The list of options is an interesting mix. Each catcher brings a strong quality to the table. Carlos Pérez has spent the last year working with young A’s pitchers both at the club’s alternate training site and in Spring Training, providing excellent leadership skills. Austin Allen began the 2020 season on the Opening Day roster and brings a strong bat that serves as a nice left-handed-hitting complement to the right-handed-hitting Murphy. There’s also newcomer Aramis Garcia, who's now healthy after recovering from right hip surgery that caused him to miss the 2020 season and is making a good impression on the big league staff.
“Performance is certainly part of it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of what factors play into evaluating the backup catcher spot. “But there are some other variables in play. Murph’s health is a part of it. There are also things behind the scenes.”
With three backstops vying for the same job, here’s a look at where the battle for backup catcher stands:
Spring stats: 6-for-17 (.353), two doubles, four RBIs, eight strikeouts, two walks
Minor League options remaining: 1
Acquired along with Elvis Andrus in a trade with Texas last month, Garcia was once a top prospect in the Giants organization. He had been dealing with a hip issue since 2019 that progressively got worse until he underwent surgery that winter. Garcia said the surgery helped him regain his strength, and it has certainly shown both in his numbers at the plate and his strong arm from behind it.
“More than anything, we’re looking at his at-bats, because we know he can really catch,” Melvin said. “We’ve seen the throws he’s made. He’s confident behind the plate and pitchers love throwing to him. It’s just the offensive part after not getting to play last year. The more he plays, the better at-bats we’re seeing. He’s making a good case for himself.”
The A’s immediately noted Garcia’s excellent pitch framing when he first arrived to the club, a skill he was able to show even in his brief time in the Major Leagues with San Francisco from 2018-19. If the question was whether his bat could keep up after missing so much time, Garcia seems to be answering that this spring.
Spring stats: 6-for-19 (.316), one homer, three doubles, two RBIs, seven strikeouts, one walk
Minor League options remaining: 1
Allen joined the A’s last season in the trade that sent Jurickson Profar to San Diego, and he earned his spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong performance both in Spring Training and Summer Camp. His bat has always been his best attribute, as he consistently produced big numbers in the Padres' Minor League system. The knock on him has always been his defensive skills, something Allen is well aware of and has been proactive in working to improve with bullpen coach Marcus Jensen.
“I think Marcus Jensen has done a terrific job with him on the defensive part of it and understanding that defense and relationship with the pitchers is first for a catcher,” Melvin said. “I think Austin has made significant strides in his defense and being ready for every game. He’s also starting to swing the bat well again.”
The A’s have also been known to often utilize left-right platoons at certain positions to get a favorable matchup on certain days. Allen is the only left-handed-hitting option in this group.
Spring stats: 4-for-18 (.222), one RBI, two strikeouts
The A’s coaches who worked at the alternate site in San Jose, Calif., last summer raved about Pérez for his handling of the many top pitching prospects in camp. Those same pitching prospects were also frustrated on the mound when it came time to facing him during intrasquad games.
“We could not get that guy out,” said Daulton Jefferies, Oakland’s No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “He was one of the better hitters. He would just kind of flick his bat and get on base nine times out of 10.
“He makes you a lot more comfortable on the mound because you really trust him. He just provides the pitchers that throw to him a lot of confidence.”
If it’s experience the A’s are going for, Pérez fits the bill. His 212 games played in the Majors with the Angels, Braves and Rangers more than double the combined big league time of Allen and Garcia.
“This probably goes down to the end,” Melvin said. “We’ve got a couple of weeks left to take a hard look at everybody. There’s nothing to declare on that yet.”