In the next couple of months, the Royals’ roster is going to be undergoing some changes. Dayton Moore will be adding and subtracting players via free agency, trades, waivers, and the like. Over the coming weeks, I’ll periodically be looking at what players currently on the 40 man roster with which the front office may choose to cut ties in order to make room for players who could help the Royals in 2014. At the end of each player review, I’ll tell you if I think the Royals should cut the player (trade, DFA, non-tender, etc.) or keep him.
When George Kottaras was claimed off of waivers in January of 2013, I think I speak for many Royals fans when I say the move was very surprising. It wasn’t a bad claim in the least, but Kottaras didn’t really seem like a Moore-type of player. He drew walks. He hit for power. He struck out a lot. He didn’t hit for a high average. He was bad defensively. Those characteristics aren’t found in many of the players Moore has typically gone after, so the move certainly caught many off guard.
Kottaras rewarded Moore’s boldness by doing what he does best: drawing walks and hitting for power. In 126 plate appearances, Kottaras drew 24 walks, good for a BB% of 19. For comparison, those 24 walks put Kottaras at the 6th highest total on the team, despite only accumulating the 15th most plate appearances. His 24 walks are the same amount as the combined total of David Lough, Jeff Francoeur, and Elliot Johnson. Those 3 players drew their walks in 701 combined plate appearances.
He only collected 18 hits, but 5 of those were home runs and 4 were doubles, leading to an ISO of .190. As expected, Kottaras didn’t make great contact (K% of 33.3) and left something to be desired defensively (-1 DRS in just 262 innings). But as a backup catcher playing behind Salvador Perez, Kottaras certainly provided positive value.
Speaking of Perez, when the Gold Glove winner missed time due to the death of his grandmother at the end of May, Kottaras was forced into a starting role. In that admittedly tiny sample size, Kottaras went 2-21 with 2 walks, 1 double, and 13 strikeouts. Obviously I wouldn’t expect him to do that over an extended period of time, but I do have some doubts about Kottaras being the full-time catcher should anything happen to Perez.
Kottaras is projected to make around $1.2 million in arbitration in 2014, his first season of arbitration eligibility. That isn’t a lot of money, although for a player who likely won’t get even 200 plate appearances next year, it isn’t quite the bargain many would prefer. Because of that reason, MLB Trade Rumors lists Kottaras as a non-tender candidate, thinking the Royals may go in a different direction with their backup catcher for next year.
Final decision on Kottaras: Keep him. While some of his shortcomings make me hesitant to think he could perform well enough if he had to play every day, the skillset he does possess fits in incredibly well on the current roster. He’s available for late-inning pinch hitting duties, and can give Perez an occasional day off without too much worry about a dramatic drop off. If Perez does need to miss substantial time, the Royals can look to add another catcher from elsewhere if they don’t have enough faith in Kottaras.