The Pittsburgh Pirates have a really weird situation going on this season with their catchers. Their starting catcher, Russell Martin, has been on the disabled-list for the past week or two, so Tony Sanchez has replaced him as the starting catcher. However, once Martin returns, the Pirates will probably send Sanchez back to Triple-A because they want him to be a starting catcher so he can continue to develop. Basically, no matter what happens, backup catcher Chris Stewart will be the backup, and that’s exactly what should happen.
Since the Pirates aren’t willing to use Sanchez as their backup catcher, it looks like Stewart will be the backup catcher all season unless a trade is made or a free agent is signed. Unfortunately, Stewart has been horrible in his brief time with the Bucs. In 29 plate appearances, he has a .259/.310/.259 triple-slash line with a 65 wRC+. He has a career line of .216/.287/.287, so we can expect his offense to regress a bit.
For Stewart, however, his value was supposed to come with his defense. In just 66 innings behind the plate, Stewart has made two throwing errors and allowed two passed balls. Of the 10 attempted base-stealers against him, he has caught three. Sure, his defense hasn’t been horrible, but it hasn’t exactly justified keeping him on the roster despite his awful offensive production.
The Cleveland Indians recently designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment. Kottaras would have been an excellent replacement for Stewart on the Pirates’ 25-man roster. He is a decent defensive catcher, but his real value is in his offense. In 824 career plate appearances, Kottaras has a .216/.326/.416 line and he has drawn walks in 14.1 percent of his trips to the plate. He has a career wRC+ of 101.
Obviously, the backup catcher role on a MLB team is probably the least important of all 25 players on the roster. However, it would still be nice to have the best possible 25 players on said roster whenever possible. When comparing Stewart and Kottaras, it is overwhelmingly clear that Kottaras is the better catcher.