There is a certain risk associated when it comes to considering a player who has missed a whole season to injury recovery, as is the case with catcher Stephen Vogt. But for the Detroit Tigers, who have made it clear that being in contention won’t be a major focus for them this season, it might be a risk worth taking if it can create some necessary depth in the catcher position.
Vogt is a two-time All-Star catcher who has spent time with the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, and most recently, the Milwaukee Brewers. In his six active years, he is a career .251/.310/.416 hitter, good enough for a wRC+ of 97. His Steamer projected wRC+ for 2019 is 93.
Vogt is returning after missing the whole 2018 season recovering from a right shoulder surgery. The surgery, to repair his rotator cuff and labrum, wasn’t as bad as he initially thought it might be, meaning that while he missed a whole season, he now believes he is in good shape to play again, and will be holding a free agent showcase to prove it to prospective clubs.
While the Tigers have not been confirmed as attending that showcase, they would be wise to give Vogt a long look.
Currently, the Tigers plan for starting catcher is Grayson Greiner. Greiner played in only 30 major league games last season, hitting .219/.328/.281. That dismal slugging percentage aside, his number are moderate at best — though the walk rate is nice. Steamer predicts Greiner will have an 85 wRC+ in 370 plate appearances. He is projected to play in 92 games, but has never caught a complete season at the major league level. Having a veteran catcher to back him would not only be smart, but is likely truly essential in case of future injury. Current projected backup John Hicks is coming off groin surgery, and might be better served playing first base or slotting in as the team’s primary designated hitter.
Vogt has not played in a full year, but in 2017 he was hitting .233/.285/.423 and seemed to thrive when he moved from the A’s to the Brewers mid-season.
The Tigers should take a chance on this recovering veteran catcher.