There are a couple of positions that we know the Royals will be searching for this offseason and one of those is catcher. Currently the Royals have built up quite a list of intriguing names at the position in the lower levels of the system, but even if those names become more than intriguing it will be years before any of those players are ready to contribute. On September 4, the Royals traded the strong yet entitled pitching prospect Danny Gutierrez to Texas and obtained Tim Smith and Manuel Pina a 21 year old Latin American catcher. Many scouts view Pina as a strong defensive catcher, but that he lacks the bat to ever become a legitimate starter at the major league level. Nonetheless he is probably the closest catching prospect to the majors, having already completed a season in double A. Pina is still a year away (at least), although if he has a strong season maybe he can force the Royals hand just a bit.
So what does this all mean for 2010? Well currently the Royals have two catchers in the entire organization that could qualify as big league catchers. One has been a major disappointment since being acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston and the other is a little old for a guy that has hardly had a full season in the majors. One is a nontender candidate and the other lost his bat at the end of last season, and never brought his glove. So far this offseason the signs and quotations from Royals GM Dayton Moore have pointed to an overhaul of the catching corps going into 2010.
What are the options? Well Moore has already stated that the primary goal this offseason is to acquire as many 1-3 guys as possible. (1-3 refers to the amount of service time the players has in years, thus making him a cheaper and presumably younger option.) Catching is such a difficult position to come by that the Royals might not be able to find many options on the trade market. Especially if they want young cheap players. The most interesting name that I have heard as far as the catching market is concerned is probably Ryan Doumit of the Pittsburgh Pirates and it wouldn't seem to me like the Royals match up with the Pirates considering they are both looking to get younger at the time being.
Earlier in the offseason it was reported by a writer for the Kansas City Star that the Royals were shopping Alberto Callaspo and that the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis had been linked. A.J. Ellis is probably as old as you can be to still be considered a prospect and reviews of his defense have been outstanding. Oh, and wait til you hear this: Ellis has posted an obp of over .400 in back to back season for the Dodgers' AAA team. I have a couple of issues with the rumor though. First, if we are going to sell high on Callaspo then it would seem like we should be able to acquire more than a blocked veteran prospect. Second, Ellis has absolutely zero power, so while his on base skills are dandy in triple A, those tend to not translate so well when the player has no power to speak of and is not a burner on the basepaths.
Let's look at the other option that the Royals have for their acquirement of a catcher: Free Agency. If the Royals are not able to obtain a young, defensive first catcher via trade then I would prefer that they acquire a sort of one or two year stop gap, until one or two of the younger guys begin to emerge. It was rumored that the Royals offered Brian Schneider a contract, however he took a contract from the Phillies instead. This is most likely a good thing although Schneider's less than impressive numbers from last season will no doubt be inflated in Philadelphia.
Now for the strongest rumor that we have heard regarding the Royals' search for catching. The Royals are rumored to be interested in one of the most successful hitters in Kauffman Stadium history: Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez is still an above average fielder and even though his hitting skills have declined he is still an above replacement level player. If the price is right I would love to see the Royals make a move for Rodriguez. Hopefully there will be more to come with regards to this rumor.