The Texas Rangers will have to fill the role of catcher this offseason. Both Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski are free agents now leaving a empty space behind the plate. The Rangers over the next few months will have to fill their roles, but who will the sign? Below are the most likely, ranked in order of probability.
5. Jorge Alfaro
Of course Alfaro is the ultimate long shot here. Honestly, he’s not ready, but he will be in the year or two. He’s definitely the best catcher the Texas Rangers have in their farm system. The 20 year old Alfaro, who ranked as the number 88 top prospect in 2013, has had an outstanding season so far in the Arizona Fall League. Alfaro Is currently hitting .415 with 17 hits, 3 doubles, 1 triple and 8 RBIs over 41 at-bats. Alfaro normally has plate discipline issues, but so far this year in the AFL, he’s managed to get hits. Besides for Alfaro’s bat, the Texas Rangers are really interested in what he can do behind the plate. Many have compared Alfaro to Ivan Rodriguez since he was picked up back in 2010. At 20, he’s still young, so 2 more years in the minors will not hurt him. He needs to get the at-bats and experience with players closer to major league talent. So when it comes to the offseason this year, don’t expect the Texas Rangers to make a long term contract offer to someone. The Rangers might be doing some long-term planning with Alfaro. I would expect to see him playing in a few years.
4. Brian McCann
McCann was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2nd round of the amateur draft in 2002. After 7 years playing with the Braves, McCann is now a free agent with several teams now bidding for his services. McCann made $11.5 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013. Those amounts are considerably higher than A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto combined. If the Texas Rangers do attempt to pick up McCann, they will have to outbid teams such as the Red Sox and the Yankees. Those two teams have deep pockets and sometimes spend money that no one else is willing to pay. If you know anything about the Texas Rangers, you’ll know that Jon Daniels has a tough player evaluation system that he always sticks to. If he has a value on a player, he will not change it and will not get in a bidding war with another team. If you don’t agree with me, just look at previous free agents, such as C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee. All are excellent free agents who were signed by other teams that were willing to spend whatever it took. Also, if the Texas Rangers do sign McCann, it will not be for a single season, or even just 2 seasons. McCann will be looking for a multi-year deal at least for 4-5 seasons. Reports say that McCann could land a contract worth around $100 million. This is another reason I don’t see the Texas Rangers picking up Brian McCann, but the Rangers did inquire about him during the trade deadline during the 2013 season.
From an earlier article I wrote about Saltalamacchia
Saltalamacchia came to the Rangers on July 31, 2007 from the Braves. It might be one of the best trades John Daniels has had as the GM for the Rangers. Along with Salty were Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison. The Rangers gave up Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay for the group. Salty caught for the Rangers until the midway through the 2011 season when he was traded to the Red Sox for some minor league players. He time with the Rangers ended on a strange note. In 2010, Salty started to develop some throwing issues that caused him not to be able to throw to the pitcher’s mound. At one point in 2010, he began to see a psychologist to help him get over the yips. The Rangers sent him down to work on it and really never felt comfortable with him back in the majors. With the Red Sox, Salty regained his confidence and now in 2013 has become the number one catcher. For the regular season he batted .273, which is the best he has done since 2007. He has further proved his worth this postseason by battling the Tigers’ Rick Porcello for a single which drove in Jonny Gomes for the walk-off win to even the ALCS at 1-1. Salty may not have been a fan favorite, and might barely be remembered as a Ranger, but if he continues to shine in Boston, many Rangers fans would love to have him back.
Salty and the Rangers have history, and since his departure he has rebounded back from his injuries. Also, during the 2013 season, Salty managed to have one of his best year offensively. He batted .273 with 116 hits, 40 doubles, 14 home runs, and 43 walks over 425 at-bats. Clearly a rebound year for the 28 year old catcher. Sometimes all a player needs is just a bit of confidence. Now that he is a free agent, there will be several teams knocking on his door, and it will include at least the Red Sox and Texas Rangers. Last year, he made $4.5 million with the Red Sox. I would expect that value to go up this year, but not drastically. There is still a question about his defense. Salty did improve in this area also during the 2013 year, but, hasn’t had the best games of his life in the World Series. He was part of the obstruction call that caused the Red Sox to lose game 3. I would expect where ever Saltalamacchia goes, it will be for a deal for 3-4 years worth about $6 to $8 million a years.
On December 26, 2012, A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a $7.5 million one year contract. The 36 year old catcher did just what the Texas Rangers needed. He brought the team his catching abilities with the added bonus of his bat. During the 2013 season he batted .272 with 17 home runs over 134 games.
Pierzynski might have played more games in the 2013 season, but back in early September Pierzynski and Yu Darvish and what some call an exchange of words at the mound. After that exchange, Soto handled the pitching duties for the ace Darvish.
Bringing Pierzynski back would be an easy option for the Texas Rangers. One, Pierzynski could DH when Darvish pitches. He has already done that several times during the 2013 season. Also, Pierzynski would probably sign another short time contract. Pierzynski is going to turn 37 during the 2014 season and the question remains will the wear and tear impact him. Also, he might retire instead of going back to the daily grind of baseball. If he does stay in the game, it will be for just a short time. He might play for the Rangers, or even possibly for the Seattle Mariners. Both teams could offer A.J. a short term contract and allow him to mentor a young rising star catcher.
1. Geovany Soto
At the end of the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers signed Soto to a one year deal valued at $2.75 million. More than likely Geovany Soto will return through the 2014 season to catch for the Texas Rangers. He’ll probably remain in the backup role as he did in the 2013 season. Soto started in 49 games this year and saw more playing time in September. He mainly saw more time, because he would catch each time Yu Darvish would pitch. This was due to a dust up between A.J. Pierzynski and Yu Darvish. It makes sense to re-sign Soto. Soto is a solid number 2 catcher, and if the Texas Rangers are targeting Pierzynski or McCann, then it would be a perfect fit. For the 2013 season, Soto batted .245, with 40 hits, 9 doubles, 9 home runs and 22 RBIs over 163 at-bats. Not great, but not bad, remember, Josh Hamilton only batted .250 for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013. Besides his bat, Soto did have a good year fielding. In 2013 he had a .995%, which is a far cry better than 2011. In 2011, Soto committed 13 errors and had the worst catcher fielding percentage. He’s ranked here second because he will probably get re-signed, but the Rangers will be eyeing two others ahead of him, probably before him.
Over all, I would expect the Texas Rangers to re-sign both Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski. It makes the most sense. Also, teams like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will be driving up the price of Brian McCann and other catchers who are free-agents. There is no need to bring in Brian McCann on a long contract just to keep a top prospect like Jorge Alfaro waiting longer in the farm system. Also, the Rangers at this time do not want to trade Alfaro. If the Rangers can manage to get Pierzynski to stay for another year or 2, he might be here long enough to allow the young Alfaro to reach the bigs. This is another move that makes sense for the Rangers. Jon Daniels loves to build from within and usually sticks to his evaluations of players.
If money wasn’t the issue, and we lived in a perfect world. McCann would be a Rangers, easily. Also, you might see Jarrod Saltalamacchia backing up McCann. But that’s not likely to happen. Maybe for the Yankees or Red Sox, but not the Rangers. It’s not the Rangers way to do business.
I just focus on the top 5 free agents the Texas Rangers might sign, but there are other catchers that are free agents. I included Jorge Alfaro for fun, but I feel it’s important for readers to realize who he is now. His name will popup again in the future. Below are the other free agent catchers.