As expected, the San Diego Padres non-tendered catcher Josh Bard, making him an unrestricted free agent. With San Diego the last three seasons, Bard had tremendous success as a semi-regular in 2006 (partially with Boston where he infamously struggled catching Tim Wakefield’s knuckler), a good year as a regular in 2007 (San Diego), and a horrible, injury-filled season in 2008:
2006 Age 28 (284 PA) 333/404/502 .410 wOBA
2007 Age 29 (443 PA) 285/364/404 .344 wOBA
2008 Age 30 (178 PA) 202/279/270 .255 wOBA
For those who only look at the most recent season’s results, you can stop reading now. For everyone else, Bard has very good plate discipline for a catcher and acceptable power. Bard spent half his playing time the last three years at Petco, an extreme pitcher’s park, which makes his 2006 and 2007 more impressive, and his 2008 more explainable. His 2008 stats were also hurt by severe bad luck – despite a healthy line drive rate of 21.6%, his BABIP was .230 (about .100 below his expected BABIP). Moving to the American League would hurt his stats, but the move away from Petco (career 245/346/366) would more than offset that.
Bard, who turns 31 before next opening day, probably will never come close to repeating his 2006 and is not good enough to start 135 games each year, but he is a good bet to bounce back and hit well enough to play regularly in a Gregg Zaun role. He is a switch hitter, and while he historically has been better from the right side (career 288/341/443), he is adequate from the left side for a catcher (256/330/376). Defensively, he has problems with the running game, but more importantly, does fine with blocking balls. He made $2.2 million last year, and considering he just cleared waivers after the Padres took him off their 40-man roster, he likely will sign in the $1-$2 million range next season. Bard would represent an immediate upgrade over Miguel Olivo and could serve as a stopgap starter if John Buck does not rebound from his lousy 2008.