Indians Catchers Have Stepped Up to the Plate After Failed Lucroy Trade

One of the biggest problems that has plagued the Cleveland Indians all season long had been the performances of their catchers – not behind the plate, but at the plate.

It was such a concern that the Indians put together a package of prospects and acquired Milwaukee backstop Jonathan Lucroy the day before the non-waiver trade deadline just over a month ago…until the National League All-Star vetoed the deal for future financial reasons.

The nearly-completed transaction sent a very clear message to the two catchers on the roster – Roberto Perez and Chris Gimenez

Step up to the plate.

They have very quietly done just that.

Perez has played in 28 games since the failed move. His batting average in that time is nothing to celebrate – he is hitting .187 entering Sunday’s afternoon contest with Miami with four doubles, two homers, and eight RBI in that stretch. With a .282 on-base percentage, his efforts are much more palatable, especially considering where he was just eleven games into his season and less than two weeks back from rushing back from his right thumb surgery when Lucroy nearly became an Indian.

In his first seven games off of the disabled list, Perez was just 1-for-15 with a single and one RBI at the plate with two walks. Combined with his six walks and no hits from his first four starts in April prior to his injury in Philadelphia, he was hitting just .043 (1-for-23) with eight walks, two RBI, and a .273 OBP when the Indians nearly upgraded their catching position.

Behind the plate, the 27-year-old has made just one error on the season. He has limited opposing base stealers to just five stolen bases in 13 attempts (61.5% caught stealing). He has allowed just one passed ball in 39 games behind the plate and has had seven wild pitches thrown in 289 2/3 innings.

The Indians are 21-12 in games that he has started, showing that his lack of production in the lineup has not necessarily hurt the team and led to a drastic issue in the standings.

Gimenez - Jason Miller/Getty Images
Gimenez – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The 33-year-old Gimenez has really stepped up his offensive contributions since the near deal, one that very likely could have spelled the end of his time on the Indians roster. He was vocal after the cancelled trade, noting that both catchers knew that they needed to do more for the club in the batter’s box.

At the time, Gimenez was hitting just .202 with a .238 OBP in 42 games (28 starts) for the Indians since joining the team in a cash swap with Texas. In 15 games since July 31, Gimenez has hit .348 (8-for-23) with a .464 OBP. He has a pair of doubles, two homers, four walks, and five RBI while scoring six runs, including the winning one in the August 29 ten-inning win over the Minnesota Twins. In the nine games that he has started in that span, he has had hits in five contests. He also has hits in both contests that he entered late defensively and later stepped to the plate.

Defensively, Gimenez has just one error to his credit on the season while being charged with four passed balls and credited with 13 wild pitches while calling 344 innings. Where he has been more productive with the bat, he has been less efficient with the arm when compared to Perez, as he has thrown out just four of 20 would-be base stealers on the year (20% caught stealing).

And while certainly not conventional and to be expected moving forward, Gimenez has even fired a scoreless inning of relief in a 7-0 loss in Texas on August 27, needing just ten pitches to retire the side in his second relief appearance of the season. Nothing says team player like volunteering for a potential beating on the mound against a heavy hitting, division leading, Major League lineup.

The guy the Indians did not get – Lucroy – has adapted well to his first exposure to regular American League pitching for the first time in his career.

He was hitting .299 with a .359 OBP and .482 slugging mark with the Brewers at the time of the trade with 13 homers and 50 RBI in 95 games. He has hit .304 with a .382 OBP and .646 slugging percentage in the middle of a pennant chase at the top of the AL West with the Rangers, hitting eight homers, three doubles, and driving in 18 while scoring 14 times in 25 games.

Six of the homers and eleven of the RBI came in his first ten games with the club.

While the Indians did not get their man in Lucroy, they do have some other options in house for the final four weeks of play.

Cleveland purchased the contract of veteran catcher Adam Moore from Triple-A Columbus at the beginning of the month when rosters expanded. The 32-year-old spent the season with the Clippers, where he hit .247 with 14 doubles, seven homers, and 31 RBI in 86 games. He has appeared in parts of seven different MLB seasons with four clubs, including one game with the Tribe last September.

Yan Gomes started a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron on Friday and was scheduled to appear in Sunday’s game for the RubberDucks. The 29-year-old had scuffled to a .165/.198/.313 performance with the Indians with eleven doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 32 RBI prior to suffering a separated right shoulder.

While there remains no doubt that an addition of Lucroy would have provided the Indians lineup with another high average hitter with quality pop in his bat, the tandem of Perez and Gimenez has given Cleveland strong work behind the plate and both men have stepped it up some in the meantime with the bat. The Indians will need continued production from their game callers if they hope to prolong their season deep into October.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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