It’s been over a week since Stephen Vogt was last able to appear in a Cactus League contest while dealing with a balky shoulder, and yesterday the club announced that the 33 year old backstop would begin the season on the disabled list. Vogt signed a one-year, $3.065 mil, non-guaranteed deal to avoid arbitration this past winter and entered camp intent on dueling with Jett Bandy for the backup catcher spot. Even though a shoulder capsule sprain has limited Vogt to 10 plate appearances and has him currently shut down from throwing, GM David Stearns assured Vogt that they want him to be part of the team in 2018.
“We want him here. Stephen brings a lot to this team. Part of it is what he does on the field, which we all see. Part of it also is what he does in our clubhouse, the type of presence he has become here, what he brought to us last year when we acquired him, and what he continues to be this year.”
Stearns described the recovery process as up to four weeks of not throwing to allow the shoulder to rest, followed by plyometric drills to get back in shape, then a likely minor league rehab assignment before returning. “I’m not going to put a firm time frame on it,” the GM stated.
For now, the plan is to enter the regular season with Bandy backing up Manny Pina, who will be the primary catcher for the Brewers to begin the season. That delays the decision regarding whether or not to put Bandy on waivers, although it sounds like Stearns and company may not be resigning themselves to that scenario:
#Brewers GM David Stearns said they will open season with Manny Pina and Jett Bandy as catchers, barring an outside move. I've heard they are monitoring the catching market.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 18, 2018
As of now there aren’t many free agent backstops still available on the open market, with MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent tracker identifying only Carlos Ruiz and Geovany Soto as those left unsigned. There are several veteran catchers who are in various camps on minor league deals that should have out-dates toward the end of Spring Training, however, meaning that more players could come available within the next 10 days or so. Derek Norris, Miguel Montero, and Hector Sanchez are a few examples of backstops who may choose to re-enter free agency if they aren’t added to the active roster of their respective teams before the season begins. Clubs will also have decisions to make on out-of-options players before the season starts, so there’s no doubt that Stearns and company will be eyeing the waiver wire closely for catching depth, too. And of course, there’s also the possibility of a trade - whether it’s for someone notable like Yasmani Grandal (which seems unlikely), or a more minor deal for a backup catcher we’ve probably never heard of.
If they stay in-house, the Brewers do have some decent-enough upper level catching depth behind Pina and Bandy. Christian Bethancourt and Tyler Heineman (who hit .281/.342/.407 in AAA and threw out 43% of runners in 2017) figure to form the catching tandem in Colorado Springs, and prospect Jacob Nottingham is now on the 40 man roster and has made strides defensively the last two seasons.
It doesn’t sound like it should be too lengthy of an absence for Stephen Vogt, so we will have to see if the Brewers truly make an effort to shore up the catching depth or if they are comfortable moving forward with their current group.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference