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A's sign veteran catcher Herrmann to 1-year deal

Bay Area native Tulowitzki emerges as potential infield addition
MLB.com @JaneMLB

LAS VEGAS -- The A's got a catcher on Tuesday but aren't ruling out adding another.

The signing of veteran backstop Chris Herrmann to a one-year deal marked progress in their push for depth behind the plate, and he could very well partner with Josh Phegley in a platoon when the 2019 season opens, A's general manager David Forst said from the Winter Meetings.

LAS VEGAS -- The A's got a catcher on Tuesday but aren't ruling out adding another.

The signing of veteran backstop Chris Herrmann to a one-year deal marked progress in their push for depth behind the plate, and he could very well partner with Josh Phegley in a platoon when the 2019 season opens, A's general manager David Forst said from the Winter Meetings.

That hasn't stopped them from continuing conversations with Jonathan Lucroy's reps, however, or looking elsewhere for alternative help.

"Obviously as of right now, [Herrmann] and Josh are platooning," Forst said. "I think we'll probably look around and see if there are options, just because you never know, but it's nice to be in a spot right now where we have two Major League catchers who fit well."

Tweet from @Athletics: Heating up the stove.We've agreed to terms with catcher Chris Herrmann on a one-year contract for the 2019 season. Welcome to Oakland, Chris!#RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/7C1uvBTw6p

Forst said Herrmann will be utilized as a catcher but also offers versatility at first base and the corner-outfield spots, in addition to a handy late-game option off the bench.

Along with his speed, Herrmann can draw a walk and has potential to provide some pop, offsetting an otherwise uninspiring offensive resume.

The 31-year-old appeared in just 36 games for Seattle in 2018, hitting .237 with a .743 OPS in 87 plate appearances. He began his career as a reserve catcher for Minnesota in 2012 before latching on with the D-backs in '16. Herrmann hit .284 over 56 games in his first year with Arizona, then made his way into a career-high 106 games and totaled 10 homers in 2017 but hit .181.

Herrmann was most recently non-tendered by the Astros after being claimed from Seattle in the middle of his ongoing American League West winter tour.

"We needed an option from the left side, and in fact when Chris got claimed on waivers by the Astros, we were kind of kicking ourselves for not jumping in front of that one," Forst said. "Then we were pleasantly surprised to see he got non-tendered."

Another newly available player who could be of interest to the A's: Troy Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays released the veteran infielder on Tuesday and are on the hook for the remaining $38 million on his pact, which expires after 2020; the team that signs him will only have to pay him the Major League minimum over that span.

Video: Tulo released by Blue Jays, enters free agency

Forst, abiding by the A's policy of not commenting on specific free agents, was mum when asked specifically about Tulowitzki but noted, "I do like minimum salaries."

That's expected to be $555,000 in 2019 and just above that in '20, making Tulowitzki -- a five-time All-Star with an injury-ridden past -- an attractive, affordable option for several teams. The 34-year-old shortstop would have to accept a move to second base were he to choose Oakland, but it's also home for the Bay Area native.

The A's have other outside options to explore, though the best-case scenario at this position -- enticing Jed Lowrie back -- is looking less likely by the day. Then there's the rotation, which could include an opener yet again.

Video: Forst discusses how Lowrie, Davis are keys to A's

Both Forst and manager Bob Melvin affirmed as much when asked about utilizing the strategy that was so prevalent in September as their starting stuff crumbled in front of them. They even employed it in the American League Wild Card Game, opening the game with Liam Hendriks for one inning.

"I think it may continue to be a necessity going forward," Forst said. "It's not easy trying to find starting pitching. We are exploring all avenues, but I think we recognize that there are different ways to get 27 outs, and we're going to have to consider all of them."

"We're used to it so to speak, and you're seeing other teams do it, too," Melvin said. "I think you'll see more of it next year."

Among the crop of injured A's starters is Sean Manaea, who had an encouraging follow-up appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache last week. The left-hander underwent shoulder surgery in September and is making good progress. He's expected to begin plyometric work in January, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to pitch in 2019.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Chris Herrmann