After a year of Rod Barajas and another uninspiring season for Tony Sanchez, the Pirates will likely look this offseason for another catcher to pair with Michael McKenry. Here's a look at their options.
These are the potential free agent catchers this offseason, via MLB Trade Rumors.
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)
Free agents are usually pretty dicey propositions due to their age, but that's especially true when you're dealing with catchers, because backstops usually age so poorly. You may recall that, last season, the main catchers on the market were Ramon Hernandez, Rod Barajas, and the two guys the Pirates left behind, Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. All except Doumit tanked.
The market this year is a little more tempting, but let's cross a couple guys off the list right away. McCann is hurt. The Phillies will pick up Ruiz's option. Ross is fairly likely to stay in Atlanta. Barajas, Blanco, Jose Molina, Olivo, Paulino, Quintero, Schneider, Snyder, Torrealba and Treanor really aren't very good.
Laird and Shoppach are probably best-suited for part-time roles, so the Pirates might get one of them on the cheap. If they want to take a shot at a potentially decent free agent, though, they're probably going to be looking at an uphill climb on Martin, Napoli or Ross, or they'll look to Pierzynski. In any of those cases, though, they'll be getting a player in his 30s. Ross and Pierzynski, of course, are way into their 30s.
Geovany Soto of the Rangers is a potential non-tender candidate, and he's only a couple years removed from a brilliant 2010 season in Chicago. Again, though, he wouldn't be a clear starter. Nick Hundley would surely be available in a trade, but he's coming off a terrible season. Another trade candidate would be Hank Conger of the Angels, who's now blocked by Chris Iannetta. Conger is a little like a catching version of Travis Snider -- his minor-league numbers suggest he can hold a spot in the majors, but he hasn't really hit much in the majors yet. He'll be 25 in January. There's also J.P. Arencibia, who, if nothing else, can hit for power. The Blue Jays might look to move him this offseason, with Travis d'Arnaud on the horizon.
A deal for either Conger or Arencibia might be the best idea -- with apologies to Tony Sanchez, the Pirates really don't have a good catching prospect in the high minors. No matter what, though, the Pirates will aim to do something. Whether they'll make a conservative move for a part-time player like Shoppach or try something more daring remains to be seen.