The regular season may be on pause for the All-Star break, but trade conversations continue over these four days, as does the Internet’s favorite pastime — rampant speculation! As we do each summer here at MLBTR, we’ll be running down the trade market on a position-by-position basis. Jeff Todd already kicked things off with a rundown of the market for starting pitchers, and catchers are up next.
While there may not be a large number of contending clubs on the hunt for an upgrade behind the plate, there are plenty of options available for the few that are. Those clubs could include the likes of the Indians, Rangers, Mets, Astros, White Sox and Red Sox, each of which is firmly in the playoff picture but has received little to no production from its backstops in 2016.
Nick Hundley: A lot of people will credit Coors Field for Hundley’s spike in offensive production over the past two seasons, but he posted a .790 OPS on the road for the Rockies last year and has been better away from Denver in 2016 than when playing at his launching pad of a home park. He’s earning $3.15MM this season and is a free agent at season’s end.
A.J. Pierzynski: The 39-year-old had a terrific season in 2015 with Atlanta, but he’s off to a dreadful .205/.227/.250 start. His $3MM salary isn’t prohibitive, but Pierzynski has never been well-regarded from a defensive standpoint and isn’t hitting in 2016. It’s tough to see much interest, but the Braves probably wouldn’t mind saving the bit of money left on his deal.
Carlos Ruiz: At 37 years old, Ruiz’s bat isn’t what it once was, but he’s still getting on base at a .336 clip thanks to a keen eye. His overall .229/.336/.331 slash and $8.5MM salary won’t make him a hot commodity, but if the Phils are willing to eat some of his $8.5MM salary, his knack for getting on base and 30 percent caught-stealing rate in 2016 could lead to some interest as a backup. Ruiz could technically be listed in the section below (“Controllable Through 2017”), as he has a $4.5MM club option ($500K buyout) on his deal as well. There’d be some merit to a club picking that option up with a respectable finish to the season, but it’s not a lock right now.
Geovany Soto: The Halos aren’t going anywhere this season, and as a veteran on a cheap one-year deal, Soto is a logical trade candidate. He’s not the offensive force he once was, but he has a 103 OPS+ over the past four seasons combined and could be a useful backup piece.
Kurt Suzuki: Suzuki looked untradeable back in late May, but he’s hitting .382/.406/.598 over his past 106 plate appearances. He won’t continue at that pace, of course, but the recent surge and his consistently strong contact rate could make him a fairly appealing target to a club in need of an affordable option behind the plate. Of course, his vesting option for the 2017 season may cause some clubs to shy away from the notion of regular playing time.
Controllable Through 2017
Welington Castillo: D-backs GM Dave Stewart expressed that he didn’t necessarily feel compelled to sell at this season’s deadline, but he’s since moved closer Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox. Castillo is slated to hit free agency following the 2017 season and could be viewed as an expendable mid-term asset. The D-backs do have a somewhat intriguing alternative, as unheralded offseason pickup Chris Herrmann has been outstanding through 157 plate appearances. Of course, Herrmann has had plenty of good fortune on balls in play thus far and has never hit at the big league level, so the Snakes may not view him as an everyday option behind the dish.
Hank Conger: Conger’s 2015 throwing woes were well-documented — he caught just one of 43 attempted runners — but he’s righted the ship a bit in 2016, halting eight of 43 attempts. That’s still below the league average, but the bigger concern for Conger, who was optioned to Triple-A this week, has been a dismal .194/.265/.306 batting line. He’s a change of scenery candidate, and his offensive struggles make it unlikely that he’d go to a contender as a starter, he’s a terrific pitch-framer that a team could view as a backup option.
Jonathan Lucroy: Lucroy remains the top catching target on the market, and his brilliant .301/.361/.491 batting line this season makes GM David Stearns and his staff look quite wise for holding off on a trade this past offseason. Lucroy’s contract would fit onto any team’s payroll, and he’s controlled through 2017. Milwaukee has every right to ask for a king’s ransom.
Tucker Barnhart: The 25-year-old is hitting at a solid .269/.333/.385 clip over 229 plate appearances, and comes with plenty of cheap control. That probably makes him more valuable to the Reds — who are running out a low payroll and crossing their fingers that Devin Mesoraco can return to health — than he is as a trade chip, but nothing is bolted down in Cincinnati.
Chris Herrmann: It has been a breakout season for the 28-year-old, who has also seen action at every outfield position (yes, including center) and first base. Long a marginal hitter, Herrmann is suddenly mashing at a .291/.353/.511 clip with six home runs over 157 plate appearances. With that kind of production over a decent stretch, but without the background to support it, it’d be hard for Arizona to find a square deal — especially since the team still hopes to contend next year.
Derek Norris: His overall numbers don’t look great thanks to a disastrous month of April, but Norris is hitting .250/.321/.500 with 11 homers over his past 190 plate appearances. I might consider him the likeliest player in all of baseball to get traded, as the Padres need to clear room for Austin Hedges (if only so MLBTR’s Jason Martinez doesn’t have to change the title of his “Knocking Down the Door” series to “Have the Padres Called Up Hedges Yet?”). Hedges is hitting .419/.456/.886 with 14 homers in 28 games since being activated from the minor league DL in early June.
Josh Phegley: After two straight years of approximately league-average offensive production, Phegley has fallen back a bit with a .256/.314/.372 slash in just 86 plate appearances for the A’s. Much as with Barnhart, he probably makes better sense to stay in Oakland, but could be had if another organization is particularly enamored of him.
Cameron Rupp: The Phillies certainly don’t need to move Rupp, as he’s controlled for another four seasons beyond this year. However, the soon-to-be 28-year-old is in the midst of a strong (albeit BABIP-inflated) season and boasts a .287/.329/.507 batting line through 222 plate appearances. Jorge Alfaro is probably the catcher of the future in Philadelphia, and if someone feels compelled to make a nice offer for Rupp, the rebuilding Phillies could look to be opportunistic.
Stephen Vogt: General manager Billy Beane flatly said last May that he wasn’t going to trade Stephen Vogt (and stuck to his word), but Vogt is another season older, another season closer to free agency and, of course, the A’s are in the midst of another dreadful campaign. Vogt is controllable for another three years after this season, but he’ll turn 32 this winter and Oakland may be more open to a major sale in 2016 than it was in 2015.
Brian McCann: McCann is in the midst of his most productive season with the Yankees, but he’s also 32 years old and is owed $17MM in both 2017 and 2018 (plus a $15MM vesting option for the 2019 season). The Yankees have increased their efforts to get younger in recent seasons — evidenced by the additions of Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Nathan Eovaldi as well as a reluctance to part with prospects like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Greg Bird — and trading McCann would pave a road for Gary Sanchez to become the team’s regular backstop.
Miguel Montero: Montero has long been a starter, but considering his .201/.319/.345 line through 166 plate appearances this year, it doesn’t seem likely that he’d be acquired to fill that role. The emergence of Willson Contreras could make Montero expendable for the Cubs. He’s earning $14MM this season and next year, so Montero would almost certainly be a salary dump if he were able to be moved at all.