After Yasmani Grandal left in free agency to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, perhaps the biggest need for the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason was the catcher position.
The club was linked to the best catcher in baseball, J.T. Realmuto, in trade discussions, but the Miami Marlins instead dealt him to the Philadelphia Phillies for a haul of players the Dodgers weren’t willing to match.
For the Dodgers, their solution ended up being a familiar face in Russell Martin after they acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. He and Austin Barnes head into Spring Training as the two Major League catchers, with top prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith waiting in the wings.
Both Martin and Barnes are coming off down offensive seasons, so the Dodgers could have a bit of a problem on their hands if neither of them bounce back. Manager Dave Roberts is confident that they will though, although he is not yet ready to commit as one of them as his starter, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
#Dodgers Dave Roberts on Barnes/Martin at catcher: “We’re betting on an uptick from both guys offensively.” Remains to be seen how playing time will break down
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 12, 2019
Martin played in 90 games for the Blue Jays in 2018, hitting .194/.338/.325 with 10 home runs and 25 RBI. Barnes appeared in 100 games for the Dodgers and batted .205/.329/.290 with four home runs and 14 RBI.
While neither was able to produce much at the plate last year, both are very patient hitters that are able to work walks. Both are also very solid defensively, particularly in framing, which the Dodgers place a high value on.
Unless either of the two players has a monster spring, Martin and Barnes likely will begin the season in a timeshare behind the plate to keep them fresh. Both of them can also play the infield for the Dodgers if need be.