It was reported over the weekend that the Angels are one of several clubs interested in free agent catcher Martín Maldonado, but general manager Perry Minasian spoke at the Winter Meetings today and threw a bit of cold water on that idea. He told reporters, including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, that catching is “not an area we’re focused on currently.”
It’s always possible that the club’s plans could change as the offseason develops and it’s also possible that Minasian is merely trying to downplay their interest for the purposes of negotiation. But it does track that the club has bigger fish to fry elsewhere. Top of the agenda is surely figuring out whether they can lure Shohei Ohtani back to the club. Even if they were to succeed there, the next priority would likely be addressing a pitching staff that disappointed in 2023, with Ohtani unable to help there since his elbow surgery will prevent him from taking the mound in 2024.
The catching corps, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be in bad shape. Logan O’Hoppe missed four months of the 2023 campaign due to a torn labrum in his left/non-throwing shoulder, but he looked good when on the field. He hit 14 home runs in just 51 games and produced a line of .236/.296/.500 for a wRC+ of 113. His glovework wasn’t quite as strong but he he’s still quite young, not turning 24 until February, and is likely still developing in that department.
The club also has Max Stassi, who missed all of 2023. He started the season on the injured list due to a hip strain and stayed away from the club even after that injury healed, as he was dealing with a personal situation. After the season, he and his wife revealed on Instagram that their child was born three months premature and dealt with a series of health challenges that prevented him from rejoining the club. Thankfully, it seems the worst of that situation is over. Stassi’s agent Joel Wolfe told reporters last month, including Fletcher, that the couple had brought their son home and Stassi is planning to play in 2024.
It’s tough to know what to expect from him after that lost season and a disappointing 2022 campaign wherein he hit .180/.267/.303. But he’s been considered a strong defender throughout his career and hit a much stronger .250/.333/.452 over 2020 and 2021. That led the Angels to give him a three-year, $17.5MM extension which will see him make $7MM in 2024, with a $7.5MM club option for 2025, which comes with a $500K buyout.
The club has a third backstop on the roster in Matt Thaiss. He had a fairly decent campaign, helping to fill in for the absences of both O’Hoppe and Stassi. He slashed .214/.319/.340 for a wRC+ of 84, just a bit below the production of the league average catcher, which came in at 89 wRC+ in 2023. Thaiss is out of options, which puts him in a somewhat precarious roster position as the third catcher on the depth chart. Another injury could always change things or the club could perhaps carry all three on the active roster next year, but it’s also possible he could find himself squeezed out of the picture at the end of Spring Training.
Given those options, it seems fair to conclude that Minasian was being frank in saying that the club is focused elsewhere for now. Things can always change with new developments, either a trade or an injury or something else, but the club’s priorities appear to be elsewhere for the moment.