40-man spot can now be used by an upcoming pitcher, like the hopefully imminent activation of Sean Manaea, or the promotion of A.J. Puk or Jesus Luzardo. The spot will eventually need to go to a third catcher next month, but one of those pitching reinforcements seems likely to come first, so in the meantime using Garneau’s old spot can help delay a decision on which pitcher(s) to DFA these next couple weeks.
Welcome back Phegs! Best of luck to Garneau at his next stop, as I’m sure he’ll have no problem finding a new home after his great audition here. Or maybe he’ll clear waivers and stick around in Vegas, in which the A’s won’t have lost anything at all.