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Diamondbacks catchers: A Review/Preview for 2015/16

There was a revolving door at the position this year, with six different starts being used. But it seemed to work out quite well in the end. The SnakePit panel looks back at the era of Beef, and what 2016 might bring.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We began the 2015 season with catchers Tuffy Gosewisch, Gerald Laird and Jordan Pacheco on the roster. What were your hopes for the season?

Clefo: A very sardonic "Well at least things aren't *literally* on fire" hope. It was a little maddening that the front office didn't do anything to shore up the Catcher position in the offseason after trading Montero, but on the other hand you kind of figured this season was going to be a little bit of a wash so eh.

Jim: My pre-season opinion was mostly, "When's Peter O'Brien coming up?" I think it was fairly clear the front-office knew this was a position of need, but I'm actually quite relieved they didn't feel the need to make a rash move to fill it in spring, and wait to see what happened with O'Brien and Hernandez, and if anything good value popped up on the trade radar. This team could have had Johnny Bench with Mike Piazza backing him up, and we'd still not have contended.

James: I guess my biggest hope was that Peter O'Brien was going to prove the scouting world wrong by managing to be just good enough defensively to stick at catcher. From the moment the team traded away Miguel Montero, it was plain to see the Diamondbacks were going to need another backstop. It puzzled me then that they did not try to get Welington Castillo from the Cubs. It was also somewhat bothersome when they let every potential catcher on the market just go by without making a run at them. I'm a big Gosewisch fan, and even I cannot call him a quality major league starter and keep a straight face.

While I do give props to the front office for not panicking and making a bad deal to land a catcher, The fact is, they still wound up with the same catcher they had first dibs at when they traded Montero. Granted, Godley has been something of a refreshing surprise, but Castillo had an even greater impact on this team. It would have been nice to see what he could have done for this team if he had been here all season. I think the biggest reason I am not more bothered by it all though is that, as Jim pointed out, it isn't exactly as if the lack of Castillo early in the season is why the Diamondbacks failed to make the playoffs.

Nate: I was just hoping they could outhit the pitchers. I in no way thought that the position would be average, let alone become a strength of the team.

Pirate: I was hoping that the suspected amount of suck would clear the event horizon of despair.

Steven: I was honestly hoping they'd fail so we'd get a Peter O'Brien sighting.

Is the short, tumultuous Era of Gosewisch over? Do you have any lasting memories of it?

Clefo: If Salty doesn't re-sign, they'll probably bring him back to backup Castillo (and assuming he's recovered to any sort of degree) And uh, I remember... Um... You know, that thing where he did the thing and... Uh... Hold on.

Jim: I don't know if he's going to be fit even by Opening Day. ACL tears are about the worst injury imaginable for a catcher, because of the stress playing the position puts on your knees. Sadly, I don't know if he'll ever play in the majors again, but if not, I don't think I'd mind if he takes up a coaching position with the team. My lasting memory will be my first one, as we sat behind the plate at a 2009 AFL game, meowing at Earl Tuffy of Gosewisch.

Nate: He's definitely done as the starter for the D-Backs with the season Castillo had, and I'd be surprised if he lands a spot as the backup. I guess it depends on if Salty is around next year. It was kinda cool having a Sun Devil on the D-Backs, he was great defensively, and I like his name, but I'm not gonna look back in 10 years and say oh, remember that time Tuffy Gosewich blocked a fastball in the dirt?

Pirate: I'm not so sure it's over, I wouldn't be surprised if he backs up Castillo. He's a defensive upgrade over Salty and while he couldn't hit his way out of an open phone booth, having him on the team wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen.

Steven: I have a feeling they'll take things slow with Tuffy and his rehab. If we decide to non-tender him, we'll easily be able to sign him to a minor-league deal.

James: The emergence of Castillo has ended the Tuffy as a regular starter era. I would be surprised if Gosewisch is even healthy enough to catch with any regularity before sometime in June, especially given all the crouching involved with catching. That said, if he takes that long to come back, I'm not sure he ever puts on the pads for a MLB team again, unless of course he gets promoted due to injury. Given that Gosewisch is a relatively strong defender and also calls a pretty decent game, I wouldn't mind seeing him take over coaching some of the younger talent coming up. If nothing else, maybe his dogged determination and work ethic might rub off on some of the youth.

