MLB: Top Free Agent Catchers of 2016-17 Offseason
The MLB hot stove is starting to heat up, and nobody is safe. Today, we look at top free agent catchers that may change teams this offseason.
As the MLB offseason rolls on, we have already seen some minor and major moves take place. The Mariners acquired catcher Carlos Ruiz from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Danny Valencia from the Oakland Athletics. The Angels signed former Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The Braves signed pitchers Josh Collmenter, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon to one-year deals. The Rangers signed former highly-touted prospect Will Middlebrooks to a minor-league deal.
The Phillies also made a small splash by acquiring reliever Pat Neshek from the Astros, and utility player Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers. The Blue Jays arguably made the biggest move so far this offseason by reportedly signing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a three-year deal. The team also signed Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel, younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, to a seven-year deal.
There are many positions this offseason that are stacked with free agents. First basemen include Mark Trumbo, Ryan Howard, Edwin Encarnacion, James Loney, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Moss, and Mike Napoli. The outfield contains free agents Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler, Angel Pagan, Rajai Davis, and Ian Desmond. Pitchers include Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Joe Smith, and Boone Logan, as well as starters Jason Hammel and Edinson Volquez. One position we have yet to look at is catcher, a position that also contains a few big names on the market. Some of these catchers will possibly change teams during this offseason, and some may even receive big money deals.
Here are the top catchers currently on the free agent market.
The career of Wilson Ramos has definitely been rocky, to say the least. The 29-year-old has endured a plethora of injuries, as well as a kidnapping following the 2011 season. It took Ramos seven seasons as a National to finally find his footing, and in 2016, Ramos broke out as a top catcher in baseball. Ramos set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. He also accumulated his most hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, games played, and plate appearances. Ramos has finally found his rhythm, but his earning potential may have taken a serious hit with the ACL injury he suffered near the end of September.
Ramos’ season started off hot, as he hit safely in 11 of the team’s first 15 games. By the end of June, Ramos had completely taken off, hitting .340 for the year. As the summer was heating up, so were the Nationals, with Ramos leading the charge. Ramos ended with a .307 batting average, increasing his plate discipline as the season went along. His months of June and July were highlighted by 11- and 10-game hitting streaks, respectively. For the season, Ramos threw out 19 base runners, finishing with a career-high .997 fielding percentage.
This season may have been the start of something big for Ramos, but the ACL surgery will make teams wary. He could miss most, if not all of the first half, so it’s unclear what interested clubs will be willing to commit to him this offseason.
Possible suitors: WAS, BAL, NYM, CLE, HOU, LAD, SEA
Matt Wieters has not had an easy road either. The power-hitting catcher underwent Tommy John surgery, a rarity for a position player. This injury cost Wieters a majority of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, which also put a strain on his abilities. However, Wieters still has power, and he still has Gold Glove defense, which could make him a target on the free agent market. Wieters just turned 30, so he is still relatively young enough to offer up a long-term deal. Maybe a change of scenery can help Wieters, and there are plenty of landing spots for him.
We’ve seen Wieters at his best, and we’ve seen him at his worst. This year was not his best year, but the potential could ultimately land him a big deal. After appearing in just 101 games in 2014 and 2015 combined, Wieters appeared in 124 games in 2016. He went on to hit 17 home runs, driving in 66 runs, while scoring 48. Wieters has 20-home run potential, averaging 22 home runs from 2011-2013. If Wieters can find his form on the Orioles or even another team, he will reemerge as one of the best offensive catchers in baseball.
Possible suitors: BAL, DET, NYM, SEA, LAD, WAS, HOU, CLE, COL
Not having it easy doesn’t begin to describe Jason Castro’s career. The 29-year-old longtime Astros catcher has hit a rough patch in his career, and a change of scenery may be beneficial. Castro will definitely not earn a huge contract, but there are teams that could use his veteran presence. Castro also provides flexibility at first base and can be used as a designated hitter in an AL format, which could make him a highly sought-after free agent. Even if he does not make a team as a starter, he can certainly become a good bench option.
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Ever since Jason Castro’s breakout year in 2013, it has been an uphill battle and a downhill slide. Castro is certainly one of the more consistent defensive catchers in baseball, holding a career .995 fielding percentage. Castro has averaged a .214 batting average over the past three seasons and has also dealt with injuries. Because of his relative youth, Castro may be valuable to other teams, and a change to a different team may suit him better than the Astros. If all goes well and Castro finds his footing, he can also be one of the many standout catchers in baseball going forward.
Possible suitors: BAL, KC, PIT, TOR, LAD, SEA, MIA