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.

71 Responses

  1. LDS

    I guess Barnhart didn’t work out. Maile beats last year’s options, but let’s hope Stephenson stays healthy.

  2. Harold

    We probably didn’t want to wait to see Tucker could find a full-time placement. I hope Malle works out and works well with the pitchers. Sounds like an upgrade.

  3. RedsGettingBetter

    I was reading a Mark Sheldon’s article today about the possible Reds backup catcher candidates available in the market so he mentions some names as Tucker Barnhart, Austin Hedges, Curt Casali, Omar Narváez and Gary Sanchez being the last two the intriguing options but the Office always thinks first about the cheap side…We expect Tyler Stephenson can stay healthy

    • Old Big Ed

      Geez, man, Gary Sanchez can’t catch much better than I can, and I haven’t put on shin guards in 40 years. The main skill for a backup catcher is defense.

    • GreatRedLegsFan

      If Tyler can take 400 PA would be great.

  4. MK

    Nice to see a local boy get a chance. A small upgrade over last year which is positive but if Stephenson can’t stay on the field I don’t think it will make much difference.

  5. Kevin H

    What upgrade. Garcia, and Romine just as good. I can’t wait to hear the complaining when he hits 180. I just it sad a organization can lose so many catchers from last years season. Just laughable

    LOL

    • Colorado Red

      Does not appear so.
      Luke looks better

  6. Old-school

    $1.175 mil with 25k bonus if plays 80 games.

    • LDS

      $1.175 mil – probably wasn’t getting Barnhart for that nor any of the other, better options. It’s the Reds after all.

      • Votto4life

        The Reds love local players, but only if they come cheap.

  7. Redsvol

    On the one hand, the signing is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, Tyler Stephenson is our catcher and we should only need a backup. Several of the guys available are starting caliber (120 games) catchers and probably wouldn’t want a job where they may only play 50 games.

    Also, no matter how you spin it, Maile’s 2022 offensive stats are leaps and bounds ahead of the guys we asked to play last year. I would still like Austin Romine brought back on a minor league deal. The staff responded to him and 1 injury away from needing a AAA catcher means we need someone with major league experience in Louisville.

  8. Old-school

    Reds have no one making more than $3 million other than Moose and Votto. Krall is building a roster of 1 year contracts to add a SP and OF and perhaps bullpen arms later in the winter on 1 year deals. Budget obligations will be a blank slate 1 year from now.

    • Votto4life

      Yes, that is what’s important.

    • LDS

      OS, why do you persist in believing that the Reds will spend next year? There’s nothing to suggest that’s true. It would be helpful if Votto pulled a Cabrera, but I don’t think he will. Everyone’s expectations far exceed what he’s likely to deliver this season.

      • Votto4life

        Just the opposite, there is overwhelming evidence that’s it’s not true.

      • Earmbrister

        LDS, I don’t know that OS said, in this comment anyway, that he believes the Reds will spend next year. For my part, I think that they will start spending once the youngsters make the 26 man roster and start producing. The evidence is the substantial investment they made in the 19/20 offseason.

        And I’m not betting against Joey V having a bounce back year. The man takes care of his body.

      • Luke J

        The overwhelming evidence is actually that the Reds will go out an sign several free agents when they are at the end of the rebuild and think they can compete. They did it at the end of the last rebuild (Moose, Suarez, Castellanos, Bauer, etc…). So anyone who claims there is no evidence they will spend money is being willfully blind. Claiming the lack of spending at the tear down portion of a rebuild is even remotely evidence of an intent not to spend in the future is absurd.

      • LDS

        I think the ownership views 19/20 seasons as a mistake. Hence Williams is gone.

      • Luke J

        I disagree. They view it as a failure, not a mistake. Either way, that’s just our own personal speculation. All we do know is the evidence of the past suggests spending at the end of a rebuild. There is literally zero evidence to the contrary, which is what you suggested there was.

      • Votto4life

        Luke,

        The have traded or failed to resign Bauer, Ilgelias, Gray, Miley, Barnhart, Castellanos, Winker, Suarez, Mahle, Castillo and Farmer without re-investing a nickel back into the team. Why in the world would anyone think the Reds will go on a spending spree once Moustakas and Vottto’s contracts come off the books?

        Nick Krall has stated the goal is to “allocate payroll with resources” “” and “Avoid peaks and valleys” (whatever that means).

        There is overwhelming evidence the Reds are not going to spend in 2024 or beyond under Bob Castellini.

        LDS is right, things changed in 2020/21. My guess, based on what has happened since, is that Bob Castellini felt burnt by the two large contracts (although every team has a bad contract or two) and the new collective bargaining agreement. He is now being petulant by casting off anyone earning over $5 million dollars a year and refusing to sign multiple year contracts.

