Dioner Navarro signing: Marlins free agent catching options dwindle

Brian Kersey

The Miami Marlins' most intriguing catching option disappeared yesterday when the Toronto Blue Jays signed free agent Dioner Navarro. Will the Fish go after deposed starter J.P. Arencibia in his stead, or does a bigger fish lie in the team's future?

Yesterday, the Miami Marlins' most intriguing option at catcher in 2014 fell off the free agent market. The Toronto Blue Jays signed free agent Dioner Navarro to a two-year contract worth $8 million, exactly what I expected him to sign in a previous thread.

I wouldn't be surprised if he got 2/$10M

But I’d say in the middle, maybe 2/$8m. I’d be willing for any of these numbers, really, though 2/10 is pushing it

Fish Stripes, a Miami Marlins blog

Navarro's signing also signaled the end of the line for incumbent catcher J.P. Arencibia, who is suddenly without a roster spot thanks to Navarro and backup Josh Thole. The Blue Jays tried to either trade Arencibia, but they eventually non-tendered him last night. Now Arencibia is in the open market at age 28 following two bad seasons behind the plate.

This is all relevant news for the Miami Marlins, who are facing continuing problems in their quest to fill the catcher position. Navarro represented the best available player because he represented the team's desired offensive upgrade at the position. Navarro had just finished hitting .300/.365/.492 (.374 wOBA) for the Chicago Cubs last season, and even if he failed to repeat that line, it would have been a massive upgrade for the Fish. Last season, Marlins catchers hit a putrid combined .192/.249/.280 (.235 wOBA) as a group.

With Navarro off the list, the Fish have very few options left in the free agent market. The best player left is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who might expect a four-year deal worth around $40 million or so. He is coming off of a three-plus win season by most accounts and is under 30 years of age. He also fits the Marlins' need for power, as he has hit 55 homers in the last three seasons with the Boston Red Sox. The Marlins are said to be "front-runners" for Saltalamacchia's services, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

But other than Salty, the Fish would be hard-pressed find a starting-caliber player in the market. All the remaining catchers are over the age of 30 and were primarily backups in 2013. The youngest player available is Taylor Teagarden, who is a career .206/.266/.390 (.287 wOBA) hitter. The list includes old names like Yorvit Torrealba, John Buck, and Miguel Olivo, players with no upside left. None of these options are worthwhile investments for Miami, as they are unlikely to provide improvement on offense and would certainly destabilize the defensive side.

Would Arencibia be an option? At 28 years of age, he would the youngest catcher available, and he too has power. Arencibia boasts a career .190 ISO and has hit 62 home runs in about 50 more plate appearances than Saltalamacchia over the last three years. Of course, Arencibia has significant problems at the plate, including an exorbitant strikeout rate (28.7 percent career) combined with a paltry walk rate (5.3 percent career) and poor defense. But if the Fish were looking for more upside at a low cost, Arencibia could be an option.

The other plan would be for Miami to pursue a trade. The Los Angeles Angels still have two catchers whom they could trade, and Hank Conger has been talked up at Fish Stripes as a trade target. Other than that, however, Miami would have to get creative, as most teams with surplus catching still are not planning on trading. The Fish would have to kick the tires on situations like the San Diego Padres' surplus, but there are no indications that a trade would be considered.

What do you Fish Stripers think? Where can the Marlins turn to solve their catching situation? Is Arencibia an option? Would you like a Saltalamacchia signing? Let us know in the comments!

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