I'm going to get right to it: Texas has it good. The farm system is doing quite well these days, and when it comes to catchers, they have a number of them:
- Taylor Teagarden, 24, His bat has almost caught up to his above average glove, although 2008's development was disappointing.
- Max Ramirez, 24. Appears to be more offense-oriented.
- Gerald Laird, 28, has played more than 100 games behind the dish only once.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 23, only 198 AB's in the 2008 campaign.
My guess is that at least Saltalamacchia and Teagarden stay put, with Laird being dealt for what Texas never seems to have: pitching. Teagarden may continue to develop in the minors along with Max Ramirez, although one would need to backup Saltalamacchia with how much time Jarrod missed this season. This may mean a temporary backup gets signed, like a Paul Bako type, cheap. Texas is not in a position to move quickly as they are not totally ready to compete with the Angels (and A's, whenever they begin to improve).
- Gerald Laird: The odd man out in a weak class for catchers this winter, which should improve his value.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Texas GM Jon Daniels says he would move Laird and Saltalamacchia if both deals were right, continuing on by using Teagarden and Max Ramirez. It seems that they would target good young starting pitching in return.
- Russell Martin: Early rumors that the Dodgers could move him. Doesn't make much sense unless they think they will get a massive haul.
- Kelly Shoppach: Indians could sell high if Victor Martinez is healthy.
- Yorvit Torrealba: Perhaps Colorado is still wondering if Iannetta will stick as the starter, but his $3 Million salary may get moved. The Mets were interested last winter, and Torrealba is less than pleased with being the backup.
- Mathis/Napoli: It doesn't look like either is out there, but the Angels may listen to an offer if they find a suitable backup.
- Bengie Molina: Steady behind the plate, cost $6.25 Million in 2008.
- Kenji Johjima: Anyone want a catcher who has steadily declined since arriving in 2006? Oh, did I mention he cost $6.3 Million in 2008 while hitting .227/.277/.332?
- Ramon Hernandez: Could be dished with his pricier salary, but may be holding down the job untill Wieters comes along.
- Red Sox: Jason Varitek just did not get it done in Boston this year. Rumors are that they will pursue the Boras client for a one or two year deal, while he may be asking for more. They have been linked to Gerald Laird, but seem to be looking for some youth to help out at the position. EDIT: Theo Epstein may be looking at two years, $16 Million as terms to resign Varitek.
- Blue Jays: They're less than impressive combination of Rod Barajas ($2.5 Million team option, excersiced) and Gregg Zaun (age 38) may have left J.P. Riccardi wanting. A.J. Burnett seems to be priority #1, but Zaun may be on his way out, so at least a backup will be needed.
- Tigers: After shipping off Ivan Rodriguez, Brandon Inge performed courageously behind the plate, but his role is as Mr. SuperUtility. If Detroit finds this to be the case, they could pursue Jason Varitek if he is discarded by Boston. Inge could also share time with a Javier Valentin type...
- Reds: Cincinnati will be looking to ink someone to take the starting gig as Dave Ross and Javier Valentin are both free agents. Paul Bako isn't the answer, so perhaps Josh Bard could be a fit. If Dusty is on the VeteranProwl, he could take a look at Varitek after a potential Boras blowup.
- Nationals: It seems likely they will pluck someone out of the weak free agent class, unless Jim Bowden get creative at the winter meetings.
- Padres: With Nick Hundley as the only catcher on the roster, San Diego will be looking for someone other than Josh Bard or Michael Barrett, both of whom left for free agency. This should get interesting as the club is looking to shed payroll, maybe a cheap veteran from the free agent market is in order...
- Yankees: This depends on Jorge Posada's health for 2009. He had season-ending right labrum surgery on the 28th of July, and Jose Molina played 100 games at a .216/.263/.313 line. If Posada still has trouble throwing and is limited to 1st or DH, New York could wind up pursuing someone to split time with Molina.
- Dodgers: Joel Sherman of the NY Post has rumored that other GM's believe the Dodgers are a bit down on Russell Martin's makeup. This could be complete garbage, but if there is an ounce of truth to it, Los Angeles could get quite a haul for the 25 year old.
- Rockies: Chris Iannetta played quite well in 104 games (264/390/505), leaving room to dish Yorvit Torrealba and his $3 Million pricetag.
- Angels: Their Jeff Mathis (94 games, .593 OPS) and Mike Napoli (78 games, .960 OPS) combo produced 29 homers. Will they look to dish one?
- Indians: Between Kelly Shoppach's 261/348/517 line in 112 games and Victor Martinez' reputation, Cleveland seems ready for 2009.
- Twins: Joe Mauer. I think they're set.
- White Sox: They seem content with A.J. Pierzynski behind the dish, at a reasonable salary of $5.86 million. Toby Hall served his second season as backup for the club, and has an option for 2009.
- Orioles: Play Ramon Hernandez, and either trade him midseason or wait for the draft picks as he leaves for free agency. Then begins the Matt Wieters era in Baltimore.
- Rays: The AL Champs recieved a solid season with the bat and the glove from Dioner Navarro, playing 120 games at a 295/349/407 line.
