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Trade Targets: Catchers

Wrapping up the series on trade targets, today we’ll look at a few catchers who might be available (and perhaps even desirable!) for teams in contention. With the Diamondbacks surprisingly in the race for the National League West (at least for the moment), Miguel Montero isn’t on the table (if he ever would have been), and he probably would have headed up this list. Leaving out the multitudes of generic backup catchers (the Jose Molinas and Matt Treanors [Treanor!] of the world), there isn’t much out there. Among the contenders, the Giants need to fill a Buster Posey-shaped hole and the Red Sox probably want to improve on the Jason VaritekJarrod Saltalamacchia Duo of Yuck. Here are four catchers might be available and/or could draw varying degrees of interest.

In no particular order…

Chris Snyder (age 30), Pirates
Projected Rest-of-Season WAR: 1.8
Contract: $5.75 million for 2011, $6.75 million club option for 2012 with $0.75 buyout (All contract information in this post is taken from Cot’s).

Snyder was made expendable in Arizona and did not impress in 142 plate appearances after coming over to the Pirates last season. However, he’s off to a good start this season (.291/.392/.430, 129 wRC+). He’s due for BABIP regression, but he’s always drawn a lot of walks and he had some good seasons in Arizona prior to 2009. He’s not a defensive wizard, but he’s not terrible, either. The contract (he’s probably owed less than $4 million for the rest of the current season) is also quite reasonable, and the club option for 2012, should Snyder continue to play well, is attractive for both the Red Sox (whose catching prospects may or may not be able to take over) and the Giants (in case Posey needs a caddy when he comes back; if not, the Giants can always pick it up and try to trade Snyder, who is affordable at that price). The Pirates, in return, could get at least a couple of C prospects, and potentially a low-end B prospect if the buying team is really motivated to make a move. Snyder is 30, so he isn’t going to be part of the next contender in Pittsburgh, so while the trade might hurt in the short-term, it’s probably the best move for the team, especially with Snyder playing well and prospect Tony Sanchez looking like he might be ready in 2012.

Ryan Doumit (30), Pirates
Projected Rest-of-Season WAR: 1 WAR
Contract: $5.1 million in 2011, $0.5 million club option after season for both 2012 ($7.25 million) and 2013 ($8.25 million) seasons

Okay, this is probably stretching the the definitions of “catcher” and “trade target” and “1.0,” but like I said, it’s slim pickings. Doumit is sort of the poor man’s Mike Napoli — not just with the bat, either. Catcher defense is hard to measure, but Doumit might be even worse than Napoli with the glove, so much so that the Pirates even tried him in right field last season. Doumit is probably worth about his salary or a bit more for the rest of the season, but he doesn’t have much value to either the Giants, who really need a guy who they can live with behind the plate on a regular basis, or the Red Sox, who might not be getting much of an upgrade over Varitek with Doumit. Doumit’s “versatility” isn’t much use, either, since the Giants already have enough first basemen and mediocre outfielders, and the Red Sox are set at first, DH, and right field. In other words, neither team really needs a Napoli. This isn’t to say that Doumit is totally unappealing or useless to these or perhaps other teams, but it would be pretty much a straight-up salary dump for the Pirates — if they throw in money they could get something like an A-ball “live arm.”

Rod Barajas (35), Dodgers
Projected Rest-of-Season WAR: 1.3
Contract: $3.25 million for 2011

Some might argue that this violates the the exclusion of Molina/Treanor types from the opening paragraph, but if Barajas does fit into that category, he’s a superior example of the type. A wOBA around .300 isn’t good, but it’s decent for a catcher in this run environment, and unlike a a lot of his truly batless peers, Barajas’ actually has a decent defensive record. He can’t get on base to save his life, but he’ll pop a few homers and block some pitches. He’s cheap, too. It isn’t clear that he’d add much to the Red Sox unless they want to give up on Salty. The Dodgers might not want to trade him to divisional rival San Francisco yet, but they’ll probably be out of the race soon, Barajas isn’t part of their future, and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti worked for Giants GM Brian Sabean prior to taking his current position. It’s not likely, but stranger things have happened. It wouldn’t cost much in talent, either, maybe a C prospect to take on a Benjie Molina-role for the rest of the year with Posey out.

Kurt Suzuki (27), Athletics
Projected Rest-of-Season WAR: 2.0
Contract: $3.4 million in 2011, $5M in 2012, $6.45 million in 2013, $8.5 million club option in 2014 with a $0.65 million buyout.

Suzuki is probably a surprise entry to many reading this, given that the As aren’t totally out of it yet, Suzuki is pretty good, and he’s signed to a club-friendly contract through his twenties. I’ll admit that I partly threw Suzuki in to “spice up” a rather unspiring group. However, keep in mind that this is Billy Beane: more than many other GMs, he understands that signing a good young player to team-friendly contract makes that player a valuable trade chip, too. His trades of Nick Swisher and Dan Haren are examples of such thinking.

Suzuki isn’t an obvious standout, but he’s good defensively, his bat is good for a catcher (particularly considering the park), he’s been pretty durable, and he’s only 27. Suzuki wouldn’t be a good fit for the Giants, given that Posey is coming back. However, he’s better than Varitek or Salty. Much would depends on how much faith the Red Sox have in prospects Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito down the road. Suzuki would give them a player they can start right now and give them security at the position in the future. Although Suzuki isn’t the kind of player for whom teams normally trade top prospects, the Red Sox probably would have to give up at least one B prospect and one C prospect, and perhaps more, given Suzuki’s age, skill, and contract. They might be hesitant to do so after giving up a number of prospects in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.

I’m not saying it’s likely, just that it’s a possibility given the circumstances. The As rightly like Suzuki, but they liked Swisher and Haren, too. They may not be ready to concede now, but that could change with a few more losses. Max Stassi isn’t ready, but they could make other moves for a stopgap fill-in or try to get a catcher back as part of the trade.

What, you wanted another paragraph about Rod Barajas?