The Guardians’ Current Catching Situation
Austin Hedges became a free agent after the World Series ended. He was signed to a one-year, $4 million contract last offseason, and given his offensive production, cannot expect much of a raise for 2023. Even at a reduced price, the Guardians would be wise to consider moving on if they can find a suitable upgrade.
One possible avenue to upgrade comes internally. Bo Naylor, the Guardians' #5 prospect according to MLB.com debuted at the end of 2022, and ended up making their postseason roster as a third catcher. Naylor has improved dramatically as a defender since being drafted in the first round in 2018, and he seems to clearly be the future for the Guardians behind the plate.
However, after struggling offensively in 2021, the timeline for him to make an impact at the major-league level was pushed back. After reworking his swing entering 2022, he hit .263 with 21 home runs and 68 RBI, even adding 20 stolen bases. He projects as an elite offensive catcher, with excellent defense and an above-average arm. However, catchers are notoriously slow to develop, and counting on him to be the primary catcher in 2022 may be premature. It seems wise to pair Naylor with another catcher who he can split duties with and be used part-time as a DH to keep him fresh and allow his bat to continue to develop.