One of the more intriguing buy low candidates on the free agent market is catcher Michael Barrett. Last year he was absolutely pitiful - hitting .244/.281/.372 - while changing teams mid-season in what surmounted to a challenge trade - Barrett and cash to San Diego for catcher Rob Bowen and minor leaguer Kyler Burke.
Barrett's had an interesting career, a former first round pick by the Montreal Expos he never really lived up to the hype, having his best season north of the border in 1999 - .293/.345/.436 - his rookie season, but would have a pretty nice year in 2002 as well, hitting .263/.332/.418. The organization would flip him around a bit, in fact in 1999 he played 66 games at third base and only 59 at catcher, with two appearances at shortstop. He wouldn't become a full-time catcher until 2001 and in 2002 would play six games at first base, otherwise he's played catcher in every game since, minus two designated hitter assignments.
On December 15th, 2003 Barrett would be traded to the Oakland Athletics for a player to be named later (Bret Price), moments later he would be traded again; this time to the Chicago Cubs for veteran catcher Damian Miller and cash. Barrett would spend the last three seasons in the Windy City, and have his three best years, as illustrated below.
Always known for his fiery temperament Barrett will infamously be remembered for giving A.J. Pierzynski the business - a stiff hook to the jaw that left Pierzynski standing, but respected figures like Greg Maddux and Buck Martinez have always complimented Barrett on his demeanor. My co-writer at DRaysBay, Jake Larsen, compares him to Crash Davis from the movie Bull Durham - a veteran catcher who will help younger players, but isn't afraid to keep their egos in check.
In 2007 he'd fall apart, as previously mentioned statistically he was awful, but he also had quite a few issues outside of playing including getting into some arguments with pitchers Rich Hill and Ted Lilly and actually fighting Carlos Zambrano - although in Barrett's defense Zambrano is insane - all of which lead to his exit.
Trend wise it appears he just hit too many flyballs, but you also have to consider that Barrett's best offensive seasons came while playing half of his games at Wrigley Field, perhaps that had something to do with his production?
Defensively Barrett is much maligned and his caught stealing percentages aren't pretty - 22% being his high since 2004, and roughly 13% for San Diego last year, but lately he's worked a ton with pitchers like Greg Maddux who doesn't exactly feature the quickest delivery in the league. It's hard to say how many of his stolen bases allowed are on him, but in a vacuum I don't think he's nearly as bad as the past two seasons have looked.
He's never been much for patience at the plate, with his last four seasons of pitches per plate appearance ranging from 3.6 down to 3.4, ideally he'd sit a bit closer to 4, but with the catcher market being what it is - not much - and a ton of the young catchers being the likes of Joe Mauer and Russell Martin, it's hard to not take a gamble on Barrett - someone with prior success and a possible anomaly indicator built in.
With that being said Barrett accepted arbitration from the Padres today, however it appears the team may just trade him for a few young players rather than hold onto him and pay around five million for a part-time backstop; I know that the Rays have had interest, and the two organizations have hooked up for trades twice in the past two seasons - notably exchanging first round busts Sean Burroughs and Dewon Brazelton, and sending two minor league arms - Evan Meek and Dale Thayer - for Russell Branyan - it's not unconceivable that Barrett gets traded before spring training.