Brad Ausmus played until 41 despite rarely getting a ball out of the infield in his later years and an extreme lack of production never stopped the Royals from throwing money at Jason Kendall, but all of a sudden, experience isn’t counting quite as much on the catcher market.
Ivan Rodriguez, who landed a two-year, $6 million contract last time he was a free agent, is struggling to find a job this winter. The same goes for Jason Varitek, though in his case, it’s the lack of a throwing arm, not so much his bat, that’s costing him.
Rodriguez, who needs 156 hits to get to 3,000 in his career, isn’t considering retirement just yet. He told the Washington Times that he’s fully recovered from the oblique strain that limited him last year:
“The only thing I can do is just keep myself in good shape and see what happens, you know? That’s basically about it. It is tough. At the same time, what you going to do? You really cannot do anything. The only thing I can tell you is that I’m in good shape. I feel pretty good.”
The Cardinals, Rays, Marlins, Athletics, Mets, Rockies, Cubs and Pirates all have unsettled backup catching situations at the moment, but none seems especially interested in signing a free agent. Besides Pudge and Varitek, Ramon Castro and Ronny Paulino are struggling to find jobs as well. No one from the group figures to get more than a minor league contract.
Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.
Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.
Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.
Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.
The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.
Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.
Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.