The Boston Red Sox didn't shine behind the dish in 2023, but the catcher position was the least of their worries during their last-place season.
With Reese McGuire and Connor Wong still on the roster, and top prospect Kyle Teel flying up the minor-league ranks, a catching upgrade isn't a major need heading into 2024. While it wouldn't hurt to acquire a catcher with a higher upside than McGuire, it's low on new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow's list of priorities. Plus, there just aren't many appealing options available in free agency.
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If Breslow and Co. do decide to invest in a new catcher, here are the top five free-agent backstops on the market:
1. Mitch Garver
Garver has been plagued by injuries in his career, but he showed what he's capable of when healthy by playing a key role in the Texas Rangers' World Series run. The soon-to-be 33-year-old slashed .270/.370/.500 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs in 87 games during the regular season, then added three homers and 14 RBIs in the playoffs. He should be the most coveted catcher on the market this winter.
2. Gary Sanchez
Sanchez should receive more attention in free agency than he got last offseason after a strong stint in San Diego. The former New York Yankees catcher hit .218 with 19 homers and a .792 OPS in 72 games for the Padres while providing surprisingly good defense. There's a high chance of regression, but he'll be on the radar for catcher-needy clubs.
3. Tom Murphy
Murphy is among the best offensive catchers in the game when healthy, but that just hasn't been all that often. He played in only 12 games in 2022 before undergoing shoulder surgery and just 47 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2023 due to a thumb injury. In those 47 games, he slashed .290/.335/.538 with eight homers.
4. Victor Caratini
Caratini is the youngest and possibly the most balanced catcher on this list. He hit .259/.327/.383 for Milwaukee last season while providing above-average defense behind the plate. He's earned the right to be a starting catcher in 2024.
5. Yasmani Grandal
Grandal was a major disappointment in 2023 but still offers some upside as a veteran switch-hitter with power. He's a two-time All-Star who earned some MVP votes in 2019. He isn't worth a significant investment, but he's a candidate for a bounce-back campaign with a change of scenery.
Honorable mentions: Martin Maldonado, Austin Hedges, Sandy Leon, Curt Casali, Roberto Perez.