With the World Series on the verge of beginning, that means we are mere days away from the free agency market opening for business and the Angels sure have themselves some business to get done if they want to end their playoff drought. To prep you for the ensuing craziness, we're previewing how the market could unfold for the Halos, position-by-position. We kick it off with Mike Scioscia's biggest blind spot, catchers!
Who we got?
Chris Iannetta got locked up to a three-year contract shortly after the season ended, so the Halos have starter for the foreseeable future and one that the hands don't loathe, so that's a plus. What they don't have is a trustworthy back-up for Iannetta, who has been somewhat injury-prone in his career. Their current options are Hank Conger and John Hester. Conger is also injury-prone and Scioscia hates his defense. Hester is very limited and also is a poor defender, though for some reason Scioscia seems to trust it. These are not strong options and there is a good chance that Conger could be traded this off-season anyway.
Who we want?
The big fish on the market are Russell Martin, A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli. As comical as it would be to see what Scioscia would do if Dipoto saddled him with Napoli again, that trio are clearly not options. No, the Angels will be looking more at low-cost veterans. David Ross and Kelly Shoppach are the best of the rest, in that regard as both can produce well enough to be a starter for long stretches if called upon to do so, but also are more than comfortable with a reserve role. One name to watch is Chris Snyder, who has a team option with the Astros. If he is set free, which is likely, he could be signed since he spent several years in Arizona, so Jerry Dipoto should be very familiar with him. However, Jerry could go the other way and try and appease Scioscia by signing a defensive specialist like Brian Schneider or Gerald Laird. Given that he just kicked Bobby Wilson to the curb, that seems pretty unlikely.
With so many veteran options available, the trade route is probably not a preferred route, but you never know who Dipoto might have his eye on. The Padres have an abundance of catchers available, so Jerry could try and pry Nick Hundley loose at a discount price or settle for veteran John Baker.
Why we care?
There is nothing less interesting than the back-up catcher, but with Mike Scioscia prominently involved, it adds a level of intrigue since he is so stubborn in his handling of backstops. Yes, Iannetta is being paid to be the starter, but if he loses Scioscia's trust, then he can be a starter who plays four times a week rather than six or seven times a week like he was down the stretch in 2012. And as I mentioned before, Iannetta has durability questions having only played 100+ games twice in his six-year career. It is for that reason that I can't imagine the Angels going into the season with Hank Conger, who they went out of their way not to use in 2012, or John Hester being one injury away from catching 90+ games for the Halos.