Cleveland Indians: Who Should Start At Catcher This Upcoming Season?


The Cleveland Indians will showcase an impressive lineup in 2017, but one spot that is a bit concerning is at catcher. Who should play there regularly?

With about four weeks left until pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training, there isn’t a lot of question marks surrounding the Cleveland Indians. If there is a position, though, where questions will be fast and frequent, it is behind the plate at the catcher spot. Is it Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez who should start the season atop the depth chart?

Both players fit a similar profile as defensive first catchers. Each hits from the right side and handles a pitching staff with the best of them.

Both also offers outstanding throwing arms and toughness. For all intents and purposes, there isn’t much difference between the two.

But for Gomes, it’s been two frustrating seasons in a row in terms of both injuries and performance. He won the Silver Slugger in 2014 after hitting .278 / .313 / .472 with 21 home runs and 74 RBI.

Since that time, Gomes has only played in 95 games in 2015 and 74 games in 2016. That is far below expectations for a guy signed to a $4.5 million, $5.9 million, and $7 million the next three seasons.

After signing that extension, Gomes hit .231 in 2015 and a putrid .167 in 2016. Injuries sapped him of all of his power, combining in 2015 and 2016 for 21 homers, the same number he had in 2014. His combined WAR of zero over that two year span makes his 4.2 WAR season in 2014 seem like a distant memory.

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Let’s not mistake Perez, though, as a massive upgrade. Even before a broken thumb forced Chris Gimenez into action, Perez was scuffling at the plate, hitting .183 / .285 / .294 with three home runs and 17 RBI. As a backup in 2015, his numbers were a little better at .228 / .348 / .402 with seven homers and 21 RBI.

Where Perez excels is working with the staff. There’s no denying that the impact he had on the rotation once he returned from injury. It’s not just pitch framing or the throwing arm, two things that fans will often point to when praising Perez.

The way Perez works with pitchers, keeping them calm, and focuses while calling a fantastic pitch sequence, is what makes the difference. Granted, it doesn’t hurt that Perez guns down would be base stealers so frequently, all at the bargain price of $516,000.

But who gets the nod to start behind the plate? Perez was a key part of the moxie that got the Tribe to the World Series, but Gomes has so much potential when healthy. Can manager Terry Francona justify having such an expensive backup in Gomes if it is Perez as the number one catcher?

Would they really take a not-to-long-ago Silver Slugger out of the everyday lineup? Barring a trade, it’s not going to be an easy choice. Speaking of trades, there isn’t any value on the market right now for Gomes.

Even rebuilding teams like Cincinnati, San Diego, Minnesota, and Atlanta would have a hard time justifying Gomes’ salary for the production over the last couple of years. There aren’t great options left in the farm system as Francisco Meija just isn’t ready yet after surging through the minors.

Maybe a cheap veteran, like A.J. Pierzynski (if he doesn’t officially retire), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or Nick Hundley could be an option. Otherwise, it’s status quo all the way.

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Either way, the catcher spot is the only potential drama right now heading into camp. For Gomes, this is the most important season in his career. For Perez, it’s his chance to solidify his spot on the roster.