When the Twins had Joe Mauer listed as a catcher, they had five backstops on the 40-man roster. It was a situation they carried through the 2013 season, and while it made little sense at the time it ended up being a good thing. Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer were able to close the season out in September when Mauer was on the shelf and Ryan Doumit was relegated to 13 games as the designated hitter.
September Starts at Catcher
Now that Mauer is no longer an option behind the plate, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski have been in the rumor mill. There's a reason that's been the case; the Twins want to bring in another catcher for the 2014 season. Which would precipitate adding a fifth catcher, yet again, to the 40-man roster.
Is it just me, or is that just as ridiculous of a concept as it was last year?
In 2013, even with Mauer out of action and Doumit purposely being kept out of catching action, Fryer was an afterthought callup in September and fielded a token four games - two of which came in the season's final two contests. While it was a luxury to carry a third catcher in September, because this is exactly what expanded rosters are for with non-competitive squads, carrying that same philosophy forward into 2014 feels like a mis-allocation of resources. 40 spots will only go so far.
The Twins, instead of signing Fryer to a straight minor league contract, have issued him what is termed a "split contract". They did the same in 2013. Essentially, if Fryer makes the MLB roster at any point he will be paid a pro-rated percentage of $515,000. Essentially, even in his best-case scenario Fyrer makes $85,833.33 in September. And for that he's been awarded a 40-man roster spot as the fourth, and soon to be fifth, catcher on the depth chart.
If Minnesota were sitting at 35 or 36 players, it would be a different situation. As things sit now, at 39 players, if the Twins add the two starting pitchers we've been hearing about then at least one player will be losing their roster spot. While you could make arguments for dropping Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello, the most replaceable player on the 40-man roster right now is Eric Fryer.
I don't mean any disrespect to Fryer. Which is horrible of me to even say. But let's be honest: I can't do what he does. He works hard. It's not like he's underserving of a chance to play Major League Baseball. It's just that in a world of limited resources and limited roster spots, the Twins have gone out of their way to offer a special contract to a player who probably wouldn't be looked to until September - if at all. And if he's one of the guys on the short list to lose that roster spot anyway, once the team makes the moves they've already dedicated themselves to making, then what was the point?
My guess is that, when the Twins do eventually make their next two or three or four moves this winter, Fryer could end up keeping his job. In line before him could be, in that scenario, Parmelee, Colabello, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks, and possibly even Darin Mastroianni. At least, that's what the offer of a split contract tells me. It tells me that his roster spot is safer than I imagined earlier in the month.
To be sure, we're dealing with a relatively inconsequential decision in the long run. Losing Albers, for example, isn't going to make the fortunes of 2014 any better or worse than losing Fryer. It's not going to stop the Twins from adding better players over the winter. It might not even guarantee Fryer a job with the team by the time we reach Opening Day.
Which, really, is exactly why the decision confuses me.