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2019 Catching - Deal or Stay Put?

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  • 2019 Catching - Deal or Stay Put?

    2018-19 Market Snapshot: Catcher

    by JEFF TODD | October 8, 2018 at 10:42 PM CDT

    As we enjoy the postseason festivities, it’s an opportune time to prepare for the coming wheeling and dealing of the winter. We always take an in-depth look at every team’s situation and also focus in on the major free agents. To get things rolling, though, we’ll also add a new angle with this market snapshot series.

    Whether analyzing things from the perspective of a given team looking to address a certain position or from a player hoping to find a fit, the broader market context is a key consideration. Accordingly, we’ll use this series to get a general sense of the market setting at each position.

    Teams In Need
    Quite a few organizations will be interested in finding new options to take the lion’s share of the time behind the dish. The Angels, Astros, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Nationals, and Rays all plainly lack clear-cut, number-one options behind the dish and could be interested in significant upgrades.

    Other teams could mostly roll with what’s already on hand but will likely at least dabble in the market for regulars. The Braves, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, and Rockies could justifiably go after top backstops, for instance, and are also among the teams that will be eyeing part-time contributors.

    Meanwhile, the Yankees’ views on Gary Sanchez could represent a major wild card in the development of the market. And, of course, catching depth is always valued even for clubs whose MLB roster spots are already mostly accounted for.

    Free Agents
    This class certainly isn’t exactly loaded with stars, but that’s never really the case at the catching position. It does appear to have two clear regulars on offer, along with a variety of other backstops who might be entrusted with significant playing time again in 2019.

    Likely Regulars:
    Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos have each hit quite well this year, but the former has the edge in framing and health. Both should secure strong, multi-year deals.

    Top Timeshare/Reserve Options:
    Kurt Suzuki and Martin Maldonado are arguably the top options here, the former owing to his solid bat and the latter to his well-regarded defensive work. A few former everyday receivers — Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, and Matt Wieters — seem likely to be forced into lesser roles. Otherwise, A.J. Ellis, Nick Hundley, and Devin Mesoraco turned in solid campaigns this year.

    Depth: Drew Butera, Chris Gimenez, Bryan Holaday, Jeff Mathis, Rene Rivera, Bobby Wilson

    Trade Targets
    It’s tough to know just how many of these players will truly be made available — at least, at a palatable price. And the market could feature some other names as well, particularly if a player is freed up to be moved based on other maneuvering.

    Likely Regulars:
    With two more seasons of arbitration control remaining, and coming off of a huge campaign, J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins ought to be pursued by a variety of contenders. Francisco Cervelli (Pirates, 1/$11.5MM) had an outstanding year and could be on the block if the Bucs see a chance to achieve an intriguing return and fill in with cheaper pieces. There’s no indication the Royals will deal Salvador Perez (3/$36MM), but he’ll surely be asked about.

    Top Timeshare/Reserve Options:
    Some might argue that Robinson Chirinos (Rangers, 1/$2.375MM) did enough in 2018 to be viewed as a regular, but the guess here is that he’d be valued as a primary but not everyday type catcher who has an attractive contract. He might also be an extension target. Both Welington Castillo (White Sox, 1/$7.75MM + option) and Russell Martin (Blue Jays, 1/$20MM) could be moved to save at least some of the remaining cash owed and to clear the way for younger options on both rosters. It’s plenty imaginable that the Red Sox will do some trimming, with three catchers (Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, and Blake Swihart) on hand.

    Drew's Sig