Aside from Russell Martin and AJ Pierzynski, this year’s free agent market was completely bare of starting catchers. It made the Yankees’ decision to let Martin leave for Pittsburgh confusing. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are hardly starting-caliber catchers, and Austin Romine‘s health and ability are questionable. The team has stated multiple times that 2013′s catcher will likely be an in house option, but what could they reasonably obtain in the trade market?
Brian McCann: Before turning 28 years old, McCann was a six time All Star with the Atlanta Braves. Last season, McCann battled injuries, and his typical .800+ OPS fell to .698. In October, McCann underwent shoulder surgery, and although he’s believed to be ready for opening day, his value has taken a big hit. As of this offseason, the Braves have listened to offers on the catcher, but are said to be asking for a decent haul.
For the Yankees, McCann’s left-handed power swing projects well in Yankee Stadium. The team has taken a strong stance towards catcher defense in recent years, and when healthy, McCann is slightly above average throwing out runners and framing pitches. His $12 million owed in 2013 may be an obstacle, but it won’t affect the 2014 budget. Overall, McCann is a buy low candidate, but even at that, he may cost too much given his health and the short length of contract.
Derek Norris: Norris is a 23 year old power hitting catcher with the Oakland Athletics. He’s been featured in Baseball America’ top 100 overall prospects twice, but a couple of mediocre years knocked him off the list in 2012. After hitting .271/.329/.427 in the Pacific Coast League, the right-handed catcher reached the majors after Kurt Suzuki‘s departure last season. He hit just .201/.276/.349 in 232 major league plate appearances, which isn’t all too surprising for a rookie player with little contact ability. When it comes to defense, there isn’t any pitch framing data, but Norris is said to have a very strong arm, which he’s learned to use in recent years.
No trade rumors have been spotted, but the Athletics just received John Jaso in the Michael Morse trade. Their new starting catcher comes with three years of club control, and if it works out, it’s hard to imagine that Norris gets much playing time behind Jaso. His patience at the plate and power matches a lot of what they lost with Russell Martin, but it’s hard to see how that will translate in a full major league season.
Nick Hundley: Aside from a good arm, Hundley is an awful pitch framing catcher who hit just .157/.219/.245 in 225 plate appearances last season. So what’s to like about the 29 year old? He’s only one year removed from a 2011 season where he hit .288/.347/.477 in 308 plate appearances, and that was while playing half his games in Petco Park. There’s also some speculation that 2012′s slump may have been caused by a knee injury, though I would still be weary of another season like 2011.
Hundley is currently the starting catcher for the Padres, however power hitting prospect Yasmani Grandal should soon be ready to take the reigns. There was a lot of fan speculation about trading Hundley at the beginning of this offseason, but news of a 50-game PED suspension for Grandal broke in November, and the Padres have since been very quiet about the catching situation.
He doesn’t fit the Yankees’ player-type very well. The organization appears to be looking for pitch framing and offense out of their catcher, and Hundley has shown that he can’t do either of late. But if the Padres make him available, the price shouldn’t be too high, and his offensive upside could make him an upgrade over Stewart and Cervelli.