The list of available catchers is thin, to say the least. There's some big names on the list, but they're all at the tail end of their careers, and some of them might retire. The rest are a hodgepodge group of career backups, with a couple of players who once were considered top prospects but aren't anymore.
And while the list of free agents includes Yadier Molina of the Cardinals, he's not expected to get to the open market, as he has a $7 million option for 2012 that is almost certain to be picked up. For that reason, he's not included on this list of the top free agent catchers before the 2012 season:
1. Ramon Hernandez: He's past his all-star days with the A's in 2003, but he's been a decent catcher for the past three seasons in Cincinnati. He puts the ball in play, hits around .270 or so and can get to double digits in homers. That makes him No. 1 on this weak list. He's 35, which means injuries can crop up, but he's be ideal to share the spot with an up-and-coming catcher on a contender.
2. Ryan Doumit: Probably the best hitter on this list. The career .271 hitter hit eight homers in just 218 at-bats this season as the part-time catcher for the Pirates last season, and he's not over the hill. But he's barely marginal defensively, and it seems likely that the 1999 Pirates second-rounder could end up playing for another franchise for the first time.
3. Chris Snyder: After a pitiful 2010, in which the Diamondbacks gave up on him and traded him to the Pirates, he bounced back and hit .271 in 34 games for the Pirates. But he had season-ending back surgery in June to repair a herniated disc, and for a catcher, that's career-threatening. If he's healthy, he should be higher on the list, because he is good defensively and is one of the few on this list who isn't quite over the hill yet, and has decent power (15 homers in 2010). The Pirates have a $6.75 million option on Snyder that they almost certainly won't be picking up.
4. Gerald Laird: He's one of the players who was considered a decent prospect a few years ago, but has drifted into the journeyman realm. He's just 32, and is good at throwing out base-stealers. But he's a .241 career hitter with marginal power (10 homers in last three seasons). He spent 2011 as Yadier Molina's backup in St. Louis, and he could end up back there again, or in a similar role somewhere else.
5. Kelly Shoppach: Moved up on this list thanks to his two homers in the playoff opener for the Rays. But it's an understatement to say he lacks consistency and strikes out a lot. He whiffed 79 times in just 221 at-bats last season as the part-timer in Tampa Bay, and batted .176. But the career .224 hitter has plenty of power, and a gambling hitting coach might want to take a shot with a low-risk contract. The Rays have a $3.2 option that they almost certainly won't be picking up.
Others: Jorge Posada, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek are all in the same boat. All three have had fantastic careers, and more than one of them might choose retirement. Posada never caught once last year, and if the Yankees don't want him back as a part-timer, it's hard to imagine him in another uniform.
Note: 2011 teams have options on Yadier Molina, Shoppach and Snyder. Ages are as of Opening Day 2012.
Free Agent Catchers
|Name||Age||2011 team||2011 stats||2012 team||Contract|
|Rod Barajas||36||Dodgers||.230, 0 HR, 47 RBI||Pirates||1 yr, $4M|
|Henry Blanco||40||Diamondbacks||.250, 8 HR, 12 RBI||Diamondbacks||1 yr, $1.25M|
|Ramon Castro||36||White Sox||.235, 4 HR, 10 RBI||not signed|
|Ryan Doumit||30||Pirates||.303, 8 HR, 30 RBI||Twins||1 yr, $3M|
|Ramon Hernandez||35||Reds||.282, 12 HR, 36 RBI||Rockies||2 yrs, $6.5M|
|Jason Kendall||36||Royals||did not play (shoulder)||not signed|
|Gerald Laird||32||Cardinals||.232, 1 HR, 12 RBI||Tigers||1 yr, $1M|
|Jose Molina||36||Blue Jays||.281, 3 HR, 15 RBI||Rays||1 yr, $1.8M|
|Yadier Molina||29||Cardinals||.305, 14 HR, 65 RBI||Cardinals||$7M option|
|Dioner Navarro||28||Dodgers||.193, 5 HR, 17 RBI||Twins||minors|
|Ivan Rodriguez||40||Nationals||.218, 2 HR, 19 RBI||not signed|
|Brian Schneider||35||Phillies||.176, 2 HR, 9 RBI||Phillies||1 yr, $800,000|
|Kelly Shoppach||31||Rays||.176, 11 HR, 22 RBI||Red Sox||1 yr, $1.35M|
|Chris Snyder||31||Pirates||.271, 3 HR, 17 RBI||Astros||1 yr, $850,000|
|Matt Treanor||36||Royals||.226, 3 HR, 21 RBI||Dodgers||1 yr, $850,000|
|Jason Varitek||39||Red Sox||.221, 11 HR, 36 RBI||not signed|