Austin Wynns added two teams to his National League West tour in 2023, including answering the Dodgers question of what would happen if one of their two catchers got hurt.
For the last four seasons, the Dodgers have essentially operated with only two catchers — Will Smith the starter entrenched in the heart of the lineup, and Austin Barnes the defense-first backup. Those two started 539 of 546 games (98.7 percent) at catcher for the Dodgers since the start of the 2020 season.
Keibert Ruiz was on the 40-man roster for a little more than a year and a half in 2020-21 before getting traded to the Nationals in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal. Ruiz started two games behind the plate in 2020 – when Smith was sidelined by a neck inflammation – but that was it. In 2022, when Barnes missed three games on the family emergency list, veteran Tony Wolters, who was in Triple-A on a minor league deal, was called up for a weekend series in Kansas City and started once.
When a concussion felled Smith in April 2023, the culmination of taking at least three foul balls off the mask during a series in San Francisco, the Dodgers again opted for the veteran route, rather than call up then-top prospect Diego Cartaya, who was on the 40-man roster but also just 21 years old with only five games at Double-A to that point.
Enter Wynns, a 32-year-old who spent parts of four seasons playing for the Orioles and Giants. He played in only one game this year for San Francisco before getting designated for assignment. Rather than accept a minor league assignment after clearing waivers, Wynns elected free agency, and within a few days found a new home and a new major league deal with the Dodgers.
This was clearly a temporary partnership, joining Los Angeles until Smith was healthy, and that’s how it played out. Wynns started four of the 14 games for which he was active, and caught one more inning behind the plate in another game.
Wynns made the most of it, hitting a two-run double in his first at-bat with the Dodgers, and he even threw out two of the first three runners trying to steal against him, which in the first half of the season with this pitching staff was a Herculean feat. Stopping the run game came to a screeching halt on April 26 in Pittsburgh, when the Pirates stole six bases off relievers Phil Bickford, Yency Almonte, and Alex Vesia in a four-inning span in a blowout Dodgers loss.
Wynns in 2023 alone played for the Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies, three-fifths of the way to completing the National League West gauntlet, thus far only achieved by Matt Herges and Steve Finley.
Stats: 2 for 11, double, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 5 games, 4 starts at catcher with LA
Game of the year
In his first at-bat with the Dodgers, on April 17, Wynns hit a go-ahead, two-run double against Mets left-hander David Peterson.
Wynns also threw out Starling Marte trying to steal in this game. His caught stealing matched the total for Smith and Barnes in the first 16 games of the season, in 24 attempts for that duo.
Colorado sent Wynns outright to Triple-A on October 13 after the catcher cleared waivers, and he declined the assignment, becoming a free agent. The Padres and Diamondbacks are his only two NL West infinity stones remaining to collect.