Carving out a path for Eric Haase to maximize his value
As soon as the World Series was over, Al Avila, General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, got to work in 2022 as he continued to transform the organization.
With catcher Jake Rogers losing for the 2022 season to an operation on Tommy John and Grayson Greiner or Dustin Garneau not being an option for the entire season, the Detroit Tigers needed a catcher to mate with Eric Haase.
Avila pulled the trigger on a deal that gave the Tigers a two-time gold glove winner in exchange for infielder Nick Quintana, who isn’t even mentioned as one of the organization’s top prospects, at Tucker Barnhart of the Cincinnati Reds.
Barnhart hit .247 / .306 / .348 while hitting seven home runs and had 116 games in 48 runs last season. Barnhart is also adding a much-needed left-handed bat to the Detroit catching position that will complement Eric Haase well in the coming season.
Speaking of compliments, 30-year-old Barnhart is known more for his glove than for his bat, which is the opposite of Haase. Haase trained 22 home runs for the Tigers in 2021 and drove 67.
Last season when Haase showed up, AJ Hinch, manager of the Detroit Tigers, kept his bat in line by playing left field in 22 games, where he scored 0.968. Haase recorded 29 putouts as a left fielder and made only one mistake in 168.2 innings. Behind the bowl, Haase produced a 0.990 fielding percentage in 66 games and made five mistakes over 543.1 innings of work.
The 28-year-old native of Detroit cut 0.231 / 0.286 / 0.459 last season, which is nothing special, but if a team gets more than 20 home runs from a catcher it certainly adds to the lineup. Haase appeared to run out of gas as the season progressed as he was forced to catch every day. We have seen the offensive production of the catcher position across the league year after year.
Find a way with the Detroit Tigers to maximize Eric Haase’s worth.
With Barnhart likely to see at least 65% of the starts behind the plate, I’d love to see Detroit harness Haase’s power elsewhere in the lineup.
The Tigers can overtake Haase in the left field and bring Akil Baddoo into the middle and Robbie Grossman into the right field. Things get tricky on the outfield when Riley Greene turns spring training into the big league; Things can get confusing on the outside.
Hinch can also use Haase as a designated hitter when Miguel Cabrera plays first base, but similar to the outfield. If Spencer Torkelson gets a place in Detroit after spring training, places will quickly become scarce.
For hypothetical reasons, say both Greene and Torkelson start the year in Toledo, the Tigers will likely rotate Jonathan Schoop and Cabrera on first base. Here I would like Haase to maximize his managerial position. The total value of Schoop works best for the second base. His score goes down while he plays first base; it goes from a likely top ten second baseman to a mid-of-the-road first baseman.
For example, suppose Haase, who completed two innings in first base last season, can become a skilled defender at first. In this case, Hinch can switch him between first, left field, catcher and DH, which means his bat stays in Detroit’s lineup much more often than when he plays as a backup catcher and outfielder once a week.
With Cabrera serving as the team’s primary DH, this is a way to sneak Haase’s force into the bottom third of the lineup a little more often than originally expected in 2022.
According to FanGraphs, Haase provided the Tigers with a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.0. Another unique tool is a WAR converted into dollars that gives us what a freelance agency gamer should make.
With this calculator, Haase was $ 8.3 million last season, but according to Spotrac, the Tigers owed him only $ 441,648 in adjusted salaries; what a bargain.