2012 MLB Free Agency: A Sneak Peek at the Top 10 Free Agent Catchers

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2012 MLB Free Agency: A Sneak Peek at the Top 10 Free Agent Catchers
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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

PA: 335

Tony Medina/Getty Images

 

AVG: .230

BABIP: .244

SEC: .272

ROV: .251

INN: 711

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

PA: 86

AVG: .210

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

BABIP: .254

 

SEC: .185

ROV: .197

INN: 201

Composite Runs: 2.5 runs

WAR: 0.2

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

PA: 75

AVG: .235

BABIP: .293

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Doumit could be the sleeper of the free agency class.

SEC: .324

ROV: .280

 

INN: 174

Composite Runs: -0.7 runs

WAR: 0.3

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

PA: 236

AVG: .303

BABIP: .331

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

SEC: .243

ROV: .273

INN: 461

 

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

PA: 328

AVG: .282

BABIP: 291

SEC: .242

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

ROV: .262

INN: 658

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

PA: 108

AVG: .232

BABIP: .276

SEC: .221

ROV: .227

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

INN: 213

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

PA: 518

AVG: .305

BABIP: .311

SEC: .227

ROV: .266

INN: 1114

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Composite Runs: -5.9 runs

WAR: 3.9

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

 

PA: 139

AVG: .176

BABIP: .225

SEC: .168

ROV: .172

INN: 309

Composite Runs: -7.1 runs

WAR: -0.7 wins

Harry How/Getty Images

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

PA: 253

AVG: .176

 

BABIP: .212

SEC: .249

ROV: .213

INN: 626

Composite Runs: +16.1 runs

WAR: 1.4

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.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Other than Molina, Shoppach might be the only other regular in this group.

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

PA: 242

AVG: .214

BABIP: .273

SEC: .250

 

ROV: .232

INN: 565

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.

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