For the second time in as many years, the Oakland Athletics have claimed a Tampa Bay Rays catcher off waivers. The Rays elected to designate Chris Gimenez for assignment, and rather than pass through waivers like they might have hoped, the A’s decided to place a waiver claim on him. The move provides Oakland with additional catching depth and explains to us why the Rays held on for Gimenez for so long.
Gimenez, about to turn 31, is coming off far from his best season. He appeared in just 4 major league games after losing out to Jose Lobaton in the backup catcher competition in spring training and did not play well even at Triple-A Durham, managing just a .224/.350/.305 line in 375 plate appearances as he was hampered by a hand injury. But he did play better for the Rays in 2012, managing a .260/.315/.330 line in 109 plate appearances including a .406 average in 36 plate appearances after returning to the team in September. Gimenez had made an adjustment in his stance, and especially as he hit well in spring training, there was a certain amount of buzz over his bat. But the Rays elected to go with Lobaton, and Lobaton’s strong hitting combined with Gimenez’s struggles ensured that a change never took place. With Lobaton himself likely out the door after the Rays acquired Ryan Hanigan and re-signed Jose Lobaton, the Rays did not have any room for Gimenez on the roster. They would have liked to keep him in the fold at Triple-A, but the A’s put in a claim and Gimenez’s days with the organization are over.
Gimenez because the Athletics’ third former Rays catcher, but each brings something different to the table. John Jaso has become much better known for his hitting against right-handed pitching, Stephen Vogt was interesting for his combination of catching and raw power, and Gimenez helps a team because of his versatility. Gimenez is a decent defensive catcher, but he also is capable of playing the four corner positions, not something too many players can do. If he can do that and hit left-handed pitching, then he could potentially be a valuable 25th man on a major league roster at the very least.
From the Rays’ perspective, they lost a player in Gimenez who has his strengths, but it was not a player they had room for. As we have discussed, Gimenez hypothetically could have made the team, but they would have liked a stronger right-handed backup to complement their lefty hitters. We know that the Rays appreciate Gimenez’s versatility as much an anyone, but versatility can only mean so much in the face of other team needs. The Rays knew that Gimenez’s combination of abilities made him a player who could be attractive to other ballclubs, but at this point, they no longer had a choice and had to risk waivers. Good luck to Gimenez in 2014–he deserved a chance somewhere, and hopefully in Oakland he will get it.