Catching Options For Colorado Rockies In 2015


Before the offseason, the Colorado Rockies were expected to sign or trade for a new catcher. As 2014 draws to a close, though, no move has been made, and Wilin Rosario is still the only semi-catcher worth starting on the roster.

There was plenty of speculation about who the Rockies would bring in, as there always is. Russell Martin was discussed before he signed with the Blue Jays, while other fans thought the Rockies would instead trade an outfielder for a catcher.

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One idea that was pretty widely dismissed as soon as the season was over was Wilin Rosario’s return as the starting catcher. Sure, Rosario has had his moments, but he’s absolutely terrible behind the plate and doesn’t get on base enough to offset his defense. Almost nobody wanted or expected Rosario to end up starting again in 2015.

Unfortunately, though, opportunities to upgrade are disappearing quickly. Martin, the best option available, was quickly signed by the Jays, who probably overpaid them but realized that nabbing an above-average catcher was worth the extra few million. Then, quality options like Yasmani Grandal (ok, maybe he’s a bit like Rosario, but with better defense), Miguel Montero, Ryan Hanigan, and most recently Derek Norris were traded to teams other than the Rockies.

To me, the Norris trade was the most depressing from a Rockies point of view, both because he went to the division-rival Padres and because Norris is the perfect fit for the Rockies. He doesn’t have a lot of power, but the Rockies don’t need more power. He’s a fine defender who gets on base and can crush lefties. In a lineup featuring left-handers Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Morneau, and Corey Dickerson, a lefty-basher to aid Troy Tulowitzki would be nice. Norris could have hit atop the lineup against lefties and still gotten on base more against right handed pitchers than Rosario does.

But Norris is a Padre now, which means that there is one fewer quality option on the market. Given that the top catchers on the free agent market are Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski (David Ross, another option, was just signed), the trade route seems like our last chance to avoid an opening-day lineup featuring Rosario at catcher.

A few options that immediately come to mind are Welington Castillo, Jason Castro and Carlos Ruiz. First, I’ll admit that none of the three are great or even substantially above-average catchers. But I do think that all three are better than Rosario, and not just because I’m sick of Rosario and want a new catcher.

Castillo is the former starter and now third string catcher for the Cubs after their trade for Montero and signing of Ross, and he’s almost certainly not going to be a Cub at the end of the 2015 season. He’s just 27 years old, and it’s quickly become apparent that he’s not the Cubs’ catcher of the future. Could he be the Rockies’, though?

The offensive stats don’t look good for Castillo. He’s been a below average offensive player in his career, and last year he was basically Wilin Rosario without as much power. He hit .237 and didn’t walk enough to get on base 30% of the time, while he had just 32 extra base hits in 417 plate appearances. He’s probably best as a platoon catcher sitting against righties (76 wRC+) and starting against lefties (139 wRC+). The reason he’s a clear upgrade over Rosario, though, is his defense. He added 15.3 defensive runs according to Fangraphs, which was fourth among catchers and nearly five times as many as Rosario.

Since Castro is also just 27 years old, he along with Castillo, could theoretically be long-term options behind the plate. But aside from his stellar 2013 season, there isn’t really much to like about him. He exploded onto the scene in 2013, coming from obscurity to hit 18 homers and post a .276/.350/.485 triple slash line in everyday playing time. Given his age, it would have been realistic to expect him to build on those numbers in 2014. Instead, he hit .222 and had an OBP even lower than Castillo’s and hit 14 fewer homes and four fewer homers in 31 more plate appearances. His defense, while better than Rosario’s, is also not nearly as good as Castillo’s, so it seems pretty clear which of the two is the better option.

With highly-regarded Tom Murphy in the minors, though, the Rockies might not need more than a stopgap. And the best option for 2015 could well be Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies. Ruiz, who will turn 36 before the season begins, is sure to be available as the Phillies continue their firesale. He’s basically a poor man’s version of Russell Martin in that he’s a good defender who can both control the pitching staff well and get on base at a good rate. He’s had a sub-.347 OBP just once in the past five years, and is especially good against lefties, against whom he got on base at a .400 clip. Ruiz is probably the cheapest of the three and still probably the best, which means he could be a perfect short-term option for the Rockies. Add in the fact that the Rockies tried to sign Ruiz when he was a free agent before last season and a trade seems even more likely.

Whether it’s Castillo or Castro or Ruiz or someone I haven’t considered, all that I can really ask for is that we have someone other than Rosario behind the plate next year. And given that the Rockies have reportedly prioritized trading Rosario, it seems as if we are still fairly likely to have a new catcher. But the longer we go without a trade or even any rumblings of a trade, the more likely it is that the Rockies stick with Rosario and the status quo next season.

Who do you guys think should be our next catcher? Is Murphy good enough to be the Rockies’ future catcher or should we look to trade for a long-term option?

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