Who Are the Best Remaining Free Agent Catchers?


Aside from several minor free agent signings (insert Shane Peterson and Paulo Orlando here), things have been quiet for the Dodgers in recent weeks as far as player additions go. However, the team still needs to acquire a catcher, even if Austin Barnes is viewed as being the main backstop for 2019.

Front office boss Andrew Friedman has been praising Barnes during the offseason, going as far as saying that he expects him to bounce back offensively in his 2019 campaign. In exactly 100 games last season, the 29-year-old hit just .209/.325/.290 after registering a much more impressive .289/.408/.486 slash line in 2017.

Still, in the event of an unexpected injury, there’s not much left beyond Rocky Gale, unless the club decides to throw either Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz into the big league fire. That’s why signing somebody is critical, regardless of their skill level.

In terms of the trade market, conversations about J.T. Realmuto are still lingering, but the Marlins do not appear to be backing down from their demands of receiving a return package of Cody Bellinger and other prospects. And while the Dodgers seem to be waiting for a change of heart from Miami, with a little over five weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers head into Camelback Ranch, something is bound to happen soon regarding some type of a decision.

Yesterday, Andy took a look at a scenario where Yasmani Grandal could conceivably return to the team; yet, desperation aside, it’s hard to see him inking a contract for just one year, which would be the ideal contract length for the Dodgers. There have also been conversations about Francisco Cervelli, but it’s tough to imagine the Pirates breaking ties with the 32-year-old anytime soon unless Pittsburgh finds itself falling from contention as the summer trade deadlines approach.

There have already been a slew of free agent catchers gobbled up over the past eight weeks. That list is highlighted by Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki, Robinson Chirinos, Jonathan Lucroy and Brian McCann, among several others.

So, what’s left out there who would be worth a one-year investment?

Plenty of conversations are still circulating around Martin Maldonado, who began his 2018 campaign with the Angels before being dealt to the Astros days before the non-waiver deadline. He might have a little more power than Barnes, but his career .220/.289/.350 slash line certainly isn’t much to write home about offensively. Still, his defense and pitch-framing are stellar, and he has a cannon for an arm. Among all the available catchers besides Grandal, Maldonado’s WAR of 0.9 ranks tied for the highest.

Nick Hundley is also available, but he’s the complete opposite of Maldonado in terms of defense and offense. The 35-year-old Hundley was always known more for his offensive potential rather than his defensive prowess. His best year came in 2015—albeit in Colorado—when he hit .301/.339/.467 with 10 long balls, 21 doubles and 43 RBI over 103 games. Last year, like Maldonado he tallied a 0.9 WAR and slashed .241/.298/.408 with 10 HR for the Giants. Despite all that, he was at the absolute bottom of the pitch-framing rankings last season.

I’ve been talking about Matt Wieters for weeks, as the 32-year-old switch-hitter fits the prototypical Friedman mold in terms of reclamation projects. He’s a four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner, all in his days with the Orioles. However, his numbers have fallen off in recent years, and he was hampered by several injuries while with the Nationals last year.  In his two seasons in Washington, he slashed just .230/.303/.355 which led to a wRC+ of just 72. Regardless, the fact that he can hit from the left side of the plate is intriguing, as it would compliment the right-handed hitting Barnes. His contract demands wouldn’t be excessive, leaving the Dodgers free to explore offensive upgrades at others spots, if they so choose.

A.J. Ellis is also available, but while a reunion with Clayton Kershaw and Company sounds appealing, one may question how many innings his 38-year-old knees can actually handle behind the dish.

Other available backstops include Devin Mesorasco, Rene Rivera, Juan Graterol, Caleb Joseph, Chris Stewart and Drew Butera.

In the end, it is not imperative that the Dodgers his the panic button immediately, but it’s still a move that needs to be done before putting the finishing touches on the final 25-man roster.


54 thoughts on “Who Are the Best Remaining Free Agent Catchers?

  1. Without looking I’m guessing all those guys have similar projections and none of those projections are impressive. I think I would go with whoever projects the highest dWAR. Don’t know who that is but I would think Maldonado or Wieters. I would also guess Friedman would gamble on Wieters.

