Pirates Sign Rod Barajas

In what was an unexpectedly early move the Pirates signed Rod Barajas today. He will receive a 4 million dollar salary in 2012 and has a 2013 option for 3.5 million (with no buyout). By no means is Barajas a star at the catching position but he is definitely an upgrade over any of the Pirates internal options. At 36 years old it is reasonable to expect a regression but he has been fairly consistent over the last few seasons. Let’s take a look at how he compared to other catchers in 2011 and from 2009-2011.

2011 (min 250 PA) (600 innings caught)

WAR: 1.3 (23rd out of 33)

OPS: .717 (20th out of 33)

wOBA: .307 (22nd out of 33)

wRC+: 94 (16th out of 33)

Innings: 733.1 (21st of 30)

FP: .997 (T3rd out of 30)

CS%: 25% (21st out of 30)

Inn/PB: 244 (8th out of 30)

2009-2011 (min 750 PA) (1500 innings caught)

WAR: 2.8 (25th out of 34)

OPS: .699 (23rd out 0f 34)

wOBA: .298 (28th out of 34)

wRC+: 82 (28th out of 34)

Innings: 2483.2 (11th out 0f 38)

FP: .994 (T9th out of 38)

CS%: 26.5% (25th out of 38)

Inn/PB: 207 (15th out of 38)

Looking at these numbers it is rather apparent that Barajas is not a good catcher. He is most definately in the bottom third of starting catchers in MLB. However let’s take a look at this offseason’s free agent catcher class and see how he compares.

2011 Free Agents

WAR: 1.3 (4th out of 14)

OPS: .717 (8th out of 14)

wOBA: .307 (8th out of 14)

wRC+: 94 (7th out of 14)

Innings: 733.1 (1st out of 14)

FP: .997 (T3rd out of 14)

CS%: 25.0% (9th out of 14)

Inn/PB: 244 (5th out of 14)

Free Agents 2009-2011 (Kendall and Posada are included here)

WAR: 2.8 (5th out of 16)

OPS: .699 (8th out of 16)

wOBA: .298 (10th out of 16)

wRC+: 82 (T9th out of 16)

Innings: 2483.2 (1st out of 16)

FP: .994 (T7th out of 16)

CS%: 26.5% (9th out of 16)

Inn/PB: 207 (8th of 16)

Obviously those numbers do not paint the best picture of Barajas but I really think a closer look is needed. For one he has provided more innings than any other catcher on the free agent market making him valuable. Also just looking at WAR for a moment the only two catchers that significantly outproduced him over the past three seasons are Ramon Hernandez (who is without a doubt the top of this class) and Jorge Posada (who is not really a catcher anymore).

The other catchers who are close to him are Ryan Doumit, Kelly Shoppach, Henry Blanco and Ivan Rodriguez. They are followed by a tier of Jose Molina, Ramon Castro, Chris Snyder, Jason Kendall, Gerald Laird and Jason Varitek.

Just focusing on the Barajas tier it is clear Blanco was content where he was and Rodriguez is in decline mode. Leaving Shoppach and Doumit as his tier mates. Doumit is clearly the superior offensive player of the two but it is a toss up between Barajas and Shoppach for who is second. As far as defense is concerned Doumit is clearly third with the other two in a tight battle for first.  Really you could order those 3 however you would want.

As for the next tier the only catcher who is significantly offensively better than Barajas is Ramon Castro and he has played only limited innings over the last three seasons. Jose Molina, Jason Varitek and Chris Snyder are all similar in terms of offensive production but Barajas is signifantly better defensively that all of those players except Jose Molina.

So after taking a deeper look the free agent catching market is essentially Ramon Hernandez on top followed by the tier of Doumit, Shoppach, Molina and Barajas. So what did the Pirates get with Barajas? A below average major league catcher who is better than a replacement level player, has some power, plays average defense and is overall a poor offensive player. Considering what the Pirates need, a stop gap who can help mentor pitchers and catchers while playing decent defense I feel Barajas was a good match for the Pirates.

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