Rangers Take A Spring Holaday To Solve Their Catching Woes

It’s no secret one of the struggles that have plagued Jon Daniels during his tenure as GM is bench building. Texas, at times, has had below average subs but over the last two seasons, Daniels has made strides towards improving what the coaching staff has available off the pine.

That stretch continued Tuesday night, as the Rangers announced they had acquired Detroit catcher and Dallas/TCU native Bryan Holaday in a deal. In exchange, Texas sent catcher Bobby Wilson and right-handed minor league arm Myles Jaye to the Motor City. In the same announcement, Texas designated for assignment lefty reliever Sam Freeman.

What does it all mean?

For Texas: In Holaday, Texas gets the backup catcher for whom they’ve been searching. Robinson Chirinos is established as the starter but it’s been a rotating door behind him. Chris Gimenez seemed to have secured the backup job but an infection in his left ankle has sidelined him. Outside of that, it’s been a parade of league average or slightly below average backstops. Here’s Daniels’ take on Holaday, as told to the Dallas Morning News’s Evan Grant:

“Holaday comes highly recommended by our scouts and everyone he’s played with and for. We think he’s a good fit for our roster and our clubhouse. He’s an athletic catcher with the kind of makeup and work ethic you want.”

At the plate, Holaday is a bit of a major league mystery. His most plate appearances in The Show is 171 and he’s been subpar with the bat in his limited chances. Defense is where his value will shine for Texas, but even then it’s a bit unsure as to what he’ll bring. Consider this from a May 2014 article from Ben Lindbergh that ran for Baseball Prospectus:

“In 1254 framing opportunities over the past three seasons, Holaday has been 4.0 runs below average, which would translate to 19 runs lost over a full season. Of course, Holaday hasn’t had a chance to catch anyone regularly; perhaps the sporadic starts have disrupted his rhythm.”

Granted, that’s 2014. That said, we still have a scant idea of what Holaday’s true potential could be. I’d be surprised if Holaday’s local ties (high school at WT White in Dallas, college at TCU in Fort Worth) didn’t play a role in bringing him to 1000 Ballpark Way. Being under team control until 2020 is also a big plus, as the team can cease playing free agent catcher roulette for the foreseeable future.

As far as the Freeman DFA, the team found a cheaper version of him in Andrew Faulkner who made the Opening Day roster. Freeman was a flyer taken this time last year from the Cardinals and while at times he flashed having it all together, consistency eluded him. Faulker, like Holaday, hasn’t seen much of the big leagues but has a lot more flexibility in how the team can send him up and down. Freeman does not have that and thus he could be on the street in a week and a half.

For Detroit: The Motor City Kitties have a catching logjam with James McCann and former Ranger Jarrod Saltalamacchia grabbing the major league backstop jobs in their camp. Holaday had never wrestled regular playing time from the incumbent starters behind the plate in Detroit, and was stuck as this quasi 4A guy the team didn’t know what to do with.

They get back an older catcher in Bobby Wilson who much better fits the “organizational depth” title than Holaday. At 32, he was the odd man out in the Texas situation. He’s worse than Chris Gimenez, and is likely to be overtaken by Rangers prospect Brett Nicholas. He heads to Detroit where he’s likely first out of Toledo should McCann or Salty go down, but isn’t a threat to unseat either of them.

They also acquire Myles Jaye who…I don’t know much about. Mainly because he technically never pitched an inning for the Rangers. Jaye pitched 4.2 innings for Texas this spring, but his main activity is more transaction based. Jaye came to the Rangers in December after the Rule 5 draft via the Chicago White Sox in exchange for lefty pitcher Will Lamb. Before that, Jaye was shipped to Chicago in 2012 when the White Sox shipped former Rangers reliever Jason Frasor to the Toronto Blue Jays. Jaye has never pitched above Double-A and despite that fact Detroit thinks they’ve found a bullpen arm for their big club.

Final analysis: This ends up being a low risk endeavor for both clubs. Detroit can rest safe in thinking they haven’t given away the next Johnny Bench, and they pick up a spare part catcher to go with what they believe to be an upside arm. Texas gets the clear #2 catcher that has eluded them for years for nothing they’ll lose any sleep over. Long term Texas benefits most upside wise, as a bonafide #2 catcher has more value than what is believed to be a 24-year-old AA lefty who MIGHT become an early inning bullpen contender. There’s little to complain about on either side, but I like this for Texas more than Detroit since they got more in the way of actual baseball value on paper.

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Samuel Hale
When Samuel isn't displeasing you with his opinions about the Texas Rangers, he's trying to corral young broadcasters at UTA Radio. If you buy him pizza and high class chocolate milk, he'll probably be your best friend. Probably. He got to see Texas clinch a World Series berth in person, and sports cried when Pudge Rodriguez went into the Rangers Hall of Fame. He enjoys the Oxford comma and over tweeting.

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