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Arbitraging the Market: Catcher

The Mariners could use a catcher this offseason, but don't have much to spend. What options are out there?

We can't afford a proper hot stove.
We can't afford a proper hot stove.

The offseason is nearly upon us. Tomorrow one team will end the postseason with a victory and come away champion, and then the real fun begins. The Mariners will need to be somewhat active during the Hot Stove season to fill a few holes on the roster, and one of those holes is behind the plate. Mike Zunino is on the roster and deserves to be, but Chris Iannetta is set to be a free agent unless the team picks up his option, and considering Steve Clevinger is very likely to be released, the next best option would be Jesus Sucre, who owns a career 44 wRC+.

Wilson Ramos and Matt Wieters are the top of the catcher market this year, but let's assume the M's aren't able to splurge and look beneath them. The club is going to need to make all of their dollars count, so a value play is a must, and luckily there are a few guys who fit the bill.

The Veteran Lefties: Alex Avila and Jason Castro
Avila is coming off of a strong season with the White Sox, but he missed nearly two months due to injury and has had a myriad of health issues -- including concussions -- over his career. He's a very patient hitter who brings little else to the table offensively, but he has been one of the more respected defenders in the game.

Castro had a nice run in 2012 and 2013, but since has been a mediocre backstop. But, a mediocre backstop who hits left-handed to pair with Mike Zunino would fit the bill perfectly.

Zach's Switch Hitting Penny Stocks: Dioner Navarro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Navarro really struggled last year and wasn't great the year before, but he'd make for an interesting lottery ticket. If he can be a quasi-average hitter, that'd provide the team with an extra option to work with Zunino. Salty was pretty good with the D'Backs in 2015, but was a trainwreck for the Tigers in 2016, depressing his value below where it probably should lie. He's not generally well regarded as a defender, but you can't have everything you want without paying for it.

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The M's could look at this marketplace and ultimately decide to just exercise Iannetta's $4.5 million club option for 2017, but I would consider this to be poor strategy. Even if the market gets inflated and Seattle is priced out of even the lower-end options -- which could easily happen with Jason Castro -- it's not worth locking Iannetta in before giving it the old college try. If I had my druthers, I'd swing for a fences with Salty, and know that if he doesn't hit all that well at least I had Zunino's defense to fall back on.