Set You Free: Catchers in the Rye
With Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas underway, it’s perfect timing to dive into the free agent pool. This is the second part of our nine-part series entitled Set You Free, which takes a position-by-position look at this offseason’s free agency market. Today, Jesse Behr goes over available backstops.
Last week, in the span of six days, five catchers were taken off the market: Jake Fox signed with the Pirates and Carlos Corporan with the Astros to minor league deals, Ryan Doumit will head to Minnesota and Jose Molina to Tampa Bay on one-year deals, and Ramon Hernandez to Colorado on a two-year $6.4 million deal. Hernandez theoretically swapped spots with Chris Iannetta, who was traded to the Angels for right-hander Tyler Chatwood.
I spoke with our very own Tyler Wasserman, who had this to say on the so-called Iannetta-Hernandez swap:
“In comparing Iannetta and Hernandez, their defensive numbers are close enough that you can say neither has an advantage, but if one does, it would be a slight edge to Iannetta. As for offense, Iannetta looks marginally better. In 2011, taking wRC per 400 plate appearances, Iannetta produced 2 more runs with a lower BABIP. He only had a .276 BABIP, while increasing his LD% and decreasing his GB%, so he might be in for an improvement in 2012. However, Hernandez’s BABIP was closer to league average. Iannetta walks more (16.4% to Hernandez’s 7.0%), but also strikes out more (20.9% versus 12.50%). Hernandez is also 35 years old, while Iannetta’s only 28. “With regards to Doumit, I’d like to offer these words of caution to Twins fans: Be afraid, be very afraid.
I had the “opportunity” to follow Domuit’s career with the Pirates, starting back in the days of The ‘Burgh Blues. Since 2005, Doumit has appeared in 611 games and has hit .271/.334/.442 in 2,175 PA. He provided the Bucs with 9.6 WAR, including a 2008 campaign in which Doumit posted 3.6 WAR, 15 HR, and 71 wRC in 116 games.
Without question, Doumit is one of the worst defensive catchers I’ve ever watched on a consistent basis. Over 3,513 and 1/3 innings, Doumit cost the Bucs 13 runs, while committing 13 errors. He caught 93 of 378 base stealers (25 CS%), and allowed 35 passed balls. As bad as Doumit was behind the dish, I remember cringing when I saw him at first base (-4.2 UZR in 251 innings) or in right. Doumit was brought on to back-up Joe Mauer, not for offensive or defensive purposes, but rather as an above replacement player that could take over for Mauer if he were to continue to miss significant time.
Taking those fellas out of the equation, here’s the remaining options in the free agent market: (remember, FanGraphs.com ’Dollars’ is WAR converted on a million-dollar scale)
Chris Snyder, Type B (0.7 WAR , $3.1 Dollars, $6.25 million 2011 salary)
Jason Varitek, Type B (0.5 WAR, $2.3 Dollars, $2.0 million)
Kelly Shoppach, None (1.1 WAR, $5.0 Dollars, $3.0 million)
Ramon Castro, None (0.4 WAR, $1.8 Dollars, $1.2 million)
Josh Bard, None (0.0 WAR, -$0.2 Dollars, league minimum)
Rob Johnson, None (-0.1 WAR, -$0.4 Dollars, $421,700)
Dioner Navarro, None (-0.1 WAR, -$0.5 Dollars, $1.0 million)
J.R. Towles, None (-0.2 WAR, -$0.9 Dollars, $424,000)
Jason Kendall, None (– WAR, — Dollars, $–)
Slim pickins’ there.
Snyder played in only 34 games with the Pirates last season after receiving back surgery in June, and Varitek hasn’t been a starting catcher since he appeared in 131 games for the Red Sox in 2007 and 2008. I was surprised to see that Shoppach gave the Rays a full win (and then some) over a replacement player, and there are far worse back-up options to have than Castro (.235/.307/.456 in 75 PA).
Which, if any, of these catchers sound the most intriguing?