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.