The Cardinals announced today that they have designated backup catcher Eric Fryer for assignment and activated fellow backstop Brayan Pena off the 15-day disabled list.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said yesterday that the 30-year-old Fryer has been a “pleasant surprise” for his team in 2016, but a DFA has looked increasingly likely as Pena has neared the completion of a minor league rehab assignment for a knee injury. While Fryer worked in a very highly limited role in support of Yadier Molina, he’s been quite solid at the plate, slashing .368/.415/.421 through 41 plate appearances this season. He’s also prevented four of the six stolen bases attempts against him.
Fryer doesn’t come with a lengthy track record at the big league level, but he’s authored a solid .270/.347/.354 batting line in 199 Major League plate appearances across parts of six seasons between the Pirates, Twins and Cardinals dating back to 2011. Based on his .237/.328/.328 line in 935 plate appearances in Triple-A, it’s fair to expect some regression in his overall big league production, but as a mostly solid pitch-framer with a 29 percent caught-stealing rate throughout his minor league career, Fryer is certainly an appealing depth option.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the Cardinals will attempt to get him to Triple-A Memphis, though they’ll first need to pass Fryer through outright waivers. Fryer has been outrighted in the past (meaning he could elect free agency even if he does clear), but given the paucity of quality catching options around the league, it should never simply be assumed that a backstop in the midst of a productive season will go unclaimed.
As for Pena, he’ll be making his Cardinals debut when he suits up for the first time. St. Louis signed him to a two-year, $5MM contract this offseason, but he underwent surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee in early April and has yet to be healthy enough to take the big league field. The switch-hitting 34-year-old is a lifetime .260/.300/.352 hitter at the Major League level and has compiled a more impressive .271/.313/.354 line in 982 PAs over the past three seasons with the Tigers and the division-rival Reds.
I’m sure the Cards would not want to deal him to the Pirates, but if Fryer becomes a free agent the Bucs should be all over him. Cervelli is still out, Eric Kratz simply cannot hit, Chris Stewart is banged up and can’t catch everyday, and the next option is Jacob Stallings, who last I saw was hitting below .200 in AAA. Fryer is familiar with the Pirates and at least adequate defensively.
He’s a very solid defender, but his AVG and contact won’t keep up. If he plays on a regular basis, his bat won’t really be a factor. For the Pirates tho, they pretty much need any quality Catching they can get until Cervelli comes off the DL.
Exactly, and however poorly Fryer’s bat plays, it plays better than Kratz’s.
Blue Jays should take this guy. Adds a decent bat to the bench.
I can’t believe Fryer can’t stick as a backup catcher in the majors. Handling the pitching staff while giving your everyday catcher a game off for a day game or rough travel day is top priority for the position. I loves Pena’s enthusiasm when he plays, but he looks to be barely adequate as a receiver.
Tribe could use a catcher with gomes struggling
Time to cut AJ! Braves better claim him if he goes to waivers
He’s solid. Probably only slightly less than Pena. But anyone that is back up St. Louis will get a very small work detail. Last I saw Molina had caught 50 more innings than the second most.
It’s not every day you hit .368 and get DFA’ed.