M’s Options At Catcher?
What is about the catching position that has rendered it completely irrelevant to the mainstream baseball fan?
That may come off sounding a tad harsh, but it’s true. The catcher’s in today’s baseball has become the equivalent of what a drummer is to a rock and roll band. The blue collar guy who flies so far under the radar that everyone forgets he’s there.
It seems a little backwards don’t you think?
Because much like a rock band, if your team lacks a decent catcher/drummer, your team will most likely be unsuccessful. It seems like the Seattle Mariners catching, much like quality left-handed starting pitching, is a position where nobody has it and everybody wants it.
Not only is a good catcher hard to find on the open market, but it’s almost virtually impossible to trade for. It’s also one the hardest positions to develop in the minors. The intangibles a catcher must posses to play consistently in the major leagues are even harder to teach. They must possess the ability to handle every nuance a starting pitcher and reliever has in his repertoire .
The catcher must have the intelligence to call a good game, and be able to play defense at an above average level. Not to mention they also must have the ability to produce at the plate as well. It’s not just the most physically demanding position, but it’s also a position that requires an acute attention to detail.
You can now understand why the Mariners have not been able to replace Dan Wilson’s production. Good catchers are just too hard to come by.
Having Wilson’s presence behind the plate was so paramount to the success the Mariners experienced. It was the calming influence Wilson had on his pitching staff. Every pitcher trusted Wilson’s ability to put them in a position to succeed. It’s no coincidence that as soon as he retired, pitching numbers went up, and defensive numbers went down.
Once a pitcher begins to lose the trust in a catcher, it begins the cycle of trying to replace that catcher.
Since 2005, the Mariners have given playing time to nine different catchers deemed to be untrustworthy. Miguel Olivo, twice, Ben Davis, Pat Borders, Yorvit Torrealba, Rene Rivera, Jeff Clement, Wiki Gonzalez, Kenji Johjima, Rob Johnson, and Adam Moore.
The Mariners are still in that process of finding that next long term solution.
That solution for the 2012 season seems to have somewhat of an answer as Miguel Olivo returns in the second year of the two-year deal he signed last winter. While Olivo will be returning his 19 homeruns and 62 RBI’s, he also will be returning his 140 strike outs (1 per every 4 AB) and his 20 walks (in 130 games) . Olivo didn’t do his popularity any favors with his .224 BA, or his .253 OBP, but he was surprisingly durable playing in 130 games sometimes hurt. His aggressive playing style has made him a favorite with teammates and manager Eric Wedge.
Outside of Olivo, the Mainers have Adam Moore returning in 2012, but after two consecutive seasons worth of major knee surgeries, there are durability questions that surround Moore. He is currently working with former major league catcher Ted Simmons in the Arizona Fall League getting himself back in to game shape, and getting himself defensively ready for spring training.
At 27, and perhaps on the verge of potentially flaming out, the question begs to be asked; which Moore will we get? Are we going to get the Moore who was finally starting to show his promise before getting hurt in 2010, or will we be getting the often injured, 27 year-old with two bad knees? Those questions will be answered come February.
The Mariners simply cannot ignore lack of positional depth in the minors any longer.
The prospects the Mariners do have are either three years away from doing anything worthwhile, or will never be able climb the organizational ladder. This shouldn’t sit well with Mariners brass looking to strengthen .
The fact remains, catchers get injured all the time, and with a lack of organizational depth and a question mark in Moore, you can understand why the Mariners have had to use band-aids to patch things together until a solution presented itself. The Mariners finished the 2011 season with Chris Giminez and Josh Bard on the 25 man roster. Evidence that a change is long overdue.
This is a big problem the cannot easily be remedied. Major league teams are reluctant to give up a catcher prospect with tremendous upside unless there is someone blocking that prospects path to the big leagues. Even then, teams generally ask too high of a price making it not worth the while.
Making this even more of a problem is the free agent market.
The list of available catchers are filled with journeyman catchers that were never more then backups, and filled with guys way past their primes or on the verge of retiring.
Guys like Jason Veritek, Ramon Hernandez, Jason Kendall, Jorge Posada, and Ivan Rodriguez that offer nothing in way improvement to the Mariners, and would not be worth the price or roster spot to bring them in.
There is no question that the position needs a long term solution, but for right now Miguel Olivo is the best available option the Mariners have at the moment. It would behoove the Mariners to use the 2012 season to see if Adam Moore is the next long term guy.
With nothing better available and low expectations in 2012, there is nothing wrong with giving Moore his just due.
Otherwise, here is to hoping that Miguel Olivo can continue his streak of durability. It’s going to be needed. If not, this could be a very long season behind the plate.