- Athletics: Oakland looks to be committed to Kurt Suzuki and his 148 games played at catcher. At age 25, he hit a respectable 279/346/370.
- Mariners: With a bleak outlook for the future, they will depend on Jeff Clement's continued development at age 25. His limited ability to throw out runners will hinder his chances to stay behind the plate however. Kenji Johjima and his lack of production will be under contract for another 2 years as well, leaving little room to upgrade.
- Cubs: Geovany Soto. Pay Henry Blanco to continue to be his mentor.
- Cardinals: Yadier Molina is pretty well entrenched as the starter.
- Brewers: Jason Kendall is under contract for another year, and they have a number of interesting prospects in the minors.
- Astros: J.R. Towles really underperformed in 2008, and Humberto Quintero should not start. Brad Ausmus should retire, and Houston will let Towles take another try in 2009.
- Braves: Brian McCann will be holding down the fort for the foreseeable future.
- Giants: With Bengie Molina providing a solid 145 games (292/322/445) and San Fransisco's need to upgrade elsewhere, they will stay put.
Somewhere In Between...
- Diamondbacks: They will be too busy deciding what to do with all of their draft picks from Dunn, Lyon, and Cruz departing via free agency. Chris Snyder and 237/348/452 line in 115 games should work just fine holding down the fort with Miguel Montero as backup. The Nationals could matchup here as they had interest in Montero last winter, perhaps this could be an opportunity for Arizona to infuse their ever-weakening system with a prospect or two.
- Marlins: As is usually the case in Florida, this all revolves around payroll. John Baker performed admirably in 61 games (292/392/457), but Paul Lo Duca and Matt Traenor were/are less than impressive. The penny-pinching club may give Baker the starting gig and let Traenor back him up in lieu of going outside the organization. Is an Ivan Rodriguez reunion in their future? Doubtful since he is one of the better FA's in a weak market.
- Pirates: Ryan Doumit sure can hit, although he is slightly better than a car wreck behind the plate. Along with Ronny Paulino, the Pirates seem set, and do not need veteran insurance unless they miraculously find themselves in contention. The only creative situation I see here is Paulino being dealt in part of a package to get some new blood in the starting rotation
- Mets: They seem to be content with Ramon Castro (52 games) and Brian Schnieder (110 games) behind the plate as a need for pitching seems to be more pressing. Omar Minaya may pounce if the right situation comes along, but they will be looking at other places to upgrade. Jon Heyman thinks Bengie Molina might be on their radar...
- Phillies: With only Carlos Ruiz (117 games) and Chris Coste (98 games) on the roster, Philly should be looking for someone to pair with Ruiz. His career 242/329/359 line is underwhelming, representing a gaping wound in their lineup. A more offensive counterpart could be added, although any free agent signing will be a gamble in that regard.
- Jason Varitek: I have the feeling the Boras represented 36 year old will encounter some tough negotiations with the Red Sox. They are looking to improve, while the aging backstop is on his way out of the league. If Jason wants to stay in Boston he will have to take a cheaper one to two year deal, and most likely give up the starting gig. One alternative could be Detroit, but they may not want to add more payroll for the aging vet. The Nationals could be an intruging option as they will need a solid option for 2009 (not that he won't get injured), as the club's new stadium in D.C. could be attractive. Could he be around long enough to be the battery mate of the #1 pick in this years draft, Stephen Strasburg?
- Ivan Rodriguez: Pudge hasn't been enjoying his best years as of late. At age 37, he may be hunting for his last destination before retirement in the form of a one or two year deal. Still somewhat of a defensive asset, my guess is that he will land with either the Nationals, Reds, Mets, or Phillies. His name and reputation may get Pudge more than he deserves in this market, with Scott Boras negotiating for him.
- Josh Bard: At age 30, he should get some looks for his past offensive performances. His splits away from Petco are encouraging from 2005-2007: .313/.371/.449 in 441 at bats. The Reds have shown interest, and I imagine he will recieve at least a two year deal, maybe more if he proves that he will be healthy for 2009. I don't see him going to Florida, as he may be more expensive, and the Red Sox have already tried Bard. The Nationals could throw some money at him, and Detroit may take a look as well if they stray from Inge as their starter.
- Michael Barrett: The offensive-minded catcher isn't looking so healthy with the bat anymore, being three years removed some semblance of a productive season. With a number of weaknesses behind the plate, he may ink a one year deal to prove his abilities while healthy. Where ever he does land, he will most likely see time at 3rd base as well. The Blue Jays, Marlins, and Phillies could potentially kick the tires.
- Gregg Zaun: Around the trade deadline the Marlins had shown interest, so perhaps the 38 year old will sign for cheap to return to Florida.
- Miguel Olivo: First he had a whine session over not having enough playing time and said he wouldn't be back in 2009, then he reconciled with the club. Olivo has a $2.7 Million option for next season.
- David Ross/Javier Valentin: Both have shown offensive value in the past, and should land somewhere easily as a result in the hitting-lite catching class this winter.
- The Rest of the Bunch: Brad Ausmus (age 40...retirement?), Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada, Paul Bako, Jason La Rue