Stephen Vogt DFA'd

Posted by Jason Wojciechowski on June 22, 2017 at 9:31 PM

Well, first, let's start with the minor news: Matt Chapman has hit the disabled list with an infected knee. Matt Olson is up to replace him. This sucks for Chapman, of course, and it sucks for the A's defense for the next week or so, as Ryon Healy will remain the third baseman until Chapman comes back (or until morale improves), but it's not a long-term issue. It's an injury, and injuries happen. Good teams deal with them. The A's ... well, the ship sailed.


Far sadder: Stephen Vogt's A's tenure is almost certainly over. He never really figured out the whole framing thing behind the plate, which was fine-ish when his TAv was .287, .286, or even .262, as it was the last three years. It is not even close to fine when his TAv is .230, as it is this year. He's 32 already, which on the one hand feels totally natural because his style and appearance made him seem perpetually mid-30s, but on the other hand really snuck up because he didn't get a full season in the big leagues until he was 30. That age is relevant because it lowers the odds of a bounce-back, or, put another way, raises the odds that this is the new normal.

Now, it's not just that Vogt has had a rough year; that part gets him DFA'd, but guys get DFA'd and stay in the system all the time. It's also that Vogt might not be done, can nominally catch, and is making a smidge less than $3 million this year that seems likely to end his A's career, as there must be some team willing to claim him, even though he's out of options. Look at this helpful Baseball Reference page, for instance, and note the following catching situations around the league:

  • Washington could cut Jose Lobaton and his 22 OPS+ (and his $1.5 million salary)
  • Tampa Bay could option Derek Norris and his 59 OPS+
  • San Diego could option Luis Torrens and his 43 OPS+
  • the White Sox could option Kevan Smith and his 65 OPS+
  • Toronto could option Luke Maile and his -8 OPS+
  • Cleveland could option Roberto Perez and his 26 OPS+
  • St. Louis could cut Eric Fryer and his 28 OPS+ (and $675,000 salary)

However much Stephen Vogt has struggled, he's still struggled his way to a 76 OPS+. I only looked at the bottom half of teams in catching bWAR; it is certainly likely that there are teams in the top half who don't have a great backup (e.g. the Yankees with Austin Romine). Even if there are only seven teams that might claim Vogt, and even if there's only a 10 percent chance for each of those seven of doing so, that still works out to a 52 percent chance he gets claimed. Expand the pool to 10 teams, and it's 65 percent. To half the league and it's nearly 80 percent. If it's a 20 percent chance of claim by each of seven teams, then there's overall nearly an 80 percent chance of a claim.

But maybe it's not 10 percent, and maybe it's not seven teams, because I haven't mentioned defense yet. By Baseball Prospectus' framing numbers, Lobaton has generally come out positive in his career. Norris is mixed and has been in the red so far this year. Torrens has been negative this year but it's his first year in the majors, so the sample is small. Smith is around average. Maile is generally above average. Perez grades out extremely well. Fryer is a mixed-ish/average-ish bag. The teams all surely have their own opinions about the defensive abilities of their current players, and of Vogt, but the point is that even the players Vogt out-hits, and even the ones he out-hits substantially, might out-defend him enough to outweigh the hitting, and particularly to outweigh the need to make a change in the clubhouse for the sake of what you hope will be an upgrade.

So maybe it's not hopeless after all, because if Vogt does clear waivers, he'd have the option of electing free agency, but by doing so he'd forego the remainder of his salary. If he accepts a minor-league assignment, he'd stay paid.

All told, though, it seems more likely than not that some team will want Vogt at the cost of some player at the end of their 40-man roster, plus using an option on their current backup. (Or their current starter, if we're talking about Norris.)

Maybe it's premature, then, but I think it's worth lamenting now. It's sad to see him go. The referee costumes, Chris Farley impressions, Disney show tunes, the extra-base pop, the hustle, the fact that he's a classic Athletic in the vein of Matt Stairs and John Jaha and, I don't know, like Geronimo Berroa ... all of this added up to make him a fan-favorite, and a personal favorite. If I ever redo that list of 25 Favorite A's Ever, I'm certain he'll make the cut. But now, without even 500 games with the A's under his belt, he's made a whole different kind of cut.

Goodnight sweet prince.