The list of available free agent catchers was reduced by one when veteran Curt Casali signed with the San Francisco Giants on Monday.
While re-signing J.T. Realmuto remains a priority, Phillies officials have had to consider how they would plug the position should Realmuto sign elsewhere.
James McCann, the second-best catcher to hit the free-agent market this offseason, signed with the New York Mets last month, and Mike Zunino, a top defender and potential pairing with Andrew Knapp, returned to Tampa Bay.
It’s not clear how interested the Phillies were in Casali, who was not tendered a contract by Cincinnati last month, but there are reasons to believe he may have been a fit with the catching-needy club.
Casali was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2010 when Dave Dombrowski was that team’s president of baseball operations. Perhaps more significant is Casali’s connection with new Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham. Before being hired by the Phillies in November, Cotham was the Reds’ assistant pitching coach. Casali was highly regarded by Reds’ pitchers.
Casali, 32, signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with the Giants. He is expected to get playing time behind Buster Posey, who turns 34 in March and did not play last season.
Other than Realmuto, what remains on the catching market is not all that enticing. Perennial All-Star Yadier Molina is out there but he’s 38 and it’s difficult to envision him not returning to St. Louis for an 18th season. Jason Castro, Kurt Suzuki and Austin Romine are also out there and could be used in a tandem with Knapp.
All of these names would represent a huge dropoff from Realmuto, who is widely considered the best catcher in the game. The market for top free agents has been slow to develop in recent years and this one could be even slower because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Top players like Realmuto might not sign until close to spring training.