A.J. Pierzynski was off the board by the time some of you were out of bed yesterday. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went yesterday afternoon. Some trade thing with Ryan Hanigan went down, which is very Rays; the dude walks. Dioner Navarro was locked up on Monday, Geovany Soto is off the board, Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann signed big deals.
If you were hoping for the Twins to sign a quality free agent catcher who could start most of the Twins' games, that dream was given a quick burial yesterday. It leaves Minnesota in an interesting situation. On the one hand, if they're happy with Josmil Pinto being the starter (and that indeed seems to be the case), then the Twins still need to find a backup catcher but there really aren't very many good backups catchers left on the market, either. On the other hand, if the Twins do want to find a catcher to start for a year (or maybe two), then as far as the free agent market goes they're out of luck. With the existing list of free agents, the club may as well just see what they have in Pinto.
Nevertheless, one thing is certain: going into the season relying on any combination of Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann, and Eric Fryer is just asking for trouble. Even for a team that isn't likely to contend, you still want to make efforts to get better and shore up weak points where possible. Luckily, that goal is still very acheivable.
Here are some of the best options left on the market.
Buck has power but doesn't make enough contact, or at least not enough quality contact, for it to really make him any kind of a productive hitter. He was, however, the worst catcher in all of baseball at framing pitches in 2013 at -20.4 RAA (runs above average). For a team that just signed two pitchers to the two biggest free agent contracts in franchise history, I'd want to give them as much help as possible. And that guy isn't John Buck.
Arencibia was non-tendered by the Blue Jays because he's arbitration-eligible for the first time this season, and his bat didn't live up to the expectations built by his .507 career slugging percentage in the minor leagues. As Toronto's full-time catcher the last three years he's averaged 21 homers in 421 plate appearances, but he also averaged 130 strikeouts and 24 walks en route to a .214/.260/.410 triple slash in that time period.
On the plus side, Arencibia was the seventh-best catcher in baseball at framing pitches in 2013 at 15.8 RAA. The Twins might have to dish out a couple million dollars just to have him as an insurance policy for Pinto, but in spite of his big time swing-and-miss mentality they could do a whole lot worse.
Shoppach's career numbers are skewed thanks to hitting .261/.336/.503 over 171 games between 2007 and 2008. Since then he's a .204/.305/.375 batter, which is either better or worse than Arencibia depending on how much you prefer on-base skills or slugging, but he did enjoy hitting the ball off the Monster in Boston late in 2012. Could Target Field, which is kind to pull hitters, play to his strengths? Possibly, but it's not worth wishing on.
The big difference between Arencibia and Shoppach, aside from the aforementioned on-base versus power issue, is the fact that Shoppach is also six years the elder. Age has to be a factor at this point in his career, although he might be more open to signing a one-year deal because of it.
The Nationals have expressed a recent interest in bringing back Suzuki, who had some power in his mid-20s that's now gone. He's never hit posted an OPS+ better than 98 and holds a career average of 86. He was also among the game's worst catchers in 2013 at framing pitches (-9.1 RAA). There isn't much to like here. Washington, you can have him.
He was considered old when the Twins had him on the roster in 2004. In his age-42 season I have to think he fits the profile of a third catcher more than a second, because if something were to happen to Pinto he's not a guy you'd want starting for five or six days in a row much less five or six weeks.
From 2003 through 2011, Hernandez was actually a pretty decent hitter. He batted .274/.335/.436 in that period. But he's about to enter his age-38 season and has been terrible with a bat in his hands the last two seasons. At this point, Hernandez is little more than a warm body.
Do you want to read more? We could force ourselves to look at Yorvit Torrealba. Or Humberto Quintero. Or Koyie Hill. No? Me, either. The Twins could explore the trade market. It's possible that the team could swap a spare part for someone else's under-appreciated backstop, but it's unlikely. Trading for a catcher makes more sense if the organization is still looking for a starter, which doesn't seem to be the case.
How would you like to see Minnesota handle its catcher situation?
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