Baseball Free Agents – Catchers
What a thin market it is at catcher this off-season. There are only four players I would categorize as possible starters and none of them are threats to make the all-star team. I’ve broken down the free agents into “Starters”, “Back-ups” and “Washed-ups”.
The teams I expect to be most active in the market for catchers are Toronto, the Royals, Colorado, and maybe the Phillies (Piazza?).
Mike Lieberthal (Phillies) – he’s every Red Sox fans worst nightmare for what could happen to Jason Varitek. Lieberthal signed a big contract and seemingly overnight he became more fragile with much less power. Over the course of his career Lieberthal has made over $52 million – couple that with the fact that he just got married – and you have to wonder if Mike will just call it a career. If not – some team will sign him to try and be their starting catcher.
Bengie Molina (Toronto) – the Blue Jays have both Molina and Gregg Zaun as free agents this winter (Molina is a free agent because the Blue Jays declined his option). That leaves Jason Phillips as the starter on the depth chart. Look for Zaun to be re-signed because he’s less expensive and doesn’t run like his feet are stuck in cement.
Mike Piazza (Padres) - I list him as a potential starter but at this stage I think he’s probably better suited to 1st or DH with just an occasional game behind the plate.
Gregg Zaun (Toronto) – most likely will be re-signed by the Blue Jays. My guess is 3-years at $2.5 million per year. Zaun may decide to test the waters though because there are so few quality catchers available this winter. The Royals are rumored to be the most interested in Zaun (besides the Jays that is)
Rod Barajas (Texas) – should find a job because he has some pop in his bat (21 HR in 2005). He could be a “starter” in a split time situation. The Rockies have expressed an interest in Barajas.
Gary Bennett (Cardinals) – a guy who is 34-years old with a career high of 4 HR. Easily could be a back-up or be washed-up next year.
Henry Blanco (Cubs) – 35-years old but probably will be back with the Cubs next season.
Robery Fick (Nationals) – he’ll find a job.
Todd Greene (Giants) – I have no reason to like and root for Todd Greene but I do.
Doug Mirabelli (Boston) – he’s been Tim Wakefield’s personal caddy for a long time (except for part of last season) but I think Theo Epstein wants to upgrade this off-season. Mirabelli will catch on (no pun intended) with some team.
Todd Pratt (Braves) – Brian McCann looks like a stud but he’s young and could use a veteran like Pratt around for guidance. If Pratt is not re-signed then Todd Greene would be a nice match. The Braves has shown no reluctance in going with younger players so maybe they go with Bryan Pena as the back-up (to give him some big league seasoning). Also keep in mind that the Braves also have highly touted Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their system – so another season of Pratt with Pena and Saltalamacchia in the minors may give them more flexibility.
Washed-ups (AKA There’s always the possibility of a minor league contract)
Sandy Alomar (White Sox) – can you believe he was still playing at age 40? I find it hard to believe that he’d be a big contributor for any team and doubt he’ll be gainfully employed in 2007 as a catcher.
Paul Bako (Royals) – another guy who is 34-years old and his career high is 4 HR. Last season he hit .209 in 56 games. Even the Royals should be able to do better than Paul Bako.
Mike DiFelice (Mets) – 48 MLB games in the last 3-years. Yup – time for the dog track there Mike.
Einar Diaz (Dodgers) – Yet another 34-year old back-up catcher with a career high of 4 HR.
Chris Widger (Baltimore) – He wants to come back for one more year to get his pension (10-years) but you have to have something to offer to get a spot on the 25-man roster and unfortunately for Widger – the tank is empty.
Some wildcards to consider:
These players are arbitration eligible – David Ross (Reds), Johnny Estrada (Arizona), Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies), Miguel Olivo (Marlins), Toby Hall (Dodgers), Ramon Castro (Mets), Humberto Cota (Pirates), Josh Bard (Padres), Joe Mauer (Twins), Adam Melhuse (A’s), Josh Paul (Devil Rays) and Jason Phillips (Toronto).
Most are no-brainers for arbitration but you never know.
Also keep an eye on the Angels where prospect Jeff Mathis may make Jose Molina expendable. Mike Napoli could split the time with Mathis at the big league level with the manager going with the hot bat.