With the release of Jose Molina and the loss of an expert pitch framer, the Rays are back on the market for a new backup. Capable prospect Curt Casali is around and waiting for his chance at the show, but his bat didn't play as nicely as it did in the minors last season, and by Marc Topkin's account, the Rays would like more depth at the position for the MLB level.
That brings us to the trade market, where Casali or the acquired catcher could possible be stashed in Durham and cycled through. This is particularly helpful when your starting catcher is injured as often as Derrick Rose.
We already know the the Rays braintrust loves Padres players, with multiple recent trades bringing in several of their drafted players -- Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, Cole Figueroa, Logan Forsythe, Matt Andriese, Matt Lollis, Maxx Tissenbaum -- as well as free agent signings in Allan Dykstra, Jose Lobaton, and last year's Durham depth at catcher Ali Solis and Eddy Rodriguez.
Perhaps the Rays are now targeting more catchers from the Padres system.
Sources: #Padres getting "ton of inquiries" on their catchers - Grandal, Rivera and top prospect Austin Hedges. Talks active.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 26, 2014
Yasmani Grandal is under team control through 2018. From an offense perspective he's useful, as he posted a wRC+ of 144 in 60 games in 2012, and 111 wRC+ in 128 games in 2014. He's more of a full time catcher, so the fit with Hanigan may not be ideal, but you'd want him if you could get him.
Rene Rivera is under team control through 2017, and though he's played at the big league level for multiple clubs, burst onto the scene last year with a 114 wRC+ in PetCo Park with a bat that suddenly clicked like never before. That could be a flash in the pan, but the glove is legit.
Here's how each of their framing numbers stacked up with the Padres, courtesy of StatCorner:
For reference, Jose Molina put up a 16.9 RAA last season, and Ryan Hanigan is his last full season of play (2012) put up a 21.1 RAA.
Austin Hedges is a top prospect, as far as catchers are concerned, but with the Padres catcher situation stabilizing last season, he's trade bait. Already considered among the best defensive catchers you'll ever see, the Padres promoted him full time to Double-A last season and his offense struggled at a 67 wRC+, making him both far off and uninspiring offensively, which brings us back to the first two.
The Padres are said to have looked into acquiring Matt Joyce, and that's probably the logical fit if we're structing a deal. Joyce is not up to snuff for a great defensive prospect like Hedges, but it could be a building block for Rivera, who is out of options.
Let the Rays take a lotto ticket on Rivera repeating his impressive 2014 performance, while Casali returns to Durham to develop the bat and wait for the inevitable catcher injury.
Rivera is a short term fix at back up, but holding down the fort until Curt Casali or Luke Maile proves themselves, Justin O'Conner bangs down the door, or later when Oscar Hernandez and Nick Ciuffo approach The Show, is all the Rays really need.
One expiring contract for a guy that may or may not have suddenly had his stars aligned. Why not?