Toronto’s Catcher Bonanza: Buck, Castro, Chavez

It’s been a big week for Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopolous. Obviously, I’m referring to the bonanza earlier in the week in which Anthopolous filled out his 2010 catcher corps by signing John Buck for one year and two million dollars moments after he was non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals (all set with Jason Kendall), veteran Ramon Castro for one year and one million dollars, and Raul Chavez to a minor league deal.

[NB: I usually prefer referring to multiple projections, but since I’m discussing more than one player, I’ll keep things simple by sticking with CHONE for both offense and defense. When I averaged various different projections, the overall values I came up with were about the same, anyway.]

On CHONE’s original list of free agents, Ramon Castro rated as the best catcher per 150 games. His projected offensive line is .230/.292/.412, or 10 runs below average per 150 games. His defensive projection is two runs above average. Adding in the positional adjustment, per 150 games Castro projects as a 2.4 WAR catcher. However, Castro also comes cheaply because not only do catchers almost never play 150 games, but the 34-year-old Castro has never played 100 games, and has only played more than 2009’s 57 once, in 2005.

Although I’m personally excited that I might get to see John Buck play in-person, many Royals fans hate him for being part of the return in the 2004 Carlos Beltran trade as much as for his numerous strikeouts and poor defense. The latter is reflected in his -5 defensive projection. As for the former, his offense looks a lot like Castro’s — low average, decent walk rate, above-average power. CHONE projects Buck at .227/.296/.398, or -9/150 for 2010. Together, this puts Buck just below average at 1.8 WAR. Again, catchers typically play much less than that, and Buck spent time on the DL in 2009.

Raul Chavez is a veteran defensive catcher who actually lives up to his reputation with the glove. Offensively, CHONE projects him at .226/.262/.319; -37/150. However, Chavez avoids being replacement level due to his glove (+9). He projects at 0.4 WAR per 150.

The Blue Jays are at the beginning of a rebuild. Before Buck signed, Toronto had zero catchers on their 40-man roster. Someone has to play catcher, and according to CHONE, the only free agent catcher in the same league with Castro and Buck is departing Blue Jay Rod Barajas, who’s seeking a much bigger deal. While neither Buck nor Castro is an iron man, if they each play half of the season, that still projects as around a league average player (2 WAR). Given that the cost of one marginal win on the open market is likely at least four million dollars, the Jays are paying three million for at least eight million dollars worth of (projected) production. Well done by the Jays.

In a way, Chavez’s contract is the most interesting, and not because he’s good. Rather, it’s because Toronto, unlike other clubs this winter, gave a near-replacement level catcher a contract appropriate to his likely contribution rather than six million dollars over two years. It’s a Festivus Miracle!

If you want to enter your own projection for Toronto’s 2010 catchers, click here.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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