Leverage And What To Do To RosterOctober 7th, 2012 by terrybenish
Watching the morning game with Oakland and Detroit you got to see how critical defense is to your choice as a catcher in a critical moment. Two balls got by each team’s catcher allowing tying runs to score. Technically as per the scorer’s perspective each pitch hit the ground in front of the catcher which would make it a wild pitch. The ball that got by Kottaras hit the plat and went over his head. I suppose he could have blocked it with his face by leaping up, Laird set up away and the ball came back hard inside and he was very slow in reacting back. Laird’s listed at 225, which is down from 240 a few years back. Both guys are much, much better receivers than Miguel Olivo who’s contract has an option for 2013 on the part of the team.
Lurking is the prospect of young Mike Zunino arriving at the major league level to play for ten years. Whether that is out of spring training, the all star break or September of next year.
Noticeable catching free agents with or without options include Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Chris Iannetta, Brian McCann, Jose Molina, Carlos Ruiz, Chris Snyder and Matt Treanor.
It has been determined that big Jesus is not really good enough to play the position because of his relative lack of athleticism which gets in the way of being able to throw out runners despite decent arm strength. John Jaso is a great hitter, best on the team by far. Wedge did not play him much for the first fifty one games of the season and then exclusively for the rest of the year against right handers. Olivo getting all of those but a handful. Despite that Jaso had a higher on-bag against left handers in a few plate appearances than Olivo, plus a far superior receiver than Olivo and acceptable throwout percentages. Teams attempted to steal in 68 of the 73 games Olivo caught, while it was only 34 attempts in the 43 games Jaso caught. 47 successful stolen bases out of 68 attempts is not controlling the run which was the decision point for Wedge to play Olivo.
Although Jose Molina is nominally a free agent and Tampa Bay has an option I’d be tempted to call him up and ask him if brother Benji had fifty more games in him. He has not played since 2010 and may be approaching four bills as we speak.
Mike Napoli’s OPS despite a low batting average was .812 this year, coming off the monstrous year he had in 2011. In 72 games this year 24 balls got passed him, whether wild pitches or passed balls. We should change the statistic to balls behind catcher or BBC. Has a nice ring to it. That is kind of high, but not too bad. Our leader Miguel had 8 passed balls while enduring 26 wild pitches (this is a measure of how bad a job the scorer did). This from a guy who tried to do glove saves on all 34 of those BBCs as opposed to trying to block ball. Worst receiver in baseball, but Wedge likes his arm.
All of this to say do you sign a catcher or let Olivo go? If you were to sign Napoli (He would have to receive an offer twice that of the Rangers and still would not come) what would that do to the playing of Jaso and Montero? Montero could dh but Jaso would not play much at all as Napoli plays better against right handers. It’s not going to happen. It seems as if the decision is to bring back Olivo or sign somebody. There is not much to pick from and I guarantee you Wedge likes Olivo. I don’t think you should sign anyone, beyond a guy to back up Jaso, a second tier guy.
Let’s set the framework to how you should think about this for the whole positional roster. Generally if you think in terms of supply of free agents that are good, there will be more corner guys than people up the middle, corners equating to 1b, 3b, lf, rf and dh…middle, cf, ss, 2b and c. As a general statement there will always be more good to great corner guys than middle guys. If your middle guys that are good to great offensively, you should keep them as they are very rare. Corner guys less so.
Michael Saunders is a key litmus to read the future of the team. If he is shifted to left or right, so the perpetually injured Franklin Gutierrez can play it would not bode well for the team or Saunders. As a hitter Saunders shows relative potential for a center fielder, as a corner guy less so. Gutierrez it has been discovered suffers from Jack Wilson disease and caught it from him in 2010. It is doubtful there is an available cf as a free agent without an option they could get or afford. I anticipate Saunders will be better next year.
Shortstop is a position that if the Mariners continue with Brendan Ryan who might be the best defensive short stop in baseball but is the worst offensive player in baseball with his .555 OPS. When they played him, Ackley, Olivo and anybody else, even Saunders it is almost impossible to win. Throw in Smoak and Figgins and Thames and it is hopeless. Zunino will make Ryan more viable in the sense you can carry that bad of a hitter.
Ackley though better than Ryan was terrible this year. I watched him be interviewed and he was asked about what he had to do to be good and stop struggling. His response was almost dismissive and he said I know I can hit. There is a huge disconnect between that statement and what his results show and what his approach showed. He did modify his swing, but still struggles with pitches middle away of any kind. Kyle Seager is a better hitter and defender at second base. The best hitter in the system is Stefen Romero who is a third baseman and a great hitter. I’d move Seager to second and play Romero at third in a heart beat. Send Ackley down, until he beats the door down. There are no free agent second basemen or shortstops that are good.
Brad Miller and Nick Franklin represent offensive upgrades at short stop coming soon. Both of them have good arms, Franklin maybe a little short, range wise. Carlos Triunfel made his appearance in Seattle this fall as a very toolsy guy with a huge arm. Has never, ever lived up to the offensive expectations either in the minors or here. In the last two years of 208 games at short stop he’s made 54 errors. Miller had 36 errors in 134 games this year, while Franklin had 30 errors in his last 116 games at ss.
Here is the list of all outfielders that are free agents in MLB, * indicates the team has an option for 2013. List courtesy of Baseball Prospectus: Bobby Abreu, Alfredo Amegaza, Rick Ankiel, Michael Bourn, Marlon Byrd, Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Matt Diaz, Kosuke Fukudome, Jonny Gomes, Curtis Granderson *, Scott Hairston, Josh Hamilton, Eric Hinske, Torii Hunter, Raul Ibanez, Reed Johnson, Andruw Jones, Carlos Lee, Ryan Ludwick *, Hideki Matsui, Xavier Nady, Angel Pagan, Juan Pierre, Juan Rivera *, Cody Ross, Luke Scott *, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Spilborghs, Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Swisher, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Reggie Willits and Delmon Young.
The guys whose name is in bold would be upgrades albeit unwilling ones. I don’t see a single guy with money being even that would choose to come here among the bolded names. Who knows? Maybe Nolan Ryan will so anger Josh Hamilton and he’s here in next April.
More to come along with pitching thoughts and a post on potential trades involving pitchers.