Veteran catcher Martin Maldonado, who remains unsigned despite the fact that Opening Day is just three weeks away, has made a change in representation and hired Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group as his new agent, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). Maldonado had previously been with the Boras Corporation after hiring them at the end of August.
That Maldonado remains unsigned has seemed an oddity in recent weeks; while he’s unequivocally a below-average hitter, the 32-year-old is also among the game’s premier defenders at his position. As I noted about three weeks ago when Maldonado was linked to the Mariners, the 2016 Gold Glover ranks third among all active catchers in Defensive Runs Saved dating back to the 2012 season, trailing only Buster Posey and Yadier Molina — each of whom has caught at least 2000 more innings than Maldonado in that span. He’s also a perennially strong pitch framer with a career 38 percent caught-stealing rate, including a ridiculous 49 percent mark in 2018 (17-for-35).
It’s true that Maldonado’s lifetime .220/.289/.350 batting line is unsightly, and his career 73 OPS+ lines up identically with the 73 OPS+ he’s posted over the past two seasons. Teams know that while Maldonado has a bit of pop, he’s generally going to be a weak spot in the lineup. Still, given his exceptional defensive prowess, that seems a worthwhile trade-off — at the very least in a backup role.
Maldonado’s recent asking price remains unclear, though the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish reported in late February that the holdup between Maldonado and the Mariners was merely over a guaranteed MLB deal. If Maldonado has indeed struggled to so much as find a guaranteed contract this winter, that’d be a fairly stunning revelation. It’s possible, of course, that the initial ask was perceived to be steep, and many clubs throughout the league have now either addressed their catching situation in alternative fashion or have limited funds. That said, bringing Maldonado aboard as a backup at what figures to be a moderate price would seem an easy upgrade for many clubs.
Beyond the Mariners, Maldonado has been tied to the Royals since it became clear that Salvador Perez would require Tommy John surgery. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman linked Maldonado to the Rockies earlier this morning, as well.