The San Francisco Giants made a roster move before Thursday’s game, designating backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz for assignment and recalling 23-year-old Hector Sanchez, who was the backup on last year’s World Series Champions.
In a way, it’s a shame to see Quiroz go. The 31-year-old has all the key attributes of a traditional backup catcher. He’s a good defensive player, always works hard, and works very well with the pitching staff, even speaking perfect English despite being a native of Venezuela. He’s been mentioned by Giants broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow as someone who could end up as a MLB coach or manager once his playing days are over. Of course, he also had one of the most memorable moments of the Giants’ 2013 season, hitting a walk-off home run on May 4 to lead the Giants to victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That being said, Sanchez has the clear edge over Quiroz in several categories. Quiroz was hitting only .186 this year and has a .201 career MLB batting average, whereas Sanchez hit .280 in his rookie year last season. Sanchez is young and has the potential to get better both offensively and defensively, while Quiroz is a seasoned veteran who probably is never going to be a very productive player on the field.
Sanchez has struggled with a shoulder injury all season that has limited his productivity and caused him to have to sit out for several extended periods. However, he says that right now it is the best it has been since last season, so it makes sense to see if he can return to his 2012 form (or even improve) over the last month and a half of the season. One sign of his recent maturation as a hitter lies in the fact that he has taken seven walks in his last ten Triple-A games after taking only five during the entire 2012 season. Perhaps he will be more disciplined this time around in the big leagues.
One other thing that this move may do is put catcher Johnny Monell in line for a big-league audition in September. Monell is not currently on the 40-man roster, and even with Quiroz’s removal the Giants will still need to find a player to take off the roster when Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong are removed from the 60-day DL. But all teams typically bring up a third catcher in September, and it is especially likely considering that the Giants’ starter, Buster Posey, is so valuable, and they are pretty far out of contention at this point.
Even though Quiroz was an important contributor to this team, the Giants should see what they can get out of the 27-year-old Monell. The lefthanded hitter made a big impression during big-league spring training this year, and he’s having a good year in Triple-A, having put up a .286 average with 17 homers and a .365 OBP. There are some questions about his ability behind the plate, but it makes sense for the Giants to at least take a look at him, especially considering that they stand to lose him if he finishes the year in the minors and becomes a six-year free agent. He has many of the same characteristics as Quiroz—he’s a grinder who is a good clubhouse presence and truly enjoys the game– so he may be a reliable option next season should something happen to either Posey or Sanchez. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear just from the Sanchez move that the Giants are moving towards evaluating for 2014.