Posted on December 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite making a couple of additions to the position this offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks are apparently unsatisfied with their options at catcher. Reports out of Arizona indicate that the Diamondbacks are keeping a close eye on the catching market with hopes of solidifying that position one way or another before the start of the season. There appear to be a number of catchers Arizona is considering, including Matt Wieters, who has been the top free agent catcher available all offseason but who remains unsigned.
The Diamondbacks searching for catching help at this stage of the offseason is interesting, as they declined to offer Welington Castillo a contract for 2017, creating a vacancy at that position. Castillo ultimately signed with the Baltimore Orioles, a move that all but assures that Wieters will not be returning to Baltimore in 2017, keeping him on the free agent market and available to any team, including the Diamondbacks.
With Castillo gone, the Diamondbacks proceeded to sign veteran Jeff Mathis, who spent the last four years with the Marlins. Arizona also claimed long-time minor leaguer Juan Graterol, adding him into the mix behind the plate alongside Chris Herrmann and youngster Oscar Hernandez. Of course, there’s no guarantee the Diamondbacks fill find a bonafide starter among that group in spring training, prompting new GM Mike Hazen to look for a starting catcher at this stage in the offseason.
“We probably still have some more work to do in that area,” Hazen said about Arizona’s catching situation. “Anyone still left on the market makes sense in some circumstances.”
As of right now, it’s likely that Mathis and Herrmann will split the catching duties. Graterol may have a chance to stick around if Arizona wants to carry three catchers, although the Diamondbacks can also stash him in the minors until they need him. However, Hazen’s comments leave the door open to Arizona adding another catcher, including Wieters, who is likely to sign for a significant amount of money despite his value dropping some this winter with many teams already filling their need at catcher.
“Matt’s a really good player and a good leader. We’ve kept up on everybody on the catching market,” Hazen said about Wieters. “If we found more of a long-term replacement for the position it could morph into something different.”
Wieters would certainly be that long-term replacement. The Diamondbacks don’t necessarily need an offensive-minded catcher, as they’ve been one of the better offensive teams in the National League in recent years. But it’s hard to ignore the opportunity to sign a player with Wieters’ offensive track record. Defensively, Wieters has also proved himself capable of slowing down opponent’s running game, even if he’s not considered a great receiver of the ball.
The Diamondbacks are also looking at catchers who may be available via trade, and Hazen suggested that the trade route is more likely if Arizona acquires a catcher before the season. Specifically, the Diamondbacks appear interested in Boston Red Sox catchers Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, which isn’t surprising, as Hazen served as Red Sox GM last season. However, the Red Sox appear intent on keeping both catchers, as they are both young and under team control for several more years.
This leaves the Diamondbacks with little clarity as to where they are going to find a catcher before the season. Going with Mathis and Herrmann behind the plate is a viable option, but it’s not ideal. Arizona would prefer to upgrade behind the plate if they can, and so Wieters has to be looked at as a possibility, as he remains the top catcher available.