This has been quite the rollercoaster of a season so far, we've experienced some of the lowest lows this team has ever went through in the first months of the season, yet at the same time there have been some pretty good highs. While there have been many things going wrong with this team early on that managed to sort themselves out fairly quickly, such as the bullpen issues and Trumbo's everyday position problem among others there has been one glaring issue with this team that they haven't been able to get a handle on. The Angels starting catcher situation has been a nagging problem for years, first with the whole
Mathis/Napoli fiasco then Hank Conger falling far short of expectations in his first year in the bigs. Many thought that this problem would mend itself with the arrival of new catcher Chris Ianetta and the power/patience package he brought to the team. His low career batting average hides his ability to get on base at a relatively strong rate. He managed to get off to a slow start this season, and after his wrist injury it became apparent that the Angels were pathetically low on options at the backstop.
But what about Hank Conger?
While he has been seen as the catcher of the future for the Angels for a little while his struggles to adapt to the majors as well as his susceptibility to injury have put a fog over his future with the ball club. Right now it seems to me that his future could go either way, he could end up playing backup to Chris Ianetta near the end of the season if not next season, or he could be playing catcher for some other ball club. The Angels seem willing to give him another shot at cracking the big league club permanently, though it Ianetta has trouble bouncing back from his wrist injury he could end up making a solid trade piece to bring a more viable option back home. However, it would be FAR easier for the Angels to explore free agent options than scour the trade market for a good fit.
After this season there will be quite a pool of catcher to pick from, the cream of the crop being Mike Napoli, A.J Pierzynski, Russell Martin, Ryan Doumit, and Chris Iannetta of course. If the Angels choose to not offer Iannetta a contract extension after he comes back from surgery based on his performance then the chances are they will explore the other more viable options before coming back to him. Now let's think about this rationally for a minute, and by rationally I mean get Mike Napoli out of your head. No way in hell he's going to come back to Anaheim, not after the many public feuds he had with Mike Scioscia regarding his playing time and his handling as a catcher. He's made it clear he did not enjoy his time playing with the Angels and that just has to let you know that he does not intend on even entertaining any serious offers from this team in the offseason, if he does have the urge to come back to LA it's going to be with the Dodgers (who I wouldn't be surprised to make a serious going at him). After Napoli you can scratch off A.J Pierzynski, he's easily one of the most hated players by the Angels fan base after the 2005 ALCS. I have to think that it's a mutual acceptance that this fan base does not want him, and he does not want this fan base. Time to look at some serious options for catcher.