The Cleveland Indians added a little catching depth to the farm system on Monday when it signed 37-year-old backstop Ryan Hanigan to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Hanigan spent last season with the Colorado Rockies, splitting time between the parent club and their Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque.
He provides the Indians with an experienced game caller at Columbus, where top prospect Francisco Mejia could start the season and could benefit from the knowledge provided by Hanigan, who has been playing professional baseball since signing with the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 2002. Eric Haase, who was added to the 40-man roster by the Indians in November, is also expected to start the 2018 season with the Clippers in what would be his first extensive action at that level after spending the majority of 2017 at Double-A Akron.
Hanigan, who can use the camp opportunity to also audition for other teams around baseball who could be in need come March, would appear destined for a spot in the minors with the Indians. The club already has two capable backstops on the roster in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, but both have missed some time over the last few seasons to injuries. Hanigan would provide an insurance policy for the Tribe in the event Mejia is not ready for more frequent playing time if one of the primary catchers was lost for a stretch to the disabled list.
Last season, the Indians had a pair of veteran backstops stashed in Columbus in the event of emergency – Adam Moore and Erik Kratz. Moore remains a minor league free agent after spending the last three years with the Indians, where he played primarily at Columbus, but appeared in one game for the Indians in 2015 and nine more in 2016. Kratz was dealt to the New York Yankees in a cash exchange at the waiver trade deadline last season as the minor league schedule was concluding.
Hanigan has logged 680 games of work over eleven Major League seasons, with stops with the Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox. He signed last offseason with the Philadelphia Phillies but was cut at the end of spring training before joining the Rockies. He spent his first seven seasons in the Majors with the Reds, appearing in as many as 112 games during the 2012 season. He hit .300 with a .405 on-base percentage with a career-high 40 RBI in his best offensive season in 2010. He led baseball in caught stealing percentage while with the Reds in 2012 and 2013 and owns a 36% rate of throwing out would-be base stealers in his big league career.
He appeared in just 17 games at Triple-A last year and played in 33 games for the Rockies, hitting .267 with two doubles, two homers, and 12 RBI. He owns a career slash line in the Majors of .251/.344/.334.
Hanigan is the second catcher to receive a non-roster invitation to Goodyear with the Indians this spring and will give the club six catchers in big league camp. The other new addition, 29-year-old Jack Murphy, spent last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams.
According to USA TODAY Sports, Hanigan could earn a salary of $1.25 million if on the Major League roster. The signing was still pending a physical.
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