As the calendar turned to 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have a sizable hole to fill at the catcher position this offseason. The club’s 40-man roster consists of three backstops in Austin Barnes, Rocky Gale and Keibert Ruiz, though none of them stand out as a clearcut starter.
The expectation remains that the Dodgers will pursue shorter-term catching options as a way to help bridge the gap to some of their top prospects including Ruiz and Will Smith. That’s barring a potential trade for Miami Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto, who Los Angeles continues to be tied to.
A reunion with free agent Yasmani Grandal can’t be ruled out either, but such a prospect seems unlikely unless he drastically lowers his asking price.
In the event the Dodgers can’t land an upper-tier catcher this winter, manager Dave Roberts is confident that Barnes will bounce back at the plate next season. “I don’t think there’s any more pressure that we can or I can put on Austin,” he said.
“I think that he’s so competitive and expects a lot of himself. And he had a bad year offensively. And he knows it. And he’s going to be considerably better this year. So him behind the plate, blocking, receiving, relationship with the pitchers, is next level, is elite. So I expect him to come back ready to compete.
“I trust Austin, and he’s a winning player for me.”
Barnes took a step back at the plate this past season after a strong effort in 2017, hitting just .205/.329/.290 with five doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI over 238 plate appearances (100 games).
That represented a steep decline from his production the year prior, to which he compiled a .289/.408/.486 slash line with career-highs in hits (63), home runs (eight), RBI (38) and on-base plus slugging (.895).
On the flip side, Barnes was among the league’s best pitch framers for a third consecutive year. He struggled a bit in regards to throwing out baserunners, however, registering a caught stealing percentage of only 22.