Ex-Tiger Laird gets two-year contract from Braves (updated)
These were the words from Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski a few weeks ago when asked whether they’d make a push to keep free agent Gerald Laird:
“We basically told Gerald this situation: I know he’s looking for a little more playing time, he’s looking for a little more finances. That’s not going to come from us.”
As it turned out, it came from the Braves, who just lost their backup catcher and badly needed one with Brian McCann having just undergone shoulder surgery. Atlanta has agreed to terms with Laird on a two-year contract, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.
Financial terms haven’t been disclosed, but Atlanta paid David Ross north of $1.6 million in each of the last three seasons before he left for Boston earlier this month. Laird made $1 million with the Tigers this past season.
On a team that just spent big for right fielder Torii Hunter and will have to spend much bigger to try to keep Anibal Sanchez, backup catcher was never going to be a big-ticket item. The only backup catcher in recent years to get a multi-year deal from the Tigers was Vance Wilson, and it was for far less. Subsequent Tommy John surgeries never allowed Wilson to play another game in the big leagues after signing that contract.
As for playing time, McCann’s rehab leaves Laird looking at a potentially heavy workload early in the season, and possibly more if the rehab hits a setback. For what it’s worth, Ross received more playing time than Laird last year through McCann’s injuries, and had a pretty steady workload of 50-60 games and 145-170 plate appearances in the three seasons before that.
Laird played in 63 games with 191 plate appearances this past season, eventually settling in for a good share of starts against left-handed pitchers as the Tigers tried to watch the wear and tear on Alex Avila’s knees. Those are starts and at-bats the Tigers are going to have to fill. Most likely, they’ll make every effort to fill it from within.
“We do feel comfortable with Bryan Holaday as a guy that can step in and be a backup catcher,” Dombrowski said a few weeks ago.
[UPDATE: Dombrowski reiterated that stance in an email to MLB.com on Thursday as MLB’s owners meetings were wrapping up in Chicago. However, he also left open the possibility of signing another backup.
“At this time, he would be our backup,” Dombrowski wrote of Holaday, “and we would be happy with him performing that role for us. However, we will also continue to keep our options open.”]
The Tigers drafted Holaday out of TCU three years ago with the idea he could grow into a useful catcher in the big leagues, certainly defensively. He got his first big league call in June with Avila and Laird both ailing, then returned to Detroit later as a September call-up. In between, he got regular work at Triple-A Toledo, batting .240 on the year as a Mud Hen with two home runs and 25 RBIs.
Holaday threw out 25 of 73 would-be baserunners in Toledo, maintaining the 34-percent rate he posted throwing out runners last year at Double-A Erie. He has earned glowing reviews for his defense and his work with pitchers.