  2. If this is the road we have to go down(which is looking very likely) I would vote Wieters, mainly because of his left handed batting. We love our platooning in LA. Dennis is Wieters as good as Maldonado, defensively, and as a receiver?

    1. I think Maldonado is the better framer and receiver, depsite the lower dWAR. The thing that scares me the most about him, though, is the fact he had 13 passed balls last year—definitely shades of Grandal right there.

      1. I’m guessing there is something about the way a catcher has to handle the glove in order to frame well which leads to passed balls. Probably more glove movement than a catcher who doesn’t have high framing marks.

      2. That’s it exactly Jefe. In watching Grandal’s numerous miscues you could tell he was working hard to keep the glove in the strike zone even when the ball wasn’t. As a former ump I’m blown away Major League umpires are fooled by this. The catcher’s glove is nowhere near the strike zone.

  3. Totally ambivalent at this point. I care not who they sign. Just waiting for the Ruiz-Smith tandem to arrive. But please do not bring back Grandmal. If I have to watch him strikeout in another clutch situation I am going to rip something to pieces.

    1. What does Wieters want? He made $10.5M last year. He doesn’t project well enough to get that. Maldonado made $3.9. If they aren’t going to trade for Cervelli I can see them signing Maldonado. No on Hundley. And no on Grandal as he would make too much to allow a significant July pickup. I think I would have gone with Ramos for 2 years. Adjusted salary is $7.2M and $10M. We could have done that. But…. not what AFried wanted.

      1. Ramos was my first choice also. I know he did say he really, really wanted to stay on the East Coast, but I wonder if he could have been signed by the Dodgers for a few dollars more.

  4. Kike can. He is the emergency catcher. The Mets traded for Broxton with the Brewers today, sending a relief pitcher and 2 minor leaguers for him. What I remember about Broxton is that when he connects, the ball goes a long way. He just has a lot of trouble connecting. They could also swing a deal for Russell Martin. He would not cost all that much in trade I think. But I doubt his name is anywhere on their wish list. Fans just wish they would get off the frippen pot and do something….anything,,……

  5. Geez. Friedman sits on his rear end while Farhan pulls off a spectacular deal by getting old friend Breyvic Valera from the Orioles for cash considerations.

    1. Farhan now loves exe Dodgers as much as he does exe A’s. Venditte and Valera, the Vee boys back together.

      1. You’re right. I’d forgotten about Venditte. What do you want to bet he winds up with Stewart?

  6. Think of how we’re banging our heads against the wall down here waiting for AF to make some sort of move, knowing that we’ve been to the WS the past two years. Now think of what it would be like to be a Giants fan, with how bad they’ve been the past few years, hot shot new GM in charge, 6-7 weeks until spring training, and he’s gotten them Pat Venditte and Breyvic Valera. Speak of restless fans……………………..

      1. Eugenio Velez, a name that will live in infamy. 40 plate appearances, 37 official at bats, no hits. Can’t believe that was back in 2011. Actually he spent 4 years with SF before he ever came here, so I don’t think he qualifies. Now, if for some reason the Rays cut Wilmer Font this spring ……………………..

      2. Farhan needs outfielders. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Farhan sign SVS to a minor league contract.

  7. Britton back to Yanks. Scratch him off our list. Three years with a team option for year four and if not exercised after year two, Britton can opt out after the second year. I know that sounds like a routine Scoop would make up but I got it from a Jeff Passan tweet.

  8. Dodgers talking to………you guessed it, Grandal about a 1 year deal. If it is for more than 50 cents, he will be overpaid.

    1. Grandal still projects 3.6 WAR. You know all GMs value that kind of production. Especially the GM in LA.

      1. I know. But he is so painful to watch day in and day out. No doubt he will hit some bombs, go on some sort of streak and fade like and old painting come September.

  9. I’d still like to see an incentive-laden deal with Greg Holland. He was spectacular after he got to the Nats last year. In 24 games he had a WHIP of 0.89 and and ERA of 0.84 with 10+ k’s/9 innings.

  10. I don’t see Andrew signing another bullpen piece unless it’s a deal to good to pass up,maybe something like Jeff is talking about.

