2009/2010 Free Agent Tracker: Catchers

Like last year, this year’s most fruitful market for catchers is the trade market, rather than the free agent market. The Texas Rangers, who traded Gerald Laird to the Tigers last season still have two worthy trade candidates in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, while Ronny Paulino could be on the move again.

Especially in a poor free agent class, where there isn’t a true standout top free-agent, teams may hold their money in hopes of signing Joe Mauer, who seems to be destined to take over for Victor Martinez, who will likely supplant Jason Varitek this year in Boston.

But Mauer is a free agent after the 2010 season, and the Twins could look to move the switch-hitting catcher at some point before the season, or leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Look for the Yankees to attempt to unload their once-bare proverbial cupboard of farm talent in hopes of acquiring baseball’s top catcher.

*Note: Players with options will be kept off the list unless their options are projected as unexercised. No arbitration-eligible players will be included unless they are projected as non-tender free agents. Ages represent age on June 30, 2010

1. Miguel Olivo, 31 years old

Miguel Olivo
Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Olivo was once a key piece in a trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox. He became a pariah in Seattle, as he and Jeremy Reed struggled at the big league level with the Mariners. Since leaving Seattle though, he’s begun to realize his potential.

A short stint with the Padres preceded two years in Florida, where Olivo re-established himself as a viable catcher prospect. He then transferred to the Royals—usually the final resting place for jettisoned Mariners. Olivo’s 2009 campaign boasted impressive numbers, including a .241 ISO and a .262/.334/.405 line for opposing hitters while Olivo was behind the plate, far better than the other two catchers the Royals fielded, and on a pitching staff that was pretty shaky apart from Zack Greinke.

2. Bengie Molina, 35 years old

SAN FRANCISCO - APRIL 14:  Bengie Molina #1 of...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The middle brother of the “Catching Molina brothers” becomes a free agent this offseason. Molina has transformed himself from a soft-hitting, defensive-minded backstop to a guy with some pop in his bat. Molina won two straight Gold Glove Awards in 2002 and 2003, when he played with the then-Anaheim Angels, but had only 19 homeruns and 42 doubles in the seasons combined.

In Molina’s last two seasons with the Giants have netted 36 home runs and 58 doubles. Molina would rank much higher, but he carries Type A status, something that caused several highly ranked free agents to remain unsigned for most of last year’s offseason. While Molina is a valuable catcher, his value as a free agent is extremely limited by the compensation that his signing team will have to surrender.

3. Yorvit Torrealba, 31 years old

Yorvit Torrealba with reflection
Image by fling93 via Flickr

Torrealba lost his role as the Rockies starting catcher to Chris Ianetta in 2008. The team has always struggled to maintain consistent starting pitching though, and what the team gained in Ianetta’s power and offensive potential, it would appear they lost on defense.

It would be simple to just blame Ianetta for the team’s 2008 struggles, and give credit to Torrealba for their 2007 success, but 2009 may have told a more accurate story. The team was 36-25 in games that Torrealba started, including 23 games after Sept. 1. Also, Rockies pitchers held batters to a .253/.327/.391 line with Torrealba behind the plate compared to .266/.330/.418 with Ianetta.

4. Rod Barajas, 34 years old

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 01:   Rod Barajas #20 of th...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Rod Barajas is the only catcher I know of that has caught for Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Jamie Moyer. Apart from his stint in Texas Barajas has caught a legend in every stop.

Barajas may not be the most intriguing offensive player, and has earned most of his money on the defensive side, but Barajas has hit 30 home runs and 42 doubles in the past two seasons.

5. Jason Kendall, 36 years old

Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall

Kendall is no longer the speedy, toolsy catcher that once threatened to revolutionize the position in the late 90’s. He’s probably not even the dimished, post-gruesome-ankle injury version of himself anymore. In fact, Kendall has turned into a pretty non-descript offensive player, boasting a .244/.329/.315 line in his last two seasons with Milwaukee.

The stats that jump out though, beyond Kendall’s average-to-above-average defense, are that he’s played 282 games in those two seasons, and posted 49 doubles and 92 walks. Kendall’s been a model of durability despite the one gruesome injury, playing 130 games in each season as a pro besides his injury shortened 1999 season, and 150 or more games in five seasons, including 2008.

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