The LA Angels had a very solid catcher in Martin Maldonado going into 2018, but they dealt Maldonado to Houston at the trade deadline leaving them with a very ineffective platoon at catcher.
The LA Angels are now faced with the prospect of trying to find a replacement for Maldonado and that replacement could be Maldonado himself as the catcher is now a free agent and could be re-signed for the 2019 season. It would be an interesting twist of fate if the Angels do decide to pursue and sign Maldonado.
Let’s look at the Angels potential options to fill the catcher role for 2019.
The In-House Options
Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith –
Briceno and Smith are ying and yang to each other. Briceno is a defensive specialist with a mediocre bat. Briceno hit .239 with five homers and drove in 10 runs in limited at-bats, 117 to be exact. Briceno had a .993 fielding percentage and throughout 8 of 18 would-be-base stealers.
Smith is new to the Angels and has been a part-time catcher for the Chicago White Sox. Smith has hit .281 in 463 at-bats with seven homers and 51 runs batted in. Defensively Smith has a good fielding percentage .996 but has only thrown out 16 of 115 would-be-base stealers in his three year MLB career.
To me these options are best served to be back-up catchers for the Angels in 2019. There are no solid options in the minors so for the Angels to fill this hole they must look outside the organization either through a trade or through free agency.
Let’s look at the options that are out there that the Angels could pursue to fill this hole.
Free Agent Options
The best three options left on the free agent market are Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado, and Jonathan Lucroy. Martin Maldonado we already know what he is all about. He is the best defensive catcher on the market and pitchers love throwing to him which is important, but offensively he is a major liability hitting .223 the last two seasons with 23 homers and 82 RBIs. If the Angels want to go this route you won’t have to pay too much maybe at most seven million dollars per season.
Yasmani Grandal is probably the best option despite his post-season performance Grandal is known as a good pitch-framer and pitchers like throwing to him. Offensively despite a poor batting average a .240 career average, he has some pop. Grandal can hit for power from both sides of the plate although he is better from the left side.
Grandal has hit 20 or more homers in three of the past four seasons. Grandal threw out 20 of 72 baserunners last season which is a 28% rate. Grandal could probably be had for about 13 million per season and could bolster the Angels line-up.
The final option that could be the best of both worlds is Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy had a sub-par 2018 season, but his career numbers are pretty good. Lucroy is a career .277 hitter with 100 homers and 509 RBIs. He also has a career OBP of .337. Defensively Lucroy threw out 31 out of 103 would-be-base stealers which is a 30% success rate.
Lucroy is still only 33 years old and could be a short-term solution maybe on a one-to-two-year deal probably for around seven million per season.
The Angels could also go the trade route as they were said to be interested in the Pirates Francisco Cervelli, but then they would have to give up some potential prospects which I don’t think would be the best idea.
We will have to wait and see what Billy Eppler can do here, but the bottom line is this the Angels do need an upgrade at catcher because a full season with just Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith to man the catching duties would not be a wise decision.