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Tigers' Bryan Holaday likely better than a free agent catcher for 2016

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The Tigers need a partner to share catching duties with James McCann in 2016, but don't expect anyone new.

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Rookie James McCann took over for Alex Avila as the Detroit Tigers' starting catcher in 2015, starting 103 games behind the plate. McCann did a fine job in his rookie season both offensively and defensively, hitting .264 with seven home runs, and throwing out 41 percent of attempted base stealers. McCann will be back as the starting catcher in 2016 while Avila will be a free agent, looking for a job elsewhere as a starting catcher if he can find it.

Tigers general manager Al Avila confirmed that is is unlikely his son will be back next season with the Tigers, telling reporters, "I don't really see it as a priority. Right now, (James) McCann is our starting catcher and (Bryan) Holaday is coming back, but is out of options."

Bryan Holaday showed improvement at the plate in 2015, hitting .281/.292/.453 in 65 major league place appearances. Holaday served in a backup role while Avila was on the disabled list, and made eight appearances in September. Holaday threw out 28.6 percent of base stealers in 2015, and like McCann and Avila, did not make an error all season. Holaday accumulated 0.3 WAR in just 24 games, the same as Avila posted in 67 games.

A look at the list of free agent catchers doesn't look very appealing even if the Tigers were to look for an alternative to Holaday. A backup catcher will have to work about 50 games behind the plate, and since Holaday is out of options, he either has to be on the 25 man roster or clear waivers before he can be sent back to the minor leagues next season. Here is how Holaday compared offensively to current free agent catchers in 2015.

Player PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
A.J. Pierzynski 436 9 49 .300 .339 .430 .333 112 2.1
Geovany Soto 210 9 21 .219 .301 .406 .331 94 1.1
Matt Wieters 282 8 35 .267 .319 .422 .321 100 1.0
Chris Iannetta 317 10 34 .188 .293 .335 .281 80 0.5
Dioner Navarro 192 5 20 .246 .307 .374 .296 84 0.5
Alex Avila 219 4 13 .191 .339 .287 .294 82 0.3
Bryan Holaday 65 2 13 .281 .292 .453 .320 100 0.3
Brayan Pena 367 0 18 .273 .334 .324 .295 82 0.3
Jordan Pacheco 78 2 8 .242 .333 .333 .300 83 -0.1

The Tigers need to have some young players come up from their farm system and fill roles on the major league team. With two starting pitchers, two relief pitchers and at least one outfielder needed due to departing free agents, the backup catcher is the one place where a spot is likely to be filled internally. Backup catchers are not particularly expensive, but a left-handed hitting catcher is difficult to find. With Avila likely playing in a different uniform in 2016, expect Holaday to spend most of the year as McCann's backup in Detroit.