Devin Mesoraco will catch Johnny Cueto more this season, severing the personal catcher relationship between Cueto and Bryan Peña. This according to manager Bryan Price as reported by Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

“Realistically, I see him (Mesoraco) as a Yadier Moilina type guy who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base. … It stood out more last year because I linked up Johnny Cueto with Pena catching,” Price added. “I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy. We won’t pair Pena with Cueto as much. Devin did a real nice job with Johnny the times he caught him.”

Mesoraco just signed a new contract with the Reds, extending his time with the club a year, through 2018. The agreement includes a $400,000 bonus for any season the catcher has 502 or more plate appearances. (That’s the number of PA that qualifies a hitter for the hitting titles, based on 3.1 PA per game.)

Catching 145 games amounts to playing 9 out of 10. Peña catching Cueto every fifth day meant Mesoraco played 8 out of 10, or 130 games over the course of a full, healthy season. The Reds play ten games in American League ballparks, mostly in May. Price can use Peña behind the plate in those games and keep Mesoraco’s bat in the lineup as the designated hitter.

This isn’t the first time Price has said he would forego the personal catcher arrangement. Heading into 2014, Price said: “Unless there is a reason to do it, I don’t have an intention to line up our starters with one catcher throughout the course of the entire year.” Price proceeded to assign Brayan Peña to catch Johnny Cueto for most of the season.

Playing Mesoraco over Peña makes a big difference, not only at the plate, but also behind it. Mesoraco is a plus defensive catcher, while Peña isn’t. Here are stats from last season, with the defensive runs calculation by FanGraphs.


If Price follows through with his announced plan, it’s welcome. The Reds can’t afford to sideline an impact bat in 20 percent of their games. Benching Mesoraco is especially costly against left-handed pitchers — he had an OPS of .925 against lefties, while Peña put up a .459.

Johnny Bench caught at least 140 games nine different seasons. So did Gary Carter, including at age 31. Mike Piazza did it six times. Two-time Gold Glove winner, Salvador Perez did last year. Devin Mesoraco (26) can be that kind of catcher. Injuries are always possible, particularly for catchers. But the added risk of playing one more game out of ten is worth the boost in offense.

If you believe in the importance of locker room presence, Price’s new policy raises the status of a young vocal leader. It must undermine a player’s clout for the manager to sit him every time the #1 pitcher takes the mound – on Opening Day, in the postseason, in ace-vs.-ace matchups. If anything, Mesoraco should sit during the #4 or #5 pitcher’s turn and always catch Johnny Ceuto.

Adding games behind the plate is preferable to Mesoraco learning a second position. Beyond taking time away from mastering the dark skills of catching, every game that Mesoraco plays at first base or left field is a game that Peña’s weak bat is in the lineup. And, it makes the Reds weaker defensively at two positions.