Free Agent Faceoff: Catcher Pile

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A lot has happened since MLBTR previewed this winter’s free agent catchers back in September. Several players were cast off of rosters as the season’s final months played out, which added some names to the pile. Some names were removed from the pile as well, as Yan Gomes, Manny Pina, Sandy Leon, Pedro Severino, Andrew Knapp and Roberto Perez all put pen to paper in the past few months. That means that an already-thin market is now even thinner, leaving teams with limited avenues for bolstering their catching corps. Trades are always an option, of course. But in terms of free agents, there are only five remaining catchers that played more than 35 games in 2021.

Stephen Vogt, 37, was designated for assignment by Atlanta in October, as the Braves were in the midst of their charge towards becoming World Series champions. It was revealed a few days later that Vogt had undergone sports hernia surgery, which isn’t expected to prevent him from being ready for spring training this year. He played 78 games in 2021, between the Diamondbacks and Braves. Although he has usually received more praise for his offense than his defensive work, he hit just .195/.283/.333, wRC+ of 64 this past season. He also had a rough campaign in 2020, but was productive as recently as 2019, when he hit .263/.314/.490. That amounted to a wRC+ of 106 and 0.9 fWAR in 99 games.

Kurt Suzuki, 38, signed a one-year deal with the Angels for 2021 and played 72 games for them this year. Like Vogt, he’s long been considered more of a bat-first catcher, but he hit only .224/.294/.343 for the Halos, for a wRC+ of 76. However, his wRC+ was over 100 in each of the previous four seasons. From 2017 to 2020, he hit 50 home runs and slashed .272/.337/.475, wRC+ of 111.

Robinson Chirinos, 37, has a similar profile to Vogt and Chirinos, often earning praise for his offensive skills. But unlike them, he’s not coming off a down year at the plate. From 2015 to 2019, he had an excellent five-year run, hitting 71 home runs and slashing .234/.340/.452, for a wRC+ of 109. The shortened 2020 campaign was not kind to him, however, as his line dropped to .162/.232/.243. He had to settle for a minor league deal with the Yankees for 2021 but was later signed by the Cubs to a major league deal. He got into 45 games for them and hit .227/.324/.454, wRC+ of 108.

Austin Wynns, 31, has spent his entire career with the Orioles thus far. They selected him in the 10th round of the 2013 draft. He’s played in 115 MLB games across three different seasons. In 2021, he got into 45 games and hit .185/.232/.308. He was outrighted off the roster and elected free agency in October. He’s the youngest of this group but also has the least significant track record at the plate. He does have a strong defensive reputation, however, and less than two years’ service time, meaning he could have years of cheap team control, unless the new CBA changes the service time rules.

Wilson Ramos, 34, split his season between Detroit and Cleveland, getting into 44 games on the year. He hit .205/.248/.397, for a wRC+ of 72. He’s long had a strong defensive reputation, though that has waned as injuries have taken their toll on him over the years. His 2021 season came to an end with an unfortunate injury in August. He isn’t too far removed from a 2019 season that saw him hit .288/.351/.416 for a wRC+ 105, but his health will be the major concern for him now.

Which of these backstops is the best option for teams that want to add some depth behind the plate? Have your say in the poll below.

(poll link for app users)


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