Best available free agent catchers
Wherein the word “best” is thrown around loosely.
When Russell Martin went off the market following a five-year, $82 million deal with the Blue Jays, the free-agent market for catchers went from slim to just about none. Martin was easily the class of a group that includes mostly aging former starters and once-promising players who have lost their way.
A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross fall into the former category. Pierzynski has been a negative-WAR player for two years running. His skills behind the plate are beginning to deteriorate with his bat, which managed an OPS+ of just 75 in 2014. Pierzynski hasn’t received much interest thus far, but it would be hard to imagine a team not at least offering him a minor league deal at some point this offseason assuming he wants to continue playing.
Ross, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the Cubs, who are attempting to sign top free-agent hurler Jon Lester. Ross served as Lester’s primary catcher for 29 games in Boston in 2013 and 2014. Like Pierzynski, Ross is 37 years old and has been steadily declining at the plate since a strong 2012 campaign. However, that’s something the Cubs would likely put up with if it gives them a better chance of landing Lester.
Geovany Soto and Nick Hundley both had career-best performances at the plate in their age-27 seasons, but neither backstop has done much since then. Soto has failed to eclipse 200 plate appearances in a season since 2012, when he finished with a career-worst 63 OPS+. He was slightly above average in limited duty for Oakland last season, and because of a strong stretch earlier in his career during which he hit .254/.347/.452 with the Cubs, Soto still owns a decent career OPS+ of 102.
Hundley has fallen completely off the map since posting a 132 OPS+ for the Padres in 2011. He was close to league average while receiving a career-high 408 plate appearances two years later, but Hundley regressed down to a 79 OPS+ with the Padres and Orioles in 2014. Hundley is reportedly drawing interest from the Rockies, who are trying to trade incumbent catcher Wilin Rosario to an AL club that would be less affected by his poor defense.
John Buck, Gerald Laird and J.P. Arencibia are among several other uninspiring available catchers. None are likely to command much attention from teams with a need at the position due to either age, sustained ineffectiveness or both.