ROD BARAJAS
CATCHER
Born: September 5, 1975
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 250
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: International Free Agent, 1996 (Arizona)
How Acquired: Free Agent
Birthplace: Ontario, Canada
Agent: Icon Sports Group

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

After declining their options on Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, the Pirates moved quickly to sign Barajas as a free agent.  He’s had a long major league career in which he’s averaged a little under 100 games a year, as he’s missed time in nearly every season with a variety of injuries.  At this stage he’s probably around average defensively.  His CS% was consistently in the 30s through most of his career, but he hasn’t been as good the last two years.  According to research done by Baseball Prospectus, he’s been below average at framing pitches over the past few years.  (There are, however, other studies that reach different conclusions, so catchers’ influence on ball/strike calls should be considered still up in the air.)  He hasn’t had a lot of trouble with passed balls or errors.  Offensively he’s been a little below average for a catcher over his career.  He has above-average power for the position, but he doesn’t hit for average and has usually had OBPs well below .300 due to extremely low walk rates.  He’s very slow, but usually hits the ball in the air so he’s not a big GIDP risk.

1996
R+:  337/378/594, 175 AB, 9 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 12 BB, 24 K, 2-3 SB
A+:  162/244/203, 3 2B, 7 BB, 21 K

Barajas debuted in the advanced rookie Pioneer League and hit for very good power.

1997
A+:  266/297/427, 199 AB, 11 2B, 7 HR, 8 BB, 41 K, 0-2 SB

In high A, in the extreme high-offense environment at High Desert, Barajas had a season that presaged his major league career.  He hit for decent power but seldom got on base due to very poor plate discipline.

1998
A+:  303/345/518, 442 AB, 26 2B, 23 HR, 25 BB, 81 K, 1-2 SB

Returned to High Desert and hit for good power, with weak plate discipline.

1999
AA:  318/354/488, 510 AB, 41 2B, 2 2B, 14 HR, 24 BB, 73 K 2-2 SB
MLB:  250/294/500, 16 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K

Had a very similar season in AA, again with good power but few walks, although this time he did hit for average.  He made his major league debut in September.

2000
AAA:  226/253/380, 416 AB, 25 2B, 13 HR, 14 BB, 65 K, 4-7 SB
MLB:  231/231/462, 13 AB, 1 HR, 4 K 

Struggled in AAA, hitting for modest power but little else.

2001
AAA:  321/366/568, 162 AB, 13 2B, 9 HR, 9 BB, 23 K, 3-4 SB
MLB:  160/191/274, 106 AB, 3 2B, 3 HR, 4 BB, 26 K

Split the season between AAA and the Diamondbacks, hammering the ball in the minors and struggling to make contact in the majors.

2002
AAA:  438/471/688, 16 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K
MLB:  234/288/357, 154 AB, 10 2B, 3 HR, 10 BB, 25 K, 1-1 SB

Spent most of the season as the backup to Damian Miller.

2003
A+:  417/462/417, 12 AB, 1 BB, 2 K
AAA:  438/471/688, 16 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K
MLB:  218/265/327, 220 AB, 15 2B, 3 HR, 14 BB, 43 K

Shared the D’backs’ catching job with Chad Moeller.  He continued to struggle at the plate and also missed time with a hamstring injury.

2004
MLB:  249/276/453, 358 AB, 26 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 13 BB, 63 K, 0-1 SB

As the primary catcher for Texas, Barajas finally started to make progress with the bat, entirely in the form of added power as he seldom got on base.

2005
MLB:  254/306/466, 410 AB, 24 2B, 21 HR, 26 BB, 70 K

Continued to make progress as the Rangers’ starting catcher, hitting for a better average and drawing more walks.

2006
MLB:  256/298/410, 344 AB, 20 2B, 11 HR, 17 BB, 51 K

Still serving as the Rangers’ regular catcher, Barajas missed time off and on with back problems and didn’t have as good a year at the plate as 2005.

2007
A:  375/474/500, 16 AB, 2 2B, 3 BB, 6 K
AA:  200/200/200, 5 AB
MLB:  230/352/393, 122 AB, 8 2B, 4 HR, 21 BB, 24 K, 0-1 SB

Barajas signed with the Phillies, but struggled early and lost playing time to Carlos Ruiz.  He also spent time on the DL with a groin injury.

2008
MLB:  249/294/410, 349 AB, 23 2B, 11 HR, 17 BB, 61 K

After the Phillies declined their option on Barajas, he signed with Toronto and spent the year as the Jays’ primary catcher.  He put up numbers very close to his career numbers.  He missed much of September with a hamstring injury.

