Angels News: Chad Wallach Elects Free Agency; How Things Stand At The Catcher Position
MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One position the Los Angeles Angels won’t have to fret much about is behind the plate. Due to a midseason trade this past trade deadline, and a few veterans on standby, general manager Perry Minasian has the team in a solid spot. Looking ahead to 2023 and how Minasian has things laid out behind the plate, Max Stassi, Matt Thaiss, and rookie Logan O’Hoppe should be a formidable trio.

The team announced on Thursday that Chad Wallach had cleared waivers after being outrighted to Triple-A and decided to elect free agency. The 31-year-old backstop appeared in 12 games for the Angels this season, most notably handling Reid Detmers as he tossed his first career no-hitter.

Wallach slashed .143/.231/.257 in 40 plate appearances, with one home run and four RBI, but his value in Major League Baseball came as a defense-first catcher.

The Angels only have one catcher on the books who are signed to a decent money contract, that’d be Stassi, who is heading into the second year of his three-year $17,500,000 deal, which includes a club option for 2025. Stassi underwhelmed in his limited action, however, and after multiple slumps which led to psuedo-benching moments, manager Phil Nevin should be keeping an eye on the 31-year-old.

Stassi batted .180, with nine homers and 30 RBI in 102 games, a steady decline from the production that earned him a decent extension following the 2021 season.

Matt Thaiss is another name in the mix at catcher, and the first-baseman/catcher is under team control for two more seasons, with all three of his arbitration years left ahead. Still just 27 years old, there’s value in keeping him around, but a career line of .205/.299/.373 isn’t one that will push Nevin to shift things to get him in the lineup.

Thaiss has been with the club since being drafted in the first round at pick 16 out of Virginia but has never really panned out at the big league level.

If the Angels are comfortable making the move towards the future and taking the reigns off of their No. 1 prospect, O’Hoppe is seasoned enough to earn a decent shot. After being brought over from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline in a 1-for-1 swap, he quickly caught fire in Double-A.

After 29 games with the Rocket City Trash Pandas, O’Hoppe posted a 1.146 on-base plus slugging, and his performance during September in which he batted .375 with a .519 on-base percentage and .725 slugging percentage while leading the league in average (.375), RBI (15), on-base percentage (.519), slugging percentage (.725), and OPS (1.244), earned him Southern League Player of the Month honors.

The former 23rd-round pick out of St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, New York, earned a call-up to the majors at the backend of 2022, and in five games he notched four hits in 14 at-bats, with two RBI.

Minasian has decent depth at the catcher position with one high-upside player in O’Hoppe and he should absolutely ease him into the starting job while utilizing Stassi to help that transition period.

Angels to prioritize infield & outfield depth this offseason

Another disappointing season filled with numerous injuries proved to be too much for Nevin after his team finished 73-89, good for third in the American League West.

After losing David Fletcher to multiple stints on the injured list, the Angels were forced to rely on Luis Rengifo and Andrew Velazquez for the bulk of the season. Velazquez provided a very steady defensive presence up the middle, but his incredibly light hitting overshadowed his glove.

Minasian was impressed with Rengifo’s breakout backend of the season but recently said the Angels had some major retooling that needed to be done with the middle-infield and some other key spots as they head into free agency.

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