OAKLAND -- While starting pitching was the main priority for the A's this offseason, catcher was another question mark.
With last season's starter Jonathan Lucroy signing with the Angels, Oakland is left with just Josh Phegley and Chris Herrmann on the 40-man roster. Although there was some discussion earlier this offseason of the A's adding a proven starting catcher in free agency, the team now appears set to enter spring training without one.
"I think Chris and Josh provide a good platoon," said A's general manager David Forst. "Beau Taylor's got some experience, and obviously, we believe Sean (Murphy) is close. He hasn't had a lot of time above Double-A, but we think highly enough of Sean that he's going to get a good opportunity at camp and we expect him to be here sometime this year."
Murphy is certainly the wild card in all of this. The 24-year-old is ranked as the A's third-best prospect by MLB Pipeline and the fourth-best catcher prospect in all of baseball. However, he has only played three games at Triple-A and figures to spend most of the season in Las Vegas. Still, the A's are confident he is their catcher of the future.
"I think that's one of the reasons that maybe we didn't pursue Jonathan Lucroy like we did," said manager Bob Melvin. "We know at some point in time this guy is coming. We do like the left-right bat situation we have with (Herrmann and Phegley). So we're comfortable with where we are right now. We know Murph is going to be here and once Murph gets here, he's probably going to be here for a while."
In the meantime, Phegley and Herrmann will hold down the fort behind the plate. Oakland signed Herrmann to a one-year, $1 million deal at last month's Winter Meetings. The 31-year-old has a career slash line of .205/.282/.351 in parts of seven big league seasons.
Phegley, 30, is entering his seventh Major League season and his fifth with the A's. He only played in 39 games last year, hitting .204/.255/.344, but is ready to take on a bigger role this season.
"I'm excited," Phegley told NBC Sports California. "I feel like this is an opportunity that I'm not going to let slip away. It's been a few years since I've gotten a lot of playing time and I'm not going to sit back and let it slip away."
"He should be excited," Melvin added. "I don't know that either of those guys has really had an opportunity before and I think both of them look at this as potentially the best opportunity they've ever had at the big league level. You have a left-handed bat, you have a right-handed bat, and we're not afraid to platoon a little bit and try to get guys in the best situations. I think both of them are eager to show a team that they finally get an opportunity and try to seize it."
Phegley's best season came in 2015, when he played in a career-high 73 games, slashing .249/.300/.449 with nine home runs, 16 doubles, and 34 RBI. He believes he can get back to that level with more consistent playing time.
"I think that can kind of go away with limited at-bats and your timing and things like that," he explained. "If I'm going to have an opportunity to play every day or get a good chunk of the time, I'm going to be ready for that. I think a reason I haven't played a lot in the past is because of offense. I know I can hit. I've always been a good hitter. I just need an opportunity for more at-bats and if they're going to give it to me, I need to be ready."