Angels are looking for catching -- who fits?

December 3rd, 2019

ANAHEIM -- After the decision to non-tender on Monday, the Angels are officially in the market for a catcher this offseason.

The Angels have just two catchers on their 40-man roster in and , and Stassi might not be ready for Opening Day after undergoing right hip surgery this offseason. The club also doesn’t have any catching prospects close to the Majors after permanently moving Taylor Ward to the outfield and Matt Thaiss to the infield.

So here’s a look at available catchers both via trade and free agency that the Angels could target this winter:

A reunion with Maldonado could make some sense, especially considering his relationship with Gerrit Cole, who remains the club’s top target in its search for starting pitching. Maldonado, 33, played with the Angels in 2017 and ’18 before being traded to the Astros. He worked well with Cole last season, essentially becoming his personal catcher in the second half. Cole had a 1.57 ERA in 10 starts with Maldonado compared to a 2.94 ERA with other Houston backstops. He's still a solid defender, but he doesn't offer much offense, hitting .213/.293/.378 with 12 homers and 27 RBIs in 101 games in '19.

Chirinos is also a free-agent catcher from the Astros and is a better hitter than Maldonado, batting .238/.347/.443 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 114 games while also smacking three postseason homers. The 35-year-old is two years older than Maldonado but figures to get more in free agency because of his bat. He also graded out well defensively last year.

Castro, 32, is a free agent and is coming off a bounceback year in 2019 after missing most of the '18 campaign because of knee surgery. Castro hit .232/.332/.435 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs, playing 79 games as a backup to Mitch Garver. Castro, a northern California native who attended Stanford, works well with pitchers and was rated as an average defensive catcher by advanced metrics last year.

Avila has been plagued by concussion issues throughout his career but remains a reliable backstop with strong on-base skills. The 32-year-old batted .207/.353/.421 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in 63 games with the D-backs last year. He's been relegated to a backup role the last two seasons but is rated as an above-average pitch framer, which could help Angels pitchers.

Could Martin move across town from the Dodgers to the Angels? Martin, 36, remains one of the best pitch framers in the Majors and is known for his leadership skills and ability to work with pitchers. Offensively, he's declined, however, hitting .220/.337/.330 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 83 games. He also could be looking to sign with a ready-made contender, although the Angels are obviously trying to reach the postseason in 2020.

Unlike the others, Contreras is not a free agent, and it would take quite the haul to acquire him via trade from the Cubs. But the need is there and he has a history with new manager Joe Maddon. The Angels are much more likely to use their resources to acquire top-tier pitching, but the idea of trading for Contreras is tantalizing considering his combination of offensive and defensive skills and the fact he’s under contract through the 2022 season. The 27-year-old hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 homers and 64 RBIs in 105 games last season.

The Mariners are looking to trade Narváez but the Angels could be ruled out simply because of Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto doesn’t have a good relationship with his former organization. But if the two clubs get past that, Narváez would be an upgrade for the Angels and wouldn’t require the same kind of prospects as a trade for Contreras. Narváez, 27, is also under contract through 2022, however, and is coming off the best year of his career. He hit .278/.353/.469 with 22 homers and 55 RBIs in 132 games but was rated as a below-average catcher.