The Cincinnati Reds were looking at an offseason where they needed to figure out who would be the other catcher to go along with Tyler Stephenson as Luke Maile was set to become a free agent and Curt Casali spent much of the year struggling to hit or on the injured list and had an option on his contract. That’s not a problem they need to spend much time worrying about now because the club announced that they had re-signed Maile for the 2024 season and have a team option for 2025. Mark Sheldon of reports that the deal is worth $3,500,000.

For Maile, the 2023 season may have kept his career alive. Coming off of a season in which he had just a .627 OPS with Cleveland in 2022, he got another chance in the big leagues with the Reds. With both Tyler Stephenson and Curt Casali also on the roster, it took some circumstances early on to get Maile time in the lineup and on the field. Joey Votto’s shoulder recovery not being ready in time to begin the year opened up some time as Stephenson spent time as the designated hitter and first baseman early in the season.

With more playing time than he otherwise would have gotten, Luke Maile took advantage of it, especially early in the year. In 22 games through the end of May he hit .259/.310/.482 as he showed off some power and mixed in a solid average. He slumped real hard after that all the way up to the All-Star break – hitting just .146/.205/.244 in 20 games from the start of June through July 19th. After the break he hit well once again, posting a .759 OPS in 32 games played.

In a strange twist that you wouldn’t expect, Maile really struggled to hit at Great American Ball Park, posting a .595 OPS and slugging just .301. In road games he hit .244/.323/.488 with 13 of his 16 extra-base hits on the year.

Behind the plate, Maile threw out 23% of opposing baserunners. That’s better than the league average of 19%. Of course, we tend to understand that more often than not it’s the pitchers who have the bases stolen on them and not so much the catcher. Maile graded out below-average on pitch framing this past season according to Baseball Savant. He graded out above-average on his ability to block pitches. His pop time average of 1.93 graded out well above-average, too.

55 Responses

  1. old-school

    Solid back up. He functioned as Andrew Abbotts personal catcher as well. Per MLB traderumors, Tyler Stephenson is predicted to get $2.9 mil in arbitration so that puts $6.5 million allocated to the catching position. Hopefully, Tyler bounces back and becomes the hit first catcher he was.

    • Tom

      Of 63 catcher ratings in “framing pitches”, Luke Maile was 41st. Stephenson was 60th. Stephenson has some work to do in remaining a starting catcher. His dip in batting stats in 2023 doesn’t help.

      • Kurt Frost

        I prefer my catchers not to be cheaters.

    • Tom

      If MLB went to electronic balls and strikes, catchers like Stephenson would bounce up the list on catcher stats. Framing would no longer be a strength or weakness.

      • VaRedsFan

        I concur.
        You beat me to the punch….see below.

    • VaRedsFan

      I can live with Tyler’s “average for a catcher” bat.

      What I can’t live with is that he was 60th out of the 63 catchers in pitch framing.

      Everybody wonders why our pitchers seem to always be “nibbling”?
      Why are our pitchers walking so many batters?
      Why are our pitch counts always so high by the 5th inning?

      Our young pitchers certainly have to reign in their command, but to me, this is issue #1 that needs to be addressed. League batting averages are exponentially higher when a hitter has a better count. Our batters are constantly being put in bad counts by pitches stolen from our opponents.

      Perhaps robo-umps, or a challenge system can be put in place.
      If not, Tyler needs to fix this in a big way.

      • Tom

        I caught baseball from LL to semi-pro ball for 18 years. It seems to
        me Stephenson kind of gives up on pitches, and if he thinks they’re outside the zone, he helps make the umpire’s decision. The best framers frame almost every pitch, even the strikes. Then, the umpire has no reason to question why you do just the close ones.

    • JB WV

      Felt like Stephenson wasn’t fully healthy till later in the year when he started hitting like he used to. A nice offseason of getting fully healthy should certainly help.

  2. RedBB

    I like Maile but feels like he could have been signed for about $1M less..

    • MK

      Obviously not, as the Reds don’t often over spend, especially since Krall has been in charge.

      • RedBB

        Well…then maybe the Reds should have walked. Chuck Robinson and Trautwein are options as solid backup catchers with good D.

        Casala was in a simliar position last last year and the Reds decided to give him $3.5M guaranteed as well and that turned out to be a poor decision.

    • Jim Walker

      They needed to overpay to keep him out of free agency.

  3. Andy

    Maile and Stephenson both strike me as good backup options. Was hoping for a potential upgrade at starter, but also recognize that the free agent options were not great. I’m happy for Maile.

    • JayTheRed

      Maile was a good sign. 3.5 is not really that bad even for a backup catcher. He had some really nice AB’s especially the 2nd half.

