The best free agent catcher likely won't go anywhere.
One of the things I love is when all of the sites develop their top 50 free agency lists. It's what makes the offseason fun. You can celebrate when your team signs the number 17 guy on the ESPN list. Of course, MLBtraderumors.com may have the guy at number 23. I'm not big on ranking guys. For one, it draws needless comments to your site from people that want to argue that this guy should be number two instead of number three.
More importantly, what each team needs is different. This isn't rotisserie baseball you know. A team with a ton of offense and bad defense might prefer a defensive minded catcher. So, we will list guys in alphabetical order and highlight their strengths and weaknesses rather than spit out an absolute ranking.
As we get started, we will see a few statistics some may be unfamiliar with. The first two lie on the hitting side of the equation. Secondary average (SEC) measures everything a hitter does that does not include batting average. This includes base running, power, and patience. When you combine batting average and secondary average you get real offensive value (ROV). It is expressed like batting average.
We will also include batting average on balls in play (BABIP) as a final offensive statistic. Additionally, we will look at defensive statistics. Primarily, we will look at innings and composite runs (combination of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and The Fielding Bible). Finally, we will show wins above replacement. WAR is a combination of offense and defense. We will choose ten catchers from the free agent pool.
Rod Barajas -- Los Angeles Dodgers
Composite Runs: -1.5 runs
WAR: 1.4 wins
Barajas is coming to the end of a long career. He is 36 years old, but in catcher years that is well past forty. I would say the Dodgers would re-sign him, but no one knows what they are up to these days.
Likely Fit: Barajas would be a good signing for any team trying to nurse a young catcher along. He can't catch 100 or more games anymore, but if you need a guy for 70 or 80 he might not be a bad option. He is decent defensively and offensively he is okay as well.
Josh Bard -- Seattle Mariners
Composite Runs: 2.5 runs
About five years ago, Josh Bard was supposed to be one of the better catchers in baseball. He had some pop in his bat, patience at the plate, and he was a good receiver. Well, the good receiver part is still true.
Likely Fit: I can't see the Mariners bringing him back, but anything is possible. Bard's regular days are gone, but his defense is good enough to land him a backup job somewhere.
Ramon Castro -- Chicago White Sox
Composite Runs: -0.7 runs
Ramon Castro is another catcher that was supposed to be a long-time regular. He is now 35 and it has never happened. In some cases it is his doing, but when you look at the numbers you see he did better than A.J. Pierzynski by the end of the season. Still, he ended up number three on the White Sox depth chart.
Likely Fit: Castro could be a regular catcher based on recent performance, but at 35 he isn't to get that opportunity. A team in need of catching depth would be smart to bring him on board.
Ryan Doumit-- Pittsburgh Pirates
Composite Runs: -11.0 runs
WAR: 1.2 wins
Ryan Doumit has always been able to hit, but catching has always been an issue. The Pirates tried him at first, right field, and as a pinch hitter, but he wound up back behind the dish. The Pirates have probably given up on him.
Likely Fit: Doumit could be a poor man's Mike Napoli before it is all said and done. He would be perfect on a team that needs a combination catcher and part time DH.
Ramon Hernandez -- Cincinnati Reds
Composite Runs: -1.0 runs
WAR: 2.0 wins
Ramon Hernandez has a similar reputation as Ryan Doumit at this point, but it isn't deserved. Ryan Hanigan is a much better defender, so Hernandez could be on his way out of Cincy. At his advanced age (35) he would be perfect for a platoon.
Likely Fit: Ramon Hernandez is perfect for a team that needs a platoon partner for their catcher. He can also play some first base as well.
Gerald Laird -- St. Louis Cardinals
Composite Runs: -1.5 runs
WAR: 0.1 wins
Gerald Laird used to be a fairly regular catcher, but Yadier Molina doesn't need a whole lot of help. Both are free agents, so it's hard to say if both can return. Plus, with his ring on hand, he might want to play more.
Likely Fit: Laird may want to play more at this point in his career. He hasn't had that few plate appearances since 2005. He might want a chance to be more of a platoon situation like he has done in the past.
Yadier Molina -- St. Louis Cardinals
Composite Runs: -5.9 runs
Molina's struggles behind the plate can't really be explained and I doubt we will see them again. At the plate, Molina was as good as ever. There is maybe a one percent chance that he doesn't come back to St. Louis.
Likely Fit: Back with the Cardinals
Brian Schneider -- Philadelphia Phillies
Composite Runs: -7.1 runs
WAR: -0.7 wins
Some players get the dignity of calling it quits when they are ready and others have to be told to go away. Brian Schneider was an excellent receiver for most of his career and remains one of the last Montreal Expos. Like Jake Taylor you wish you would have had him two years ago. Nay, maybe four.
Likely Fit: A non-roster invitee with someone.
Kelly Shoppach -- Tampa Bay Rays
Composite Runs: +16.1 runs
It's hard to say where the Rays will go at catcher. They have John Jaso, but Shoppach is the better player overall. He was also solid in the postseason. All that said, they may want to go young and cut as much as they can so they can afford to keep some other guys.
Likely Fit: He's 50/50 to be back with the Rays. A GM that wants to take a flyer on a cheaper option to start could roll the dice on him. His numbers look awful, but his BABIP was alarmingly low.
Matt Treanor -- Texas Rangers
Composite Runs: -1.3 runs
WAR: 0.2 wins
Can Misty come out and play? In all seriousness, Treanor is about as ordinary as they come. He is okay defensively and lack-luster offensively, but he has proven to be reliable in a limited role.
Likely Role: He will try to catch on somewhere as a backup.