With postseason roster decisions looming, what will the Cleveland Indians do behind the plate?
The catcher position has been an achilles heel for the Cleveland Indians throughout the 2016 season, as injuries and inconsistencies have plagued Tribe backstops. But with Cleveland now on the cusp of starting their American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, a decision in regards to the catcher position is looming.
Yan Gomes started the season behind the plate for the Indians, with Roberto Perez serving as the backup. Perez was the first Indians catcher to fall, suffering a broken right thumb in late April on a play at the plate.
That injury that forced the club to pick up Chris Gimenez from the Texas Rangers, with the original intention of the veteran filling in temporarily as Gomes’ backup. Due to Gomes’ struggles at the plate, though, he was forced into more regular duty, and was the last man standing when a shoulder injury put Gomes on the disabled list in July.
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Once again, an injury forced the Tribe’s hand, as Perez was recalled from his minor league rehab assignment about two weeks ahead of schedule. With Perez back and beginning to regain his form and Gimenez a solid backup, and another injury to Gomes during a rehab assignment, it was assumed that two would be Cleveland’s catchers come playoff time.
Gomes threw a wrench in those plans, though, when he came back in the Indians’ final regular season series against the Royals.
And then he threw an even bigger wrench in the plans when he hit the first pitch he saw 416 feet to left field for a home run.
One of the main reasons that the Tribe now faces a roster dilemma is because neither Perez nor Gimenez were able to cement themselves as the everyday catcher. Gimenez was the more “consistent” of the two offensively, as he slashed .216/.272/.331 with four home runs,16 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 55, while Perez had a .183/.285/.294 slash line with three home runs, 17 driven in, and a 51 OPS+.
Not all of the statistical blame can be placed solely on Perez’s ability, of course, as his being rushed back from injury meant that he was attempting to get back up to speed on the fly against major league pitching, which is no small task.
Gomes was having a historically terrible season in 2016 before his shoulder injury, and part of his lack of production may be traced back to the MCL sprain he suffered April 2015. He rushed his way through rehab to get back to the big leagues quicker, en route to .231/.267/.391 season that was a far cry from his Silver Slugger-winning 2014 campaign.
Cleveland now has a decision on its hands. Perez is an elite pitcher framer, and also has some pop in his bat. Gimenez has been the steadiest of the team’s backstops, and has really clicked with game one starter Trevor Bauer. Gomes has been the Indians primary catcher over the past two years, and is one of the best hitting catchers in the game when he’s healthy.
Francona could elect to put all three of them on the 25-man playoff roster, but that doesn’t seem likely, as they’ll need all the bullpen help they can get with the depleted rotation.
The only way this author sees all three players making the postseason roster is if one is viewed as an option to add depth to a position other than catcher. That is likely not feasible, as Gimenez is the only one who has played a position other than catcher for the Tribe this year (he played one game at first base and two at third.) My money is on Perez and Gimenez making the roster, having both have put in the work this year behind the plate. If Francona elects to go with Gomes, he must be 100% certain of his health, because this could be a long postseason ride.