The Market for Catchers – Free Agents, Non-Tenders, Trades
This week we’re going to take a look at the market for various positions that the Pirates may be interested in this offseason. Today’s article will look at the market for catchers.
At this year’s trade deadline, it seemed as if Neal Huntington completed both his deadline shopping and offseason shopping at the same time. By obtaining Gaby Sanchez, Wandy Rodriguez, and Travis Snider, Huntington obtained players with multiple years of control remaining at key positions.
The one position that there appears to be a clear opening for is catcher, as Rod Barajas’ $3.5M option for 2013 was declined. This leaves Michael McKenry as the only starter with major league experience. So it seems as if the Pirates will be in the market for a catcher, right? It seems that way, but in 2013 the Pirates will need to get a look at 2009 1st round pick Tony Sanchez to evaluate just what they have and if they want to move forward with him. Here are 3 scenarios for the Pirates’ catching tandem in 2013:
1. Make McKenry the starter and go with Tony Sanchez as the backup right from the start of the season.
2. Obtain a veteran on a 1 year deal to job-share with McKenry at the major league level and let Sanchez develop in AAA for a portion of the year.
3. Obtain a catcher with multiple years of control to act as the primary starter, while giving Sanchez more time to develop, and potentially opening up a future trade of McKenry or Sanchez.
The free agent market is rather grim. Mike Napoli theoretically highlights the class, but he is more of a 1B/DH at this point, as he has caught only 60-70 games/year over the past 3 years. Under Scenario 2 above (obtain a vet on a 1 year deal until Sanchez is ready) the possible candidates are:
…and Rod Barajas, of course.
If the Pirates wanted to obtain a catcher on a multiple year deal, the candidates under Scenario 3 are:
All of the free agent catchers have significant warts in their game, whether offensively or defensively.
I never get too excited about the non-tender market, because the players on that list are there because their performance has dropped off enough to not justify the potential cost for them due in arbitration. The non-tender candidates this year includes the following catchers:
Geovany Soto is the “name” on this list with the most intrigue, but his performance has dropped off greatly since his rookie campaign in 2008. In 2012, Soto managed only a 62 wRC+ and .271 wOBA while triple slashing .198/.270/.343.
Catching is such a rare commodity, especially ones that contribute both offensively and defensively, that it is rare to see young catchers traded. However, there are a few possible candidates in catching-rich organizations such as:
Toronto — has JP Arencibia, Jeff Mathis, the aforementioned Bobby Wilson, and Travis d’Arnaud coming back from an injury. It is possible that the Blue Jays move off of Arencibia if they feel d’Arnaud is healthy enough to start the season.
New York Yankees — if they resign Martin, the Yankees may part with Francisco Cervilli or Austin Romine, both of whom could start for the Pirates potentially
Cincinnati — if the Reds keep Navarro as a tandem with Devin Mesoraco, Ryan Hanigan could be in play for other teams.