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Inbox: What are Dodgers' options at catcher?

@kengurnick
November 15, 2019

Are there any worthy free-agent catchers or backups for Will Smith? Or any studs in the Minors like Mike Piazza ready? -- Spawn4833 If your idea of “worthy” is a Hall of Famer, your bar is a little high for me. I’m guessing Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes don’t fit

Are there any worthy free-agent catchers or backups for Will Smith? Or any studs in the Minors like Mike Piazza ready?
-- Spawn4833

If your idea of “worthy” is a Hall of Famer, your bar is a little high for me. I’m guessing Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes don’t fit your criteria, but they were acquired by the Nationals last winter and both earned World Series rings. As for Piazza, he was a great hitter, but he also never won a World Series. Smith is considered the best catching prospect the Dodgers have developed in years, if not decades. Whether he was ready to be catching in October after only 2 1/2 months in the Major Leagues is probably the more relevant question. Maybe the best free-agent catcher is Travis d'Arnaud, whom the Dodgers had for a week and gave away to the Rays. Robinson Chirinos and Jason Castro are also free agents.

MLB free agents, by position

You mentioned Nov. 4 as the last day to reinstate players off of the 60-day injured list. Was that also the last day to reinstate (or release or outright) players off of the restricted list? I'm thinking of the two Dodgers on that list, Yadier Álvarez and Andrew Toles.
-- Steve W., Auburn, Wash.

There is a two-year limit on how long a player can remain on the restricted list, but even after that, restricted players belong to the club and must be reinstated before returning. They don’t count against the 40-man roster or receive service time credit, but the designation protects the club from losing the player to another club or league if he gets his act in order and wants to play again. It serves as a frozen zone, used mostly for players who voluntarily walk away for whatever reason.

Talk to me about Josiah Gray. Lots of K’s against few walks. Are the Dodgers seeing him as a potential starter or more likely a bullpen guy?
-- Pahee

The athletic Gray was acquired with shortstop Jeter Downs in the blockbuster salary swap with the Reds last winter. Gray has shot up to No. 4 among organizational prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. A converted shortstop, he has been a starter and probably will remain there, considering he moved midseason from Class A to Double-A seamlessly. Minor League pitching coach Connor McGuiness said Gray has a starter’s repertoire and refined his routine this year while learning better how to attack hitters.

Do the Dodgers realize Kenley Jansen no longer is a power pitcher? Not a finesse pitcher either? What is their projection for closer? Do they project Kenta Maeda in a setup role or even part-time closer?
-- Gillyking

Although he again finished the season in the bullpen, Maeda is considered a starter, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last month. As for Jansen, the Dodgers are well aware of his regression. Jansen, too, seems committed to improving his conditioning, as he has been working out at Dodger Stadium. Some feel he might regain life on his pitches if he can slim down his large frame. While it’s always preferable to throw 95 mph rather than 90 mph, Jansen’s problems most often are more about location and movement. With the current roster, the closer job remains his to lose, although it would be a head-scratcher if the front office doesn’t seek reinforcements this winter.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.