November 16, 2012 at 11:59 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
The Braves quickly filled their need for a backup catcher Thursday by agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with Gerald Laird.
After losing David Ross to the Red Sox on Saturday, the Braves found themselves in need of a backup for Brian McCann, but also someone capable of starting for the weeks that McCann will sit following his shoulder surgery.
The Braves figure Laird is the man for the job, and he’s proven capable of being both a solid backup and starting in spurts. He’s a defense-first catcher, displaying a huge arm and working his feet and framing ability well. In the box, he owns a career .244/.303/.359 slash with a .293 wOBA and 72 wRC+.
There is no real split advantage to speak of, recording a career .313 wOBA vs. LHP and .284 vs. RHP, so while his career numbers against lefties are better than his overall career numbers, the results are still minimal.
Josh Worn of Walkoff Woodward, the Tigers blog on the ESPN SweetSpot Network, was gracious enough to provide his input on Laird.
Laird’s value to a MLB team comes solely as a backup player, where he became comfortable and, in turn, remarkably consistent in what seems to be his last year in Detroit.
Obviously to the untrained eye, his stats look far from impressive. He’s never been pegged as an offensive catcher (because he’s not), he doesn’t really have any advantage as a lefty or right split, and he’s about as slow as Benito Santiago with a piano strapped to his back.
(sss alert! batting ninth last year he OPSd .877 in 104 plate appearances! Wink Wink)
But Laird is interesting because he can really hold his weight in the lineup when he does play. So his offense really isn’t that much of a drain for his actual job. Defense.
He frames pitches better than any other catcher I’ve ever seen in Detroit and has a cannon for an arm. I don’t remember a bad throw he made to second base all year. If his pitchers could hold runners (which none of them can), his CS% of 19% last year would be more like the 35% he holds for his career.
That’s what Laird is. He can handle a pitching staff with ease and should fit right into Atlanta and work well with that staff. His teams have made it to the WS over the last two years so maybe he’s got some sort of voodoo vibe going on which can’t be a bad thing.
With Laird’s on-field abilities aside, the terms of the deal have not been announced, and the deal itself is pending a physical. Considering both Laird and Ross are receiving two-year deals, one would think Laird will receive less per year after the Braves allowed Ross to walk. Ross will be making $3.1 million per year in Boston after making $1.625 million each of the past two years in Atlanta. I would put Laird’s annual amount somewhere between the two, perhaps closer to Ross’ previous earnings.
For a backup catcher with great defense, it seems to be a pretty good deal for the Braves.