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The eroding free agent catcher market

Nov 17, 2011, 6:57 PM EDT

Ramon Hernandez Getty Images

Thursday saw the fifth free agent catcher come off the board with the Tigers’ signing Gerald Laird and perhaps a sixth, with Jose Molina and the Rays reportedly nearing an agreement.

Here’s the list of those off the market:

Rod Barajas: Pirates – one year, $4 million
Henry Blanco: D’Backs – one year, $1.2 million
Matt Treanor: Dodgers: one year, $1 million
Brian Schneider: Phillies – one year, $800,000
Gerald Laird: Tigers – one year

And here is who is left. I’m putting them in the order I ranked them in the top 111 free agents:

48. Ramon Hernandez
63. Ryan Doumit
81. Chris Snyder
90. Jason Varitek
99. Kelly Shoppach
107. Ivan Rodriguez
Jose Molina
Ramon Castro
Jason Kendall
Dioner Navarro
J.R. Towles
Rob Johnson
Josh Bard
Jake Fox

Basically, that’s one solid starting catcher in Hernandez, one potentially useful catcher-first baseman in Doumit, one solid regular coming off back surgery in Snyder, five decent backups from Varitek to Castro and then several guys who aren’t great bets to open next season on a major league roster. Kendall is in that last group; he’s expected to miss most or all of next season after his latest shoulder surgery.

Now, who might be in the market for a catcher:

Starter: Tampa Bay, Los Angeles (AL)
Backup: Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Chicago (AL), Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Chicago (NL), Houston, San Diego

Tampa Bay could just go with a Molina-John Jaso combination now, though I think the Rays would be a lot better off with Hernandez and it’s not like he’d break the budget. The Rays also should consider making a run at Colorado’s Chris Iannetta, though there’s little indication that it will happen.

If the Rays are content with Molina and Jaso, then Hernandez might fall into the Angels’ laps. Alternatively, perhaps the Blue Jays, Twins or Padres could lure Hernandez as a catcher/first baseman/designated hitter. That’s supposed to be Doumit’s likely role, but Hernandez also has the bat to pull it off. The Angels do have Hank Conger, so it’s not clear that they’ll go all out for a catcher.

Snyder is trickier, because while he’s a quality player if healthy, he’s not someone any team can count on right now. Most of the teams looking for backups will probably want someone safer. Boston might work. The Red Sox have Ryan Lavarnway ready offensively, but they’re not sure about his glove just yet.

Of course, Varitek could also return to Boston. But he’d also make sense with Theo Epstein’s new team as a backup for Geovany Soto.

Shoppach would be a nice fit for a team with a lefty swinging catcher. I thought Detroit was a great fit there. Since the Tigers chose Gerald Laird instead, Minnesota could be a possibility. The White Sox are another possible fit if they don’t see Tyler Flowers working out.

  1. deathmonkey41 - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    I thought Russell Martin only signed a one year deal with the Yanks?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:07 PM

      Correct, but he doesn’t yet have his six years in to become a free agent. He’s only arbitration eligible.

  2. tashkalucy - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    Excellent work, Matthew.


    I come here it find out about baseball, and all I read are a bunch of overgrown kids with law degrees that can’t use them, spreading rumors and talking about grown adults doing millions of dollars of business with the maturity of two 14 year-olds talking in the basement rec room..

    This is to journalism what instant coffee is to coffee.

    But somehow Mr. Pouliot slipped through. Actually giving baseball fans something for thought.

    And a belated thank you for your multi-edition story on this years free agents, Matthew. I read a number of those sorts of stories on numerous national sites that superficially covered who was available and what their credentials were. The series published here was full of well-thought out information that front offices would consider when looking at candidates.

    And now…..back to juicy tidbits about the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies and how any name player, manager, or front office person, is just dying to go there.

    • tashkalucy - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:53 PM

      And may I add…….

