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Meet The New Guy: Tyler Heineman

In case the context wasn’t strikingly obvious, even having to make this article is an action of jest.

Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Who is he and where does he come from?

What, you mean you don’t know about everything there is to know about Tyler Heineman, who is entering his age 33 season and has 104 games of MLB experience under his belt across five teams? Well, in that case, I’m here to help. He most recently played in Toronto, backing up Alejandro Kirk between time in Triple-A Buffalo, after a year-and-a-half in Pittsburgh and being traded for Vinny Capra. He comes to Boston from the Mets, in a trade for everyone’s favorite alliteration, Cash Considerations.

What position does he play?

Although he has pitched one inning, and I’ll talk more on his arm strength later, he is a catcher. And, actually, historically he has been a pretty good one defensively; he was a semifinalist in college for the Bruins — the UCLA Bruins, that is — for the Johnny Bench award for college’s best catcher in 2012.

Is he any good?

Being college’s best catcher in 2012 is very different from being a game changer, or even a starter, in 2024 at 32 years old. His fastball actually reaches 94 miles per hour. “But wait, Dean, isn’t he a catcher?” Glad you asked. Heineman has a cannon for an arm; his .63 average release is up there with the best in the league for all catchers, and his sub 2-second pop time to second base is also commendable. I’m just going to go ahead and show you two minutes of him gunning down runners right now. There will be no “show me a cool highlight”... this is it.

For a team that has, putting it lightly, struggled defensively, although less notably at catcher, a guy who can release the ball that quickly is a welcome addition.

Obviously, though, defensive dexterity is only one half of the game. In the other half, he has only one career home run in 283 plate appearances: a game-tying two-run shot in his rookie year with the Marlins off Zack Wheeler, who I still say is a Red Sox pitcher in an alternate universe where Boston higher-ups aren’t allergic to spending money.

This long ball came in Heineman’s sixth career at-bat, and things offensively have gone downhill from there, though he has walked at a decent rate in an extremely limited sample size. He actually doesn’t even create extra bases that much when he does reach on a hit, as taking his 12 at bats in Miami out of the equation, his career ISO is a paltry .051. For context, MadBum measures a .120 in the same category. The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, at age 39, topped that number in 2003.

But hey, how about that arm?

Tl;dr: his defensive prowess gives way to a positive WAR that makes up for his offensive liability.

The real tl;dr: not really.

What’s he doing in his picture up there?

Oh, let me pick a picture real quick.

Just did.

He’s doing what he does much better than anything he can do at the plate. He’s also contemplating the best food in Worcester, where, barring a trade of Reese McGuire or Connor Wong, which seems unlikely, Heineman will be spending an awful lot of time. Take my advice, Tyler: try Shawarma Palace or Nancy Chang; you won’t regret it.

What’s his role on the 2024 Red Sox?

Congrats! You’ve made it to the gripe session in my Meet The New Guy segment that has become almost a weekly occurance for me. I love rightfully ripping ownership, but, like my trusty leader, Dan Secatore, I am usually not fond of ripping ownership for obvious depth transactions.

I am, curious about the team seeing the forest for the trees and prioritizing transactions such as this, despite some question marks in something as important as the rotation, which was unwatchable in 2023. I wrote about a young guy named Max Castillo a few weeks ago; he has since been DFA’d, although he is probable to return to the organization and also find a home in Worcester in 2024. This transaction may be just as meaningless.

Organizationally, it also doesn’t make much sense, as Heineman is on the 40-man roster, meaning he will quite possibly be the next catcher up in the event of a spring or summer injury to either major league catcher, as we wait for Kyle Teel to ripen up. Those batting stats don’t scream a big improvement over the man who played this role last year, Jorge Alfaro (with apologies to Tyler, his hair isn’t even as luscious.)

So, to answer your question, if he sees much time in Boston, it will signal a blatant mishandling of the offseason by ownership. You know, if the other obvious things don’t already do that.