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Phillies must find upgrade at backup catcher this offseason

Nhyiba Sammy

Sept. 21, 2019

The Phillies should pursue some form of an upgrade to back up J.T. Realmuto behind the plate to make his life easier next season.
When the posted their lineup card for Friday night’s series opener against the Indians, many people were surprised that J.T. Realmuto‘s name was not on it. With the team barely clinging on to a playoff spot, there really isn’t much leeway to keep your best players out of the lineup.
Despite that, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters that Realmuto was getting a day of rest with his workload mounting. He has caught over 100 more innings and started 12 more games behind than any other catcher in the National League. Realmuto has started all but three games since Aug. 9.
Instead, Andrew Knapp got his 24th start of the season. He is playing an even smaller role than last year when Jorge Alfaro and then Wilson Ramos got the lion’s share of playing time behind the plate. Unsurprisingly, Knapp’s numbers aren’t great with how little he is playing this year. He has a .194/.326/.259 line, 31.3% strikeout rate, and 60 wRC+.
Backup catchers can get away with not offering much at the plate if they can provide something behind it. Unfortunately, Knapp can’t do that either with -1 defensive runs saved and -0.9 fielding runs above average, and -0.2 framing runs. If Knapp’s offense was acceptable, these defensive numbers could be overlooked, but both have been bad this season.
The stark contrast between Realmuto’s All-Star-caliber production and Knapp’s below-replacement level of performance is what forces Realmuto to play so many games. Granted, Realmuto should be playing as much as possible based on his talent level, but being able to rest him without throwing everyone into a frenzy would make things much easier.
Philadelphia has enough issues to address this offseason, but one they should at least pay some attention is backup catcher. If they add someone at least competent to back up Realmuto, they can afford to let him sit on a more regular basis.
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