It’s the catcher market that has moved the most quickly in free agency this winter, with Brian McCann becoming the first elite free agent to come to terms, agreeing to a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees on Saturday.
The other catcher deals:
Carlos Ruiz – Phillies (three years, $26 million)
Geovany Soto – Rangers (one year, $3.05 million)
Brayan Pena – Reds (two years, unknown salary)
The departures leave Jarrod Saltalamacchia as easily the No. 1 option left in free agency, with A.J. Pierzynski, Dioner Navarro, Kurt Suzuki, John Buck and Jose Molina next in line. The rumor Friday was that Molina was close to returning to the Rays, possibly on a two-year deal.
There are also two notable trade targets in Matt Wieters and Ryan Hanigan. Wieters doesn’t appear amenable to an extension with the Orioles in advance of hitting free agency in two years. Despite his disappointing offensive output to date, he’s still very highly thought of and would command a significant package. Hanigan would be a whole lot cheaper, and he’d be a solid option starting 80-90 games. He became expendable in Cincinnati with the Pena signing.
Boston: Might prefer a short-term fix with Christian Vazquez and 2011 first-round pick Blake Swihart on the way.
Toronto: Needs to upgrade from J.P. Arencibia.
Chicago White Sox: Neither Josh Phegley nor Tyler Flowers seems likely to become much of a regular.
Miami: Would like to find a cheap starter for a year to get Rob Brantly more seasoning.
Colorado: Made a run at Ruiz with the idea of shifting Wilin Rosario out from behind the plate.
Minnesota: Could use a veteran to pair with youngster Josmil Pinto.
Texas: The word was that the Rangers told Soto he’d be the starter to get him to sign quickly. Still, some are skeptical.
Seattle: A veteran capable of battling Mike Zunino for the job would be ideal, with Zunino returning to Triple-A if he doesn’t show he’s ready.
On the one hand, Saltalamacchia would seem to be sitting pretty as the only big-money catcher remaining. On the other, it doesn’t seem like any of those teams besides the Red Sox are in position to spend $10 million+ per year on a catcher, and the Red Sox already declined to give Salty a $14.1 million qualifying offer, which would seem to be put a cap on how high they’re willing to go.
Boston’s ideal would likely be to bring Salty back on a two-year deal in the $20 million range (which, according to reports, is about what they offered Ruiz). That seems like a realistic possibility now unless the Blue Jays or White Sox step it up. Alternatively, the Red Sox could go cheaper with Navarro to hold the fort down until one of their prospects is ready.
My guess: Salty back to Boston, Navarro to the Blue Jays (two years, $10 million), Pierzynski to the Twins (one year, $7 million), Suzuki to the White Sox (one year, $3 million) and Hanigan to the Mariners, with Wieters staying in Baltimore.