  4. RedsGettingBetter

    Re-singning Maile will give time to the guys at minors leagues to pan out and climbing thru the farm system as Trautwein , Nelson , Duno, Miller , Hunter will find out their breakout season by 2024 even someone could be a backup at the major level by 2025

  5. MK

    There was a point during the season I felt Maile was the#1 option offensively and defensively. With Pereda, Robinson, and Yang at AAA you have three very different strengths if carrying a third catcher. Respectfully, hitter first, hitter/ defense combo, and defense first.

    • MBS

      I agree Maile was the #1 option last season on both sides of the ball. I have a feeling we’ll see a much better version of Stephenson this season. He’ll be a full season removed from his major surgery.

      I’m not a big fan of carrying a 3rd catcher, but if a guy like Free, Trautwein becomes ready that’s a different story. Those 2 have some position flexibility, and they add a LHB into the mix. However I doubt either will be ready before midseason.

      • JB

        I think that’s why Maile got a “team” option for 2025. If one of those three are ready they wont pickup the option. I think the Reds will be a young team from now on. Older veterans Like 30+ will be non existent on their roster.

      • JayTheRed

        The Reds are not going to have the roster space to have 3 catchers next season. If they play that dumb game again it will be such a waste of a roster spot.

  6. wkuchad

    As far as catching depth in the minors, Chuckie Robinson should be back with the Bats, correct? Does he have to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him?

    • BK

      Robinson will be a minor league free agent if the Reds don’t add him to the 40-man roster.

      • SultanofSwaff

        To me it makes sense to add Chuckie to the 40 man.

      • Tom

        He was a free agent last year and signed a one-year minor league contract with the Reds. He could do the same again, however he did have a very productive year with Louisville and might receive interest from others this time around. The Reds catcher of the future at this date appears to be Alfredo Duno, a 19 yr old in the Reds system. He’s undoubtedly a few years away.

      • BK

        Robinson had a wRC+ of 101 — a touch above league average; hitting was way up in the International League. Something to consider when evaluating a 40-man roster spot.

      • MK

        Robinson signed last year before he had a very nice offensive year, so he will have more suitors this year.

  7. Steven Ross

    I like the signing. He had a nice year. Good for him getting a new deal. There were times last season where he was playing better than Stephenson.

  8. SultanofSwaff

    Excellent signing. Maile does a lot of things right and won’t embarrass you if he needs to start for an extended period. There’s a lot of yuck out there in the catching market—$3.5 mil is totally fair. He and TySteve make a playoff caliber combination.

    Now that the low hanging fruit has been picked, let’s get down to business and sign some pitching—1. Yamamoto, 2. Hicks, 3. Robert Stephenson.

    • BK

      Yamamoto is at the top of my wish list. This would be a good year for the Reds to pay a hefty posting fee. He fits a team need and is young enough that he’s worth a more significant risk/investment. I also like Yuki Matsui, an LH reliever/closer from Japan–he’ll just be 28 next season and will not require a posting fee.

  9. kypodman

    A respectable start to the offseason moves and one that needed to be made. Maile is a respected and valuable catcher. Plus, a local kid with a great upbringing, great family, etc. All positives for moving this team forward. And his signing (3.5 mil) does not break the bank. Now lock in (tender) Senzel as your backup utility player (at 3 mil) and you have 2 key pieces to the bench. I don’t understand how people are down on Senzel and says he is not worth 3 mil. He basically can play every position and if he embraces (excepts) this role he becomes a valuable piece moving forward for years to come. You just signed a backup catcher for 3.5, a valuable backup position player at 3 mil is a steal, in my book.

    • Tom

      I don’t think Senzel is in the 2024 plans, especially if India isn’t at 3.7 million. If India stays and they add an everyday right-handed outfielder, Senzel is definitely gone. They have very few holes left on the bench with both Benson and Fraley not being starters against left-handers. Add the second catcher and you have room for two more righties. If you keep India and Senzel, there’s no room for free agents or trades unless we’re sending more players than we’re receiving. Also, there’s no room for any minor leaguer to break through from spring training. You have room for 13 pitchers and 13 field players, which includes 2 catchers. I suggest putting names on paper and see that jobs on the Reds major league playing roster(at 26) will be hard to come by in 2024. With Benson and Fraley on the bench against lefthanders, where do you have room for a Votto, also on the bench?

    • JayTheRed

      I would be ok with Senzel being paid 3 million or so to be our super utility guy.

  10. Optimist

    3rd catcher is an anchor on the modern game’s roster, though last season worked out very well as it happened. Always anticipate injuries, but this moves the discussion to the AAAA level, and frees the roster spot for a non-C 13th player. A step ahead of last season.

  11. MK

    The minor league catching depth is good especially if Robinson or Perada are still in the system. AAA Yang, Free, and one of two above; AA Hunter, Trautwein, Nelson; A+ Tanner, Jackson, Jones; A Salcedo, Izturis, Omano and possibly Duno

  12. Matt McWax

    Good signing for 1 year. I expect the tandem to improve in 2024. What to do after next season will depend on if anybody breaks through out of the AAA/AA guys.

