Free-agent position rankings: Thin catcher crop
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:50 pm
By Evan Brunell
The catcher's market is extraordinarily bad, and will get even worse once the top name on the board comes off. Yadier Molina is the obvious class of the market, but he has a club option and it's going to be very difficult to envision the Cards not picking it up. After that, the pickings are slim with one obvious candidate for best backstop, but even he isn't excellent. If teams are looking for an upgrade at catcher, they'd be advised to look elsewhere.
1. Yadier Molina: Molina is the class of the free-agent market, but it would be shocking if the Cardinals didn't at the very least pick up Molina's $7 million option. Molina is a wizard defensively and enjoyed his best offensive season at age 29, hitting .305/.349/.465 in 518 plate appearances with 14 homers. It's anyone's guess if Molina can keep up this kind of production, but if he does, it puts him in a very rare class, indeed. If Molina sinks back to previous levels, he's still among the best catchers in the league. If St. Louis improbably lets him walk, several big-market teams will be extremely interested.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Phillies
2. Ramon Hernandez: Barring a surprise and Molina hitting the market, Hernandez will be the class of the catcher's market... and really, that's not saying much. Don't get me wrong, Hernandez is a quality catcher. But he's also 35 and hasn't reached triple digits in games caught for three straight seasons, so he better profiles as a caddy. He could be headed to the AL where he could toggle between catcher, DH and first base. The Reds may even be interested in bringing Hernandez back to oversee Devin Mesoraco's development, although the team will likely stick with Ryan Hanigan. As a Type-A free agent, Hernandez could bring back an elite prospect for Cincinnati should he decline arbitration. It's possible he and the team have a deal whereupon Hernandez will reject arbitration, but that will chill his market as teams won't be willing to give up top picks for someone like Hernandez.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Red Sox, Reds, Marlins, Royals, Pirates, Rays
3. Rod Barajas: Barajas isn't anyone's idea of a quality catcher but with so few available in free agency, Barajas is rated high virtually by default. He does have some pop and could bang 20 homers given a full season's worth of at-bats, but he also can't get on base to save his life either. In such a poor market, Barajas will land somewhere, but he's just not anyone's idea of a strong catcher. That could lead some clubs in the market for catching to play more aggressively on the trade market once Hernandez comes off the board. The Dodgers might bring him back, but seem more interested in an A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz pairing.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Marlins, Astros, Pirates, Royals, Rays
4. Ryan Doumit: Doumit's in a tough spot. On one hand, this is a guy that can rove all over the diamond and is able to catch, too. That's valuable. He can also hit -- the 30-year-old cranked out a .303/.353/.377 line when he was able to get in the lineup. The negative, though, is that Doumit has been plagued with injuries and his defense is so poor behind the dish that he gets exposed over a full season. Still, with the catcher's market as poor as it is, and his ability to play first and right, he should attract some interest from a team interested in using him all over the field. Heck, even a team with little to no catching could stick him behind the plate all season.
Potential teams: Astros, Royals, Pirates, Twins, White Sox, Athletics, Mariners, Cubs, Dodgers
5. Jorge Posada: Posada spent all season DHing for the Yankees, but this is a guy whose heart still belongs behind the plate. He may be able to find a spot, but it's probably only going to be a bench player who can fill in at catcher, first and DH. Posada doesn't quite deserve full playing time, but he did hit right-handers well and could work in a platoon situation. Still, his market might be so weak, or his options so limited and unappetizing that he may simply opt for retirement.
Potential teams: Orioles, Royals, Athletics, Marlins, Dodgers
6. Chris Snyder: Snyder is a pretty good catcher, he just can't seem to catch a break. After three consecutive solid years in Arizona and inking a three-year deal prior to his last good year, Snyder was one of the better catchers in the game. Alas, injuries and ineffectiveness caused him to be a salary dump just a year and a half after inking his lucrative extension. This season, in Pittsburgh, he looked like he was recovering his lost value... until he was felled by injury. He'll draw interest from teams looking for a low-risk, high-upside investment. At worst, Snyder is a quality backup.
Potential teams: Red Sox, Pirates, Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Astros, Rockies, Mariners, Twins
7. Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach had a beyond-awful year offensively, the second straight year he's done so. And yet... that power bat is awfully tantalizing from a catcher. It's tough to tell whether or not Shoppach can recover to be a catcher who can slug 20 homers, but he's a lot more exciting than the likes of Barajas and Posada, especially to teams that might be looking to capture a bit more upside at the expense of instant production.
Potential teams: Rays, Pirates, Royals, Mariners, Astros
8. Ivan Rodriguez: OK, we're really getting into the dregs here. Rodriguez would love a chance to get hit No. 3,000, so given he already has a World Series ring, might prefer to go somewhere where he can get the bulk of the starts and march toward 3,000, just 156 away. With a good year, he could reach it. At the same time, Rodriguez can reach that mark over a period of a couple seasons, and with his leadership and defense should hang on for a couple more years. Here's betting he goes after a starting job to all but ensure reaching No. 3,000 even if he doesn't do so this year, but we'll list a couple places he could land as a backup.
Potential teams: Royals, Astros, Phillies, Brewers, White Sox, Rays
9. Gerald Laird: Laird is coming off a solid year with the Cardinals. There isn't much to know about Laird -- he's a strong defender who struggles with the bat. He's pretty much settled into the backup phase of his career and there are so many options when you get this low in the market. Laird will probably return to St. Louis, and it seems like both sides have been a good match, but really, he could go anywhere.
Potential teams: Cardinals, any other team
10. Jason Varitek: The Captain may have seen his time run out in Boston. If so, it's doubtful that 'Tek will play for another team. Varitek has all the money he could ever need and two World Series rings. He doesn't need to play out the string for a lousy team. The only way Varitek will return is if it's in Boston, potentially hometown Atlanta (if they trade backstop David Ross) or if another team throws enough money at him (not happening). Varitek's bat is largely gone, but his power still shows up from time to time. He's never had a good arm, but his ability to work with pitchers and game preparation is unmatched.
Potential teams: Red Sox, Braves
Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP
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Tags: 2012 free agency, 2012 MLB Free Agency, 2012 MLB Free Agents, 2012 MLB Hot Stove, AL Central, AL East, AL West, Chris Snyder, Evan Brunell, free agency, free agent tracker, Gerald Laird, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, Kelly Shoppach, MLB Free Agency, MLB Free Agents, MLB Hot Stove, MLB Rumors, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Ramon Hernandez, Rod Barajas, Ryan Doumit, Yadier Molina