Cam Gallagher has elected to become a free agent, according to the veteran catcher’s official MLB.com profile page. The Guardians designated Gallagher for assignment earlier this week and he presumably cleared waivers, and then opted for free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Cleveland’s Triple-A team. Because Gallagher has been outrighted before in his career, he has the ability to reject any future outright assignments.
Gallagher seemed like a pretty clear non-tender candidate even before the Guardians picked up Christian Bethancourt off waivers from the Rays, which was the move that led to Gallagher’s DFA. Over 149 plate appearances for the Guardians last season, Gallagher hit only .126/.154/.168 — this translated to an ugly -17 wRC+, the lowest of any player in baseball in 2023 with at least 140 PA.
Seven different players saw action at catcher for the Guards last season, a mess of a situation sparked when offseason acquisition Mike Zunino struggled badly at the plate. This led to a revolving door of backstops until Zunino was designated for assignment in June, and Bo Naylor was called up from Triple-A for good. With Naylor’s bat coming alive near the end of the season, the former top prospect looks to have solidified his role as the Guardians’ starting catcher going forward, hopefully adding some pop to a position that has long been an offensive black hole for Cleveland.
Between Naylor, Bethancourt, and utilityman David Fry able to catch once in a while, there wasn’t any room for Gallagher to vie for work as a backup. Gallagher is projected to earn $1.3MM via the arbitration process in 2024, but it seems likely that he’ll have to settle for another minor league contract and compete for a backup job in Spring Training.
Turning 31 next month, Gallagher is a veteran of 227 MLB games over seven seasons with the Royals and Guardians, with a .211/.266/.307 slash line over 618 PA. While the offense hasn’t been there, Gallagher is a pretty well-regarded defender, and 2023 was at least a very strong year for Gallagher with the glove. As per Statcast’s numbers, Gallagher was solidly above average at framing and blocking, and he threw out nine of 52 baserunners for his first-ever positive (+1) grade in the Catcher Stealing Runs metric.