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The 40-Man Roster Catching Situation

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Ron Gardenhire used to have three catchers on the active roster. The Twins may not even have three on the 40-man roster entering 2015.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday afternoon it was announced that the Twins had signed former Padre Tim Stauffer to a one-year contract. Since the 40-man roster was already full, they had to remove someone to make room for Stauffer, and that one player that was taken off was catcher Eric Fryer.

Losing Fryer is no big deal in a vacuum. He's your typical good defensive catcher that can't hit, and evidently the other 29 teams in the majors were convinced that they did not need him on their rosters. However, this move wasn't made entirely in a vacuum. There are some ramifications as the loss of Fryer now leaves the Twins with three - arguably even two - catchers on their 40-man roster.

The three that are now available are Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, and Chris Herrmann. However, I said I could argue that this counts as only two catchers as Herrmann appeared in a single inning last season at catcher. Yes, you read that correctly, the same guy that made 30 appearances as a catcher in his career played just one inning at the position last season. Now, you could argue that the reemergence of Suzuki and the desire to give some playing time to Pinto contributed. On the other hand, Fryer also received 24 games at catcher, suggesting that the Twins saw him as being far more valuable than Herrmann behind the plate.

By the way, I found that single catching appearance for Herrmann. It occurred against the Colorado Rockies on July 13th, just before the All-Star Game. In a 13-5 victory, Herrmann pinch-hit for Casey Fien as the fourth batter in the inning. After hitting an RBI infield single, he remained in the game following a double-switch where Kurt Suzuki was pulled in favor of Glen Perkins. He also was the second pinch-hitter used in the game (Chris Colabello hit in the 7th for Samuel Deduno), so all it took to get Chris Herrmann a chance to catch was a blow-out where he wasn't even the first player off the bench.

I've just spent far more time than necessary to say that there had to be some reason why Herrmann did not catch even a full game even though his primary position is as a catcher. It's entirely possible that I'm overthinking this, but it sure seemed last season that the Twins liked Fryer as a backstop more than Herrmann, and yet they outrighted Fryer off the 40-man roster.

I'm hoping that they didn't make that move simply because of the "defensive flexibility" Herrmann provides. I put that in quotes because he does have the ability to play the corner outfield, but I don't see why you'd want him out there at all. Toss in the fact that he's barely a better hitter than Drew Butera (career .196/.264/.284 to Butera's .183/.239/.268) and I don't see how any amount of defensive flexibility allows him to even sniff a major league appearance next year.

Since I'm making the hypothesis that Herrmann will not be treated as the third catcher on the 40-man roster next season, then who else has a chance to be added in the future and when? For the latter question, I bet we'll see at least one more catcher added sometime in spring training once roster cuts occur. As for the former, we can start by looking at the non-roster invitees to spring training. Jesse already covered the catchers and it appears that of the quartet of Mitch Garver, Tyler Grimes, Dan Rohlfing, and Stuart Turner, Rohlfing has the best shot simply because he's already had experience at Triple-A. Meanwhile, Turner and Grimes spent all of 2014 at High-A and Garver was at Single-A, so they don't seem like viable options to be called up to the big league squad unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

You may also look at the remaining free agent catchers and wonder if one of them might be signed. There are some options available, but I look at that list and wonder which of them would be open to be sent to the minors to start the season. Then again, there's always the possibility that the Twins still don't view Josmil Pinto as an adequate catcher, so perhaps they'll be in the market for a backup catcher behind Suzuki that can be added to the roster.

Basically, there has to be a catcher in the Twins' future at some point, regardless of if it's today, spring training, or even after the season starts. All I know is that there's no way they'll be able to sustain carrying three or perhaps even two catchers for the entire season.