George Kottaras DFA'd by A's: Yankees Watch Royals Claim Him

Ronald Martinez

The veteran reserve could provide the strong half of a platoon, giving the Yankees a little more offense at catcher than they can presently count on. Just don't think about the defense too much. (Updated below.)

As part of the three-team trade that sent Mike Morse from the Nationals to the Mariners, the A's picked up catcher John Jaso. This in turn meant that the A's pulled veteran reserve backstop George Kottaras off of their 40-man roster and designated him for assignment. The Yankees, as I'm sure you haven't forgotten for even a second, have spent his offseason perfecting the art of the non-hitting catcher combination, with backstoppin' greats Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine.

Kottaras, a left-handed hitter, would make an ideal platoon-mate with the three right-handed hitters. Kottaras has a little power, a little patience, and no batting average. His career rates against right-handed pitching are .226/.315/.436 with a home run every 22 at-bats. Cervelli has hit just .252/.305/.336 against right-handers with a home run every 86 at-bats. However, he's hit .317/.414/.393 in 172 career plate-appearances. It's a small sample, and worse than that one inflated by some of Cervelli's weird streaks of getting happy luck on balls in play, but it's the one bit of offense in this whole mess you can believe in.

Chris Stewart is a career .217/.281/.302 hitter; his splits are .203/.264/.274 against right-handers, .245/.315/.364 against left-handers. Austin Romine has hit .278/.333/.414 in the minor leagues, numbers that don't promise a great deal of offense. He didn't play enough last year to really gain anything by looking at his numbers (120 PAs at three levels) but in 2010 he hit .268/.324/.402 at Double-A, .243/.319/.356 against right-handers and .299/.364/.458 against left-handers. In 2011, when he repeated Double-A because he was blocked by Jesus Montero, he hit .286/.351/.378 for Trenton, which broke down to .277/.338/.345 against same-side pitchers, .316/.381/.474 against southpaws.

The bad news here is that Kottaras is streaky, has a .194 career average against left-handers, and doesn't throw well. Nevertheless, he would represent a nice little patch on an open wound. Figuring out what a platoon might produce isn't as simple as mashing his and Cervelli's splits together and seeing what you get -- who knows, Kottaras might even hit a few extra home runs at Yankee Stadium -- but if you're into doing things just for fun, you'd get a partnership that hits around .250/.335/.430 with 20 home runs and 75 walks. That's actually an upgrade on what Russell Martin did, at least offensively. Consider that AL catchers hit only .243/.311/.399 last year and you'll see that if the Yankees can get a claim in and/or work out a trade before Kottaras hits the wires, Billy Beane just did them a tremendous favor.

And hey, it's not like Cervelli, Stewart, and Romine are Johnny Bench out there. The Yankees may give up a few steals this year, but at least Kottaras would give them the potential of trumping those lost bases on defense with a few extra on offense.

UPDATE (January 25): The Royals claimed him. Apparently Cervelli/Stewart/Romine are good enough. I really don't understand the team's thinking this year. I get economizing, but I don't get complacent.

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