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In a baseball game, there are nine players on the field, but only one of them starts every play in foul territory. That is just one example of how the catcher’s position is unique. In a baseball game, a catcher works in tandem with the pitcher; they are the team’s two key defensive players, and no two players have a greater impact on the game’s result. Major League managers consider the catcher’s position a defensive job, and if they can get offensive production from their catcher, that is a bonus. So, when a catcher can excel both offensively and defensively, he is a great player, and this extremely rare player is going to be extremely wealthy.
Please note: for the 2014 season the Minnesota Twins have announced that Joe Mauer will move from catcher to first base. Mauer has been a catcher for his entire career, and this season he will make $22 million. If Mauer was still a catcher, he would be the league’s highest-paid catcher.
10. Chris Iannetta – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: $4,975,000 in 2014
Iannetta played his college baseball at North Carolina, and he made this list when he signed a 3-year, $15.55 million extension with the Angeles in 2012. There is reason to believe 2014 will be a solid season for the Angels’ catcher. 2013 was a tale of two seasons for Iannetta. He struggled in the first half of the season, hitting a paltry .211. At the mid-point of the season, searching for a reason for his hitting woes, Iannetta visited an eye doctor and began wearing contact lenses. The contacts seemed to help, Iannetta hit a respectable .246 in the second half of 2013. A highlight of his career happened on May 2nd of 2012, when he was the catcher for Jered Weaver’s no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Miami Marlins: $6,000,000 in 2014
Saltalamacchia, known as ‘Salty,’ has the longest last name in Major League history. In 2013, Salty had a great season for the Red Sox offensively; highlighted by his 40 doubles. Salty is only the 13th catcher in MLB history to hit 40 or more doubles in a season. Of course, 2013 will always be special for Saltalamacchia because he helped the Red Sox win the World Series.
Even though Saltalamacchia had a strong 2013: .273 BA/14 HR/.804 OPS, to go with his 40 doubles, as his contract expired the Red Sox showed only tepid interest in resigning him and they offered a two-year deal. Looking for more, Saltalamacchia tested free agency and drew attention from a couple of teams, before signing a 3-year $21 million contract with the Miami Marlins.
8. Matt Wieters – Baltimore Orioles: $7,700,000 in 2014
When Matt Weiters left Georgia Tech for the Orioles, he was considered a can’t miss prospect; he was a big, strong switch hitting catcher with awesome power. He did not last long in the draft; the Orioles selected Wieters with the 5th overall pick in the 2007 draft and he made his MLB debut that August. Over his five Major League seasons, Weiters is a .255 hitter, averaging 21 home runs a season, and throws out an outstanding 33% of stolen base attempts. Weiters is a two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. On February 6th of this year, in his second year of arbitration eligibility, Weiters signed a $7.7 million contract.
7. A.J. Pierzynski – Boston Red Sox: $8,250,000 in 2014
This winter, the Red Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pierzynski is entering his 16th Major League season, and he has a reputation of rubbing people the wrong way. According to the Boston Globe, while Pierzynski was with the Chicago White Sox, this is how he was described by his manager Ozzie Guillen, “if you play against him, you hate him, if you play with him, you hate him a little less.”
Always excellent at bat, Pierzynski is a lifetime .283 hitter. In 2005, Pierznski left the San Francisco Giants for the White Sox, and helped them win the World Series. As a player on a world championship team, Pierznski used his new found fame to make an appearance as a professional wrestler in TNA.
6. Carlos Ruiz – Philadelphia Phillies: $8,500,000 in 2014
Carlos Ruiz is not a household name, but many scouts consider him to be one of the game’s best catchers. Ruiz is an excellent defensive catcher, with a lifetime .274 batting average. A native of Panama, Ruiz is known to teammates as Chooch. In 2014, Ruiz will appear in his ninth Major League season, all with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2010, Ruiz was behind the plate for Roy Halladay’s perfect game. On November 18, 2013, Ruiz signed a 3-year, $26 million contract, keeping him on board with the Phillies.
5. Russell Martin – Pittsburgh Pirates: $9,500,000 in 2014
No one knows what 2014 will hold for Martin; he is a player whose career is full of peaks and valleys. A native of Canada, Martin is entering his 9th Major League season, his second with the Pirates. He began his career as a Dodger, and seemed destined for stardom when he made the All-Star team in his second and third seasons. Then, after two extremely poor years, he refused to take a pay cut to stay a Dodger, and signed with the New York Yankees. His Yankee career lasted only two seasons, the first an All-Star season, his second so poor the Yankees only offered Martin a one-year contract.
4. Miguel Montero – Arizona Diamondbacks: $10 million in 2014
Miguel Montero is a player hoping 2014 will be a bounce-back season. Compared to 2012, Montero’s offensive production dropped precipitously in 2013; his OPS dropped 167 points, batting average dropped 53 points, and his RBI dropped from 88 to a meager 42. The 30-year-old is a native of Venezuela, and he has spent his entire eight-year MLB career with the Diamondbacks. After five highly productive seasons, in May 2012 the D-Backs rewarded Montero with a 5-year, $60 million contract extension. The Arizona desperately hopes Montero will return to form in 2014 because has the biggest contract on the team.
3. Buster Posey – San Fransisco Giants: $11,277,777 in 2014
As a kid, people started calling Gerald Dempsey Posey III by his father’s nickname Buster, and it stuck. Posey is one of the game’s best players; a can’t-miss prospect that has proved his worth in the big leagues The 5th pick of the 2008 draft, Posey fulfilled all of the promise he showed at Florida State, when he made his MLB debut for the Giants the September after he was drafted. The following season, Posey won the Rookie of the Year Award, and two seasons later (2012) he won the National League’s MVP Award. In 2011, Posey’s promising career was almost derailed when he was involved in a collision at the plate with Scott Cousins, and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Many believe that collision is the underlying reason behind the MLB’s new anti-collision rule, limiting contact on plays at the plate. Posey is entering his 6th Major League season, and he has already been a key component of two championship teams, in 2010 and 2012.
2. Yadier Molina – St. Louis Cardinals: $15,200,000 in 2014
Molina is on a short list of the very best baseball players in the league, finishing 3rd last season in MVP voting. Molina is a six-time Gold Glove winner, with a career .284 batting average who throws out an amazing 45% of stolen base attempts. Yadier has been a key component of two Cardinal World Series Championship teams, in 2006 and 2011. Part of the ‘Catching Molinas’ family, Yadier and his brothers Benjie and Jose, all played catcher in the MLB. The Molina brothers are the only set of three brothers in MLB history to all win a World Series Championship.
1. Brian McCann – New York Yankees: $17 million in 2014
Brian McCann is one of the game’s best catchers, but he has yet to reach a level of play comparable with Posey and Molina. McCann finds himself at the top of this list after signing a 5-year, $85 million contract with the New York Yankees this winter as a free agent. This will be McCann’s 10th big-league season; he has spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves. McCann is a 7-time All-Star and has won one Silver Slugger. As a left-handed hitter, many expect McCann’s home run production to spike in 2014 as he takes advantage of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium.