The Milwaukee Brewers checked off one of the things on their offseason to-do list on Wednesday, finding a new backup catcher to replace Victor Caratini, who departed in free agency. The team announced they had signed Eric Haase to a one year major league contract.
Prior to the signing, the Brewers had just two catchers on their 40 man roster, including top prospect Jeferson Quero who has yet to see action in Triple-A. By bringing in a veteran to backup Contreras, the Brewers can take their time developing Quero and allowing him to get his regular reps in the minors until he's ready for the big leagues.
Eric Haase, 31, is coming off a down season with the Tigers and Guardians. He made his MLB debut in 2018 with Cleveland and only got short looks there. But then was sent to the Tigers in 2020, posted above-average offensive seasons as the primary catcher for Detroit in 2021 and 2022. In those two seasons, Haase combined for a .242/,295/.451 slash line with 36 homers and a 108 OPS+.
In 2023, Haase struggled at the plate, hitting just .201 with a .528 OPS and a 45 OPS+ with Detroit and then Cleveland again after being selected off waivers mid-season.
The Brewers will be hoping for more of the 2021-22 levels of production at the plate even though he'll be in a reduced role because of the presence of William Contreras. However, Caratini still played in a lot of games last year as Contreras saw plenty of time at DH in order to give his legs a rest while still keeping his bat in the lineup.
Defensively, Haase hasn't been very good, with a -5 blocks above average and a -2 framing score, ranking in the 18th and 34th percentiles respectively. However, the Brewers are well renowned for their work on improving a catcher's defense. William Contreras graded poorly on defense prior to his arrival in Milwaukee and showed immediate improvement upon becoming a Brewer.
Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available, but it's a straight one year deal. Haase will have plenty of opportunities to bounce back behind one of the top offensive catchers in the game and set himself up for a starting job again in 2025. He will serve as a stopgap to Quero, who will likely spend the season in Triple-A Nashville before he's ready for a regular MLB job in 2025.
The Brewers still have more to do, including adding to their pitching staff and adding another first base option.