The development of former first-rounder Devin Mesoraco took a little longer than the Cincinnati Reds might have expected, but their patience has paid off, as they have locked up one of 2014’s biggest breakout performers—and a potential franchise catcher—through the prime of his career and at a great value.

The two sides have agreed on a reported four-year extension worth $28 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The deal—worth up to $30 million total with incentives, per Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors—will run through the 2018 season, which would have been Mesoraco‘s first beyond team control. While the Reds bought out one year of the backstop’s free agency, Mesoraco still gets to hit the open market as a 30-year-old.

Considering the dearth of talent at catcher, this is a very savvy move by the Reds, who need some cost certainty—and a bargain or two.

In addition to the possibility of losing free-agents-to-be Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake from the rotation, the Reds roster is filled with high-salaried position player stars (or former stars) who are either coming off injury-plagued campaigns (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce) or declining rapidly as they age (Brandon Phillips).

Mesoraco, who was drafted 15th overall back in 2007 and didn’t get a chance to be the club’s full-time starter until last year, might not yet be a full-blown star—or even all that well known outside of Cincinnati—but he made the All-Star team in 2014 and even garnered some MVP votes for his all-around production.

The 26-year-old triple-slashed .273/.359/.534 with 50 extra-base hits, including 25 homers. And he did so in only 440 plate appearances.

Here’s a look at where Mesoraco ranked in those categories, as well as the all-encompassing wins above replacement among all backstops in 2014:

Mesoraco‘s 4.4 fWAR checked in as the fifth-highest among catchers, behind only Jonathan Lucroy (6.3 fWAR), Buster Posey (5.7), Russell Martin (5.3) and Yan Gomes (4.6).

And this is worth pointing out again: Mesoraco‘s production came in significantly fewer games played than three of those four, as only Martin (111 games) played fewer than Mesoraco‘s 114.

Among those five, only Gomes—by exactly one month—is younger than Mesoraco, who has at least a full year on the others, including Posey, who turns 28 in late March.

While Mesoraco has proved that his slugging bat and quality approach makes him an elite offensive catcher at the plate, he recognizes that he still is trying to figure things out better behind it:

“You just have to continue to work hard and stay hungry,” Mesoraco said, per Derrick Webb of the Chillicothe Gazette. “I need to keep improving my defense to really become one of the all around better catchers in the game. My defense needs to and will continue to improve the more that I’m (behind the plate) and the more comfortable I get. That’s the main focus, just going out there and doing my thing.”

As Mesoraco points out, a large part of getting better defensively could come merely from more playing time. Prior to last season, he had never started more than 84 games at catcher in the majors, and even his 2014 total of 104 starts was cut into by oblique and hamstring strains that required stints on the disabled list.

As is, Mesoraco was solid on D last year, ranking a little better than average in defensive runs saved. And while he could stand to throw out more base-stealers—he nabbed 18 of 69 attempts—his 26 percent caught-stealing rate was right around the league average of 28 percent.

While offense clearly is Mesoraco’s strength, he has shown enough to stick behind the plate going forward. That makes his bat all the more valuable, given that catcher rated as the third-worst aggregate on-base-plus slugging percentage (.689) among all positions in the majors in 2014, ahead of only second base (.686) and shortstop (.678).

In other words, for a franchise that boasts two of the best backstops in baseball history in Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Ernie Lombardi, Mesoraco‘s combination of pedigree, age, experience, hunger and all-around talent have him in position to become one of the sport’s next great catchers.

That is, if he isn’t already.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of, Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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