After his game-winning homer last night, Rod Barajas leads all MLB catchers with seven longballs and is third in RBI with 14. He’s also a good defensive catcher who has drawn praise for his work with the Mets pitching staff. Barajas may not be destined for the All-Star team, particularly since he is also hitting .231 with just two walks in 83 plate appearances. But I think everyone can agree that he is at least a solid major-league catcher.
But Barajas had trouble getting a major-league contract this past offseason despite putting up good power numbers for a catcher for Toronto last year (19 homers, 71 RBI). In late February, the Mets and Rangers offered Barajas minor-league deals. The Mets signed Barajas when they upgraded their offer to a major-league deal, the first and only such offer Barajas received.
At the start of the season, the head of the Players’ Union said that he was considering filing a collusion grievance because players were getting similar offers from different teams. Barajas ended up getting $1 million guaranteed from the Mets with an additional $1M in incentives. Last year, he made $2.5 million with Toronto.
If every offer Barajas received was a significant pay cut, it could be collusion, and it also could be a market correction in a down economy.
But what’s harder to justify is that the only offers Barajas received were for minor-league deals. How could all thirty clubs agree that Rod Barajas was not necessarily a major-league catcher?
Fortunately for the players, some players did get deals that couldn’t have had anything do to with collusion. For example, Omar Minaya gave Kelvim Escobar $1.25 million guaranteed to, well, have more surgery. Mike Jacobs got $900,000 if he made the majors with $1.1M in incentives. Alex Cora got $2 million.
So before giving Minaya any credit for landing Barajas at a discount, think about what he did with the money he saved by not signing Bengie Molina.