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:

Henry Blanco

Gerald Laird

Dioner Navarro

Miguel Olivo

Ronny Paulino

Humberto Quintero

Brian Schneider

Kelly Shoppach

Chris Snyder

Yorvit Torrealba

Matt Treanor

…and Rod Barajas, of course.


If the Pirates wanted to obtain a catcher on a multiple year deal, the candidates under Scenario 3 are:

Mike Napoli

David Ross

Russell Martin

A.J. Pierzynski


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:

Drew Butera

Jesus Flores

George Kotteras

Wil Nieves

Brayan Pena

Geovany Soto

Taylor Teagarden

Eli Whiteside

Bobby Wilson


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.

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Vicente Barletta

My 3 ideas for catcher.

1. Trade for Nick Hundley. His contract is affordable (3M in 2013, 4M in 2014 and a 5M option for 2015 . He had a bad 2012 because of injuries, so he is a good comeback candidate at a reasonable price. Why the Padres would trade him? They are going with Grandal as their main C and have Baker as a backup. Maybe Mercer or Justin Wilson for Hundley.

2. Trade for Arencibia. Still not arb eligible, but his offense is not that good and maybe the Jays would want a ton for him because of that. They have depth with Mathis, Wilson and D’Arnaud. Depends on what the Pirates have to give up.

3. Now the crazy idea: sign Napoli as a C against RHP and use him as a platoon in 1B with Jones against LHP. Give him a contract like a 25M for 2 years.


Finding a catcher by trading some of the Pirate prospects is not necessarily going to work.
The problem with the Pirate farm is that it is good for trades only to young teams that are in building mode, usually they don’t have any players that the Pirates need however. IMO, for the Pirates to get a good young catcher the Pirates would probably have to give up a Marte or Jones or both.
The Pirates might want to shift direction in the draft this year and draft a couple of catchers high instead of a couple of pitchers high. IMO, the Pirates need to flood the draft with tough to fill position players like 3rd basemen, 1st basemen and catchers.


the pirates should continue to draft the best player available, doesnt matter what position he plays. if that happens to be a catcher, so be it. remember, mathieson is highly regarded and already in the system.


Someone needs to say it… so I will.

McKenry should not be part of the plan moving forward.

1. He’s coming of a career year offensively.. 233-12-39. That is not good. If he regresses at all he is going to be as bad as Barajas was at all.

2. Does not throw out runner.

3. There is a reason the veteran pitchers all wanted Barajas to catch them.. They don’t trust him.



when you look at the catchers that are available out there, it makes McKenry look like Johnny Bench


Kevin – thanks for the rundown on this. Any chance that the Pirates go off the board and look at acquiring a younger or less established catcher? I’m thinking Ryan Lavarnway, Sebastian Valle, Sandy Leon or Wilin Rosario?


if you think Barajas is done defensively, wait til you see Lavarnway. hes a 1B/DH waiting to happen. At least Tony Sanchez will be a servicable backstop.

Lee Young

I would like to see Romine in black and gold.

Wouldn’t mind, Arencibia, Hundley or Hanigan.

Maybe Shoppach, but I ‘m not a big fan of his.

Blue Bomber

Ryan Hanigan is the best player on this list. I’d love to see the Pirates get him. He’s as good as it gets defensively and he is an OBP machine. Then only problem is I doubt he’s actually available. Walt Jocketty isn’t that stupid.


Hanigan would be a very good pickup, but as usual there are problems with getting him, you are right Jocketty is not stupid, he needs a centerfielder and since the Pirates won’ t part with McCutchen that leaves the most talented outfielder they have “Marte”, would you give up Marte for Hanigan or just go with a young guy like Sanchez.

Blue Bomber

My gut reaction is, yes, I would give up Marte for Hanigan. Trade from strength for weakness.


IMO, Marte is next to McCutchen as an untouchable on this team, I would have a hard time dealing with him killing us every time we played the Reds. I would still love to have Hanigan, they might take Presley with Sanchez thrown in.


Whaaaa? You give up Marte and you have exactly one proven option in the outfield. You’d really trade a guy with Marte’s upside for a 32 year old catcher with a sub-100 OPS+?


I had forgotten about Austin Romine until you mentioned him, so I did some research and found that he didn’t play much this past season due to back issues. I wonder how these back issues will affect him at the catching position long term.

Acquiring JP Arencibia would be nice, but I’m afraid of what the price would be to acquire him.


I can see Shoppach on a one-year deal at the right price–say $1.5 million. Whether he’d come to Pittsburgh for a job share at that kind of money is questionable; given the state of the free agent/non-tender options, he’s a viable option for other teams looking for catching help.


Shoppach at least has hit in the past, and isn’t stained with a previous Pirate stay. Take him.

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