  11. Little poll…and please be honest. How many of you truly believe that Harper, or Machado for that fact are worth 30 million plus a year. And I do not want to hear well, that’s what the market dictates. Just what you honestly believe they are worth…I do not think Kershaw is worth what he is getting the next 3 seasons.

    1. Yep


      Do fans think they are worth it? Well, they say “no” with their heads but say a very loud “hell yes” with their wallets.

      My top salesman in 1985, weird guy, when asked “how do you do it” replied “boss, people are stupid, you just tell them what they want to hear, then lead them the direction you want them to go.” Fans are people. They are easily led the direction MLB wants them to go.

      Last time I looked the average MLB FCI (fan cost index) was $230 and had a graph launch angle that looked like CEO pay. The Dodgers were $268. We lead the league in attendance every year and have a tv contract that would gag a kraken. Baseball is an enormous business. Like all entertainment it’s based on its stars. Do I think Adam Sandler is worth $40 million a year? Hell no. But fans do. And fans are people.

    2. Very hard question to answer Bear. Are you counting future value only or are you considering the baseball standard of also factoring in past performance? Are you asking if any particular fan thinks they’re worth 30 mil/year or if a major league team thinks they are (may be two very different answers)? Are you factoring in the extra crowds and merchandise sales a player like Harper would bring in? Are you comparing one player’s salary against another’s? If so, it’s a little hard to say that for the 2019 season Harper/Machado will be worth almost 60 times what Cody Bellinger is. So, in answer to your question my answer is I can’t answer that question. I can only say that I hope they don’t sign either of them and use the money on multiple other players or on some of the (in my opinion) more worthwhile free agents in winter 2019.

      1. I did not attach anything to it pertaining to the future or anything like that. I just wonder if anyone believes that guy is worth 30 million a year. I for one do not. I might pay Trout that kind of money, but he is the best in the game, and a 5 tool player. Harper is not a 5 tool guy.

  12. If Miami keeps being in the twilight zone with their trade demands for Realmuto, I’d go for signing the switch hitting Weiters for 1-2 years. He’s probably the best combination of offense and defense left for the available catchers. And Barnes needs to get back to his more aggressive 2017 approach at the plate. Last season, he constantly took two strikes before swinging, almost like he just wanted to walk.

  13. We are all spinning our wheels. Win or lose the Dodgers make the same amount of money in the world series. A bit more if they can go 7 games. A bit less if they don’t make the ws. So why would they spend 300/400 million on one player. After all this is just a business.

    1. Good question Gordon. My only response as to why they would be it’s what the fans want. And from what I’ve been reading fans are divided on this issue. After the Reds dump I was ready for it. Now I’m indifferent.

  14. That’s a loaded question bear, if I’m going to give a thirty million a year contract out I would rather it be to for 26 year olds like Harper, or machado, than 30 plus guys like Arenado, or Goldschmidt. I do believe the best position player, or two are worth 30 mil per year, so was Harper the best player last season, no but he is one of the few that can be the best player in any given season for the next 5 years, so he was not worth 30 mil last season, but I would happily give him a contract for thirty million, so yes.

    1. Sorry, but he is not even the best player in the game. Oh it seems like every other year he is pretty good, but he sucked this year for most of the first half. I would pay Trout that kind of money, but not Harper. And, with the holes they have to fill right now, if they sign that guy, which is looking less likely by the day, he would put them back over the CBT. Also, Friedman has never given a 9 figure contract to anyone. And the longest deal was 5 years and that went to Jansen. Turner only got 4 and the Dodgers need him more than they do Harper. I think he is over rated and a head case.

  15. I thought when we made the trade with the reds, I really thought we would trade verdugo, and other prospects for kluber, then sign Harper to fill the OF void. Now that Boras is talking directly to Lerner sr, 99% that’s where Harper lands. This is starting to feel a lot like last off season.

    1. I’m with you on that Keith. That move had the feeling of something else already being in place.

  16. I’m surprised A.J. Ellis doesn’t get more attention. Last year for the Padres he hit .272 in 183 PA’s, a little more than 1/3 of a season. Andrew Friedman said he expects Will Smith to “help us win games at some point in 2019.” Maybe they only need someone for 1/2 season before they promote Will Smith, so Ellis should be at least considered.

