2014 MLB Free Agency: The Top 5 Available Catchers
Top 5 Free Agent Catchers
When it comes to superstar catchers, demand heavily outweighs supply at the present time. Teams all over the league are looking for a backstop capable of consistent production with the bat while providing steady defense behind the plate. It should go without saying that those players are very difficult to find.
In recent years, the tendency among teams that find themselves fortunate enough to be in possession of an All-Star caliber catcher is to do everything possible to lock them into a long-term contract worth loads of cash. The San Francisco Giants, Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals have all adopted this strategy.
This year’s class of free agent catchers, as is necessary with any position, needs to be assessed in comparison to the current positional pay scale around the league. Joe Mauer and Buster Posey are each signed to deals valued at well over $150 million. Comparatively, the Cardinals might have Yadier Molina on the most team-friendly contract in all of baseball, as the franchise basically owes their five-time Gold Glove Award winner $14.5 million per season during the next four years.
The three aforementioned players are largely thought to be at the pinnacle of performers at the position and compensated accordingly. With one exception, this year’s class of free agent catchers will not command the same level of future income. However, there are some promising options for teams that are in need of help.
The list includes former All-Stars, experienced game-callers and even some power potential. Not to provide any spoilers, but most of you know the direction this is going.
5. Dioner Navarro
The Chicago Cubs signed Dioner Navarro on Nov 16, 2012. The team left spring training with the switch-hitter locked in as the backup to Welington Castillo, but as the season progressed, the starting catcher role essentially turned into a timeshare. Navarro rewarded the Cubs on their $1.75 million investment by putting together a very solid .300/.365/.492 line and smacking 13 home runs in just 89 games. The 2009 AL All-Star is sure to receive a raise in the free agent market.
4. Carlos Ruiz
Carlos Ruiz has to be wishing that he would have hit the market a year earlier. In 2012, the veteran catcher had a banner season for the Philadelphia Phillies. “Chooch” recorded career highs in batting average, slugging percentage and homers while making his first and only All-Star Game appearance. However, 2013 quickly became a different story. After missing the first 25 games with a suspension, Ruiz posted a .268 average with just 21 extra-base hits. Even with his best days behind him, free agency should still deliver a decent deal.
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The Boston Red Sox are currently playing in the 2013 World Series and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been an important piece to their pennant-winning puzzle. In 2013, “Salty” seemed to put his swinging-for-the-stars approach to hitting behind him. The 28-year-old put up a .273 batting average and .338 on-base percentage, both 50 points better than his 2012 marks. Saltalamacchia had a personal three-year low in home runs with 14, but finished sixth in the AL with 40 doubles. His first venture into the free agent market should bring a solid reward.
2. A.J. Pierzynski
After a career-high 27 homers and .501 slugging percentage in 2012, the Texas Rangers gave A.J. Pierzynski a one-year contract worth $7.5 million. The two-time all-star turned in a nice effort for the Rangers in 2013, finishing the season with a .272 average and 17 home runs. He will be 37-years old when the 2014 season gets under way, but so far Pierzynski has been unaffected by age. Even still, he is likely to receive no more than a two-year offer.
1. Brian McCann
When it comes to free agent catchers this offseason, Brian McCann is the cream of the crop. A seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner, he has been one of the centerpieces of the Atlanta Braves franchise since his debut in June of 2005. Injuries have slowed the 29-year-old over the last couple of years, but he still has a current streak of six consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs. McCann is also known for being one of the best game-callers in the league as Braves pitchers had a 2.99 ERA in 2013 with him behind the plate. That mark was the best in baseball. A huge payday lies in the near future.