Phillies offseason targets: Catching options

Phillies offseason targets: Catching options
November 7, 2013, 12:00 pm
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With the Red Sox, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit the second-most doubles among MLB catchers last season with 40. (AP)

Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.

On Wednesday, Jim Salisbury outlined the complexity with the Carlos Ruiz situation (see story). Ruiz is now a free agent and despite wanting to return to the Phillies, no deal was reached during the Phils’ exclusive negotiating window, and now there are a handful of teams interested in Chooch’s services. Teams that see how much the Phillies value Ruiz’s clutch hitting, solid defense and ability to call a game. Teams that want badly to inject their clubhouses with his postseason experience. Teams that may be willing to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract.

In the event Ruiz doesn’t return, the Phils’ options on the free-agent market are limited. There are three top free-agent targets and then a massive drop-off.

Brian McCann

Age: 29

2011-13 stats: .252 BA, .329 OBP, .441 slugging; averaged 21 HR, 65 RBIs

Most recent contract: Seven years, $38.8 million

The benefits of bringing in a Brian McCann are easy to see. He’s a seven-time All-Star. He’s a patient 25-home run hitter who crushes the ball at Citizens Bank Park and can hit good pitching. He’s unquestionably one of the top offensive catchers in baseball. He’s still pretty young.

But every other team sees that, too, and McCann is in line for a five-year deal worth north of $75 million. A hefty commitment for a guy whose defense has always been suspect and who’s averaged 115 games the last three seasons.

McCann is better suited to play in the AL, where he can catch less and DH more.

He’s also a left-handed hitter, and signing him would make the Phillies left-handed at six of eight starting positions.

We’re not saying he is or should be completely off the Phillies’ radar, but there are so many complications to a potential deal.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Age: 28

2011-13 stats: .244 BA, .306 OBP, .457 slugging; averaged 18 HR, 60 RBIs

Most recent contract: One year, $4.5 million (avoided arbitration)

Saltalamacchia is the youngest of the top-tier free-agent catchers, and his switch-hitting ability adds value to the naked eye. (A closer look shows that he’s hit .206 with no power from the right side since 2011).

Salty had an ugly postseason -- he went 3 for 22 with no extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts in the ALCS and World Series -- but that shouldn’t stand in the way of his overall solid campaign. A .273/.338/.466 line is nothing to sneeze at.

He’ll likely find a three- or four-year deal in free agency, and if the Phillies do miss out on Ruiz, he might be the next best option because of his age and the fact that he probably won’t require much more than $9-10 million annually.

The fact that Boston benched him in the World Series doesn’t bode well for his future with the Sox, but there will be some stiff competition for his services. Teams like the White Sox, Yankees and Rangers may take a look.

A.J. Pierzynski

Age: 37 in December

2011-13 stats: .279 BA, .315 OBP, .444 slugging; 17 HR, 65 RBIs

Most recent contract: One year, $7.5 million

Not an ideal option by any stretch. His defense is shaky and he’s thrown out base stealers at a worse rate than the league average in eight of his last 12 seasons. He’s going to be 37 years old before we hit 2014. He’s a left-handed bat. He walked 11 times in 529 plate appearances last season.

Pieryznski is a decent hitting catcher and the kind of guy who adds life and edge to a winning team. But unless the Phillies miss out on Ruiz and Saltalamacchia, as well as a second-tier catcher like Dioner Navarro, and unless Pierzynski is willing to accept another one-year deal, this probably isn’t an option.

Tomorrow: Jim Salisbury explores trade candidates Giancarlo Stanton and Mark Trumbo.

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