        People who believe the Reds are going on a spending spree anytime soon are fooling themselves. They can’t blame the Reds for misleading them, because the Reds haven’t given any indication of that.

        I look forward to having this discussion with you this time next year.

      • old-school

        I think the Reds will get back to a $130 or $140 million payroll when it makes sense to finish a roster. No one believes they are going on a “spending spree ” or signing players to 5/6 year deals over $100 mil or building a payroll of $180 million. I m optimistic the Reds are finally sticking to a plan and constructing a roster the correct way, with a pipeline of young talent that either finishes development at the MLB level or identifies areas where they need to spend.They are avoiding the Homer bailey, Shogo Akiyama, Moose contracts and also done trading bad contracts and giving up prospect talent as an incentive ( ABiley/Dodgers fiasco).
        Throwing tens of millions at old vets simply to meet the budget for a given year doesnt accomplish anything. Play the young guys as Roger says.
        Time will tell.

      • BK

        Luke’s right. The Red’s track record of spending from 2006 to 2020 was always well above their market size and generally middle of the pack. Forbes’s annual data supports payroll spending to break even on a net basis. I will continue to argue that the payroll cuts we’ve seen over the last two years are primarily COVID-related; I believe having a marginally competitive team was secondary. None of us know what they’ll do leading into the 2024 season, but the track record shows they will increase payroll significantly from where it was last year and from where it is this year.

      • LDS

        Absolutely, play the young guys. But when you don’t have a decent player for a position, e.g., 1st Base, OF, etc. and no prospects in the queue, spend some money on guys with 3-5 years of productivity remaining, e.g., Josh Bell, Benintendi, maybe Gallo, Bellinger. Let’s quit pretending the Reds have a master plan or that they’ve ever assembled a winning team in the Castellini era. They haven’t. The 2-3 successful teams in his tenure were built earlier. As for the market size argument, that’s been demolished more times than I can count and see no reason to rehash the obvious. The Reds are a cheap, poor managed organization with no commitment to winning. But they are sure to smooth out the “peaks & valleys”.

      • BK

        I didn’t say the Reds have spent wisely, followed a coherent plan, or had even their fair share of success. I agree they’ve been poorly run. However, what I said about their spending patterns is factually accurate as is their market size and more importantly the disparity in resources they have compared to most other MLB teams.

        I’m not against signing a FA that fits long-term, but I’m not sure many FA will want to commit to the Reds with the understanding that they will be mostly “sorting” in 2023. FAs get to decide where they want to sign if there are multiple bidders … takes two to tango. I think we’re more likely to see FA signings closer to ST on one-year contracts who can be flipped at the trade deadline. I understand why that’s not appealing. I don’t like watching bad teams either. We’ve had more than our fair share of losing.

      • Earmbrister

        …LDS, instead of pretending or assuming the Reds don’t have a master plan, why wouldn’t we assume they do? In our spare time we manage fantasy football teams with peanuts at stake and we certainly have a plan in place.

        Which is more plausible? A team with hundreds of millions of dollars of resources and dozens of people in the FO having a plan or not having a plan? Yes, there are good and bad teams. However, for the last year and change, they have run this rebuild by the book. The prospects received in return for our veteran players have been highly rated. The team shouldn’t be wasting legitimate dollars plugging holes on a 90-100 loss team. Give the youngsters an extended chance to play and plug any obvious holes with cheap alternatives, or with guys that you can likely flip mid season.

      • Luke J

        Just let Votto4Life and LDS rant. And when the rebuild is nearing competitiveness and they start signing free agents, they will have moved onto something else to complain about and will have forgotten their claims. The reality is that there is a zero percent chance they don’t have a plan, and a mountain of evidence of the general concept behind the plan they have. We won’t know for sure which holes they will fill in free agency and which prospects will pan out, but make no mistake, they will take a shot at winning in the next few years. And that WILL 100% include free agent signings and spending money. To suggest otherwise is just nuts.

  9. Optimist

    This is fine, and a good start, but better only be a good start. They’ll need 2 or 3 more for AA/AAA, and they’ll probably need to pick up 1 more with MLB experience. I almost expect a Rule 5 pick as well just to see how long that could last.

  10. Votto4life

    About as expected, he should fit right in.

  11. J

    Nickname: “Lukey Barrels”

    Could there be trouble in the clubhouse if Donnie Barrels returns? (And are the Reds perhaps choosing to sign free agents based on nicknames? It wouldn’t shock me.)

