Catchers: Impending Free Agency and the Upcoming Trade Deadline by Howard Bender July 12, 2011 As the MLB non-waiver trade deadline approaches, fantasy owners should be paying close attention to which teams may be buyers, which teams may be sellers, and which relevant fantasy players could be on the move. A look at which players whose contracts expire at season’s end and are headed into free agency is as good a place to start as any. The following is a list of MLB catchers who will be free agents at the end of the 2011 season: Player Age Additional Contract Notes Rod Barajas 36 Henry Blanco 40 Ramon Castro 36 Ryan Doumit 31 2012: $7.25M Club Option/2013: $8.25M Club Option w/$500K buyout Ramon Hernandez 36 Jason Kendall 38 Gerald Laird 32 Jose Molina 36 Yadier Molina 29 2012: $7M Club Option w/$750K buyout Dioner Navarro 28 Ivan Rodriguez 40 Brian Schneider 35 Kelly Shoppach 29 2012: $3.2M Club Option w/$300K buyout Chris Snyder 31 2012: $6.75M Club Option w/$750K buyout Matt Treanor 36 Jason Varitek 39 Out of the names on this list, there are very few that could possibly find themselves on a new team AND have decent fantasy value for the rest of the season. Some might differ from me, but of the players listed, Here’s who you should be watching with some thoughts on each. Ramon Hernandez, CIN — Probably the hottest name on the list given his impending free agency, veteran presence and current .322-10-26 batting line. He’s been linked to the Giants lately, but could also be an intriguing fit in Tampa Bay if they become buyers, Minnesota if the Mauer to 1B plan sticks, or even Texas if they want to upgrade defensively. A move to any of those teams could provide increased playing time and hopefully an increase in production. Leaving hitter-friendly Great American might hinder some power, but he should continue to provide decent across-the-board production. His departure would also increase the value of Ryan Hanigan, as well as that of prospect Devin Mesoraco who would likely be called up soon after. Rod Barajas/Dioner Navarro, LAD — The Dodgers will undoubtedly try to unload everything they can while they are trapped in this McCourt divorce nightmare. The preference would obviously be to unload Barajas given his age, and of the teams in need, short term is really all they are looking for. He may just be coming back from an ankle injury and his slash line resembles that of a light-hitting shortstop, but Barajas still has something left in the tank as evidenced by his steady ISO numbers. A move to a contender could provide some new life for him. Gerald Laird, STL — With Yadier Molina entrenched as the primary backstop and the likelihood of the team picking up his option, it seems like a no-brainer to shop Laird around the league. He may not carry a big stick, but he doesn’t strike out a lot, works well with the pitchers, and has passable defensive skills. With a change of scenery and more consistent playing time, he could provide enough production to become more relevant in AL or NL-only leagues and possibly even in mixed leagues that require two catchers. Nothing earth-shattering, but better than what he’s doing right now, broken finger notwithstanding. Ryan Doumit/Chris Snyder, PIT — Both are hurt, but both could prove to be very helpful to teams looking for catcher help in the second half. As a fantasy owner, sometimes the injury risk is too much to take, but then sometimes the power potential is too tough to pass up. Both are more than capable of producing at the plate when healthy and given the depth in Pittsburgh, it makes no sense to keep both of them. The team holds a club option on both, and Doumit, who comes with a cheaper price tag, could be the first out the door. The beauty would be that if one goes to a contender in need, each could end up with full time at bats and both could produce solid second half totals. As for the rest, I don’t really see much movement happening, and for those that may see a change of address — Pudge, Treanor, Castro — I don’t see an increased production worth using a waiver claim just yet. OK, maybe Pudge if he goes somewhere and is the primary backstop, but even then it’s a risk.