In a minor move, the Royals claimed catcher George Kottaras off waivers from the Athletics. As a response, the Royals designated Tony Abreu for assignment. Kottaras will likely compete with previously acquired Brett Hayes for the role of backup catcher to Salvador Perez. IF things go as planned, this will be a light role and shouldn’t cause much hand wringing, but based on this fan base, that’s hard to imagine. In Kottaras, the Royals get a left-handed hitting catcher who is pretty good with the stick and can work a walk. He’ll give you a solid at bat and has a little bit of power with a career .412 slugging percentage. He struggles a bit with contact and because of that he tends to have a bit of a lower batting average, but he provides something you don’t see much with the Royals and that’s that ability to get on base relative to his batting average.
The knock on Kottaras is kind of a big one and it’s that he just isn’t a very good defensive catcher. Well wait, it’s more than that even. He’s well below average defensively, and old baseball axioms dictate that the backup catcher should be a stud defensively. I’m not sure I agree with that entirely, but the Royals organization does, so it would be a minor upset to me if the Royals break camp with Kottaras backing up Perez rather than Brett Hayes.
Still, this provides another position battle in spring training to watch for, which brings the list to fifth starter, seventh reliever and second base. Personally, I lean toward Kottaras as the guy who I’d want to win the job because I’m not keen on putting a hole in the lineup every time Perez needs a day off, and that’s what would happen with Brett Hayes who is as bad offensively as Kottaras is defensively. Ultimately, for 25-30 games, it doesn’t matter all that much, but championship teams make the best roster decisions 1-25 and don’t throw away spots for reasons beyond baseball. That said, the backup catcher decision could be worth maybe a win over the course of the season, if that, and I don’t think that’s going to be the difference between a playoff spot and not.
What I like about this move is it shows a willingness on Dayton Moore’s part to not stand pat even after it looks like everything is set for the coming season. There aren’t a lot of positions on this team that need a competition. Even guys who underperformed last season are in positions to be starters without getting pushed as they should be. A guy like Eric Hosmer is the first baseman and that hasn’t changed because of one rough season. It’s the same for Mike Moustakas. Another year like 2012, and maybe that changes, but until then, it’s their job. The only position not up for grabs that probably should be is the one we’ve all talked about, right field. This is just another opportunity to have a battle for a position, and I like it. And I personally like the player they brought in for that.
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