In Salvador Perez, the Royals have a 23-year-old All-Star catcher whose contract they control through 2017. So they are set at that position for years.
However, a team can never have too much depth behind the plate, and that's why on Tuesday the Royals signed veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez to a minor-league contract.
"He'll be competing to fill one of the backup catching spots,” general manager Dayton Moore said. "Brett Hayes and Francisco Pena and Adam Moore, he's back healthy, so he should be able to compete as well. So we have several quality candidates to compete for that backup role.”
Last season, Hernandez hit .208 with three home runs and six RBIs with the Dodgers, who released him on June 22. Hernandez, who turns 38 in May, was claimed by the Blue Jays, who assigned him to their Class AAA affiliate in Buffalo.
After going two for 19 in five games, he was released again.
Hernandez has played well this winter in Venezuela, where he played for Navegantes del Magallanes. In 22 games, he hit .328 with a .425 on-base percentage. He walked 12 times, struck out 13 times and collected 11 RBIs.
He caught the eye of Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who is managing Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela.
"We had a chance to see him play in winter ball,” Moore said. “Pedro Grifol is managing over there and said he looked good, and we're trying to add as much depth as we can behind the plate.”
Hernandez made his major-league debut in 1999 with the Oakland A’s and was an All-Star in 2003 with a career-best 21 home runs and 78 RBIs. After the season, he was traded by the A’s with Terrence Long (who would later join the Royals) to the Padres for Mark Kotsay.
After two season in San Diego, Hernandez has bounced to Baltimore, Cincinnati, Colorado and the Dodgers. His career 757 RBIs are the fifth most among catchers since 1999.
"It's obviously a very important position and you can't have too much depth there,” Moore said. “Ramon gives us more depth, a lot of experience. He's a highly respected catcher.”