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2012 Catcher Free Agents on the Move

First off, a very hearty congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on their hard-fought 2011 World Series championship.  That was certainly a performance for the ages, from the late season comeback to steal the Wild Card spot to the Game 6 heroics that helped push the Series to the brink.  But while the conclusion of the World Series brings the end of the 2011 season, it also brings us to the official beginning of the 2012 season.  That’s right, it’s free agency time!  The Hot Stove League can be one of the most exciting times as teams get ready to rebuild for a run at next season’s championship.  It also keeps us fantasy leaguers on our toes as we too try to rebuild and prepare for a run at our own title next year.  Players have officially filed, so let’s take a look at the fee agent catchers and whose potential move could have notable fantasy impact.

2012 Free Agent Catchers (2012 age in parenthesis)

Rod Barajas (36)
Josh Bard (34)
Henry Blanco (40) $1.55M mutual option w/ $250K buyout
Ramon Castro (36)
Ryan Doumit (31) $7.55 club option for 2012, $8.25M club option for 2013 with $500K buyout
Ramon Hernandez (36)
Rob Johnson (28)
Jason Kendall (38)
Gerald Laird (32)
Jose Molina (36)
Dioner Navarro (28)
Ivan Rodriguez (40)
Brian Schneider (35)
Kelly Shoppach (32) $3.2M club option with $300K buyout
Chris Snyder (31) $6.75M club option with $750K buyout
Matt Treanor (36)
Jason Varitek (40)

OK, I’ll say it.  I know you’re all thinking it.  That’s one ugly list, huh?  While there will be plenty of excitement buzzing this winter about where players are going to end up, the catchers will most certainly not be included in the discussion of “hot free agent pick-ups.”  In fact, of the 17 players listed above, maybe four of them will have any sort of fantasy relevance next season.  You’ve got a trio of over-40’s that probably won’t see much in the way of playing time next season, a pretty ugly group of low-impact thirty-somethings, and even the under-30’s are…well….underwhelming.  The likelihood of finding anyone here who can not only find steady work but also have some fantasy relevance is pretty low.

As far as the options go, it’s pretty quick and simple.  Three of the four options listed above are more than likely to be declined.  The Pirates are more than ready to part ways with both Doumit and Snyder, Shoppach’s days of even being a relevant pinch hitter are in the past, and while Arizona may exercise their option on Blanco and hold him as a backup/mentor for Miguel Montero, he has zero fantasy relevance.  Whether he stays or goes, it really doesn’t matter as the playing time in 2012 will remain low.

So assuming that everyone above, except maybe Blanco (at his age, why would he turn down that money to play a reserve role), is on the move, who is going to have value?  In all honesty, the answer is pretty close to no one.  Doumit and Snyder could probably start for someone but have major health concerns, Barajas and Hernandez may have a little something left in the tank, but not likely enough for a team to fully commit to them as the primary, and the rest of the lot is purely back-up material at best.  Even teams like Tampa Bay and Houston, two clubs with glaring holes to fill behind the plate, will be hard-pressed to find a solution amongst this group.

The bottom line is to leave them be.  For your 2012 prep work, focus on those catchers that are under contract and committed to a team already.  That is where you’ll find your fantasy impact.  This group…not so much.