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Let’s explore the backup catcher market for 2024

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The offseason is chugging along and while the Colorado Rockies are sitting on the sidelines with no expectations of being big players in the free agency market, there are still a few matters of business to take care of. While pitching in the name of the game this offseason, the Rockies have made it known they are looking for a backup catcher, preferably a veteran with a bit more offensive potential. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at a couple of free agents, even though trades and waiver claims are within the realm of possibility.

Curt Casali

A veteran of 10 MLB seasons, Curt Casali finds himself looking to catch on with another team at the age of 35 after a disappointing season with the Reds. He was limited to just 96 plate appearances last season after a foot contusion ended his season in July. In his limited playing time, he batted .175/.290/.200 with a pair of doubles and six RBI. He’s never been a strong hitter in his career (.223 AVG), but he has been good for around five or so home runs in a season before and has shown a keen eye for drawing walks and limiting strikeouts.

Defense-wise he’s been fairly average over his career and despite some degrading numbers due to age, he can be trusted to reliably call a game and handle pitchers. He’s a prime candidate for a minor-league pact.

Tucker Barnhart

Entering the 2023 season, Tucker Barnhart was ready to embrace his role as the backup catcher for the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately, he fell down the hierarchy at catcher thanks to a resurgent year from Yan Gomes and a strong debut by Miguel Amaya. Barnhart had a tough year at the plate hitting just .202/.285/.257 for a wRC+ of 53, striking out in 34.1% of his appearances. In the past, he’s been able to hit around seven home runs a year and has a career .674 OPS and could be a nice left-handed compliment to Elias Díaz.

Behind the dish he has two Gold Gloves to his name, has from 2018-2022, and was often considered one of the best backstops in terms of blocking and often received good grades for the running game as well as his framing. He’s entering his age 33 season and a more intriguing aspect of him is that the Cubs are still on the hook for the $3.25 million owed to him in 2024 minus the prorated league minimum for any time he spends on a big league roster.

Andrew Knizner

Being stuck behind Yadier Molina didn’t do much to help Andrew Knizner in his development with the St. Louis Cardinals and his lack of production when he did play led the team to sign Willson Contreras last offseason. He was non-tendered by the Cardinals this offseason and at 29-years-old still has some life left in him. 2023 saw Knizer have one of his better seasons batting .241/.288/.424 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 70 games. He excelled at making hard contact on a solid 40.9% of his batted balls. While still below-average offense overall, Knizner’s production was in line with the .236/.303/.394 league slash for catchers.

Defensively he has been ranked below average at framing and pop time, but he could still be considered a work in progress. He was due for a modest $2 million raise in arbitration this coming season, so all things considered could be a suitable backup low-cost option who could even find a way to stick around beyond the 2024 season if he does well enough in the limited playing role.

Eric Haase

It’s more of a gamble that he can return to form, but Eric Haase fits the bill as a strong defensive catcher with some offensive potential. He’s often been considered a capable defensive catcher but 2023 didn’t do any favors for his offensive outlook. In 86 games with the Detroit Tigers, he floundered to a .201/.246/.284 slash with four home runs as well as 78 strikeouts to 16 walks.

He’s only one year removed from two straight seasons as an above-average offensive catcher where he hit 22 home runs in 2021 and 14 in 2022. The Rockies could take a chance and see if he can regain some of that form in a limited window of play. Plus he can man both corner outfield positions if needed.

(Note: Haase signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers a few hours after this article was published)

Gary Sanchez

If the Rockies want an offensive boost at the cost of some defense, Gary Sánchez could fit the bill. Over nine big league seasons, Sánchez has never had a shortage of power. Since 2016 he has had double-digit home runs in each season, but at the cost of a lot of strikeouts and low batting average and on-base percentage. Still in 72 games with the Padres last season, Sánchez batted .218/.292/.500 with 19 home runs and 46 RBI.

He’s long been considered a weakness behind the plate, but he’s steadily put in work behind the dish these past two seasons and was fairly decent in 2023 with the Padres. He also worked quite well with NL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell, helping guide him to a 1.29 ERA over 18 starts. As a whole, he helped the Padres to a 3.40 ERA when he was behind the dish. It’s hard to tell how his market will go this year, but it may be worth checking in on him.

Conclusion

If the Rockies want a backup catcher that can provide more offense than what they got from Wynns, it’s going to be tough to find. There are plenty of good defensive options, essentially clones of Wynns, but the offensive part is hard to come by as every team is looking for offensive upgrades behind the dish. Still, the options are out there and the Rockies can buy themselves more time until Drew Romo is ready to take over behind the plate and allow other prospects to get to a point where they can at least consistently contribute in a backup role down the line.

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Rockies, Chance Adams Agree To Minor League Deal | MLB Trade Rumors

It’s been reported that the Rockies have re-signed reliever Chance Adams to a minor league deal. Adams spent the 2023 season in Triple-A with the Albuquerque Isotopes where he worked to a 3.86 ERA in 32 2/3 innings with solid walk and ground-ball rates of 7.1% and 44.9%, respectively.

Giants, Murphy agree to two-year deal (source) | MLB.com

One backup catcher option that came off the board on Tuesday was the report that former Rockie Tom Murphy was signing with the San Francisco Giants on a two-year deal. If you recall, Murphy was claimed by the Giants originally after the Rockies dropped him, and he was then sent to Seattle a few days after that. He’s blossomed into a strong offensive catcher with a decent glove behind the plate. He could have been a good pickup for the Rockies but alas it was not to be.

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