Reds GM: Mesoraco may be back for opener

Club optimistic about catcher's progress, but also exploring options

Reds GM: Mesoraco may be back for opener

CINCINNATI -- When it comes to Devin Mesoraco and the Reds' catching depth, general manager Dick Williams is expecting the best and preparing for anything short of that.

Considering that Mesoraco has been limited to 39 games -- including 18 starts -- over the past two seasons, Williams really has no other choice than to survey the market landscape. In May, Mesoraco had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. In July, there was another surgery to repair the labrum in his right hip. It was a procedure similar to the one that was performed on his left hip in June 2015.

"I think it's important to prepare a contingency plan," Williams said Tuesday during the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. "We probably have to do some of that now. You can't wait until after mid-January to come up with a plan. The fact that we're optimistic that he'll be back means you're not going to try to go big on catching. We still anticipate him for the next two years of his contract being part of what we've got to do behind the plate."

Mesoraco, 28, has two years left on his four-year, $28 million contract. The 2014 All-Star is slated to be ready to perform catching drills again in mid-to-late January. Williams is using the GM Meetings to lay the groundwork on future talks. The Reds are also seeking bullpen and bench help, while also keeping an eye open for deals that could move Zack Cozart or Brandon Phillips to free up space for younger talent.

Mesoraco's RBI single

Cincinnati was quite pleased with how Tucker Barnhart stepped up to a regular catching role in 2016 without Mesoraco. Although Barnhart is known his defense and game calling, his switch-hitting offense was far from a liability.

The Reds had Ramon Cabrera backing up Barnhart, but wouldn't mind having more veteran depth. There are a handful of available backups on the free-agent market that include Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Geovany Soto, A.J. Ellis, Drew Butera and former Reds like Ryan Hanigan and Dioner Navarro.

Perhaps none of these backups will ultimately be needed. So far, Williams is enthusiastic about Mesoraco's progress.

"I've seen Mes first-hand rehabbing down at the ballpark," Williams said. "He's down there most every day since the end of the season. He'll go home for a little bit. The rehab is going well. The timing is he had surgery at a fairly comparable time to last year, within a few weeks. The timetable will be fairly similar.

"We're optimistic he'll open the season ready for catch, but probably on some sort of schedule. We'd probably prevent him going out there and catching the first 14 games of the season. It's probably some sort of timeshare arrangement to make sure he's eased back in. It's hard to say for sure. The doctors said that really mid-January is when they'd be able to tell us with a lot more precision what the timetable looks like."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. Mark Bowman contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.