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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Aramis Garcia

The Orioles claimed two Reds catchers off waivers in the same day. It’s weird.

Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants
One of the newest Orioles arrivals, Aramis Garcia. He’s the guy in catching gear.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Since the start of 2022, Camden Chat has written an article about each player on the Orioles 40-man roster, with updates as new ones arrive.

NOTE: The Orioles outrighted Garcia to Triple-A Norfolk on 10/30. He is no longer on the 40-man roster.

How he arrived: Waiver claim from Cincinnati Reds, 10/14/22

Who left: Louis Head designated for assignment, 10/14/22

For almost the entirety of the 2022 season, the Orioles carried only two catchers on their 40-man roster. Two weeks after the season has ended, they now have six catchers on the roster. That’s a lot of catchers. After the World Series concludes and Robinson Chirinos becomes a free agent, the number will be down to five. That’s still a lot of catchers to have on the roster.

The increase to six happened last Friday when the Orioles were awarded waiver claims on two different Reds catchers. The Reds waived four catchers all at once. One, Michael Papierski, was claimed by the Tigers, who with a worse record had higher priority than the O’s. Another went unclaimed. The Orioles grabbed the others.

Under the microscope today by being first alphabetically is Aramis Garcia. The righty batter is now a veteran of four MLB seasons, though he hasn’t gotten significant playing time in any of them. He’s combined for 116 games across those four seasons, now for three different teams. The Giants originally drafted him from Florida International University in the second round in 2014. He’s also now played for the Athletics and Reds.

When you look at how Garcia has hit in his big league action, it’s no surprise he hasn’t caught on. He’s got about a half-season worth of plate appearances under his belt in that time and is hitting a combined .216/.253/.332. That’s a very small bit better than the 2022 hitting numbers of Chirinos, but not that much better.

It’s also not better if you only look at Garcia’s 2022 batting. This year was the most he has played, with 115 PA over 45 games, and he hit a sad .213/.248/.259. Three of his four seasons have seen him end up with an OPS in the .500s.

Five years ago, Garcia was a guy who had at least a modest prospect stock, in the sense that he was worth mentioning on a team’s top 20 list. Before the 2018 season, he checked in as the #10 Giants prospect on FanGraphs:

Garcia does have above-average raw power and is a passable defensive catcher, so it’s likely he becomes a bat-first backup in the next year or two.

The prediction that Garcia would arrive in MLB soon after that was not bad. He arrived in MLB in 2018. That was a good little debut for him. He homered in his first ever MLB game and by season’s end had hit four in 19 games. If he had continued on that path, he might look like a bat-first backup catcher. The 2022 Orioles could have used a backup catcher with a better bat. That is not the path he continued on.

Why this guy? Why now? The Orioles certainly seem like they want to assemble a competition for backing up Adley Rutschman next year that’s not just a bunch of guys they might sign as minor league free agents. Garcia, Anthony Bemboom, Cam Gallagher, and tomorrow’s post subject Mark Kolozsvary are all now in that pile by virtue of being on the roster.

It’s not likely that all four of these guys are going to make it to spring training still on the 40-man roster. Space is going to have to be cleared in a month’s time when the Orioles need to add prospects like Grayson Rodriguez to protect them from this year’s Rule 5 draft, and it seems like a couple of catchers who’ve already been waived once this offseason and went unclaimed by all of the bad 2022 teams will be good candidates to be removed.

The O’s might hope they can sneak players through waivers so they’ve got solid catching options at Norfolk next year. Garcia has minor league option years remaining, so if the Orioles decide they want to keep him around, they could leave him on the 40-man roster for a while. That would have him available without needing further roster machinations if their first choice for a backup gets hurt.

I figured that the O’s would be doing less of this kind of waiver wire churn now that they’ve got a decent season under their belt. Clearly, I was wrong about that. Mike Elias will keep tinkering at the fringes of the roster. They don’t need to find stars in these kinds of moves, just better backup options or even Triple-A depth than the Orioles had this year. I don’t see how Garcia is either one of those things at first glance, but he wouldn’t be the first waiver claim to surprise me.

Still to come: Mark Kolozsvary