When the Pirates traded for back-up catcher Chris Stewart, General Manager Neal Huntington said that he made the move because he wanted 26-year-old catcher Tony Sanchez to be able to continue his development by playing daily at AAA Indianapolis. In Pittsburgh, Sanchez would do little more than sit on the bench nearly everyday behind starter Russell Martin.
However, when Stewart was put on the disabled list recently with a knee injury, Huntington announced that Sanchez would be the back-up to Martin. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a couple of freely available catchers who fit the job description that Stewart was brought in to fill.
Former Pirate catcher Chris Snyder was released by the Washington Nationals on Monday and is now a free agent. Snyder played in only 9 major league games last season, but, at AAA, he hit .273/.330/.477 — .807 OPS in 286 plate appearances.
In 2012, Snyder made 258 plate appearances with the Astros, hitting for just a .603 OPS. But over the last two years, his defense has been 2.9 runs above average, according to Fangraphs, in just over a half-season of playing time.
With the Pirates, in 2011, Snyder, who is now 33 years old, hit .271/.376/.396 — .772 OPS.
Another possibility for the Pirates is catcher Ramon Hernandez, who opted out of his minor league contract with the Royals on Sunday. The 37-year-old Hernandez had only 55 major league plate appearances last year, but he hit 3 home runs and had a .729 OPS.
In 2012, Hernandez posted a .600 OPS. But, like Snyder, he was good behind the plate. Over the past two seasons, Hernandez has been 3.3 defensive runs above average, as calculated by Fangraphs.
In 2011, Hernandez’s last season as a regular, he hit .282/.341/.446 — .787 OPS in 328 plate appearances. Fangraphs rated him as 6.3 defensive runs above average that year.
Neither Snyder nor Hernandez are players that any team would want to rely on as an everyday catcher. But they are both very solid defenders, who are not incapable at the plate; and having one of them on the Pirates bench would give Tony Sanchez the daily playing time he needs at Indianapolis.