Dodgers: Breaking down the catching situation moving forward
The Dodgers announced a move on Thursday that fans have been waiting a long time to hear. The team made headlines with the news that Austin Barnes was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Along with that came the news that Will Smith was being brought up to take Barnes’ place on the roster. With that being said, the Dodgers must figure out who they want to be Smith’s back-up, Barnes or Russell Martin. While Martin is the back-up now, it’s simply because Austin Barnes has options.
It came as a surprise to many to hear the news of Barnes being optioned to OKC, considering his struggles throughout the season. Many wondered how long it was going to take for the Dodgers to give up on Austin. Unfortunately for Barnes, he has not been able to perform as he did in 2017 when he stepped in for former catcher, Yasmani Grandal.
This current season has been extremely tough for Barnes, as he had to take the reigns and be the Dodgers primary catcher, a role he had not yet taken for a full season. Sadly, he was unable to perform. In 70 games he hit .190 with an OPS of .616 and 53 strikeouts. He had been struggling mightily during July, with an average of .163.
The news that Smith was going to be recalled excited fans as many were awaiting his hot bat to make a come back. It’s no secret that Smith was performing really well in OKC. He was hitting .269 and had 20 home runs.
This will be his third stint with the big-league club this season. In nine games with the Dodgers, he hit .269 with three home runs, two of which were walk-offs. He was part of the three straight walk-offs by Dodger rookies.
The struggle that lies ahead for the Dodgers is who will take over the back-up catcher position now that Smith will take the lead role. By optioning Barnes, Martin is still left to split the games with Smith. The only issue there, Martin has been struggling as well.
Martin is a veteran to the game, playing in his 14th season in the major leagues, so he is no stranger behind the plate. He is also no stranger to that Dodger blue, as he got his break with the Dodgers in 2006 and continued with the team until 2010.
That is something to value, especially when a rookie like Smith is coming into the big leagues. In that sense, Smith and the team could benefit greatly from keeping Martin as the back-up. Russell is a veteran who knows his place and will help guide Smith along the journey.
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Although experience holds great value, Martin has been underperforming much like Barnes. Due to his age, they would split the catching duties 75/25. This may be impacting Martin, as he is hitting .223 in 54 games.
However, much like Barnes, Martin has struggled immensely in July. He is currently hitting .125 with only three hits this month, making it difficult for the Dodgers to figure out what to do with their catching situation.
With Barnes temporarily gone, the Dodgers have time to make a decision. If Barnes is able to take advantage of his time in OKC and show signs of steady improvement, they should bring him back and have him split the time with Smith in order to get a steady catching system.
However, if Austin struggles in AAA, the Dodgers can only hope that Martin shows signs of improvement and will at least provide mentorship for Smith in order for him to grow.
Whatever the outcome may be, the Dodgers’ catchers must all show signs of consistency that will carry over into the postseason. The club will have a lot of thinking to do over the remainder of the season to determine who will back up Will Smith in the postseason.