Being a GM is hard
On May 10th the Dodgers had a decision to make. They were feeling a roster crunch and would need to get rid of one of their three catchers. They had acquired Travis d’Arnaud on May 5th after he had been released by the Mets on May 3rd. Travis had been so bad for the Mets that they were going to eat the rest of his contract which paid him almost 3 Million in 2019. Travis got into one game for the Dodgers on May 7th.
Austin Barnes meanwhile had a .697 OPS propped up by an OBP (.316) 100 points higher than his batting average. Barnes had minor league options, they could have optioned him to the minor leagues and kept d’Arnaud but instead, they sold him to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the expected move, but it didn’t turn out to be the right move.
Since joining Tampa Bay, Travis d’Arnaud has been one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. He has a 124 wRC+ which ranks third among AL catchers and 5th among all catchers since May 11th with at least 100 plate appearances.
Austin Barnes meanwhile, since May 11th has a wRC+ of 40 and Russell Martin has a wRC+ of 61 for rankings of 38 and 34 respectively. That is bad.
I don’t think anyone can blame the Dodgers front office for picking their own two catchers over Travis, but man does that decision look bad in hindsight. The Dodgers are still on a pace to win over 100 games, the fact they are doing this while getting the worst offensive production from the catching position has been amazing.
Barnes has been sent back to AAA to find his swing, with Will Smith getting promoted to become the starting catcher. This could still all work out in the end. Travis could crater back to what he was doing in April, Smith could simply be the answer, Barnes could find his swing and help if Smith is not up to the task.
For whatever reason, the Dodger front office took forever to make the obvious call to send Barnes to AAA, and bring up Smith. For many Dodger fans, this is a move that should have been done at least a month ago if not months ago.
I hope Smith proves that he can be a starting catcher for a team with World Champion aspirations, that Barnes finds his groove, and that Martin can find some kind of offense in his bat so he’s simply not a veteran garnish.