Free Agent Focus: Catchers

A few weeks ago, Sandy Alderson said the Mets will seek a veteran backstop, as he is not convinced that Josh Thole can be an everyday catcher:

“We’re looking for more catching,” Alderson said. “I think it would be a little bit premature if I were to make a judgment on Thole without ever actually having seen him play.”

He wants to “see” Thole play? Can’t he just look at Thole’s numbers on Paul DePodesta’s computer? Weird.

Since then, though, manager Terry Collins announced that Thole would be the team’s #1 catcher in 2011.

Now I’m really confused; isn’t Collins supposed to be taking orders from above, and executing the plan set forth by Alderson?

Regardless of whether Thole is the starter, the Mets will need a second backstop — and presumably are in the market for a veteran. Even with Mike Nickeas and Omir Santos around, the Mets need some depth.

However, the free-agent pickings are slim; there are a total of 14 MLB catchers currently available. Let’s have a look at them.

2010 Free Agent Catchers

Player Age
Brad Ausmus 41
Rod Barajas 35
Josh Bard 32
Henry Blanco 39
Gerald Laird 31
Jason LaRue 36
Chad Moeller 35
Bengie Molina 36
Miguel Olivo 32
A.J. Pierzynski 33
Yorvit Torrealba 32
Matt Treanor 34
Jason Varitek 38
Gregg Zaun 39

Not a terribly inspiring lot, eh?

Ausmus has been hired by the Padres to a front office position, so it’s unlikely he’ll be playing in 2011.

Zaun is a favorite of the sabermetric set for his historically good OBP and occasional flashes of power. However, he missed all of 2010 after shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum (sound familiar?). He’d likely be a great mentor to Thole and provide some offense but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to throw out runners attempting to steal.

Varitek would be similarly good in a mentoring role but I don’t see him leaving Boston for a team unlikely to reach the postseason.

Molina, Olivo, and Pierzynski would seem to be outside the Mets’ budget, and prevent Thole from getting reps behind the dish. The same could be said for Torrealba, who in addition to wanting to play regularly, has had bad experiences with the Mets in the past.

Gerald Laird is a defensive-minded catcher who I’ve always liked for his skills behind the dish, but he’s been a terrible hitter through most of his 8-year career. He takes a long stride, drops his hands, and swings with a severe uppercut, so I doubt a change to Citi Field would be of much help to him.

Treanor, Moeller, and LaRue don’t do anything for me, and never did. Insert your Misty May comment here.

Barajas is unlikely to return to Flushing, and is attracting interest from Boston, among others. There’s some chance that Blanco returns, however, particularly if Terry Collins values his work. I have no idea what Collins thinks of Blanco, so can’t comment either way.

Zaun would seem to be the ideal choice, if he’s not too expensive and is willing to play for a team not likely to be in the playoff hunt. In a recent interview on XM Radio, he spoke of an interest in playing for Tampa Bay. No idea whether the Rays have mutual interest, but they already have John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, and Kelly Shoppach. Speaking of, the Rays are unlikely to keep both Navarro and Shoppach, so one of them could be available as well.

What do you think? Will the Mets go after one of the above backstops? Or will they sign a minor league free agent, such as Michael Barrett (who played in Buffalo last year)? Or will they go the trade route? Let us know in the comments.

10-11 Offseason

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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