First question. Sandy already identified that the current Mets catching staff was inadequate for a championship level team. And people said he couldn’t judge talent, HA!. So what does that mean for current Mets player Josh Thole and FA Kelly Shoppach?
Honestly, I can’t see the Mets giving up on Thole completely so most likely it means the end of Shoppach’s time in NY. A veteran catcher who can actually be more than just a backup could be needed.
Obviously there are two ways to fill that spot. One is through trade and I won’t even pretend to know who is actually available. The other possibility is through trade. Of course Alderson said that he did not expect any large FA contracts this off-season but lucky for the Mets there aren’t any starting catchers that would merit a large FA contract on the market.
With the Mets beginning to march towards a team, hopefully, based on pitching, speed and defense a veteran catcher would be a bonus for all the young pitching. So the answer to the need of a veteran catcher is the same as it has been for 3 years. Yes.
Now the next question: Who?
According to the MLBTR FA List
The following catchers are FA:
Rod Barajas (37) – $3.5MM club option, no buyout
Henry Blanco (41) – $1.24MM mutual option
Gerald Laird (33)
Russell Martin (30)
Brian McCann (29) – $12MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jose Molina (37) – $1.5MM club option with a $300K buyout
Mike Napoli (31)
Miguel Olivo (34) – $3MM club option with a $750K buyout
Ronny Paulino (32)
A.J. Pierzynski (36)
Humberto Quintero (33)
David Ross (36)
Carlos Ruiz (34) – $5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Brian Schneider (36)
Kelly Shoppach (33)
Chris Snyder (32) – $4MM mutual option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Yorvit Torrealba (34)
Matt Treanor (37)
Obviously some of those options guys are no brainer pickups. Example Carlos Ruiz, he’s not hitting FA. I would also assume that applies to McCann will return even with the 12M option. However, a guy like Barajas might be on a slippery slope earning 3.5M with no buyout attached, same with Miguel Olivo with a buyout under 1M.
So looking at those names, who do you think would be a fit. I don’t expect Napoli to leave. In fact the rumors are they have already agreed in principal to a deal. I also expect the Braves to re-sign Ross with McCann maybe needing shoulder surgery and see no reason that the Rays won’t keep Jose Molina. We know they Mets won’t go back to Barajas, Blanco, Schneider or Paulino. That leaves:
Laird, Martin, Pierzynski, Quintero, Shoppach, Snyder, Torrealba and Treanor.
Out of that group picking a starter?
Russell Martin’s BA even in the mockery of Yankee stadium has still gone down each year. He turned down a 3/20 deal and now many reports have him being forced to settle for a one year deal around 7.5M. That alone is most likely still too pricey for the Mets considering the production, or lack there of.
Kingman’s favorite Pierzynski will be a hard one to pry away from the White Sox. The NY native will be 36 this off-season and is having his best season since 2004. I would expect him to be looking for a 2-3 year deal to finish his career. He’s spent the last 8 years in Chicago so I would expect them to make a hard push for him returning. I would expect him to get an offer around 2/15 from the White Sox and would have to turn that down. While it might be a great idea if the Mets intended on competing in 2013, I don’t see them spending that much for A.J.
Quintero would actually have to take hitting lessons from Thole, so strike that name off. Snyder is certainly not a full time option nor is Treanor and Torrealba actually played for 3 teams this year alone.
So to me that narrows the list down to Shoppach who most do not view as a starting candidate and Laird who has not played a full season in quite some time. Personally I have always like Laird. He’s a RH catcher who traditionally hits LH pitching well and has been known as a good defensive catcher. At 32 he is actually one of the younger FA catchers. The question still remains could he handle a full load. However, keeping Thole to catch RA and the occasional starts versus RH could produce something along the lines of a 100 game to 62 game split between the two.
I have heard the options for trade and I have not been impressed. Most of the ones mentioned numbers actually match up well with Laird and at this point I can’t see trading actual talent for a mediocre catcher, and if trading for a good catcher in this market you would need to back up the truck.
So all this to say my two options would be Laird or Shoppach with Thole as the backup. Certainly not a championship caliber catching tandem. Good luck with that Sandy.