On Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers announced that they have acquired catcher Eric Haase from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations. In a corresponding move to make room for Haase on the 40-man roster, righthander Dario Agrazal was designated for assignment and placed on waivers.
Haase was a seventh round pick of the Indians in 2011 when they selected him out of Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Mich. Almost nine years later, he has outperformed expectations based on both his middle-round draft position and high-risk demographic as a prep backstop. He is a two-year veteran of Triple-A, and hit .226/.315/.517 for Columbus in 2019. Haase has also served three brief stints with the big-league club, totaling 19 games and doing very little worth mentioning in an insignificant sample size.
The book on Haase is that he’s a masher who sometimes struggles to make contact, and strikes out too often. His defense has never been expected to contribute to his value, but he possesses a strong arm and has worked hard to improve his footwork over the years. That evidently paid off to some degree, as FanGraphs regards his defensive abilities as roughly average.
Obviously, the main draw for Tigers fans is Haase’s tremendous raw power. It drew a double-plus review from FanGraphs’ evaluators in the same scouting report linked above. Haase has boasted double-digit home run totals in each of the past six seasons, and put up a personal best of 28 dingers in 2019. In addition, he drew walks at a 10.5 percent clip, which is on the high end of his career norm. If he can sustain that rate long term, it will be a big point in his favor considering his enormous strikeout totals.
With the addition of Haase to the organization, the Tigers now have four catchers on the 40-man roster. New signee Austin Romine is almost certain to see everyday reps on the big league club, leading to the assumption that Grayson Greiner would back him up, and prospect Jake Rogers would consume most of the playing time in Toledo to work on his offensive game. However, this move muddles the equation.
One possibility is that the Tigers intend to let Greiner and Haase duke it out in spring training, handing the better performer the backup job and cutting the other loose. Another possibility is that the Tigers are simply adding more insurance at a position that was abysmally poor last season and will let one of the two pair with Rogers, a job that was presumed to be taken by Kade Scivique. Both Greiner and Haase have minor league options remaining.
A third option is to keep all three of Romine, Greiner, and Haase on the 26-man roster. In this outcome, Romine and Greiner take most of the reps behind the plate while Haase fills in for first basemen C.J. Cron and Miguel Cabrera with infrequent turns as the catcher as needed.
The immediate result of this pickup is the designation of Dario Agrazal. A sinker specialist, Agrazal was acquired from the Pirates for cash considerations in late November. His intended role was a little unclear, considering the embarrassment of riches the Tigers have in high-minors pitchers. If he clears waivers, he will likely find a home eating innings in between starts from higher priority players. If he’s picked up by another club, it’s not impossible that he finds his way onto the major league staff of his new team as injuries come into play thanks to his command and intriguing sinker. Agrazal also has the option to become a free agent if he clears waivers.