On Opening Day, the Oakland A's carried two full-time catchers on their 25-man roster: Kurt Suzuki and Anthony Recker. Now both catchers are with different organizations, having both been traded this month for other catchers.
In early August, the A's traded the veteran Suzuki to the Washington Nationals for minor league prospect David Freitas. Freitas has been with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds since the trade and is batting .341/.408/.415 in 14 games. He has been sharing time behind the plate with Beau Taylor. Suzuki has been the Nationals' primary catcher since the deal and he has a .192/.246/.231 line in 14 games with the Nats.
On Monday, the A's announced that they had traded Recker to the Chicago Cubs for Triple-A Iowa backstop Blake Lalli. Recker was designated for assignment on Monday, August 20th, when starter Brett Anderson was added back to the A's active 40-man roster.
There are some similarities between the two players. Lalli, like Recker, hails from Pennsylvania and both went to smaller colleges (Lalli is from Gibsonia and attended Gardner-Webb and Recker is from Allentown and attended Alvernia College). Both were born in 1983. Recker was an 18th-round pick of the A's in 2005, while Lalli was a non-drafted free agent signing of the Cubs in 2006.
Both catchers have some limited major league experience. Recker made his major league debut last August and he spent the final five weeks with the A's. He appeared in five games with the A's last season, collecting three hits in 17 at-bats. Recker then earned a spot on the A's Opening Day roster as the team's primary back-up catcher. He didn't see much playing time with Oakland during the first few months of the season, however, appearing in only 13 games before being optioned to Sacramento in favor of Derek Norris in late May. Recker had been with Sacramento ever since, posting a .265/.358/.435 line in 52 games.
Recker has had a productive career in the A's system. He appeared on four mid-season league All-Star teams and made the PCL's post-season All-Star team in 2011. In eight minor league seasons, Recker has a career OPS of 810 with 98 homeruns in 719 games. He has also developed into a solid defensive backstop after beginning his career primarily as an offense-first catcher.
Lalli made his major league debut with the Cubs earlier this season. He appeared in six games for Chicago, collecting two hits in 15 at-bats. The veteran minor leaguer is in his first season at the Triple-A level and he has hit .259/.293/.395 with seven homers in 93 games with the Iowa Cubs this season. Last year, Lalli batted .287 with a 791 OPS for Double-A Tennessee. He spent four seasons at the Double-A level with the Cubs.
Lalli has a 775 OPS in seven career minor league seasons. He has hit 40 homeruns and has a career .358 OBP. Lalli is considered a solid defensive backstop. He also brings some defensive versatility to the roster, having played more than 300 games at first base and a handful of games at second and third during his career. Lalli has also served as an emergency pitcher on 18 occasions. He joins veteran Jason Jaramillo, who was recently signed by the A's to a minor league contract, and Ryan Lipkin as catchers on the Sacramento River Cats' roster.
Lalli is not on the A's 40-man roster, so he would have to be added if the A's decide to bring up a third catcher in September. However, with Josh Donaldson and Brandon Inge (two infielders with significant experience as catchers) likely to be on the A's September roster, Oakland may decide not to bring up a third backstop this September. Lalli will be eligible for minor league free agency at the end of the season if the A's don't add him to their 40-man roster.