  13. Mark Moore

    The Snakes pulled one out at home. Bonus points, they beat Kimbrel to walk it off 😀

    • Redsvol

      I was watching that @Mark. I think Phillies manager made some key mistakes keeping Kimbrel in there that long. It was clear he had no command the last 3 batters. Simply can’t wait in the playoffs when you have a pitcher with no command.

      Phillies may regret giving the D-Backs some reason to hope.

  14. Melvin

    Couldn’t ask for a better backup catcher than Maile.

  15. Kevin Patrick

    I am certainly not trying to trade Tyler Stephenson if I were the Reds, but if I had as much faith in Robinson as some others…I might. I think Stephenson would pique the interest of a team hoping to get a steal…after all he might be one! Stephenson would bring back a major league pitcher of some capacity. Tell Votto he has to go back to catching…lol.

  16. Jim Walker

    With Maile’s signing, if the Reds retain Robinson or Pereda, they are in a position to go as they please with Stephenson. I doubt they will look to dump TS but if they need to fold him into a deal for someone they really want, they can do it without worrying that much about their MLB top 2. They would however need to get a journeyman glove guy on ice at AAA as the number 3.

  17. Rick

    It seemed to me on pitch framing, Maile did try to fool the umpire on obvious balls but did pretty well on the close ones. I assume an attempt to get credibility calls.
    However, Tyler was to quick to come out of his stance especially on slightly elevated pitches that were in the zone.
    Glad the Wildcat did enough to stick around, & gives us enough for a good #2 catcher, and a good pitcher’s catcher that handles his business on his mound visits.

    • Rick

      Correction on my post<didn't try to fool the ump on pitches that were clearly out of the zone. He framed the close ones. I use to ump district playoff games and paid little to no attention to the glove. I sized up the batter and watched the pitch path & where it crossed the plate in relation to the knees & bottom of the team names.

  18. Pharmer85

    Happy for Luke. A better defensive catcher than TS, and he had some big hits. Also, a steady, mature influence on this team of youngsters. Like the signing.

  19. Redsvol

    One of the most important signings this off-season. Maile became the #1 catcher due to his defense alone.

    I like Tyler, because he is a Red, but its fairly obvious he hasn’t improved his catching skill. He is almost unplayable at catcher due to his defense. Its getting late for him to improve. He needs to play more 1st base and DH and hope that his offense comes back in order to justify any catching at bats.

    • wkuchad

      Stephenson caught more than anyone else in 2023, by a good margin, and we ended the year with a winning record, despite terrible starting pitching.

      He is almost unplayable at catcher due to his defense – Pretty extreme exaggeration.

      He needs to play more 1st base and DH – I really, really hope Stephenson plays almost zero 1B and DH. If he does, then something has gone wrong. We (currently) have multiple better options at both 1B and DH over Stephenson.

      Stephenson needs to catch two out of every three games, with Maile catching the other.

  20. LDS

    Reading the Krall interview from the last day or so didn’t really lead me to expect the Reds would be aggressive this offseason. This signing suggests the same.

    • wkuchad

      How exactly does this signing suggest the Reds won’t be aggressive this offseason?

    • Tom

      There’s no reason to be terribly aggressive. If all of our pitchers are healthy, (may be wishful thinking,) only picking up a right-handed outfielder and perhaps another lefty in the bullpen may be necessary. We have a plethora of young starters, none of which have gone more the 5 or 6 innings on average. A couple of them may have to come out of the bullpen next year, if they want to stay with the big club.

      • Votto4life

        Seems to me Tom that is the exact approach the Red’s front office took last off-season. The Reds had a very young and inexperienced staff at the end of 2023. Instead of building upon that by signing a TOR pitcher, Nick Krall decided to stand still and claimed, by not spending money last winter, the Reds would have money to spend at the trading deadline. Of course, we all know that turned out.

      • Jon

        Wishful thinking is right. The “big three” starters have all missed lengthy stints of time in each of their first two seasons. Abbott faded down the stretch and while it may have been simply fatigue, it wouldn’t surprise me if he experienced a “sophomore slump” next year. In addition to another outfielder, they desperately need a proven closer who can fill in when Diaz is not available.

  21. Tom

    I agree on the need for bullpen help. Several would like to see Sonny Gray in 2024, however he averaged less than six innings a start in 2023. We currently have seven starters in tow. Why not put two of them in the bullpen that can pitch 2-3 innings if necessary. I have nothing against bringing a starter in, however that’s not going to solve an eventful collapse in the bullpen if all of our relievers are one inning type guys. I also agree we need an everyday type outfielder that switch-hits or is a righty at the plate.

  22. AMDG

    Signing a 30-year old journeyman with subpar ability at the plate seems to be a priority for the Reds each offseason.

    Now, if they can just get Myers, Farmer, Newman, Shogo, Colon, Almora, Galvis, and Moose back into the fold, they can assemble Bell’s dream team 😉