The Rays, Twins, Angels and Rangers all represent teams that above or near the .500 mark despite scarce production from the catcher position. Beyond that quartet, the Mariners, Marlins, Braves and White Sox have all received poor production, with none of the four definitively declaring itself a selling club yet. Many teams are in need of catching reinforcements, be it an upgrade of their primary catcher or an improved reserve option. We’ll kick off the 2015 Trade Market series here at MLBTR by running down a list of some players that could reasonably stand out as trade chips:
Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers), Stephen Vogt (Athletics), Derek Norris (Padres), Austin Hedges (Padres), Nick Hundley (Rockies), A.J. Pierzynski (Braves), Brayan Pena (Reds), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Andrew Susac (Giants)
- Lucroy’s offense in 2015 has been slowed somewhat a broken toe he suffered early on, but his track record and team-friendly contract make him a highly desirable asset. He’s earning $3MM in 2015, $4MM in 2016 and has a $5.25MM club option for 2017. The Brewers aren’t going anywhere this year and could be a long shot to contend in 2016, so listening to offers makes sense. Lucroy has batted .291/.345/.370 since coming off the DL.
- Vogt has homered just twice since June 1 and slashed .245/.336/.355 in that time. Even that production is solid for a catcher, though, and his season line is still a robust .290/.380/.502. He’s homered 13 times despite calling O.Co Coliseum home, and Vogt is controllable through 2019. Though he’s been speculatively mentioned as a trade chip, those hoping to acquire the slugger (and the epic “I believe!” chants that come with him) may be doing some wishful thinking; GM Billy Beane has candidly said he’s not trading Vogt. Skeptics will point out that Beane’s comment is more than a month old and that the A’s expressed similar reservations about dealing Josh Donaldson last October. (Granted, those comments were made anonymously and not on-record by the GM.) I find a trade unlikely.
- The 26-year-old Norris might be another long shot to be moved, as he’s controllable through 2018. The Padres parted with Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to land Norris this offseason, and he’s provided league-average offense for a San Diego club that is further down the standings than they’d hoped to be. GM A.J. Preller has proven to be quite aggressive and could conceivably move Norris, paving the way for Hedges as the catcher of the future.
- Hedges hasn’t hit a lick in the Majors, but he’s a premium defender who hit quite well in 21 Triple-A games this year prior to his call-up. Some scouts have questioned whether or not he’ll ever hit in the Majors, however, and he wasn’t terribly impressive at the plate in Double-A last season. The Pads could theoretically move Hedges over Norris if they don’t feel that Hedges will develop at the plate enough to profile as a starter.
- Hundley’s a classic trade candidate — a veteran hitter on a short-term deal that is enjoying a productive season for a last-place club. Signed to an affordable two-year, $6.25MM deal this offseason, Hundley’s slashing .296/.341/.458 with six homers. Most of that production has come at Coors Field, of course, but his road line of .264/.319/.364 is above average for a catcher.
- The Braves are in contention, so trading Pierzynski may not be high on their to-do list, but he’s a productive veteran on a one-year, $2MM deal, so it has to be mentioned. Atlanta could flip Pierzynski and re-install Christian Bethancourt behind the plate. They could also move Pierzynski and acquire a different young catcher, as they’ve reportedly been asking rival clubs about young backstops. Either way, Pierzynski, who is hitting .267/.304/.416, isn’t a long-term piece.
- Pena’s not an elite option, but he’s in the final season of a two-year deal with the struggling Reds and has a track record of hitting for a decent average. This season’s been arguably his best; Pena is batting .298/.366/.340 in 215 plate appearances and has a modest $1.4MM salary.
- Plawecki and Susac make the list only because their team has other long-term options on the roster. Both strike me as long shots to be moved, but either could be used as a major chip in acquiring an established veteran to fill a need for his current club. Buster Posey can continue to handle catcher in the short-term for San Francisco (even though some feel he’ll eventually move to an infield corner full-time), and Travis d’Arnaud may still be the favored long-term option in Queens. d’Arnaud is currently injured but could return this month.
Backups/Struggling Veterans/Former Starters
McKenry finds himself in a similar situation to teammate Hundley; he’s an affordable option that is hitting well for a last-place team. His production comes mostly against left-handed pitching. Navarro’s DHing for the Blue Jays but has voiced a preference to return to full-time catching, even if it means via trade. The Jays could probably use an upgrade over his bat at DH anyhow. Avila’s future at catcher is cloudy due to his concussion issues, and the Tigers could turn things over to James McCann full-time if he’s moved. Ruiz, Soto and Saltalamacchia aren’t hitting much but have done so in the past and could be change-of-scenery candidates that can be had on the cheap.
Currently in the Minors
Steve Clevenger (Orioles), Christian Bethancourt (Braves), Josmil Pinto (Twins), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Austin Barnes (Dodgers), Max Stassi (Astros), Tony Sanchez (Pirates), George Kottaras (White Sox)
Clevenger’s excelled against Triple-A pitching in 2015 and reportedly improved his throwing, but the Orioles don’t have a spot behind Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph. It seems like a waste for him to be in Triple-A, though there’s value in quality depth. Bethancourt looked like a building block for the Braves, but their reported interest in acquiring a young catcher could indicate that their restructured front office isn’t as high on him as the previous regime. Gary Sanchez is blocked by Brian McCann, but some feel he’s not defensively sufficient behind the plate anyhow. The same could be said of Pinto, who is currently sidelined by a concussion but has raked in the minors when healthy. The out-of-options Romine cleared outright waivers earlier this year but is hitting well at Triple-A. Barnes is another promising young catcher who is blocked on his Major League roster (Yasmani Grandal). Stassi, 24, has ranked among the top 20 prospects for the A’s and Astros for six seasons (per Baseball America), but he’s blocked by Jason Castro and Hank Conger, and he’s struggling at Triple-A this year. Tony Sanchez has never lived up to his No. 4 draft slot and hasn’t hit much in the upper minors, but he could be a buy-low or backup option. The veteran Kottaras is no stranger to the bigs and is enjoying a monster season at Triple-A.