Gerald Laird appears likely to become the second position player whose entire career with Arizona consists of a single game. Do you think he'll ever get an invite to the Alumni Game?

Clefo: Considering his various times in Phoenix have been, uh, tumultuous, Gerald may want to avoid the valley forever.

Jim: He'll likely be the 2015 entry in my upcoming BuzzFeed article, "18 players you won't believe played for the Diamondbacks! #6 is incredible!"

Nate: Who's Gerald Laird?

Pirate: What, and deprive a spot for Russ Ortiz?

Steven: Of course! Can't wait for his appearance next season.

James: Laird's actually time with the team was so short I have my doubts as to whether or not he could even find Chase Field. No invite there. If nothing else, he serves as a reminder of just how wrong the FO was concerning the team's catching woes.

Trading Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo was why Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik was fired less than three months later. Discuss.

Clefo: It wasn't *the* reason why, but it's fun to think that this was the straw that broke the camel's back. Trumbo is cursed, as both GMs who traded for him were fired at or before the end of their team's seasons. Jerry DiPoto just can't shake him.

Jim: That kind of trade certainly explains why Zduriencik was fired. And I was quite sad to see him go, because ideally, you want as many GMs in the league as possible who are dumber than yours. DiPoto probably won't be as easy to fleece. Fun fact. When you put "Seattle Mariners GM" into Google, this is what you get. Remind me not to trust Google in future.

Seattle GM

Pirate: Well as much as I would like to think so, perhaps it's karmic payback for the Mariners not selling Justin Upton on why he should have approved his trade to them.....

As bad as Trumbo performed for them, I think it may be more the likes that Walker, Zunino, Seager simply were less than optimal that allows Trumbo to be used as a scapegoat. They had a LOT of issues where guys didn't perform to expectations and as bad as some of the moves were, players not performing (be it the cause of the FO or on field management) or perhaps heightened expectations of the fan base or the baseball punditry, the team as a whole simply didn't perform.

Sad to see Jack go, was hoping we could move Randall Delgado and Aaron Hill to them for Iwakuma....

Steven: You know, I didn't really think it was a bad trade for the Mariners. They took a gamble with Trumbo bouncing back and gave away Castillo, who was awful until he arrived to Arizona and it didn't work out. At the end of the day, it was just another bad trade in a long line of them for Jack.

James: Zduriencik was already one foot in the grave before the Trumbo deal occurred. I think it is somewhat humourous that the whole world spent all offseason waiting for the Diamondbacks to trade Trumbo to the Mariners, only to have both GMs decide there wasn't a fit there. But then, after Trumbo started floundering, that's when both teams came together on an agreeable trade. The extreme underperformance by the Marniers' position players as a whole did Z no favours, but the Trumbo trade may very well have ben the nail in the coffin.

The team needed an offensive upgrade at catcher, but they traded away Castillo before he ever was even given an opportunity to play. Meanwhile, they gave up their catching depth for a guy who was obviously floundering in Mark Trumbo. During the offseason, a Trumbo trade made more sense, as there were expectations that he could be a solid power bat. By the time Jack Z traded for him, it was already apparent that the Trumbo tank had run pretty dry.

Evaluate Castillo's 2015 performance. Can he be as good in 2016?

Clefo: You know how we as Diamondbacks fans have been often reminded in the past few years about a player they traded away that starts doing awesome and we get it rubbed in our faces? THE SHOE WAS ON THE OTHER FOOT FOR ONCE! That being said, It feels very unlikely he'll be as good next year, but it's easy to imagine him being better than any of the other options had before he was acquired.

Jim. There's no doubt we got the best of Castillo in 2015: OPS+ with Arizona = 116; with Chicago = 58; with Seattle = er, -3. [Yes: negative three]. While regular playing time may well be a factor in that, he had that in Chicago in 2013-14, and had an OPS+ of 98. That would be in line with his overall figure this season (exactly 100), and is around what I'd expect in 2016. Not as good, no, but better than your average catcher.

