COMMENTARY | In the wake of the Philadelphia Phillies re-signing soon-to-be 35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26-million deal, Cincinnati Reds platoon catcher Ryan Hanigan may look like a bargain at under $3 million for a year of backstop stopgap.
Despite a disappointing and injury-marred 2013, Hanigan still possesses the skills and aptitude that have helped him carve his niche as an excellent pitching-staff handler, defensive force behind the plate and a solid contact hitter with a low strikeout rate.
The Reds may actually find a market for Hanigan and land a decent prospect or player in return.
Any team interested in signing free-agent pitcher Bronson Arroyo would also be interested in trading for his personal catcher, which Hanigan eventually became while the two were teammates with the Reds. Besides those teams interested in both Arroyo and Hanigan -- like the New York Mets and the Minnesota Twins -- plenty of other teams will like Hanigan for his own sake.
Teams with possible interest range from big-market teams with money to burn like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox to a smaller-market like the Tampa Bay Rays, who understand the value of players at a position that can be hard to fill.
Perhaps most interesting among the potential suitors are the Toronto Blue Jays, who inquired about Hanigan. The Blue Jays may have a prospect to deal for Hanigan or may be willing to swap 33-year-olds by sending utility infielder Maicer Izturis to the Reds in exchange for Hanigan.
The Jays' front office may figure that if Hanigan can catch a funky junk-baller like Arroyo, he probably can also handle a knuckle-balling freak of nature like R.A. Dickey.
Benefit for the Reds
Besides any trade return for Hanigan, the Reds would also benefit by finally deciding their catching situation and entrenching Devin Mesoraco behind the plate for good. Hanigan was made all the more expendable with the signing of backup catcher Brayan Pena (who may be in line to become the personal catcher for Aroldis Chapman should the Cuban Missile find his way to the Reds' starting rotation).
If the Reds do deal Hanigan for a prospect of any promise, the reduction in payroll would also help the Reds meet the rising costs of retaining a higher-caliber roster.
Risk for the Reds
The Reds may be forced into tendering Hanigan so that he will become eligible for a final year of salary arbitration, meaning that he'll be positioned to sign a one-year contract for at least $2.5 million. If the Reds can't deal Hanigan before the tender deadline on December 2, they will have a harder decision to make -- non-tender Hanigan and let him walk or tender him and risk that he can't be traded under ideal circumstances.
Ultimately, the Reds would find a trade partner for Hanigan but the longer he remains a Red, the harder it will be for the Reds to move him to the team's advantage.
Hanigan won't go down as one of the all-time best Reds catchers, but he left his mark in Cincinnati by rising through the minors as an undrafted player before compiling a .262 batting average and walking 30 more times than he struck out during his Reds career. He also threw out 40% of the runners who tried to steal on him and caught both of the no-hitters thrown by Homer Bailey.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the Reds here.
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