Scouting The Trade Market: Ryan Hanigan

Fan Confidence Poll: November 11th, 2013
The bet that can balance winning and Plan 189

The Yankees have a bunch of needs to address this winter and the catcher position is one of the biggest. The law firm of Cervelli, Stewart & Romine was one of the worst catching crops in baseball in 2013 and in definite need of an upgrade. The free agent market offers several quality backstops like Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Carlos Ruiz, but New York might not be able to afford them. At least not until the ruling in Alex Rodriguez‘s appeal hearing is handed down.

Late last week, the Reds made the first notable free agent signing of the winter by bringing in switch-hitting backstop Brayan Pena. Young Devin Mesoraco is untouchable, which means the veteran Ryan Hanigan is a man without a roster spot. In fact, soon after the Pena signing, Ken Rosenthal reported Cincinnati is likely to move the 33-year-old this winter. Buster Olney noted the Yankees (and Rays) have liked Hanigan in the past and could turn to him as a more cost effective catching option. Let’s break down his game.

The Pros

  • Hanigan’s offensive game is built around controlling the strike zone and getting on base. His walk rate both this year (11.4%) and over the last three years (11.6%) is above-average and has allowed him to post a .346 OBP since 2011 (.359 since breaking into the league full-time).
  • In addition to the walks, Hanigan rarely strikes out. He’s walked more than he’s struck out every year since 2008 and his strikeout rate was basically half the league average both this past year (10.4%) and over the last three years (10.3%). Only six players best his contact rate (91.4%) since 2011.
  • Hanigan has consistently graded out as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s thrown out 40% of attempted base-stealers in his career (47.5% over the last two years). He also ranks as one of the game’s best pitch-framers and has spoken about that skill at length.
  • Matt Swartz projects Hanigan to earn $2.3M next season, his final trip through arbitration. He is scheduled to become a free agent for the first time next winter.

The Cons

  • Hanigan did not hit a lick this past season, putting up a .198/.306/.261 (53 wRC+) batting line in 260 plate appearances. He has never hit for power (.063 ISO in 2013 and .081 career), so his offensive game depends entirely on those walks and putting the ball in play.
  • That gaudy walk rate has been artificially inflated. Hanigan has been intentionally walked 25 times (!) over the last three years, so his unintentional walk rate is a still solid but not excellent 9.0%. Batting eighth in front of the pitcher has its benefits.
  • As expected, he chips in nothing on the bases. Catchers usually don’t. Hanigan has attempted one (!) stolen base in parts seven big league seasons and he’s taken the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) a below-average 35% of the time in his career.
  • Hanigan has had some injury problems over the years, including two DL trips in 2013. He missed three weeks with an oblique strain and a month with a wrist sprain. Obviously the wrist could have contributed to the poor batting line. Hanigan has also dealt with concussion (2009) and thumb (2010) problems.

Given his low salary and the general dearth of catching, the Reds shouldn’t have much trouble finding a trade partner for Hanigan. I would be surprised if they have to non-tender him at the deadline on December 2nd. Not too many catchers have been traded one year prior to free agency in recent years, especially none similar to Hanigan. A.J. Pierzynski (Twins to Giants) was dealt one year before hitting the open market but that doesn’t really fit — he was younger and better and that trade was a decade ago. I haven’t the slightest idea of what it would take to acquire Hanigan in a trade.

If the Yankees aren’t going to spend big for McCann or Saltalamacchia or Ruiz, Hanigan is pretty much the only catcher they could bring in who would be an upgrade over the in-house options while not taking a huge bite out of the payroll pie. He’s a better defensive catcher than Stewart (pitch framing!) and even though he has zero power, Hanigan will at least put together quality at-bats and get on-base regularly via walks. It’s worth noting he had a career-low .216 BABIP in 2013 (.283 career) despite no change in his batted ball profile. A little BABIP rebound would get him back into the .270/.360/.340 range he sat from 2011-2012. That isn’t anything special, but it’s better than what the Yankees have now and the (financial) cost is very reasonable.

Fan Confidence Poll: November 11th, 2013
The bet that can balance winning and Plan 189
  • CountryClub

    Unless they get McCann, I think they Yanks should go with Romine, Murphy & Cervelli. Catcher is really the only position they can fill right now with players from the farm. We have no idea what Romine and Murphy will turn in to, but they showed promise last yr.

    • Dr. Grenaldine

      Combining to be the worst tandem in 2013 is showing promise though? Catcher is probably the most important position besides starting pitching that they need. The fact that they signed Ichiro for two years and let Martin walk just shows how poorly run management is these days. Not to mention the farm, etc.

      • CountryClub

        Stewart got the bulk of the playing time. Romine really struggled when he was playing once a week. But once he got regular time he started to hit.

        Look, I’m not saying Romine (or Murphy) are going to be All Stars, but neither is Hanigan.

      • Nick Social

        Romine, Murphy and Cervelli barely played last year.

    • Eselquetodolosabe

      I’m probably one of the few people that totally agrees with you. I don’t see catching as a major need, and I would be ok with the trio of Cervelli / Romine / Murphy. Maybe my view is blissful ignorance, but I liked what I saw from Murphy/Romine, and I’m still curious to see what Cervelli might be able to accomplish “if” injury free.

  • LarryM Fl

    The Yankees have a long history of good hitting catchers. Last years aberration of a catching group was not the norm. The simple adage of strong up the middle would be the three FA catchers. I’m sure Salty would be cheaper and younger than McCann or Ruiz. If unavailable suffer with Romine/Cervelli for the time being. May the best man win and let them play to establish themselves with the other man as backup.

