Yesterday, on Twitter, I said that I though Dioner Navarro would be the most underrated catcher on the 2013 Free Agent market. Today, I would like to strengthen my position on that, and explain why Navarro will be the best catcher for your buck this 2013 free agent market.
Navarro was signed as a free agent from Venezuela in 2000 at age 16 with the New York Yankees. Making the big leagues at age 20, Navarro (30 in 2014), already has been in the big leagues for 10 years, providing excellent defense at the catcher position. It took a while before the offense came, but in 2013, the Cubs catcher delivered a great year, hitting .300/.365/.492 with 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 89 games. Although Navarro was not the top catcher in the Cubs fold, he was definitely more productive. According to www.baseballplayersalaries.com, Navarro provided 8% of the Cubs on-field performance, and only was 1.99% of the teams payroll. His cost vs. performance score was a 3.9, and was more valuable to the Cubs than Jeff Samardzija.
I compared Dioner Navarro to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on www.baseballplayersalaries.com as well to try to see who was more valuable to their team based on their salary. Although the Cubs were not as good as the Red Sox, Navarro contributed to 8% of his teams performance, and was only 1.99% of the Cubs salary, and Saltalamacchia contributed to 5.27% of his team's performance and was 2.66% of the Red Sox salary. Navarro produced more than Saltalamacchia, and costed less. Navarro could be a real diamond in the rough. He plays well, but hasn't had much experience taking the bulk of the catching work. Navarro has only played in 100+ games three times in his career, hitting .249/.301/.364 in those seasons. It could be interesting to see him get the load of the job for any team. That could be his only concern for teams.
Defensively, Navarro is as good as anyone. He has never had below a .981 fielding percentage, made more than 14 errors, and only 71% of base runners have been able to steal on him. Navarro has zero issues defensively, and would be an upgrade for any team in need of a better defensive catcher.
Who could acquire Navarro? I think the Philadelphia Phillies are a good match for Navarro, because if he does not prove to be an every day catcher, he could platoon with Erik Kratz, a catcher with a lot of pop. He also bats switch-handed, and the Phillies need more right handed bats in their lineup versus left handed pitchers. Navarro has a career .275 BA against lefties, much better than his .242 mark against right handers. How much does he cost? The most Navarro ever made as a major-leaguer was $2.1 million, completely underpaid for how much of the team's performance he took apart in. Imagine this, if a team has a $100 million payroll, and Navarro is producing 8% of the team's performance, he should make $8 million. Is Navarro truly $6 million underpaid? Perhaps. That's why I think he could be a really nice option for whoever signs him this offseason.