The Athletics used a slew of catchers in 2019, but almost all of them are now out of the organization. Josh Phegley, Chris Herrmann, Nick Hundley, Beau Taylor and Dustin Garneau are gone. Sean Murphy’s the lone member of last season’s group still remaining, and the promising 25-year-old figures to get the most playing time among Athletics catchers in the upcoming campaign. There’s no battle-tested backup on the roster, but the A’s are monitoring the free-agent market for backstops, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
There’s at least some chance that Russell Martin, a longtime Dodger, will remain in California. Oakland “checked in with” him earlier in the offseason, Slusser writes. Should the team wind up signing Martin, the 36-year-old would make for quite a mentor for Murphy.
Martin, who debuted in 2006, has been one of the game’s most successful catchers in recent memory on the field and a well-regarded locker room presence off it. While Martin’s production has tailed off in the past couple seasons, he still turned in 1.2 fWAR with a .220/.337/.330 line in 249 plate appearances last year. Behind the plate, Martin threw out just 18 percent of would-be base stealers, though Baseball Prospectus did assign him above-average marks for his overall work as a defender.
Martin’s likely the most appealing catcher left in a free-agent market that has shrunk to almost nothing at his position. Fellow ex-star Jonathan Lucroy, a former Athletic, is also out there. He has engaged in “conversations with a few teams,” per Slusser, though it’s unclear if the A’s are among them.
Of course, Oakland could just decide to stick with in-house choices at catcher, where it has two options besides Murphy on its 40-man roster. The club acquired Austin Allen, who’s penciled in as its backup, from the Padres in December. The Athletics also have Jonah Heim, a 24-year-old who raked in Triple-A ball in 2019. Additionally, they picked up veteran Carlos Perez earlier this winter, though he’s not on their 40-man.