  12. Mark Moore

    I’d love to be in a position where “affordable part-time job” means over $1M … 😀

    OK, so this is essentially a flyer on some level. And, as others have noted, this indicates we’re committing to TySteve playing 120+ games behind the dish. Now to see how his healing plays out.

  13. Scott C

    Wake me up in August and tell me how it worked it. I am not optimistic. To see it is an up grade over last season is just saying the bar of improvement is really low.

    • Luke J

      LOL It’s a backup catcher. The bar is absolutely low. It’s your expectations that are unrealistic.

  14. CI3J

    I mean, sure, this isn’t a very exciting move, but it’s necessary and a smart use of limited funds.

    As Forrest Gump would say: “That’s good. One less thang.”

    • Votto4life

      It would be if the Reds really only have limited funds

  15. Melvin

    At a .221 BA he could compete for the Reds batting title next year. Gotta look at the positive. :)…. I guess it’s not THAT bad. lol

    • JayTheRed

      The sad part of this is your passement is correct. Well unless Stephenson or India comes back to form. Those guys should be hitting around .270 to .290

  16. Votto4life

    How sad this franchise has become, when fans actually get excited because the Reds spend $1.2 millions dollars for a catcher who hit .221 last season.

    • VaRedsFan

      How much would you like to spend on a backup catcher?

      • JayTheRed

        The problem here is, we don’t know how much we are going to get out of Stephenson next season. The guy is great when he is not hurt but his injury past is starting to build up already.

        To answer your question. I am not opposed to this current deal it’s just I expected them to go out and get a more known backup with all the money they have been saving the past 2 years.

  17. Michael B. Green

    I like this signing. He helped manage the youngest rotation in the league and that rotation won the AL Central. No reason to break the bank on a #2 catcher. Get someone that is good at working with young pitchers. Check.

  18. Michael B. Green

    Also of note, teams should run this more with the new rules. Maile has done a nice job against the run game over his career.

  19. Kevin Patrick

    I’m totally glad they pick up a catcher who can throw out runners. Any experience this guy has handling pitchers for Tampa and Cleveland (organizations that develop young pitchers) will be an extremely useful asset in the environment Maile arrives into. I just can’t believe we just missed the timing of a Mahle Maile combo…the stars didn’t quite align I guess. Frankly, I’m actually pleased the front office didn’t put the catching issue on the back burner till the end of free agency. This getting done before winter meetings is either an example of a desperate situation or shows the organization recognizes the most glaring need on the roster (lack of catching) needed addressing promptly. The quality of player for the price is more than reasonable and seems shrewd. Lets imagine some catching genius grew up a Bench fan and always dreamed of playing in a Reds uniform and wants to come and play with the Reds…this signing isn’t so cost prohibitive that a miracle deal still couldn’t be made. Lots of flexibility still.

    • J

      Could have been Mahle and Miley pitching to Maile. They really blew a great opportunity.

      • Kevin Patrick

        If we would have kept Dave Miley as manager… wow…

      • Steven Ross

        You’re hired as GM! Good one.

    • VaRedsFan

      The catchers would have a better chance if the pitchers would actually hold the runners on better….or the 1st baseman would at least apply a tag when a pickoff throw is made

  20. Rednat

    where do the reds find these guys? geez

    • Oldtimer

      Maile is from Park Hills, KY and Covington Catholic right across the Ohio River.

      • Dan

        That was amusingly literal, Oldtimer. Thank you – I enjoyed that. 🙂

  21. Jim t

    Nice pick up for a back up to TS.

    My hope for the team in 2023 is to play the younger players to see what we have and try to fill some holes in 2024 with some payroll off the books.

    Getting Barrera back on track would be huge. Begin sorting through some of our middle infield prospects and see who could transition to the outfield.

  22. AMDG

    Crazy thing is, even though he only hit 0.221 he was by far and away the Indians’ best hitter behind the plate, and the only one to hit better than 0.163

    He did hit over 0.260 since the middle of July, so maybe the Reds are hoping the bat will be a little better than what the back of his baseball card shows?

    • Votto4life

      The first 3 /12 months of the season must had been really brutal.

  23. doc

    Tampa Bay has been in the playoffs the last four years. Their payroll last year, at least in one report I saw, was $69MM. It’s the quality and the performance of the players, not the quantity of the payroll. Plenty of payrolls much higher than the Reds who also sat home during the post season, but one would never know it from the litany of complaints on this site. Reds three highest paid players in 2022 were all giant busts. You could have had a dozen highly paid players and a $200MM payroll but if they all performed at Votto, Moose and Minor levels they still would have lost 100 games.