      Here is an excellent article from Jayson Stark on the changes coming shortly to MLB that will radically change the sport, while TMZHardballTalk – a publication supposedly devoted to baseball – don’t have a thing on it and is busy throwing us the Red Sox-Cub/Theo Epstein juicy gossip as TMZHT is busy perpetuating the myth of the most over-rated and over-publicized GM in the last 50 years, and perhaps in the history of MLB. Yes, the Cubs will improve. But be a power? Uh, sorry. Can’t just throw money at your mistakes anymore. MLB is slowly leveling the playing field, and combined with those changes and the computer data – which everyone as access to – the game is changing. And it’s going to be great for baseball fans outside of the Northeast, as their teams are going to again be allowed to be competitive, and not just farm systems for the ESPN darlings.

      The best change I liked was the 2 wild card teams that will meet in a one-game playoff, thereby making winning the division important again! MLB is becoming less of a joke, and will close on the NFL in the next 5-10 years, as those owners sold out less practice time to the players so they could keep more money. The NFL product is sloppy this year for teams that don;t have a lot of veterans, and it’s going to get worse, not better. A chance for MLB to make real inroads!

      • Mark - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:04 PM

      • rollinghighwayblues - Nov 18, 2011 at 12:35 AM

        Am I the only HBT reader/commenter that didn’t have a gun to my head that was forced to read Hardball Talk?

        If you don’t like it, get the hell out and find another baseball blog that’s worth reading .

      • dan1111 - Nov 18, 2011 at 6:49 AM

        So you hate this blog, news, the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Phillies, Theo Epstein, ESPN, instant coffee, football, and baseball?

        At least you’re consistent.

    • phillyphreak - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      Wahhhhh Wahhhhh Wahhhhh

      • tashkalucy - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:17 PM


        Wait a few years when your roster gets old and you have a payroll so high you can;t do anything.

        Like the Red Sox and Yankees today.

      • phillyphreak - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:28 PM

        Maybe the team won’t be able to do anything, but I’ll still enjoy watching me some baseball.

    • Tribe&Browns&Cavs - Nov 18, 2011 at 8:58 AM

      If you think this blog is so bad, you’ve obviously never spent any time on Deadspin.

      On a sidenote, when I decided I didn’t like Deadspin I STOPPED GOING TO DEADSPIN.

      Spend your free time elsewhere if you don’t like it.

  3. screaminzab - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    The White Sox have A.J. and Flowers. Why would they need a catcher?

  4. paperlions - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    You can scratch the Cardinals off the list. They’ve already said that Cruz and Anderson will compete for the backup job.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      Yeah, I’ve read that and I’m skeptical. If a veteran falls into their laps for $1 million, I think they’ll go that route.

      • paperlions - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:32 PM

        I think it’ll be Cruz or Anderson for 2 reasons (besides the fact that they said so). 1) Part of the conversion from Jockettyism to Mozeliakism is the increased use of players coming out of the farm system rather than throwing money away on old vets that are replacement level players (or worse), and giving those guys a chance to prove they can’t play before moving on to sign declining vets. 2) Matheny has been the roving catcher instructor for the last few years….meaning it is almost a lock that he has worked with both Cruz and Anderson, which would allow him to opine about them now…rather than waste money and a roster spot on a old guy…plus, Cruz (at least), can play 3B or 1B in a pinch.

  5. kylecleric - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    It would be great if the Cubs signed Tek. No other way to get value out of him at this point for the Sox.

  6. rollinghighwayblues - Nov 18, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    But he’s a “captain.” There’s tons of value in that when it comes to grown men playing baseball.

  7. Joe - Nov 18, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    I like Shoppach returning to Boston. Salty’s RHB split is pretty bad, and the Red Sox could use a decent glove man behind the plate.

  8. Charles Gates - Nov 18, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    You’re right Matthew, Jorge Posada isn’t a catcher anymore.

  9. stex52 - Nov 19, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    While I think you are right that the Astros are not presently “in the market” for a #1 catcher, they may well find themselves bidding for services. Castro is a #1 draft pick, but unproven yet and coming off of an ACL injury. I really like Quintero (admiration for all of the crap that journeyman catchers end up going through) and like his defense, but he won’t give them enough offense to be an every day starter. After that is a yawning chasm.

    Astros will probably end up being in it for some catching help.

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