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.
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.