NAPLES, Fla. -- At the end of this season, J.P. Ricciardi said in his annual wrapup that the Blue Jays No. 1 catcher for 2007 would probably be either Bengie Molina or Gregg Zaun.
It may turn out to be neither of them.
At the general managers' meetings yesterday afternoon, Ricciardi spoke with representatives of free agent Rod Barajas, who last year caught the bulk of the games for the Texas Rangers.
Barajas, a 31-year-old native of California, broke into the big leagues eight years ago as a catch-and-throw guy. But over the past two seasons, he has blossomed into a productive batter as in 2005 he hit a career high 21 home runs and drove in 60 runs while playing 120 games. Last season, in 97 games, he hit .256 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs.
"We've talked to them and we like him," Ricciardi said of Barajas, who is represented by Gregg Clifton. "Originally, they wanted to talk to us about him. It was our first meeting and it was a good one. We definitely have some interest there."
Clifton said that Barajas, who last year earned $3.2 million, would like a minimum of a two-year deal.
Why did they approach the Jays?
"We knew that both of Toronto catchers were free agents and we thought it would be a good fit," Clifton said. "When we mentioned it to Rod he was very interested and considers it to be a good possibility. We didn't talk money today, it's still early in the process."
Clifton added that five teams have expressed interest in his client.
The Jays interest, however, doesn't mean that they've changed their mind on bringing Zaun back. There's no way, though, that Molina will return.
"Zaun is still in there, we plan on talking to him. We haven't made a decision," Ricciardi added.
Another client of Clifton in whom the Jays also had preliminary discussion is an intriguing one -- left-hander Mark Mulder.
Mulder, 29, spent the past two seasons with St. Louis. Last year he suffered through an injury-plagued campaign which ended with rotator cuff surgery.
Terry Boss, a colleague of Clifton's, stressed that the surgery wasn't reconstructive, that there was some fraying of the rotator cuff that was cleaned out.
"He's going to start his throwing program on Jan. 1 and he'll be on the mound in March," Boss said. "However, he probably won't be ready for opening day."
With the cost of second-tier pitchers on the free-agent market approaching four years and $40 million US, Mulder may be a fallback possibility.
Although he earned $7,750,000 last season, he could be signed for a one-year contract that has a low base and includes a number of incentives.
"It's something that we're willing to explore," Ricciardi said. "We'll have to see."