    • Redsvol

      no truer words have been spoken on this website @doc. I think some on here determine their fandom for a player based on how much he makes instead of what he produces. As a Reds fan, I am comfortable with the fact that we’re going to see what the young guys can do for a couple years. Nick Krall has said on several occasions that the plan is to develop the young guys and create competition. It makes no sense to get mad at the team anymore for not spending money when the stated goal is to develop the young guys.

      Clearly they are going to add some low cost veterans on short term deals to shore up where we don’t have any young players ready (catcher, bullpen) and its going to be up to the coaches to develop them and the players to seize their opportunity or lose it to the next young guy coming up. Talking to you Senzel, Barerro, India.

  24. gusnwally

    I graduated from CCH back in 65 with his uncle. So I have followed Luke since he broke in. True he has never hit a lot. But, managers and coaches have been effusive in their praise of his defense. Hopefully he feels really comfy being back home, and it helps his numbers a bit. But, teams do seem to be willing to overlook backup catchers offensive numbers to ensure they have a solid man behind the plate with the glove.

  25. MBS

    Barnhart 22
    BA .221, OBP .287, OPS .554, AB 281, HR 1

    Maile 22
    BA .221, OBP .301, OPS .627, AB 181, HR 3

    I think most would have been happy to have Barnhart as our backup catcher, I would have. This seems like a very equivalent option with a slight edge to Maile.

    • David

      Maile is also a few years younger than Tyler Barnhart.

      After all, this is a reserve catcher.

      But to others, yes, I am not terribly excited by this, and no, I don’t think Castellini and the rest of the Management group will let Nick Krall spend a lot of money prior to the 2024 season on free agents to make the team better.
      Castellini subscribes to the Pittsburgh model, not the Tampa Bay model. The Tampa Bay model would require them to have Front Office people with some advanced understanding of baseball player metrics and would cost them money to hire such people. It would take a couple of years to make it work, and Bob Castellini is not interested in that. It all seems like witchcraft to him. And he is probably still getting advice from his besty pal, Walt Jocketty.

      • Old Big Ed

        Tyler Barnhart is a real estate agent in San Diego. Was a catcher in youth league.

        Keep up.

      • David

        Doh! The Reds have had SO many Tylers. 🙂

        Tucker, Tucker, Tucker. Mea Culpa. Mea maxima culpa!

        I think a month or so ago I called Spencer Steer, Steven Steer.
        Huh, what?

      • Jim Walker

        Per Fangraphs and BBref, Barnhart (at 31 years; 10 months) is only 1 month older (almost to the day) than Maile.

        Barnhart probably seems older than he is to many Reds followers because he was up to stay with the Reds from mid April of 2015 (his age 24 season) until he was traded after the 2021 season (his age 30 season).

    • JayTheRed

      wow those stats are interesting. Maybe Maili isn’t a bad option after all. Good job you convinced me.

  26. RedOctober90

    I really hope that this isn’t it. I’m not asking for Aaron Judge but a couple of quality ballplayers would at least give a glimmer of hope next season to the fans.

  27. RedOctober90

    Ha ha! I think I’ve heard of him now.

  28. MBS

    I am always tweaking my system for managing payroll, and adding prospects. I really like the current iteration.

    Every year add 4.5 prospects to the MLB club.

    Every year add 1 FA at (18M x 2Y)
    Short term guys wanting to pad their numbers at GABP, or a vet like a Jansen for example who can fill a need at a high level, but doesn’t command a long term contract.

    Every other year extend 1 player after his 2nd year of service on the MLB roster.
    (10M x 6Y) for 8 years of team control.

    Trade the remaining guys coming into, during, or after their 5th season. If you keep repeating this 2 year pattern you will end up with a 26 man roster that has:

    2 FA’s making (18M), 36M
    3 Keepers making (10M), 30M
    1 Future Keeper still at league min (1M) pre Arb, 1M
    4 Players in their 5th season (6M) 2nd yea Arb, 24M
    4 Players in their 4th season (3M) 1st year Arb, 12M
    4 Players in their 3rd season (1M) pre Arb, 12M
    4 Players in their 2nd season (1M) pre Arb, 4M
    4 Players in their 1st season (1M) pre Arb, 4M

    Total of 115M a season, obviously this is just a guide, and not a set in stone must follow strategy. For example an opportunity to extend a Greene and Lodolo duo shouldn’t be passed up just to follow this guide.

    It was just an exercise to prove to myself that you can keep good players, while still adding FA’s, a steady stream of prospects to the organization, and keep everything under my perceived budget of 120M. I’m also aware that getting 4.5 prospects that are good enough to stick around for 5 years or longer isn’t an easy thing either. Scouting and development needs to be excellent. Trading 4 guys a year should add at least 8 – 12 prospects on top of what the organization does in the draft and international market, so it’s not impossible for this to work.