This offseason, the one area of the free-agent market that intrigued me aside from where the best player on the planet would land was the backstop. I’ve already written about how slim the pickings are at the catching position, so I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, it looked rife for some terrible contracts. Prior to the month of October, there was a decent number of guys who had a solid resume. Then the Tigers exercised their $13 million option on Pudge Rodriguez. Then you know what happened?
I’ll give you all a moment to soak that in.
We good? Let’s go on.
It’s not exactly “edgy” to criticize GMs and owners on their excessive spending habits. It’s simply something to which we’ve grown accustomed. But so far this offseason, I have to give them credit overall. At least when it comes to dealing with the catching market, they’ve collectively drawn a line.
Jason LaRue signed for one-year at $850K with the Cardinals. The Mets retained Ramon Castro for 2 years at $4.6 million, then for one reason or other the reported deal they had with Yorvit Torrealba never happened. Instead of dipping into the market, the Mets dealt the unwelcome Guillermo Mota to Milwaukee for Johnny Estrada, who has one more year before he becomes a free agent. In response, the Brew Crew (and this is one that really surprised me) signed Jason Kendall for a $4.25 million one-year contract. While we can argue as to whether or not any of these transactions will help their respective teams, I think we can collectively agree that these are actually rational.
The only deal that gives me pause (and it’s a pretty big pause, but still) was naturally the Yankees giving Jorge Posada a 4-year $52.4 million deal. But given the season he just had, and the fact that it’s the Yankees we’re talking about, it can at least be explained.
With one-year commitments for Pudge, Estrada, Kendall and LaRue, teams have given themselves some serious future flexibility. We all know how difficult it is to find a catcher who can actually stay healthy and productive for more than five years. It simply doesn’t happen all that often given the nature of the position. So when such an option isn’t available, I find it reassuring that that even in today’s market people aren’t pushing the panic button. GMs who lack a franchise backstop have seemingly resigned themselves to the fact that they’re not going to get much from their catchers. This is a good thing, I think. So I feel compelled to tip my cap. This way, I won’t feel as bad the next time I rip them.