The Rays have acquired catcher Hank Conger from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations, the club announced. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first tweeted the move, adding that all of the team’s arbitration eligible players have been tendered contracts. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier tonight that Conger had been offered to at least one club in a trade (Twitter link).
The 27-year-old Conger is a switch-hitter that is coming off a season in which he batted .229/.311/.448 with 11 home runs while backing up starting catcher Jason Castro. Conger did nearly all of his damage from the left side of the plate, hitting right-handed pitching at an outstanding .279/.353/.538 clip but slumping to a .175/.250/.351 batting line upon stepping into the right-handed batters’ box.
From a defensive standpoint, Conger is a puzzling story. He’s consistently graded out as an excellent pitch-framer — one of the primary reasons that drove the Astros (and, presumably, the Rays) to acquire him — but he developed a bizarre inability to throw out runners in 2015. While Conger has never caught attempted base-stealers at an elite rate, he prevented a staggeringly low one of 43 attempted thefts in 2015. He caught around one out of every four to five baserunners who attempted to run on him in previous seasons.
Clearly, the Astros had concerns over Conger’s throwing issues, as evidenced by the fact that he was moved for cash considerations despite a reasonably productive season at the plate, solid framing numbers and a projected $1.8MM salary. The Rays will hope that they can turn those woes around and utilize Conger behind the dish, perhaps in a platoon capacity, with Curt Casali or Rene Rivera. If they’re able to do so, the Rays can control Conger through the 2017 season. He currently has four years, 51 days of Major League service time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.