Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eric Fryer's roster spot

Eric Fryer: Do the
Twins really have a
major-league role
in mind for him?
The Twins, as noted in Monday's post, list four catchers on their 40-man roster: Ryan Doumit, Eric Fryer, Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto.

Doumit is an established hitter with a contract. Herrmann is a lefty bat who can play a competent corner outfield. Pinto is raw behind the dish but a promising hitter. And Fryer is ... well, he's probably a good comp for Drew Butera: a good defensive catcher, no real reason to believe he can hit in the majors. (Yeah, Fryer's major league slash line is .302/.400/.395; that's just 50 plate appearances. His Triple A batting average, over three seasons, is .208.)

Fryer is 28, and this is his fourth organization (Milwaukee, Yankees, Pittsburgh, Minnesota). Presumably he's out of options. Organizational depth guys like him lose a lot of value if they can't be organizational depth — if they can't be assigned to the minors. Fryer's on the 40, so to ship him back to Rochester will require passing him through waivers.

Which is why I have spent the offseason so far expecting the Twins to outright Fryer to Rochester. If he opts for free agency instead, so be it. This is probably as good an opportunity for a player of his ilk as he'd find anyway.

Instead, the Twins have kept him on the 40. (For that matter, the Dodgers have hung on to Butera as well, and I know he's out of options.)

Why? Here's a theory.

As matters stand — and the roster certainly is up for change — at least two and quite probably three of those four will be on the Opening Day roster. Doumit has seen a good deal of his Twins action as the designated hitter, and catching is such a specialized job, and so subject to injury, that managers are often loathe to skip having a reserve catcher on the bench.

Let's say that:

  • The Twins decide that Pinto will benefit from time in Triple A to polish his defensive skills; and
  • The Twins don't sign a free agent catcher.

In that case, there's a role for Fryer. Of the four catchers, he's probably the strongest defensively; with Pinto out of the mix, he's the one true right-handed hitter of the remaining trio (which isn't to say he's a better righty hitter than the switch-hitting Doumit). Doumit catches about 50 games a year, and Herrmann and Fryer split the rest.

I suspect that if the Twins do sign someone like A.J. Pierzynski, it will be Fryer who gets lopped from the roster. But if they need to make room for a starting pitcher, it'll be somebody else who loses their spot.

1 comment:

  1. Edward,
    I thought the Twins gave Fryer a split MLB/MiLB contract and thus needed to keep him on the roster until opening day. Is that not how that works?