2009
MLB:  226/258/403, 429 AB, 19 2B, 19 HR, 20 BB, 76 K, 1-1 SB

Spent the year as the regular for the Jays, although he missed a little time with another hamstring problem.  Aside from a good HR total, he hit very little.

2010
R (NYM):  250/250/1.000, 4 AB, 1 HR, 1 K
A+ (NYM):  235/235/235, 17 AB, 2 K
MLB (NYM):  225/263/414, 249 AB, 11 2B, 12 HR, 8 BB, 39 K
MLB (LAD):  297/361/578, 64 AB, 3 2B, 5 HR, 5 BB, 15 K

Barajas signed with the Mets.  He hit very little with them, again beyond a decent number of HRs.  His throwing also fell off, as he caught only 15%, both with the Mets and after joining the Dodgers.  He also missed time due to an oblique strain.  The Mets waived Barajas in August and worked out a deal with the Dodgers where they sent him to LA for cash.  He hit very well in his stint with the Dodgers and re-signed with them for 2011.

2011
A+:  389/421/667, 18 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K
MLB:  230/287/430, 305 AB, 13 2B, 16 HR, 22 BB, 71 K

Barajas was the Dodgers’ primary catcher, but he missed time with a wrist injury and a sprained ankle.  His hitting was very close to his career norms, but he threw out only 25% of opposing base stealers.

2012
MLB:  206/283/343, 321 AB, 11 2B, 11 HR, 29 BB, 69 K

Barajas declined badly both offensively and defensively.  Aside from a big month of May, when he hit 302/357/556, and a decent September, when he hit 240/321/380, he was an absurdly easy out all year.  His OPS in the other four months was .406, .596, .541 and .522.  PNC Park and its cavernous left field was predictably a bad venue for him, as he hit only 204/261/287 there.  The one positive factor in his hitting was the fact that he actually posted a decent walk rate.  Defensively, he was historically bad at controlling the running game.  He threw out only six of 99 base stealers, a pitiful 6%.  (Of the six, two were actually picked off, so Barajas really threw out only four.  He didn’t throw out any after July.)  That’s the worst showing since the statistics started being kept in 1960.  Much of the blame at times was laid at the feet of the Pirates’ pitchers, but their starters as a group have been more or less average historically at holding runners.  What’s more, Mike McKenry threw out 18%, which is bad but not nearly at Barajas’ level.  Many fans became increasingly frustrated with Clint Hurdle’s insistence on continuing, right up to the end of the season, on playing Barajas more often than McKenry, who was having a good season at the plate.  The Pirates defended Hurdle’s decisionmaking by claiming that they had data indicating that Barajas’ receiving skills are so much better than McKenry’s that the team was better than Barajas behind the plate.  That’s extremely hard to swallow, given how big the difference between their hitting was and how helpless Barajas was against base stealers.  Even if you look at the dubious stat of CERA, Barajas’ (3.75) wasn’t all that much better than McKenry’s (4.18).  The difference probably resulted mostly from the fact that Barajas was the personal catcher for the team’s best pitcher, A.J. Burnett.

Barajas has a team option for 2013, with no buyout.  They haven’t given any indication whether they’ll exercise the option, but it’d be a colossal blunder.  Given his age and his extreme lack of athleticism, he could decline even more.  The one positive sign–the increased walk rate–often happens with older hitters who take more pitches to compensate for the fact that there are fewer pitches that they can handle.  In other words, it’s not necessarily a good sign.  Barajas has said he’d like to return for less than his $3.5M option, but the Pirates need to look elsewhere for another catcher.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2013: team declined $3,500,000 option (no buyout)
2012:
$4,000,000
2011: $3,250,000
2010:
$500,000
2009: $2,500,000
2008:
 $700,000
2007:
 $2,500,000
2006:
 $3,200,000
2005:
 $1,850,000
2004:
 $500,000
2003:
 $300,000
2002:
 $215,000
2001:
$208,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1996
MLB Debut: 9/25/1999
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: September, 1999
Options Remaining: 0 (USED:  2000, 2001, 2002)
MLB Service Time: 12.000
TRANSACTIONS
January 23, 1996: Signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an international free agent.
September 18, 1999: Contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
December 21, 2003: Became a free agent.
January 12, 2004:
 Signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers.
October 31, 2006: Became a free agent.
December 21, 2006: Signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies.
October 30, 2007: Became a free agent.
January 26, 2008: Signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
November 9, 2009: Became a free agent.
February 24, 2010: Signed as a free agent with the New York Mets.
August 22, 2010: Purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers from the New York Mets.
November 1, 2010: Became a free agent.
December 3, 2010: Signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
October 30, 2011: Became a free agent.
November 10, 2011: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.