Posted on January 14, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
With just over a month until the start of spring training, there are quite a few proven major league catchers still available on the free agent market. Matt Wieters is the most notable of them, as he was regarded by many as the top catcher available when the offseason began. At first glance, the Colorado Rockies would appear to be a team in need of a catcher, and perhaps one of the teams with interest in signing Wieters. However, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich appears ready to say “thanks, but no thanks” to the catchers on the market, and instead go with a young, unproven collection of backstops in 2017.
The Rockies are preparing to let 24-year old Tony Wolters and 25-year old Tom Murphy handle the team’s catching duties this year, with Dustin Garneau in the mix as well. “At this point, yes we do,” Bridich said when asked if the team was comfortable with such youth and inexperience behind the plate. “We are certainly monitoring the catching market, but we are extremely high and positive on the group that we have and we feel like there is a good, young core there.”
Wolters, a converted infielder, appears to be the favorite to be Colorado’s opening day catcher in 2017. He started 58 games behind the plate for the Rockies last season, but played fewer than 200 games at catcher during his minor league career. Offensively, he has just 205 big league at bats, although he hit a solid .259 with a .723 OPS for the Rockies last year.
Murphy, meanwhile, has long been one of Colorado’s top prospects, in large part because of his offense. He’s been held back by injuries in recent years, accumulating just 79 big league at bats over the past two seasons. However, in his brief major league career, Murphy has hit .266 with eight home runs, helping produce an OPS of .949.
As promising as Wolters and Murphy may be, it’s impossible not to foresee the two going through plenty of growing pains as the team’s primary catchers this season. However, Bridich is choosing talent over experience. “There is still growth to be had,” Bridich said. “I mean, they are young and there is some inexperience there. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, because they are extremely talented.”
To be fair, the two young catchers would appear to complement each other well. Despite some inexperience at the position, Wolters has been praised for his receiving skills and ability to call a game. However, he’s still has something to prove offensively and is yet to experience a full season behind the plate. Murphy, on the other hand, has far more upside offensively, but is still working to become a competent big league catcher defensively.
Even if the Rockies don’t want to spend the money to sign Wieters, it wouldn’t be difficult to to re-sign Nick Hundley or make an effort to sign one of the other veteran catchers still on the mark, such Dioner Navarro, Brayan Pena, A.J. Pierzynski, or Kurt Suzuki. In fact, if Colorado is serious about contending in 2017, which appears to be the plan, it would make the most sense to bring in a veteran to shore things up. Alas, Bridich and the Rockies appear content to head into the 2017 season with the unproven Wolters and Murphy as their backstops, for better or worse.