Importance Of Catchers On The Rise
The Cardinals Were One Of The Two Playoff Teams To Not Change Catchers
Neither Garrit Cole nor Stephen Strasburg, the two most valuable pitchers in the market, have signed free agent contracts yet. After one month into the off season, however, we have learned something about the priorities of teams in Major League Baseball.
The new trend has been brought about by the fact that eight of the ten teams that made the playoffs, including both pennant winners, all made one significant change in their everyday lineups. Each club made changes in its regular catcher, the lone exceptions being St. Louis and New York.
Obviously the Cardinals were already set at that position, which is being manned by future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. As for the Yankees, they have for the last few seasons been very comfortable with All-Star Gary Sanchez behind the plate.
All the others switched backstops, including the American League Champion Houston Astros, who last winter signed veteran Robinson Chirinos. A.L. Central champion Minnesota plugged Mitch Garver into the lineup, quite often in the lead off spot. Oakland added All-Star Jonathan Lucroy, while the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Travis Derneaud for the 2019 season.
World Series Champion Washington picked up Kurt Suzuki, a fifteen year veteran, while Los Angeles turned the job over to Russell Martin and Austin Barnes. Atlanta signed Brian McCann to lead them the top of the East Division, and Milwaukee got great production from free agent Yasmani Grandal.
He had such a tremendous season, did Grandal, that he was the first player to sign a record-breaking free agent contract this winter. He accepted an offer from the Chicago White Sox on November 2, a four year deal worth $73 million.
Very soon after that, the teams began catcher snatching, and
on November 4 the Braves signed catcher Tyler Flowers to a contract extension. Travis Dernaud then signed a two year deal on November 26, thereby solidifying the National East champion's catching crew before Thankssgiving.
On that exact same day, the defending American League champions signed, as their first off season move, catcher Dustin Garneau. A few hours later in a neighboring state, the Arizona Diamondbacks had given a one year contract to free agent catcher Stephen Vogt.
Less than a day later, Washington finalized a two-year contract to backstop Yan Gomes. His former club, the Cleveland Indians, then shored up its catching tandem on December 2 by acquiring defensive specialist Sandy Leon from the Boston Red Sox.
Also on that day yet another receiver was involved in a deal, when the Oakland Athletics traded a veteran infielder for San Diego's Austin Allen. Fans can expect more deals for backstops, and most likely very soon.
Several veterans are still available, most notably free agent Robinson Chirinos. His Houston club may have lost the World Series, but Chirinos should ink a huge contract because of the sudden realization that new catchers often make their clubs contenders.