This is one real weak free agent catcher class. There may be only three guys in this group who wind up being the starting catcher for the team they sign with. The rest of them will hope to be back ups, but some may just receive an invite to spring training.
1. Jonathan Lucroy: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-years/$30M
2017 Stats: 6 HR, 40 RBI, .265/.345/.371, 20/75 CS, 0.6 WAR
Jonathan Lucroy had an extremely disappointing year after arguably the best season of his career and an All-Star Game appearance in 2016. He was traded at the deadline by the Rangers to the Rockies, and the change of scenery helped his cause. It was not the “Coors” effect as his power numbers were still down. However, he increased his OPS from .635 to .865. Defensively, he was horrible and he never really has been very good back there. In a weak class he is still the top catcher. He should receive 3-years as many teams are in need of help behind the dish.
Other Destinations: Rockies, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox
2. Welington Castillo: Colorado Rockies, 2-years/$18M
2017 Stats: 20 HR, 53 RBI, .282/.323/.490, 24/49 CS, 2.1 WAR
Welington Castillo was extremely underrated last year as he may have been a top-10 overall catcher in baseball last year. So, why isn’t he number 1? It was the best year he has had in his 8-year career and it is not very close. Defensively, he was one of the best in baseball as he led the league in runners caught stealing percentage. The Rockies lose Lucroy, but they’ll go out and sign Castillo, as they hope he can give the same production as he did in 2017.
Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox
3. Alex Avila: Oakland Athletics, 2-years/$18M
2017 Stats: 14 HR, 49 RBI, .264/.387/.447, 17/55 CS, 2.7 WAR
Does Alex Avila deserve the same amount of money as Castillo? Definitely, not. Will he receive the same or close to it? Yes. A very thin class and multiple teams who need starting catchers means a nice payday for Avila. The Athletics are a team who can afford to overpay for a position they desperately need. Avila had a solid season offensively, but he will need to improve defensively if he is going to live up to his contract.
Other Destinations: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, White Sox
4. Chris Iannetta: Texas Rangers, 2-years/$14M
2017 Stats: 17 HR, 43 RBI, .254/.354/.511, 8/33 CS, 1.8 WAR
Chris Iannetta is not very good defensively, but he has enough pop in his bat to warrant himself a decent contract. As mentioned, the Rangers traded Lucroy at the deadline last season, but either way he was most likely gone. They are very thin at the position and Iannetta actually has a chance to become their starting catcher. He can keep that position if he improves defensively a bit and continues to drive the ball out of the park.
Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Athletics, White Sox, Cubs, Tigers
5. Nick Hundley: Chicago White Sox, 2-years/$12M
2017 Stats: 9 HR, 35 RBI, .244/.272/.418, 15/51 CS, 0.5 WAR
Nick Hundley is another player who has a chance to start if he is signed to the right team, and the White Sox are one of those teams. The Sox are very young and do not have a true starting catcher at the moment. They may want to bring in a veteran catcher to help with their young staff, even if that means overpaying for a player a bit. Hundley has some pop in his bat as well.
Other Destinations: Giants, Padres, Rockies, Athletics, Tigers
6. Rene Rivera: New York Mets, 2-years/$8M
2017 Stats: 10 HR, 35 RBI, .252/.305/.431, 12/33 CS, 0.1 WAR
This most sought out true backup catcher this off-season may be Rene Rivera. He had a serviceable year at the dish last year and is one of the better defensive catchers in the league. The Mets’ pitching staff has trouble holding guys in and they will look to bring back Rivera to be their go to defensive man behind the plate.
Other Destinations: Athletics, Cubs, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers
7. A.J. Ellis: Chicago Cubs, 1-year/$4M
2017 Stats: 6 HR, 14 RBI, .210/.298/.371, 5/15 CS, 0.4 WAR
A.J. Ellis has been one of the more consistent back up catchers in the league throughout his 10-year career. The Cubs already have their starting catcher in Willson Contreras, but they need a back up since Avila will most likely not be back. Ellis will come very cheap and he will serve as a solid defensive back up, who will call a good game.
Other Destinations: Mets, Marlins, Nationals, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox
8. Jose Lobaton: San Francisco Giants, 1-year/$3M
2017 Stats: 4 HR, 11 RBI, .170/.248/.277, 8/41 CS, -1.0 WAR
Jose Lobaton was just downright bad last year. There is only one reason why Lobaton makes this list. He is a switch-hitter. The Giants need someone to spell Buster Posey every now and then. Lobaton can fit into their lineup nicely in any game since he can hit from both sides of the plate. Lobaton has had some serviceable years in the past and the Giants will get him relatively cheap. They will hope he can turn back the clock a bit and give them a decent year.
Other Destinations: Nationals, Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Athletics
9. Carlos Ruiz: Toronto Blue Jays, 1-year/$3M
2017 Stats: 3 HR, 11 RBI, .216/.313/.352, 7/30 CS, 0.5 WAR
CHOOOOCH! Carlos Ruiz may have had the worst year of his career last season, but he will still get a deal with a team to be their back up. He is definitely on the decline in his career, but he will bring a valuable veteran presence to any team he plays for. The Blue Jays do not really have a back up catcher and need someone who can give Martin a rest every now and then. Ruiz will fit nicely in Toronto and I would not be surprised to see him with the Blue Jays come 2018.
Other Destinations: White Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Phillies
10. Derek Norris: Detroit Tigers, 1-year/$2M
2017 Stats: 9 HR, 24 RBI, .201/.258/.380, 8/41 CS, 0.0 WAR
Derek Norris‘ 2017 season was cut short due to a suspension in which he was accused of domestic violence. He would be much higher on this list if it was not for that incident as he had better numbers than most of the other players on this list in only 53 games. I’m sure some team will take a chance on him since he will come very cheap and he does have the chance to be productive.