Detroit Tigers Should Sign a Veteran Catcher in 2017
As the Detroit Tigers and their fans watch other teams in the postseason, the Hot Stove season quickly approaches. And, the options for catchers are rather attractive.
There are plenty of free agent catchers that could help get the Detroit Tigers to the postseason in 2017, but the options in the following year are not as good.
Al Avila and the Detroit Tigers should get into the hunt for a good veteran catcher now.
Issues with the Current Catchers
It was crystal clear that the catchers could not be counted on for consistent hits and runs. Since Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now a free agent, it is highly unlikely the Tigers will resign him. His performance in 2016 with the Tigers did have some ups and downs, but there were significantly more downs than ups.
Despite being a fan favorite, Salty’s slash was something that fans (and the team) would like to forget. His .171/.284/.346 and the OPS of .630 was just plain ugly. His performance behind the plate was ho-hum, earning him a dWAR of -0.1. He made three errors while catching. On the occasional times that he played first base, it was clear that Miguel Cabrera was significantly better at that position. Salty made two errors at first base.
There is no way that the Tigers will get rid of James McCann. He is an inexpensive home-grown player, making the league minimum. His slash of .221/.272/.358 with an OPS of .629 wasn’t much different than Salty’s. The big difference between the two catchers was McCann’s performance as a catcher was much better. His dWAR of 1.6 shows he is better than the replacement – who was Saltalamacchia in 2016.
Need a Veteran Catcher with a Bat
Since McCann cannot play the position every single day, the Tigers will need someone to platoon with him. It is rather unlikely that the Tigers will move up one of their minor league catchers, especially since McCann is young, too.
The catchers who will become available are a who’s who of top catchers. Several of them are still young enough that they could play for a few years. As well as being dangerous behind the plate, they are dangerous as hitters, too.
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This off-season’s list of free agent catchers includes Matt Wieters, Jonathan Lucroy, and Wilson Ramos. There were rumors that the Tigers were interested in Lucroy at the 2016 Trade Deadline, but the All-Star catcher spent the second-half of the season with the Texas Rangers. He made less than $5 million, batted .292 and hit 24 home runs. He would certainly be an addition to the Tigers, but he could command a large payday.
It is highly unlikely that the Tigers could go for Matt Wieters. His contract with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 was over $15 million, which does not seem to be a price that the Tigers would be willing to add to their already bloated payroll.
The Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos would be an interesting addition to the team. He batted .307 in 2016 and hit 22 home runs. He made $5.3 million with the Nats; but like Lucroy, his payday could be in 2017 and the Tigers might not want to give him what he will ask for.
When it comes to the catching position and that important spot in the lineup, the Tigers cannot do more of the same. The eight-hole was regularly an easy out, no matter who was manning the dish. Ramos or Lucroy would add a much-needed bat filled with power. Both men have the ability to lead from the position and they can handle ace pitchers, too.