The Pittsburgh Pirates have quite a bit of business to take of this offseason. One of those areas should be finding catching help.
The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the season with Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz as their starting catchers. There was reason for a lot of optimism as these two made up one of the best catching duos in the National League last season with both their hitting and defense.
Instead, the Pittsburgh Pirates saw Cervelli spend more time on the injured list than behind the plate and Elias Diaz regressed big time. This led to Triple-A catcher Jacob Stallings getting more playing time. At the beginning of the year he was designated for assignment but he luckily cleared waivers.
Stallings put together a really good season when it was all said and done. He hit .262 with six home runs in 71 games. Also, he played some good defense putting up 13 defensive runs saved and throwing out eight of 20 runners who tried to steal on him. Still, Stallings likely does not have the upside a team would look for in their starting catcher and Elias Diaz cannot be the team’s starting catcher next season.
So who on the free agent market can the Pittsburgh Pirates try to sign to upgrade the position? The names on the market are not the most impressive, but there are several players who would be more than serviceable to split time with Stallings.
The biggest name on the free agent market will be former Padres, Dodgers, and most recently Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal. Grandal is one of the best pitch framers in baseball and also brings 20+ home run power as a switch hitter. He will be highly sought after, and even though he would make a big difference for the team, it is not likely that the Bucs will give what he is looking for in a contract.
Now there are quite a few catchers who should be getting offers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Houston Astros’ catcher Robinson Chirinos put together a season with a WAR over 2.0, which would be a strong addition. There is also Tyler Flowers who posted a WAR over 2.00 as well, but he has a relatively cheap option next year which the Braves will likely pick up.
In the third tier are familiar veteran names who likely would still represent upgrades over Diaz, but likely would not make a huge difference on the team. This list includes Twins catcher Jason Castro (if the team hires Derek Shelton this could be likely), Travis D’Arnuad, and potentially Wellington Castillo if the White Sox move on from him.
Lastly, there a few other catchers who have some ties to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli are free agents. Meanwhile, former National League central catchers Martin Maldonado and Jonathan Lucroy are also free agents to be.
There are a decent bit of names available on the free agent market for the catching position. If the Pittsburgh Pirates want to be a better team in 2020, they need to start by getting a more impactful catcher behind the plate. Whether the team looks to the free agent market or the trade market, this should be a high priority.