It's time to kick off a new series with a look at the free agent market for catchers. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, White Sox, Angels, Rangers, Marlins, Reds, and Dodgers are among the teams facing uncertainty behind the dish. You can check out our full 2011 free agent list here.
Victor Martinez stands alone as the big name among free agent catchers this offseason. The switch-hitter missed over a month with a broken thumb, but still hit .302/.351/.493 with 20 home runs in 538 plate appearances. ESPN's Gordon Edes says Martinez hopes to return to Boston, but is excited to test the free agent waters. He turned down a reported two-year offer from the Red Sox during the season, and should cost a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. Martinez is also capable of playing first base, and he told Edes, "I'll do anything." V-Mart is not known for his defense, but he did improve throughout the year.
John Buck, Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo, Yorvit Torrealba, A.J. Pierzynski, Bengie Molina, and Rod Barajas are your solid regulars, with Gerald Laird on the fringe after an awful offensive season. Buck is appealing for his power and youth, while Hernandez led free agent backstops in OBP. Olivo and Barajas have good pop. Pierzynski and Hernandez are Type A free agents, so they may cost a draft pick to sign if they turn down arbitration offers from the White Sox and Reds.
Russell Martin, due more than $5MM next year in his third year of arbitration, could be non-tendered by the Dodgers if they can't find a trade match. Martin's power seems lost but he still gets on base. Other non-tender candidates include Ronny Paulino, Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis, Dioner Navarro, Brayan Pena, Koyie Hill, and Humberto Quintero. Napoli is intriguing for his bat, though he's more likely to be traded than cut loose.
Backups Ramon Castro and Jose Molina could be plucked off the market if their club options are exercised. The Brewers are expected to decline their option on Gregg Zaun, while Olivo and Torrealba have mutual options.
Beyond V-Mart, it looks like a buyer's market for catchers. All but a few teams have decent young options behind the plate. A team like the Marlins, who are known to be seeking a veteran catcher, should be able to get a bargain by offering an opportunity to start. And don't forget the trade candidates likely to flood the market, which we discuss in a separate post.
No mention of Varitek.
Not really gonna go through each backup…
No mention of Raul Chavez?
this is not 2003
Varitek shouldn’t be mention if you are looking to upgrade your catching position. His bat left him some time ago and based on the amount of catchers the Red Sox have acquired his time in Beantown in limited if not over entirely.
I though Tek was still a good catch and throw guy, but obviously he is not anymore. He can only help you in a leadership brad ausmus type role.
Who would of thought…V Mart and Saltamaccia would be defensive upgrades over Varitek.
One thing the Nation will do to combat the run game..is sign Carl Crawford. They will lead the league in SB next year. Crawford and Ellsbury 40 + SB.
Varitek led all catchers with at least 30 games played in ISO (SLG – AVG). I believe he’s still got something in his bat if he plays a backup role.
All I’m saying is, he’s a good mentor, and hits better than most of the non-tender candidates mentioned.
For the Marlins, it really depends on how fast John Baker is able to heal from surgery. If he is indeed back in time for Spring Training, then the fish might explore a new backup option to replace the possibly gone Paulino.
hope the red sox pick up martin if hes a F/A.
He struggles in the throwing game. I would be surprised if he is a regular in the AL, let alone the AL East.
Since the Jays are going to (by all assumptions) hand their starting job to JP Arencibia next year, I think it would be fun to look into Russell Martin as a back-up. Obviously, not at $5M, but if he gets non-tendered or they can work out something with the Dodgers, I think he’d be a nice insurance catcher in case JPA struggles and ends up getting sent to AAA. Even without the power, he’d be an upgrade over Jose Molina. Plus, without the rigors of playing every day, maybe he can get healthy and improve a bit.
If JPA is handed the starting job, by all account you have to anticipate that Molina would be brought back to tutor him on the ins and outs of catching.. I really couldnt think of anyone better to do it.
PLEASE, don’t assume. This team is under new management and just because the media has said “our catcher of the future” does not mean that is the case. Look at Brett Wallace. The media was all over saying this was our 1B of the future.
And where is he now. I personally think JPA is one of the prospects you can move to land the athletic, high ceiling players that AA speaks of. Buck SHOULD be brought back. He will only get better aswell
I’m glad you are NOT the GM, because trading JPA now wouldnt be getting full value for him. I agree that he should eventually be moved, but only when one of or all 3 of Perez, D’arnaud, Jimenez establish themselves to be legitimate. Let JPA take it until someone else pushes him aside, dangle him as bait in a trade OR keep him as a pretty good (and cheap) back up. Resigning buck now is beyond idiotic, why don’t we re sign downs and frank thomas and really go for it next year!
I’m glad your not the GM either, because you would sit and wait while others make moves. So you think hoarding catchers is your way of improving the team?
Stay on the topic. First off, did I not mention anything about Thomas or Downs….NOPE.
