There’s not much left for Buster Posey to prove in the minor leagues. In 2009, the young catcher put up a .433 wOBA in San Jose in 80 games, was promoted to Fresno, and put up a .390 wOBA in 35 games. If a slash-line is more your thing, Buster has a career .327/.421/.538 minor league line. He’s the best prospect in the Giants’ system and a legitimate Top-5 prospect in all of baseball. As a polished college draft pick, he’s ready for MLB action.
The Giants have been tentative about naming Posey the starting catcher for 2010 and all signs point to the team bringing in a veteran catcher or bringing back Bengie Molina to help ease Buster into a starting role. Bringing back Molina would probably be one of the worst things for Buster’s development and the Giants’ wallet. If the Giant chose to offer arbitration to Molina, there’s a chance he could accept and get a 1-year paycheck around the $6M he earned in ’09. There’s also some questions about Molina and how happy he would be in a back-up / mentor role. In addition, I just can’t imagine Bruce Bochy sitting down Molina for Buster Posey.
Thus, the Giants are looking for a catcher with the following requirements:
- Has veteran experience. Someone who’s been in the league for more than a few years and has experience working with and catching all sorts of pitchers.
- Has good defense or perceived good defense. For this reason, and this reason alone, Eli Whiteside appeared in 47 games with the Giants.
- Bonus: Can hit a little.
Enter Gregg Zaun.
The Rays, however, did not pick up the options for LHP reliever Brian Shouse ($2 million) and backup C Gregg Zaun ($2 milion).
Gregg Zaun is now a free agent after the Rays declined his option. The Rays chose to pay Zaun $500K instead of picking up his $2M option and bringing him back for the 2010 season. The Rays’ loss could be the Giants gain. Gregg Zaun fits the ideal mold for veteran catcher.
- The price is right. Zaun would only cost the Giants $2-3M as compared to potentially $6M (or more) for someone like Bengie Molina. It doesn’t sound like a huge amount of money, but it’s $2-3M more that the Giants could spend on a more deserving free agent.
- Zaun’s defensive profile is solid. According to this informative post on catcher’s defense, Zaun was an average defender in 2009. Even if you want to factor in aging, he’ll be 38-years-old in 2010, Zaun should rate within 2-3 runs of average.
- He can hit. Over the past 3 seasons Zaun has posted OBP’s of .341, .340, and .345. He owns a career OBP of .344 across 15 seasons. Looks much nicer than Molina’s .285 OBP, right? Don’t let Molina’s HR and RBI numbers fool you, Zaun is just as good of a hitter — if not better. Zaun’s last three seasons by wOBA: .324, .316, and .334. Compare that to Molina’s past three seasons: .314, .328, and .308. Zaun is a good bet to either match or better Molina on offense in 2010.
If I was a GM and had to pick between Zaun and Molina, I would take Zaun almost every single time. He’s going to be cheaper than Molina and he’s got a good chance to give you the same level of performance. If we project Zaun for 2010 he should look like the following:
Batting Wins Above Average (.320 wOBA, league wOBA .332): –0.7 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: -.3 wins
C Positional Adjustment: +1.25 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
= 2.25 wins * .50 (or about 350 PA’s for PT) = +1.13 WAR
We’ve called him a .320 wOBA hitter with -3 run defense behind the plate. All things considered in a part-time sharing role with Posey, Zaun would be worth around +1.13 wins. That makes him around a $4-5M a year player by recent spending on the FA market. Zaun should sign for around $2-3M making him a nice deal. He gives the Giants everything they like in Molina but with a much smaller commitment. Gregg Zaun makes a ton of sense for the Giants.