Garrett Stubbs has one of the most fun jobs in sports. As understudy to the Best (and Most Reliable) Catcher in Baseball, he’s called on just about once a week to hold down home plate and give JT Realmuto a breather. The rest of the time? He is the Chief Vibes Officer - dopamine given corporeal form in pinstriped overalls, tasked with keeping the team loose in the face of pressure.
His role in the clubhouse is unquestioned. His role on the field, however, absolutely should be.
2023 regular season stats: 41 G (32 starts), 125 PA, .204/.274/.283, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 2 SB, 0.1 WAR
2023 postseason stats: 1 G (0 starts), 0 AB
Well, there’s this.
The look that inspired Halloween costumes for humans and animals alike across the Delaware Valley.
His shining moment at the plate came on September 27th, the day after Johan Rojas clinched a postseason berth for the Phils with his 10th inning walkoff RBI single. With most of the regulars taking a well-earned sick day, Stubbs delivered his only home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fourth inning.
STUBBS. FRANZKE.— Nick Piccone (@_piccone) September 28, 2023
Franzke's loving it. pic.twitter.com/yOH6FWR0jf
For what it’s worth, he was also third in baseball with seven bunt hits so that’s something Stubbs can hang his Bud Heavy box on.
Well, there was the whole “bee-lining it for the water” thing...depends how much you want to hold that against him. Hopefully you don’t, though it seems that there is a subsection of users on the platform formerly known as Twitter who want him gone over it. It is what it is - Stubbs didn’t make the Phillies’ bats go cold when it mattered most so personally, I’m not sure that he needs to catch so much heat.
Otherwise, much like last year, he just didn’t play a whole lot (although, believe it or not, Stubbs’ 125 plate appearances this year were a career high). When you have a guy in Realmuto who wants to play all the time and is effectively able to do so, there’s not going to be a whole lot of opportunity for Stubbs.
When he did play, he didn’t add much, especially defensively. Fangraphs’ defensive metric ranked him 62nd out of 78 qualified catchers for 2023 and Baseball Prospectus is just about as kind, granting him -7.3 catching runs added which is good for 89th out of 102. For what it’s worth, he ranked higher than Realmuto in both of these categories, albeit in a much smaller sample size.
Stubbs is up for his first year of arbitration in 2024 and is a candidate to be non-tendered, although he won’t cost a whole lot if the team does still see him as part of the short-term future. According to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration model created by Matt Swartz, Stubbs is projected to make $900k so money would not be the issue.
The issue would be whether or not the front office feels that they need to upgrade the position, which mostly hinges on how they project Realmuto going forward. JT is entering his age-33 season and has caught an MLB-high 600 games since arriving in Philadelphia in 2019, 56 more than Christian Vázquez in second place. His impending gradual decline along with ever-growing potential for injury as he ages might lead the Phillies to think more about his eventual replacement. Will that be Stubbs, who himself will be 31 next year and has never started more than 32 games in a season? Almost certainly not. Will they punt that decision down the road for another year or two? It’s possible.
On the other hand, the timeline for that decision could be pushed up by Rafael Marchán who slashed .297/.391/.440 at Lehigh Valley in 2023, up significantly from his previous season. He’ll be 25 next year and would cost slightly less than Stubbs. Perhaps they let things play out in the spring and if Marchán looks ready, they find a way to move on from Stubbs at some point if they haven’t already. Whatever the team decides, Stubbs’ place in the annals of Phillies lore is secure and he’ll be remembered fondly even if he’s not in a Phillies uniform next year.