Major League Baseball is still in the midst of its postseason, but several MLB teams and players have to make their offseason plans. I will look at the top 2022 MLB free agents at the catching positions. There are 17 MLB catchers that are slated to be free agents when free agency starts in December, all of whom are 29 years old or older, with St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina deciding to retire.
At least 10 MLB teams could need a starting catcher for next season. The Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, Astros, Brewers, Mets, Yankees, Pirates, Cubs, and Rays are among the teams that are in the market for a top-line catcher.
The Guardians also could need a starting catcher if they deem top prospect Bo Naylor is not ready for the full-time gig. Several other squads are in need of a quality backup behind the plate.
1.Wilson Contreras, 30
Contreras is the best-hitting catcher on the free agent market and has been one of the best offensive catchers in the majors over the years. A three-time all-star selection – including 2022 – Contreras is coming off one of his best seasons as he slashed .243/.349/.466 for the Cubs with 22 home runs along with 54 RBI while getting hit on 24 occasions.
He is an above-average defensive catcher with an extremely strong arm though his seven-passed balls were the most in the NL. The biggest knock on the defensive side concerns his pitch-framing ability.
Chicago plans to make a qualifying offer to the six-year veteran signal-caller, which is slated to be $19.65 million. This means one of two things will happen, Contreras will accept the one-year tender and stay with the team. Or if he elects to sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive a compensatory draft pick after the second round.
2. Christian Vazquez, 32
Vazquez is known more for his defensive ability than what he does with the bat in his hand though he is solid on that side. Defensively, Vazquez does a fantastic job framing pitches, and players rave about his leadership and game-management abilities. The eight-year veteran also does a great job cutting down runners though he struggled on the defensive end this past season in terms of throwing out runners (27%) and errors (8), tying his career-high.
Vazquez split the season between Boston and Houston in 2022. He struggled at the dish after joining the Astros though he finished with a slash line of .274/.315/.714 – all of which were above his career averages. His nine four-baggers and 52 RBI were his second-highest total in each category.
3 . Omar Narvaez, 31
Narvaez became one of the best defensive catchers in baseball since coming over to the Brewers in 2020. However, the 2021 all-star has struggled at the plate in two of his three seasons in Milwaukee after being one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball early in his career. Narvaez has a career slash line of .258/.343/.386 with 51 home runs and 191 RBI.
4. Mike Zunino, 32
Zunino is excellent behind the plate, and he was an all-star just two seasons ago when he went yard a career-high 33 times, giving him 20-plus homers for the third time in his career. However, he does strikeout a ton – posting a strikeout rate of over 35% – and is just a career .200 hitter.
Zunino could return to the Rays, but he is coming off major surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, which forced him to the 60-day IL in early June. He finished the 2022 campaign with just 17 hits, eight of which were extra-base hits, including three homers, and 15 RBI in 115 at-bats.
5th-Tied. Gary Sanchez, 29
Not known for his defense, Sanchez did an excellent job behind the plate last MLB season, ranking above average in nearly every category. However, Sanchez has struggled at the plate since his first two seasons in the majors though he does provide more pop than most MLB catchers. He finished his first season with the Twins in 2021 with a slash line of .205/.282/.377, along with 16 homers and 61 RBI.
5th-Tied. Tucker Barnhart, 32
Barnhart has been very reliable, appearing in 81 or more MLB games in seven of the last eight years. He is also a very good signal caller who gets high marks for the way he handles a pitching staff. The two-time gold glover hit .221 in his first MLB season in Detroit, but he produced his worst on-base percentage (.287) and slugging percentage (.261) of his career as he recorded just 11 extra-base hits with one homer.