My favorite story about Gerald Laird is about why he wore the number 15 as a Texas Ranger. In his own words, "15 stands for 1 man, 5 tools". I like to imagine that he was being completely serious.
Laird was signed back in November to replace David Ross, after his
untimely passing move to Boston. Alas, we'll never again be graced with another stellar episode of "The David Ross Show". Laird would be a stop-gap solution while Brian McCann recovered and then a capable backup with veteran experience once Mac returned. Frank Wren was predictably and appropriately optimistic back in November:
"Gerald gives us a proven major league veteran behind the plate...He was high on our list of off-season goals and we are fortunate to acquire a catcher with his level of experience, not only in the regular season, but also in the postseason."
Laird is a career .245/.305/.360 hitter, who has stuck in the big leagues for 11 seasons based on a reputation for defensive chops, clubhouse presence, and the ability to tactfully handle pitchers while still being passable with the stick. In only 33 plate appearances, he's hit better than expected but a .360 BABIB seems unlikely to hold for a 33 year old catcher with a career mark of . 288 on balls in play.
To the list of convenient narratives!
Laird brings veteran (and postseason) leadership to the team.
Well, so do Brian McCann and Tim Hudson (on both counts). In addition, Heyward, Freeman, and Kimbrel are racking up postseason experience of their own.
Laird's bat may not play to the same level of McCann (or even Gattis), but he's solid enough defensively to make up for it.
So far Laird has allowed 10 stolen bases against him in 9 games. He has only caught 1 runner. Last year with Detroit, in 56 games, batters swiped 56 bags against Gerald. Only 10 batters were gunned down.
In 21 games, Gattis has allowed 7 and caught 3.
To be fair, Laird is essentially Julio Teheran's personal catcher at this point. This means more base runners and a hurler without much experience holding major leaguer base stealers.
Laird knows how to handle the pitchers and the umpires.
Game-calling is a murky science at best. By the eye test, it does seem that Braves pitchers are more comfortable throwing to Laird than Gattis--now that McCann is back, this is less important.
As for influencing umpires, there's one area where Laird might be lagging behind Gattis - pitch framing. Ben Lindbergh does an excellent series over at Baseball Prospectus called "This week in catcher framing". Since he started keeping a list of the top 10 catchers at the skill of stealing calls back on 4/19, Gattis has appeared in the top 10 each week. Laird may not appear in the study because he's not yet qualified (not enough O-zone strikes), but Gattis is certainly holding his own.
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So what do you think the Braves should do? Should they maintain Laird on the roster? With Gattis's inexperience and McCann's suspect injury history, maybe 3 catchers is just right.
Or should they trade him for any reasonable return, trust Gattis to be a capable backup, and gain an extra roster spot for another bench bat or bullpen arm?