Angels ink veteran catcher Snyder to Minors deal

Angels ink veteran catcher Snyder to Minors deal

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels, seemingly concerned over Hank Conger's recent throwing yips, have added another option for their backup job behind the plate, signing veteran catcher Chris Snyder to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training on Monday.

Snyder, who agreed to terms shortly after the Nationals released him and will report to Angels camp on Tuesday, can opt out of his contract if he isn't on the Major League roster by Opening Day.

That will be decided within the next couple of weeks. For now, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, echoing the sentiments of skipper Mike Scioscia, continues to call the backup to Chris Iannetta an "open competition."

"We want catching depth; we're looking to provide the staff with as many options as we can," said Dipoto, who didn't tie the signing to Conger's throwing woes. "Obviously, Chris comes in on a Minor League contract, so he's going to have to compete for a spot. John Hester, Luke Carlin and Hank Conger -- all of them still have an opportunity to win that spot, as does Chris."

Conger, 25, called the Snyder signing "just more motivation for me to come out and try to do my job," but it could've been avoided had his throwing not been so erratic.

Conger came into camp as a near-lock to be the backup catcher, but has made at least five errant throws in Cactus League play and then three more in a Minor League game on Sunday, souring his impressive batting line -- .417 average, two homers, 11 RBIs in 11 games -- and diminishing the strides he's made in other areas defensively.

"It's tough," Conger said. "It's one of those things where I've never experienced it before, and I'm just going to have to get through it with everybody's help. But ultimately, I'm going to have to step up and just try to get it done."

Barring a dramatic turnaround over the next couple of weeks, Conger, down to his last option year, will probably start the 2013 season in Triple-A Salt Lake, where he's spent most of the last three years.

"I felt like I busted my butt to try to become a good catcher, as far as receiving, blocking, making sure that I do get on the same page with the pitchers and obviously the hitting," said Conger, who has appeared in 79 games with the Angels over the last three years and has posted a .297/.359/.467 slash line in seven seasons in the Minors.

"We've worked on [throwing] so much with the coaches, and really it's tough because they've been so encouraging this whole spring," said Conger. "We've been trying everything and they've been really positive. It's coming along slowly, but there's obviously a couple days where things didn't go as well as I planned it."

Snyder isn't a force with the bat -- he has a .225/.329/.385 batting line through nine years in the Majors -- and isn't particularly stellar defensively, but he has thrown out 29 percent of would-be basestealers in his extensive big league career and is known to work well with pitchers.

He'll have to be a quick study, but Snyder seems like the Angels' most reliable option at this point.

"It's a big guy, big target -- he's caught a lot of good pitchers over the years," Dipoto said of the 6-foot-4 Snyder. "He's a student in regards to his attention to advanced scouting reports and understanding opposing hitters, and more than anything else, he understands opposing hitters -- he's been back there a lot."

Snyder, a 32-year-old right-handed hitter, appeared in 76 games for the Astros in 2012, batting .176 with seven homers and 24 RBIs, then signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals after Houston declined its half of the $4 million option for 2013.

Snyder's contract allowed him to request his release if he wasn't on the roster by March 26, so the Nats gave it to him on Monday, eight days in advance of that deadline, after being unable to find a trade partner. Snyder then promptly signed with the Angels, who recently intensified their pursuit of an inexpensive veteran catcher to potentially back up Iannetta before the end of Spring Training.

"There's definitely a small sample size to make an impression, but I'm not going to get caught up with it," said Snyder, who makes his offseason home in nearby Glendale, Ariz.

"I'm in Spring Training again and, even if it is a small period of it, back in Phoenix. I spent the majority of [spring] with probably the best team in the National League, and now I'm going to spend the last part of it with what's probably the best team in the American League. All those put together, I'm just going to enjoy my time here, get to play some baseball and have fun."

The Angels have one spot open on the 40-man roster.

Hester (on the 40-man) and Carlin (a non-roster invitee) are the other two catchers technically vying for the backup job. And though both have had very limited time in the Majors throughout their careers, Scioscia isn't tipping his hand.

"You can never have enough catching depth," Scioscia said. "We'll see how things play out."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.