The Diamondbacks will sign veteran catcher Gerald Laird to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). Laird is represented by CSE.
The 35-year-old Laird struggled to a .532 OPS with the Braves in 167 plate appearances last season but has been an otherwise serviceable option behind the dish in a backup capacity in recent seasons. Laird batted .281/.350/.373 in 332 plate appearances between the Tigers and Braves from 2012-13 and should have an excellent chance to pick up some playing time in Arizona, given the team’s remarkable dearth of options behind the plate.
The Diamondbacks currently project to have journeyman Tuffy Gosewisch and 21-year-old Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez splitting the bulk of playing time behind the plate. However, Gosewisch is 31 years old and has just a .213/.225/.287 batting line in 179 career big league plate appearances. Hernandez is lauded for his defensive capabilities but has yet to even reach Class-A Advanced; he hasn’t played beyond the Class-A Midwest League.
Given the lack of anything resembling an everyday catcher behind the dish, it was somewhat stunning to hear GM Dave Stewart publicly state that his team wouldn’t further pursue any catchers, though perhaps he meant via the trade market or on Major League deals. Arizona thinks incredibly highly of prospect Peter O’Brien due to his impressive power, but few scouts outside of the D-Backs organization have expressed a belief that O’Brien can handle catcher from a defensive standpoint.