It’s free agent season. Hot stoves are blazing all over. Talking heads are speculating on TV. There’s that certain crispness in the air. The crispness of fresh million dollar bills.
For the next several days I will list, position by position, the available free agents the Rangers have to choose from in order to improve for the defense of the West Division championship in 2016.
Here are the catchers, with each one’s age in parenthesis.
Alex Avila (29)
Chris Iannetta (33)
Dioner Navarro (32)
Jordan Pacheco (30)
Brayan Pena (34)
A.J. Pierzynski (39)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (31)
Geovany Soto (33)
Matt Wieters (30)
The first half of the season, the catcher position was manned by the duo of Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Corporan. Both were injured at the trade deadline, when Jon Daniels made what seemed like two minor moves. One, to bring up Chris Gimenez. Two, to acquire Bobby Wilson. That tandem really surprised in the second half and brought the Rangers some much needed offense they weren’t expecting.
The question is, do the Rangers stick with Chirinos now that he has recovered from his shoulder injury?
Assuming they look at free agents, the pool isn’t very deep, but there are a few interesting choices. Three are former Rangers in Pierzynski, Saltalamacchia and Soto, so cross them off the list.
But three catchers have interest:
Alex Avila seems to have Jon Daniels-type written all over him. He will be cheap because of injury and underperformance recently. But four years ago he had an All-Star season and looked to be an up and coming catcher with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs in 2011. Since then he has taken an slide. He might be worth taking a flier on. Daniels likes the cheap reclamation projects. Interestingly, Avila played for the Tigers and his dad is the GM there. It will be a fun Thanksgiving at their house if the dad passes on resigning the son.
Dioner Navarro was the Blue Jays everyday catcher, and a pretty solid one, until they got Russell Martin last year. In 2014 he had 12 HRs, 69 RBIs and batted .274, overall an offensive improvement over Chirinos, but not major one. He bats right handed though.
Matt Weiters seemed to be a perennial All-Star but Tommy John surgery derailed him. In fact, he was an All-Star in three of his first six seasons, and a gold glover twice. He averages 21 HRs and 79 RBIs and was batting .308 two seasons ago before he got hurt. When healthy he is a legitimate offensive threat and a very good defensive catcher. And he’s a switch hitter. Weiters would be a huge upgrade at catcher for the Rangers. But he will come with a price tag. His agent is Scott Boras, who will package him up as the second coming of Johnny Bench and Pudge Rodriguez. Daniels has a lot of history with Boras, notable in Choo and Andrus.
If it were up to me (and I’m not sure it will be this season, I am still awaiting a call from Rangers ownership), I would pursue Matt Weiters. He can be a significant upgrade at catcher. If right, he is one of the top five catchers in the game.