With the signing of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Dodgers need to find another spot on the 40 man roster. Yency Almonte, Gus Varland, Bryan Hudson, and Ryan Yarbrough have all been subjected to DFA predictions. Others are also including Austin Barnes as a possibility. Maybe in a trade, but not as a DFA (IMO).
As most here know, I am an unapologetic Austin Barnes supporter. I am not advocating that the Dodgers do in fact move Austin Barnes, but are they going to send a 27 year old rookie catcher back to AAA? I have never believed that a team moves their catcher mid-season. Hunter Feduccia could be an adequate backup catcher, and is a clear option for LAD backup catcher for 2024.
Then again, the Dodgers will be unveiling multiple new pitchers on the Dodgers staff. Who better to shepherd these pitchers into the Dodgers game plan than the catcher who has done it the longest?
I am not convinced that Hunter Feduccia will be a better hitter than Barnes, especially the 2nd half Austin Barnes. Here is a snapshot of his 1st and 2nd half stats. It is remarkable what he can do once that BAbip got back to just above MLB average (.296). If there is a team that can afford to hide a struggling offensive threat, it was the 2023 Dodgers, and it will be even more so in 2024.
But I am also not convinced he will be a better hitter this year. This year seems to be as good a year as any to bring on a new catcher. Hunter Feduccia looks to be someone the Dodgers can infuse and not lose that much, if anything.
The Dodgers are LH hitting dominant, and Feduccia will add to that. He had good splits against RH pitching and acceptable splits against LHP. But it is a long way from MiLB pitching to MLB pitching. Just ask Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch.
I know that a common complaint about Barnes is his inability to throw out would be base stealers. Last year at OKC, Feduccia threw out 21 of 143 would be base stealers, or 14.69%. That is fairly pedestrian. For his MiLB career he has thrown out 18.20 % of 478 would be base stealers. Throwing out would be base stealers has not been a key strategy for the Dodgers. It is more on the LAD pitchers than it has been on the catchers. Nevertheless, the Dodgers do not have a Gabriel Moreno behind the dish.
I have been writing about Hunter Feduccia for two years now. He was passed over in the 2022 Rule 5 draft. The Dodgers protected him for the 2023 Rule 5 draft, but now have 4 catchers on the 40 Man. It makes sense that the Dodgers would move one of Barnes or Feduccia. It certainly seems that Feduccia has earned the right to be on the MLB roster, if not for the Dodgers, then for some other team. There are pros and cons for both. And while I do not think they should, Feduccia does have 3 option years.
There are teams that could use Barnes’ excellent receiving skills to work with their young pitchers. At $3.5MM, he is very affordable for even the most tightfisted clubs.
I am fine whichever way they choose. Just make a choice, and stay with it for the year. If they in fact move one of them and not option Feduccia, that would also mean that the Dodgers will have to sign a AAAA catcher to hide in OKC just in case.
Another observation – Andrew Friedman has job security with the opt out clauses in the Ohtani contract. I also do not see Mark Walter walking away from ownership for the next 10 years. With Ohtani under contract, the team has more value. Why leave?
But there is one person who will be under very close scrutiny and will very much be on a hot seat…Dave Roberts. IMO, they need to at least get to the WS, or Doc will be available to be hired by any of the other 29 teams. The Dodgers may have to win the 2024 WS to save Doc’s job. With as much as the team is committing to, much will be expected.