Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh revealed in October that he had been playing through a broken thumb and a torn ligament in his left hand. At the time, it wasn’t known what course of action would be required in the offseason, but Adam Jude of The Seattle Times reports that Raleigh underwent surgery in the offseason. It’s unknown exactly when the procedure took place, but Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports that Raleigh caught a bullpen for Marco Gonzales yesterday in Arizona.
Raleigh, 26, made his debut in 2021 with a paltry .180/.223/.309 showing in 47 games. He was even worse at the start of 2022, hitting .083/.214/.208 a few weeks into the season when the club optioned him to the minors at the end of April. Just over a week later, Tom Murphy suffered a significant injury when he dislocated his shoulder, leading to Raleigh getting recalled back to the big league club.
From that point on, however, Raleigh seemed to find his power stroke in a big way. He hit 26 home runs between that recall in May and the end of the season, slashing .220/.289/.509 during that time. His 29.2% strikeout rate was certainly on the high side, but the power was enough for him to produce a 127 wRC+, indicating he was 27% better than the league average hitter in that stretch. The thumb injury reportedly occurred in early September but didn’t seem to dampen his output, as he hit seven homers in September, one in October and then another in the postseason.
He was also graded well on the other side of the ball, with 14 Defensive Runs Saved on the season, trailing only Jose Trevino and Adley Rutschman. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus gave him positive grades for his framing work as well. Those all-around contributions led to 4.2 wins above replacement, per the calculations of FanGraphs.
It’s unclear if the recovery from that surgery will impede his readiness for 2023 in any way, but the fact that he’s already catching bullpens suggests that he’s at least close to full health. That’s surely a good sign for the M’s, though they might be okay even if Raleigh were to need some down time. It was recently reported that Murphy is back to health after not returning from that shoulder dislocation last year.
That could give the Mariners two strong options behind the plate, as Murphy has been a great hitter when healthy. He launched 18 home runs in 2019 and hit .273/.324/.535 for a wRC+ of 126. A fractured metatarsal in his left foot wiped out his 2020 and he was subpar offensively in 2021, but he was on fire last year before the injury. He hit .303/.439/.455 for a wRC+ of 168 before hitting the injured list.
Teams in recent years have seemingly been moving away from having a clear starting catcher and a backup, preferring to have two backstops sharing the time somewhat equally. Having Raleigh and Murphy both healthy would be a great situation for the Mariners in that sense, especially with Murphy hitting right-handed and Raleigh being a switch-hitter. 24 of his homers last year came as a lefty, though he walked way more from the other side.