    Even with his streaky offense, Grandal is the 2nd best catcher in MLB. No one likes his PB rate, but that would seem to be a result of his superior pitch framing. Sign Grandal on a 2 year contract and trade him next year for prospects which will make room for Smith or Ruiz.

    1. “superior pitch framing”

      And those passed balls will continue to happen, resulting in base runners being moved up in scoring position. The reason we keep seeing this nonsense is passed balls do not count as errors, and they should. It would change defensive runs allowed and guys like Grandal would finally be held accountable for costing pitchers earned runs. Catch the ball first dummy.

  17. I might have that earned run thing wrong. It’s up to the official scorer:

    “A passed ball is not recorded as an error, but when a run scores as the result of a passed ball, it does not count as an earned run against a pitcher. (In cases where this is in question, the official scorer must reconstruct the inning, and if the run would not have scored without the passed ball, that run is deemed unearned.)

    It’s been my understanding that reconstructing the inning without the error is ALWAYS how it’s done. That’s why a passed ball should be an error. It’s a defensive mistake that gives up a base.

    I have checked box scores on this. Grandal lets one go to the backstop, runner goes to second, a single scores him and it’s scored an earned run. Maybe not always, but I’ve seen it. If anyone else on the field does something that allows base runners to advance (errant throw) it’s an error.

    Again, you’re a catcher. Stop the ball from going to the backstop. Grandal is one of the worst I’ve seen at actually receiving the ball…. yet he is a +dWAR catcher. Makes no sense to me.

    Rams v Dallas. Ooooh I hates the Cowboys.

  18. I did not want to see the rams have to play the bears, this is a very winnable game for the rams now. A good friend of mine is from Chicago, he is not happy with the bears kicker right now.

  19. I had to go to Denver today to help a friend move down here to Canon City. They were supposed to have the moving van loaded, but that did not happen. They did not get it finished until after 8 PM, so I got home about 45 minutes ago, and I have to get up early to take the van over to the storage place so we can unload the sucker hopefully before they get charged for another day. Joyce, the lady who is moving down here, fell off of the ramp and broke her leg. She is still in Denver in the hospital and will have surgery in the morning to put a pin in her leg, or a screw or whatever they use to pull it back together.

  20. You’re a good man Charlie Bear. Hope Joyce is ok. Is she old like us? Falling ain’t cool for old folks.

    I felt terrible for that kicker. He may have to disappear for a while. The Rams should handle Dallas in LA. This matchup brings back memories. These teams have met like 37 times in the playoffs and split the games evenly. Yeah I said it. Right down the middle. 18.5 wins a piece. Rams early 7 point favorites, 49 O/U.

    1. Joyce is 64. And the ramp had her about 3 feet up, so when she fell, she hit the concrete. Might not have been so bad had she hit the grass. Her surgery is at 9 this morning. We are meeting at the storage place at 8 to get the truck unloaded. Mets made 2 trades yesterday. One with the Astros and the other with the Indians. Indians got their catcher, Plawicki. Lots of rumors…not much action…I am BORED!

      1. “had she hit the grass”

        You sayin had she been stoned it wouldn’t have hurt so much? True that.

        You’re too busy to be bored.

        Plawicki in Cleveland sounds like a good fit. The name anyway. Not sure about the player.

        How to start a fight:

        My wife sat down next to me as I was flipping channels. She asked, “What’s on the tv?” I said “Dust”. That’s when the fight started.

        My neighbor’s wife was hinting about what she wanted for their upcoming anniversary. She said “I want something sleek and shiny that goes 0-160 in about 3 seconds.” He bought her a bathroom scale. And that’s when the fight started.

        My friend and his wife were sitting at a table at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his drink at a nearby table. He asked her, “Do you know him?” She sighed, “Yes, he’s my old boyfriend. He took up drinking right after we split up those many years ago, I hear he hasn’t been sober since”. “My God!” my friend said, “Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?” And then the fight started….

      2. Badaboom! I hear there’s one slot available at the Comedy Club here in L.A. tonight. Look forward to seeing you perform. Don’t be late.

  21. I would rather binge watch The Sopranos than watch Grandal catch another game in Dodger blue.

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