Buck is only going to get better after a career year? Pretty ballsy statement.
I realize this could be going out on a limb, but Buck could return as a C/DH. He should get more abats. Lind batted .117 against lefties, while Buck .409. Need I say more. Plus another year with the pitching staff
The sox had interest in Barajas last trade deadline. Maybe they’ll pick him up this offseason.
Toronto could play Martinez between 1b/DH/C, sharing time with Arencibia. It would get a high on base guy in their lineup, which they need to counteract their high strike out lineup. I think Texas could do something similar, playing him at C/1B splitting time with C. Davis.
I think Boston is a natural fit. I also see a good match with the Tigers, White Sox, Mets, San Deigo, Los Angeles Dodgers.
While Seattle, Milwaukee, Florida, and Cincinnatti may be interested, I think money and contending status will keep V-Mart from pursuing those cities.
My guess- If he doesn’t go back to the Red Sox, Kenny Williams will swoop in with the White Sox.
I wouldn’t want Martinez for the money he is going to command and the draft pick that would cost us.
Yeah, in that sense I mostly agree. He’s going to get overpaid. I’m less concerned with the draft pick than hamstringing the payroll for years to come. It’s a shame because his skill set is exactly what the Jays could use to make their lineup more consistent.
I also see a good value in Napoli as a 1b/C/DH player. I can’t see a team giving him a starting c job due to his defense and limited offense (power but limited average), but he’d be valuable in a lineup where a manager could pick and choose when and where to play him. Bochy, Francona, Leyland, and Maddon have all shown an ability to work the match ups to favor their players, maybe a trade to San Fran, Boston, Detroit, or Tampa?
I’ll guess and say he goes to Tampa (more wishful thinking).
I’d be stunned to see Quintero nontendered. From a logistical standpoint, the Astros have only 2 major-league-ready catching candidates in their entire organization (he and Jason Castro), and it would not make sense for them to nontender Quintero before they had an opportunity add catching depth. From a logical standpoint, he simply made the team a lot better in 2010, with the Astros going 41-33 when he started (incl. 25-8 after July 1). Along the way, he emerged as a defensive weapon of sorts, picking 7 runners off of the bases.
I can not wait for the Reds to call up Devin Mesoraco. A true hitting machine with a cannon for an arm.
So hitting .231 in AAA is the high water mark of a hitting machine these days? (yeah its a small sample size but Lars Anderson looked amazing in AA too)
He seems to strike out a bit much in relation to his walks.
John Buck will be an interesting one to watch. For years he was an easy out in the KC lineup, and then he just exploded this year (along with the rest of the Toronto offense).
I think he’ll easily get multiple years, but I’m very curious if it’s 2@$4per or 4@$6per…
pretty much offensively only john buck and jose bautista had career years.
True, but alot of guys (like Wells) had their best year in several, even if not their career-best.
by a lot of guys (like Wells) do you mean only vernon wells.. Hill & Lind both struggled, Overbay didn’t do much, EE and Snider are both capable of more (with more AB’s) and Fred Lewis came down to earth. So only Wells had a good year like he should, and buck/bautista had career years.
Ha, apparently I do only mean Wells. But they posted an MLB-leading (and like top-5 all time) HR total, and their pitching really came together. They surprised alot of people by how competitive they were. Any other division, and they’d have been good enough to make the playoffs (when you factor in an easier schedule leading to a few more W).
I guess I didn’t look at a player-by-player breakdown of who “exploded” when I said Toronto’s offense exploded this year.
Would the Angels really non-tender Napoli? That would be a waste… I know they’ll probably move him, and even if they can’t at the winter meetings, they might try to move him after arb
John Buck has been subscribing to the same juice as Jose Bautista:
it’s the dope according to hitting coach Dwayne Murphy
From that great A’s outfield you’d think it would be Tony Armas that would teach hitters how to get it over a wall
Hey you know what? If I was Brian Cashman, I would sign Ramon Hernandez. He’s very solid, especially this year with the Reds, and of course his OBP would fit with the Yankees, since they led the MLB in that category. Huge upgrade over Cerv, and has some pop too, could even hit 10+ at Yankee Stadium. And I’m very tired of seeing Posada-Cervelli try to catch, and Hernandez has a better arm than both of them combined.
Posada-Catcher @ 2-3 days a week
FA signing/Marcus Thames/Hernandez @ DH
Ramon Hernandez-Catcher @ every other day
Jorge Posada @ DH
Send Cervelli to go work with Monty and Austin Romine
Jason Varitek even at his advanced age and slower bat, is still better than many of the catchers you chose to mention. I love your blog and read it every day, but dismissing him with an off-hand comment that “you aren’t going to mention every back-up,” is really beneath you. Varitek will be a great bench player for whichever team picks him up and he could be around for several more years in a diminished role. In my view, wherever he lands, the club will be lucky to have him.