If the San Diego Padres are looking for veteran catching help, who could the Padres look at?
In his latest piece for MLB.com, San Diego Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell briefly discussed the biggest positions of interest for AJ Preller and company, heading into the offseason. Of course, starting pitching and shortstop/third base are going to be the top priorities, however, Cassavell also discusses the idea that the Padres will be looking at a veteran catcher to add as a depth piece.
It appears that the Padres will continue to treat Francisco Mejia as a catcher and have him work at the position when he begins play in the Dominican winter league. The team will also return Austin Hedges as the primary starter, for now. You have to imagine that if the right deal comes along, either catcher will find themselves on a new team, but until then, the Padres have two solid catchers on their roster.
But as Cassavell mentions in his article, the position is demanding and San Diego doesn’t have a major league ready catcher, should something happen. Austin Allen will need to be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule-5 draft but will need some more time in the minor leagues. Cassavell expects the Padres to take Raffy Lopez off the 40-man in the coming weeks.
Potential catching options for the San Diego Padres.
If the Padres are going to add a veteran behind the plate, who is available? There’s always the option of bringing A.J. Ellis back to serve as an emergency catcher and coach. With established relationships with many players on the roster, it could be a valuable move for Hedges and Mejia.
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There are also a pair of former Arizona Diamondback catchers that have hit the market, veterans Chris Stewart and Jeff Mathis. Arizona assistant general manager Jared Porter described the 36-year-old Stewart as “a veteran catcher, always been an elite pitch framer, a good thrower, very intelligent catcher, good feel for game calling” (after he was acquired from the Atlanta Braves).
Across 12 MLB seasons, Stewart is a .230 hitter and has thrown out 28% of all baserunners.
Mathis is another interesting option and is the best defensive option on the market. The 35-year-old ranked first in baseball in pitch framing metrics last season and has thrown out 29% of baserunners across his 14-year major league career.
Don’t expect former Friar Nick Hundley to find his way back to San Diego. He has expressed an interest in returning to San Francisco in 2019. However, one last option could be Rene Rivera. Another defense-first catcher, Rivera signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $2.8 million last year, but appeared in just 33 games with the Angels and Braves. Rivera played with the Padres in 2013 and 2014, putting up the best offensive numbers of his career (.252 avg, .310 OBP, 11 HR, 21 2B, 126 games) outside of a 20-game stint with the Chicago Cubs.
This may not be a major signing for the Padres, but it is an important one that could help in the development of Hedges and Mejia, moving forward. Free agent negotiations may begin now and players can start signing with teams on Saturday.