The Cincinnati Reds announced that they have signed catcher Luke Maile to a 1-year deal for the 2023 season. It would seem that this is the move that the team will make for filling the void that was the backup catcher to Tyler Stephenson for next year. The deal is for $1,175,000 – first reported by Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Luke Maile was born just south of the river and attended Covington Catholic High School before going to the University of Kentucky. He was drafted out of both schools, but signed with the Tampa Bay Rays as an 8th round pick in 2012. Maile reached the big leagues with the Rays in 2015 and has seen action in seven seasons – he did not play in the big leagues in 2020.
During the 2022 season Luke Maile played with the Cleveland Guardians. He got into a career high 76 games and had 206 plate appearances, hitting 10 doubles and three home runs while posting a .221/.301/.326 triple-slash line. That .627 OPS was good for an OPS+ of 82. If he could repeat that it would be a huge upgrade for the Reds backup catching situation, which saw player after player step in over the course of the season and struggle to do much of anything at the plate. Chris Okey, Mark Kolozsvary, Chuckie Robinson, Michael Papierski, Austin Romine, and Aramis Garcia combined for 401 plate appearances and hit an unfathomable .170/.210/.258.
In his career Luke Maile has thrown out 32% of opposing base runners and was at 28% last season (the league average rate was 25%). He was charged with just one passed ball in the last two seasons, spanning 585.2 innings behind the plate. According to Baseball Savant his average pop time to second base last year was 1.96. That ranked 29th out of 83 catchers with at least five attempts and is above-average. His arm strength was above-average and his transfer time was slightly below-average.
The team will likely still need to find some additional catching depth for Triple-A as things are quite bare after losing several catchers on waivers at the end of the season and several others to minor league free agency. It’s unlikely that the team could go through the entire year with just two catchers, so this isn’t likely to be the last catcher the ink to a deal – but it’s probably the only one they’ll be giving out that is a big league deal between now and the start of spring training.