Nate: If you told me that the D-Backs catchers would combine for 17 homers and a .255 batting average at the beginning of the season, I probably would've called you a cab to be sure you get home safely. Castillo managed to do that in just 80 games, so I'd call his season fantastic. He's not gonna do that well next year, but if he can produce anywhere near that level I'll be happy.

Pirate: Did Castillo finally run out of gas, was it the demands of the season, or was it lightning in a bottle? Will next year be better knowing that he's the man? I wonder how therapeutic it was not to have to be relied upon for offensive production and that everyone was just happy to have you on the club? I have no idea on how much the human element may impact his performance next year. I would like to think he's simply happy and grateful not to be a Mariner.

James: After acquiring Castillo and seeing him get off to such a hot start, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the most part, it never really did. Maybe playing full-time without a backup challenging him for starting time helped. I tend to think that playing in Chase Field helped somewhat. I still do not expect Castillo to repeat an OPS+ of 116 in 2015 though. I do think he will be at least league average if not better though, and that's plenty, especially considering the other options currently available.

We signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a backup. How long did it take you to figure out how to spell his name?

Clefo: I have a .txt file on my desktop that just has "Saltalamacchia" in the body that I copy and paste into articles and recaps as needed. #lifehack.

Jim. Not too long - at least it sounds very close to how it spells, unlike certain names I could mention, e.g. [copy...paste...] Zduriencik. My main problem was wanting to spell macchia with one C, probably because I use the word "machiavellian" way too often for my own good.

Nate: Still haven't learned. I don't think he ever did anything worthy of having his name in a series preview.

Pirate: He's one of the reasons for my Evelyn Wood refresher course......

Steven: Same as clefo, copy/paste and pray autocorrect catches it.

James: After spending so much time writing about the catching situation of the Diamondbacks and the catchers out there that I did or did not want them making a run at, I had plenty of practice with spelling Saltalamacchia's name.

Do you want him to return as a backup next season? If not, who?

Clefo: I'm not against it if the price is right, but it might behove the Diamondbacks to find someone a little better defensively. Problem is, I'm not sure who that is. The 2016 potential Free Agent Catchers is not an inspiring group (Though as always, I advocate signing A.J. Pierzynski for entertainment value.)

Jim. I endorse the idea, simply because his presence inevitably makes recaps look much more meaty and impressive. #I'mwithClefo on the whole need for someone better defensively, not least because Castillo is no great shakes there either. [In particular, both suck at pitch framing] Given that, I wouldn't necessarily mind Hernandez as a backup; seems a good way for him to learn.

Nate: Meh, I don't care. I guess they could find someone better defensively like the two before me said, but if they don't I'm fine with Salty. Definitely not going to get worked up about it either way.

Pirate: He wants a starting gig and after all, he may actually be the 31st best catcher in the league, which isn't saying much but if he needs to follow that dream, then the team should make him a less than insulting offer and let nature take its course.

Steven: I'm not a huge fan of his game, especially with his receiving skills so I'd be happy if they let him go and pick up a Hank Conger or one of the Mets youngsters.

James: I'm sort of on the fence about this one. I don't particularly care for Slaty as a backup catcher. That would imply he is capable of catching, something he has demonstrated to be very poor at. On the other hand, he wound up not entirely sucking as a switch-hitting bench bat. I'm not at all convinced that 2015 was anything more than a dead cat bounce at the plate though. Since I would much rather the team only play Castillo about 100-110 games in 2016, I'm thinking I would rather the team find a better candidate for the second catcher. If they don't, Castillo is at risk of being used up too quickly, just like Montero was when he was here.

We get to keep the Invisible Catcher, Oscar Hernandez, even though he started precisely zero of the last 55 games! Thoughts?

Clefo: Boy, we sure were lucky he got injured in Spring Training, huh? That was some of the most artful Rule 5 shenaniganry I've ever seen. So yay for some more minor league depth I guess?

Jim. A good time to do it. There may be seasons where the backup catcher role is the critical difference in Arizona making the playoffs or not, but 2015 was certainly not that year. It'd be nice if he turned into Dan Uggla for a few seasons, but I'm keeping my hopes and expectations low, given our past history in this area. Where IS Joe Paterson these days, anyway?

Nate: Yippie.

Pirate: We gave the kid a taste, let's see if it translates to a hunger...

