John Buck agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with the Florida Marlins on Tuesday, and the aftershocks of that deal will be felt from here to spring training.
Consider the effect on the following parties:
1. Other free agent catchers
This was a good day for the likes of Rod Barajas, A.J. Pierzynski, Yorvit Torrealba and, yes, even Victor Martinez.
Buck, 30, had a respectable .747 OPS over the past three seasons. By the standards of a catcher, that's pretty good — but not great. And if he's getting $6 million per year, then this isn’t a bad time to be a catcher looking for work.
And if Martinez is looking for an annual salary in excess of $10 million, then it just got a little easier for his representatives to make that case.
Martinez might be a first baseman or designated hitter by the time his next contract is up, but right now, he has the look of a catcher who's about to become really, really rich.
Meanwhile, some in the industry expect Torrealba will be the next to sign among the free-agent catchers.
2. Teams in search of catching
In my view, the following clubs could stand to upgrade at the position with a starter and/or backup: the Red Sox, White Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Royals, Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays.
That’s 12 teams. In other words, roughly half of the general managers in the big leagues are affected by the market forces associated with Buck’s contract.
3. The Washington Nationals
Mike Rizzo, the Washington general manager, just saw a jump in his popularity at the general managers meetings. Rizzo has what those dozen teams need.
The Nationals currently have four catchers on their 40-man roster. Wilson Ramos, acquired from Minnesota earlier this year, is their catcher of the future. Pudge Rodriguez is a legend who's on the club, in part, to mentor Ramos.
That leaves Jesus Flores, 26, and Wil Nieves, 33. It would be a mild surprise if the Nats don’t trade at least one of them by Opening Day.
Both Flores and Nieves are eligible for salary arbitration this winter. They're due to receive raises on their 2010 salaries. (Flores earned $750,000 in 2009; Nieves earned $700,000.) But teams in search of catching may take one look at Buck’s deal and figure it wouldn’t be the worst thing to part with a mid-level prospect if it means obtaining a competent catcher.
4. The Los Angeles Angels
Really. The Angels and Nationals have similar catching stockpiles. In fact, the Halos have five catchers on their roster: Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson, Ryan Budde and 22-year-old prospect Hank Conger.
Napoli, the most experienced (and most expensive) of the group, is the most obvious candidate to be moved. He could earn around $5 million through salary arbitration in 2011.
Napoli, never regarded as a defensive whiz, actually played more games at first base (70) than behind the plate (66) this year. That was partly because of the knee injury to Kendry Morales. Now that Morales is expected to be healthy, it’s harder to justify keeping Napoli at his salary.
“We have depth at the position,” Angels GM Tony Reagins said Tuesday. “There’s inquiries made on the availability of guys. Those are decisions we are very comfortable making. If we have the same group of guys going into 2011, we’re going to be fine.”
Reagins said it’s unlikely the team would carry three catchers on its 25-man roster during the season.
“When you look at dealing a player, you want to do it from a position of strength,” Reagins said. “We have depth at that position. If the right opportunities come, we’ll have to explore them.”
What would the Angels want in return? They're looking for offense at third base and in the outfield, as well as late-inning relief.
-Jon Paul Morosi