In a number of ways, the free market looks very deep and talented. We’ve heard a lot about the incredible shortstop group. There is also a lot of starting pitching and outfielders. There are not many options for the corners of the box, but Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Seager are available. It is a good winter to find great players.
Unless, you’re looking for a receiver. If you need one, good luck finding it.
It’s no coincidence that two of the first moves of the offseason included a catcher. The Tigers acquired Tucker Barnhart via trade and the Braves moved quickly by making a deal with Venezuelan Manny Piña. Neither of them are stars, but that’s the point, they are still attractive.
This is what the receiver market looks like (the numbers in parentheses are their age in 2021 and the WAR projection according to Fangraphs).
Yan Gomes (34, 1.8)
Luke Maile (31, 0.3)
Stephen Vogt (37, 0.1)
Pedro Severino (28, 0.1)
Jeff Mathis (39, 0.0)
Rob Brantly (32, -0.1)
Roberto Pérez (33, -0.1)
Wilson Ramos (34, -0.2)
José Lobatón (37, -0.3)
Robinson Chirinos (37, -0.4)
Kurt Suzuki (38, -0.4)
Andrew Knapp (30, -0.6)
Chance Sisco (27, -0.6)
Sandy Leon (33, -0.7)
Austin Romine (33, -0.9)
As a group, those receivers combined to hit .210 / .276 / .343 (.619 OPS) in 2021.
Not that any of them are useful. Gomes has had ups and downs throughout his career, and Puerto Rican Perez is a respected defender, though his .155 / .253 / .277 averages over the past two years and recent injuries don’t help him.
What can the Giants do to replace Buster Posey? Or how will the Yankees improve the position, if they decide to leave the Dominican Gary Sanchez?
This year there is no JT Realmuto available, not even a James McCann. If you need a receiver, you will have to search very well.
Teams that need a catcher
A good place to start is with Fangraphs WAR projections. The statistic is not very favorable for receivers in general, because a lot of those who do do not add up, but it is at least a benchmark.
Not everyone in the worst 15 needs a catcher. Certainly the Mets are committed to McCann, San Luis will in no way replace Puerto Rican Yadier Molina in his farewell year, the Astros could open the door to prospect Korey Lee and the Nationals will surely leave daily with Venezuelan Keibert Ruiz. The Rockies are not high, but they just gave a three-year contract extension to Venezuelan Elías Díaz.
Putting those outfits aside, here are the five outfits that might need a mask now.
Without Posey, it seems obvious that the club will hand the reins of the position to Joey Bart; the second pick in the 2018 Amateur Draft, to join him with veteran Curt Casali. However, Bart struggled in 2020, when Posey was absent, and the Giants are no longer rebuilding; less after winning 107 games.
In the last four games of the season, Miami used four different receivers – Nick Fortes, Payton Henry, Alex Jackson and Sandy Leon, who is currently on the free market. The most notable absentee from that list is Colombian Jorge Alfaro, who had been the main mask since the team traded JT Realmuto, but hasn’t hit well (.625 OPS in the past two years).
Cleveland decided not to retain Pérez and now the main receiver would be Austin Hedges, who is a great glove, but in his career he is averaging .194 / .249 / .347. One of the Guardians’ best prospects is Bo Naylor, but after hitting .188 / .280 / .332 in Double-A in 2021, arguably they won’t have him in early 2022.
Yes, 16th, even though Yankees fans think the problem is much worse. All, because the offensive production of the position is so low that Sanchez’s OPS + of 99 places him in the top 15 among receivers. Kyle Higashioka’s defense helps. That means that, although it could be improved, it is not a mandatory need. In addition, Brian Cashman will be prioritizing other positions in the free market.
Adley Rutschman is expected to be part of the team’s equation in 2022, but the prospect has yet to take a single shift in the majors. If you look at the position on the 40-player roster, there is no one else. All four receivers who saw action in 2021 – Pedro Severino, Austin Wynns, Chance Sisco and Nick Ciuffo – are free agents.
Receivers that could be available via exchange
Willson Contreras, Cubs
It’s easily the most honored name on the list. The Venezuelan is entering his final year prior to free agency as one of the few remaining players on the 2016 World Series champion team. It would not be surprising if he received a contract extension with the Cubs, who are looking to build another competitive team. . But if it does not happen, a change will be more likely this season off than in mid-July.
Stallings spent parts of five seasons as a backup receiver in Pittsburgh, losing the position multiple times before clinching the job for good in 2020-2021.
Defensively, he is the best catcher in baseball. He did not allow any passes and tied with Puerto Rican Carlos Correa with the most runs saved defensively (+21) at any position in 2021.
For interested teams, Garver could be a good bet, ignoring all about 2020 and focusing on 2019, when he hit 31 home runs and posted a .995 OPS. The following year, he injured his oblique, changed his swing and posted averages of 167 / .247 / .264 with just two homers.
He continued to struggle in 2021, participating in just 68 games due to back and groin injuries. But when he was on the field, he had a 139 OPS + with a .517 slugging, in the best style of 2019.
The D-backs probably weren’t as bad as their 110 losses reflect, but they are extremely far behind in a competitive NL West. Kelly is only 27 years old, but she appears to be too old to be part of the rebuilding.
Arizona can’t go back to 2022 with the same team, so whether it’s Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Zac Gallen, Kelly, or anyone else, there must be a shake-up in the desert.
The Blue Jays have three receivers on the roster of 40, including Jansen, Reese McGuire and Alejandro Kirk of Mexico. Plus, prospect Gabriel Moreno is knocking on the door. Toronto is in winning mode right now, so this would not be about getting out of something, but about taking advantage of the depth they have in such a highly valued position.
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