Steven: Hooray! Can't wait for to never hear from him again. He's a hard worker, but I don't know if I'd waste a roster spot on him.

James: I'd be surprised if we heard his name much at all in 2016. However, I am glad to have him for depth in the system and would not be at all surprised to see him as the second catcher behind Castillo by 2017. That's a role I would be entirely comfortable with him in.

Will Peter O'Brien ever catch a game for the Diamondbacks?

Clefo: Considering by the time this is published he and/or the team will have gone back and forth on that at least three times, who knows? O'Brien is one of those "Clearly would be a DH if not on a National League team" players to me. I could be wrong. I often am.


8 ball Obrien

Pirate: you mean behind the plate or in the stands as a paying customer?

Before I get all hyperbolic, let's see how this plays out.. he got a taste of the big league experience, saw a couple of success stories like Peralta and Goldschmidt to let him understand that you need to work and work hard and you too can be a major league ballplayer by doing what you can with what you have and working every day to be better.

Nate: Who knows. I remember hearing that O'Brien had given up on it earlier in the year, but then a week or two ago Chip Hale said he was gonna try catching again. Jim's magic 8-ball is a better source than me on this question.

Steven: I hope Peter realizes that is the only way he'll stay up with the MLB team. The OF is stacked and he's not good enough to even play out there. If he decides to start catching again, I have no doubts they'll have him on the roster.

The D-backs ended the year with their catchers having hit more home-runs that any other team in the National League. Complete the following sentence: "I was so surprised by this..."

Clefo: ".... it makes me wonder what the hell the 14 other NL teams are doing."

Jim. "...I made an extra sacrifice to the baseball gods for keeping the Yankees in the American League."

Nate: "...I went to fangraphs to confirm this was a true fact and not something Jim had just made up."

Pirate: That it almost surpassed the most memorable achievement I witnessed during a DBacks game this year... and that was my oldest son consuming both a DBat Dog and a Churro Dog during the same game.... Unanticipated, unexpected and quietly awesome in a non-Sportcenter kind of way.

Steven: "...If we expect the same result next year we'll be sadly mistaken."

James: I doubt it. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he were to be traded this winter. Even if he isn't traded, Castillo is strong enough behind the plate that there simply is no need for O'Brien there. It is unlikely O'Brien is a massive upgrade over Beef offensively. Meanwhile, O'Brien doesn't even match Castillo's glove, and that's saying something. O'Brien simply is not a catcher. Even if he remains one, I see it being for another team.

Any other thoughts?

Clefo: It really can't be overstated in my opinion: The front office was able to turn arguably the worst position group of any team in MLB into a strength mid-season. That is *amazing*.

Jim. The arrival of Castillo pretty much solidifies the regular starting line-up for 2016, which (with some remaining issues on the middle-infield) will more or less take care of itself. I'd be surprised if we see any position player on the 2016 Opening Day roster who isn't already with us, and compared to the turnover in previous years, that's remarkable stability.

Nate: I went into the year expecting the catcher's position in the batting order to just be slightly better than a pitcher, and it turned into a spot I have full confidence in. The one thing I did not like was the constant BEEF FOR DINNER jokes. Those got old quick.

Pirate: We're better at Catcher now than any of us expected to be at the beginning of the year. The FO traded away relatively superfluous assets and amazingly filled in the gaping vortex of suck. Does Castillo implode next year? Who knows but with O"Bien being convinced to try and get better at his craft and Hernandez waiting in the wings and Tuffy supposedly being recovered for next year, there's hope for not just the immediate future but of potential competency down the road and that was something the Franchise was bereft of a year ago.

Steven: After months of unanswered questions about the catching situation, our fears were confirmed when the catchers did nothing. All that was rectified with a single trade. We'll see what happens for 2015 and beyond, but Dave Stewart has earned our trust in deciding what to do about the position.

James: I'm glad to see that what was once a black hole of suck on this team has become something of a strength. Even if the catching situation remains tenuous due to lack of depth, it is at least a situation that can be lived with for now. I do think the team needs to continue to add to the catching depth, hopefully finding another veteran backup catcher that we could all be happy with getting a week or two of starts, if for no other reason than to protect against the Diamondbacks being right back where they were when Gosewisch went down.