With the non-tender date passed, the full free agent market has become much clearer. The initial stove has been much hotter than in past years, and no position has set this trend more than the catcher spot in the 2019-20 offseason.
There have already been four of the top players at the position signed to a total of $102.65 million. While much of this was the huge deal that Yasmani Grandal signed with the White Sox, catchers have set the market well so far. Much of this is demonstrated by what is left on the market. When looking at the remaining backstops available, one aspect is quite evident: age.
Of the remaining catcher on the market, you have to dig deep to find any that are outside of their early- to mid-30s. Here is a look at the top five left on the market after Grandal, Travis d’Arnaud, Stephen Vogt, and Yan Gomes have been gobbled up.
5) Matt Wieters: Though Wieters was a part-time player last year, and he will turn 34 in May, he is a serviceable platoon catcher. As a switch hitter, Wieters is versatile and still has some thunder in the bat, with 11 home runs in 168 at bats last season. The biggest question for the former four-time All-Star is durability, as he has appeared in 76 and 67 games in the past two seasons. However, with a trend of platooning catchers for most teams, Wieters is a nice fit for this still.
4) Russell Martin: As one of the oldest players in the entire free agent class, Martin still played in 83 games last season. Much like Wieters, Martin is not a full-time catching option and is likely coming on a one-year deal. However, he is still a solid defensive backstop, with a positive dWAR from Baseball Reference. He also has a nose of clutch situations, as displayed by his NLDS home run.
3) Martin Maldonado: Speaking of postseason heroics, there are a pair of Astros catchers on the list, starting with Maldonado. Like Martin previously, Maldonado hit a clutch playoff home run in the World Series. He also played for three teams in 2019, wrapping up with the Astros. While he has a career .644 OPS, Maldonado was nearly 30 points higher last season. He is also an average to slightly above average catcher, which makes him another solid platoon option.
2) Robinson Chirinos: As consistent with the class, Chirinos will turn 36 in June. However, he was a key cog to the Astros World Series run in 2019 and was nearly a four WAR player last season. He has also been a consistent producer for the past three seasons, with 17, 18, and 17 home runs respectively. The past two seasons, he has played in 113 and 114 games as well. Chirinos also has been strong behind the plate and is the first real option as a primary catcher on the list.
1) Jason Castro: Castro had a nice bounce-back season in 2019, after playing in just 19 games in ’18. Prior to that, he played in at least 100 games in the five campaigns prior. He also hit at least 10 home runs in six of the last seven season, with 2018 as the outlier. The average has never been a strong aspect for Castro, but he is a well above-average receiver and has some pop to put him at the top of the class.
Already depleted, and a somewhat shallow market to begin with, many of the catchers remaining are part-time options. Additionally, there are several teams looking for guys to plug in behind the plate. Expect the market to keep moving, but not the dollars and years to flow like other positions on the field.