  • Mark Teixiera – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    I would be very much in favor of trading for Hanigan, it would give the kids another year of development and he could be a cheap and effective stopgap at the catching position.

  • Robinson Tilapia


    Unless the upgrade is clear, you’ve only got five catchers who need to be on the 40-man to be with the team. Maybe with six you get eggroll.


  • csonk

    I thought Cervelli hit last year – for the little while he played & his defense also ‘seemed’ improved. With the budgetary constraints of the Cashman-less (cause he has no clue what to do with a club that HAS budgetary constraint) Yankees of today………..go with Cervelli and Romine to start & Murph if Romine starts poorly again. Romine ‘IS’ still a prospect.

  • JFish

    I’d be interested in Dioner Navarro over Ryan Hanigan for offense. Navarro could be a great 300-400 AB catcher for the next year or two until one of our prospect catchers is ready for the gig.

    • RetroRob

      Navarro is on KLaw’s potential bargain list, for whatever that’s worth, writing:

      Navarro is the one free-agent catcher who should get backup money but has the chance to perform like a regular, making him the one potential bargain I see right now — which isn’t to say that he’s risk-free. He performed way above his established levels of production in 2013, but has a few modest skills, including some patience, a little pop, and an above-average throwing arm, that could make him a two-WAR catcher even if he’s stretched to everyday duty. It’s a reach, but if the choice is Navarro or an established veteran with no recent history of performance like John Buck or Kurt Suzuki, I’d roll the dice on Navarro first.

  • Dalek Jeter

    Unless it’s McCann or going back in time and resigning Martin, I’d much rather stick with Romine/Cervelli/Murphy while selling Stewart to some independent Alaskan league.

    • Commenter from the Future


  • No Cashman 2015!

    Why not just see if we can get by on Cervelli, Romine and Murphy until Sanchez is ready in 2016. We have way to many other needs and have to land 2 solid starters and 1-2 more RP’s.

  • Dick M

    I’d pass.

    One of the reasons we are in this mess is a lack of commitment to our prospects.

    We need to create a culture where the prospects come up and they know they have a chance. The handling of Romine last year is an object lesson in how not to do things.

    Then there’s the resource issue. We have multiple young catching prospects. So it’s a great opp to “save” some payroll, freeing up cash that can be spent elsewhere.

    We go out of our way to draft and sign catchers (Montero, Sanchez, Romine, Murphy et al) and yet when they get close we should go after FA catchers and bury our prospects?

    We have no “left side of the infield” prospects anywhere near ready. That’s where the resources should go.

  • MannyGeee

    UNLESS you are getting McCann, or UNLESS you are trading away/shooting one or two of the StewVelli/MurphLettuce combo, I would probably pass.

    Sure… in a bubble, he’s an upgrade over at least 2 of the guys on the 40 man now. But Hanigan is not the answer. If you are trading for a catcher, he should be the clear favorite for the job, not another in the bucket.

  • BaltimoreYankee

    Was the stolen base attempt successful?

    • EricVA


  • Eselquetodolosabe

    I’m in the vast majority that hopes to not see Stewart on our roster. Nice guy but ….., That whole Girardi / Stewart dynamic seemed weird to me. Girardi had nothing but love for Stewart, while people were screaming for Romine playing time. Girardi’s forgotten more baseball than I’ll ever know, so I guess I’ll defer.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Who was screaming for it, other than us, though? For all intents and purposes, it does seem like Girardi is far from his only supporter on that team.

  • Batsman

    A few points:
    a) For the Yankees, catching is a defensive position. This means that offensive production is nothing but a bonus for the Yankees.

    b) Cervelli, hit well last year @ .269/.377 in 17 games last season and has a career (albeit a short one) .271/.343.

    c) If the Yankees are seriously thinking of getting younger and cheaper, ONE spot in the lineup can be reserved for developmental purposes.

    d) I don’t mind the Yankees getting Hanigan since his salary is dirt cheap. He would just provide depth for the lineup.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      a) Jorge Posada wasn’t Johnny Bench.

      b) Even though he’s now been around several seasons, we’ve never seen Frankie Cervelli play every day. There’s reasons for that.

      c) Agreed.

      d) Are we sure Hanigan really offers something the others already here don’t?

      I totally endorse signing a circa “American Pie” Alyson Hannigan, btw.

  • Farewell Mo

    FWIW, Keith Law has Ruiz ranking among the worst values for catcher.

    Signing Martin to bridge the 2-3 years to Murphy or Sanchez would have made just too much sense.

  • mitch

    It doesn’t seem like many people here are interested in Ruiz, but i’d definitely be happy with him if they can’t get McCann. He doesn’t come without issues, but the price should be reasonable and he’s been one of the better catchers in baseball the last 5 years.

  • dars

    The Yankees should proceed and do business as if ARod suspension will be held or at least be 150 games. Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Johnny Peralta all took their suspensions without argument, that tells me the evidence was overwhelming and they say they have a whole lot omore on ARod. I am inclined to think that the 211 game suspension will stand.
    The Yankees stand to lose a whole lot of money, a lot more than they would save with the luxury tax if they put an inferior product on the field. They will lose on ticket purchases, advertisement (no one wants to invest on something no one is watching), souvernirs (people do not want to wear articles of losing teams), etc, etc….

  • cranky

    Ryan Hanigan?
    Is Wil Nieves dead?