Gerald Laird is a backup catcher.
More specifically, Laird is a 34 year old, 11 year Major League veteran with a career.246/.307/.360 BA/OBP/SLG line. Laird has not seen 200 plate appearances since 2010, and has never hit more than 9 home runs in a season. Defensively, Laird has thrown out 35% of prospective base stealers in his career, versus a league average of 27%.
Laird had a solid backup catcherish season in 2013, hitting .281/.367/.372 in 141 plate appearances, following up the very similar 2012 he had with Detroit. He threw out 36% of base stealers in 2013, versus a league average of 28%, after coming off 2 consecutive below average seasons in this department.
Despite the acquisition of Ryan Doumit, Laird appears to have a place on the roster, playing the role of the professional catcher. If you’re the type who trusts the analysis of some anonymous guy on the internet (and, hey, you’ve read this far haven’t you?) the comments I’ve read about Doumit from Twins and Pirates fans suggest that he should not be a catcher in anything other than an emergency. I liked having 3 catchers on the roster last season, and I think it’s a good plan for 2014, especially if at least one of them is offensive minded and nominally capable of playing multiple positions.
If Evan Gattis proves to be healthy, productive, and competent (which I expect) then Laird’s usefulness as a Brave comes to an end when Christian Bethancourt is ready. If the 34 year old Laird reverts to his career norms offensively, which I believe is the most likely scenario, then it’s hard to see any area where he is significantly better than Bethancourt.