We’ve all been talking about what the Mariners can do to improve this off-season and while we all agree that third base is a concern a lot of fans continue to dwell in left field. While, I don’t disagree that it’s an issue, I’m less concerned with it. Yes, I would like to see a left handed bat that has shown the ability to hit major league pitching, or at least right handed pitching, ala Will Venable. But really there quite a few different individuals that could potential fit the bill. Dave Cameron threw out Angel Pagan, who I’m also a fan of, and there is Jeremy Hermida that vaguely interests me as a potential platoon partner. Then of course there is Grady Sizemore and all the murmuring that is going on with him.
We can do a lot of speculate at this point and really that’s half the fun. My real point here is, though, left is less of an issue than most people think. I certainly am not saying that it’s not a concern but when you compare it to say the major league Catchers that we have it’s less of an issue. Mike Carp, while really not very good, is someone that could be platooned to a point to where he could help out with the position while giving someone like Casper Wells, a very good defensive outfielder (and possible an solid hitter), the meat of the starts (assuming his health issues have cleared up, which is a HUGE concern of mine; SEE: Denard Span and Justin Morneau).
The point is the Mariners have options there that have shown the ability to be potentially be average if not perhaps slightly better than average. Miguel Olivo has never ever been a league average hitter, and sure he’s a catching so you take what you can get, but despite the fact that “pitchers love him” he’s a terrible with balls in the dirt. How many times has Safeco field collectively sighed at a Felix Hernandez fastball in the dirt? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the perils of catching, especially Felix, as I was a catcher in High School and not a very good one. So take perhaps the most electrifying pitcher in all of the sport and add some of the most insane movement and you have a very difficult pitcher to catch. I’m not saying that I fully understand it, but I can certainly relate.
The problem isn’t that Olivo isn’t a below average defensive catcher. Looking at the defensive rankings that are calculated and accumulated by Matt Klaassen over at BtB Olivo was THE WORST, not just below average, THE WORST defensive catcher in ALL of baseball. Certainly catching both Pineda and Felix don’t help but Olivo has already been an pointed out as a poor defensive catcher in both 2009 and 2010. So 2011 isn’t exactly one of those outliers that we can just look past.
Not only was he the worst defensive catcher, he was also the worst hitting catcher among qualified hitters, posting a wRC+ of 71.
The Mariners need certainly need a third basemen, but catcher has to be on the list. Ramon Hernandez is certainly an intriguing option and I’m not looking at his offensive numbers. Going back to 2009 Hernandez has been one of the best defensive catchers in the league and this year was no exception. Kelly Shopach, the guy I suggested going after, was one of the best in the league with preventing passed balls/wild pitches.
There are quite a few good defensive options. I really don’t know what we are going to get out of Moore and I’m trying not to rule him out just yet, but reports from Jason Churchill aren’t exactly promising (though they do need to be taken with a grain of salt) and instead of trying to chase a Unicorn (aka finding a long term catching solution as soon as this off-season),which just fills like futility, I’d rather they try to do what they did in 2009 and center field. Where they went after the best possible defensive guy available and hope that with some patience his offense would come around.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem going after someone like Chris Iannetta or even going after someone like Matt Wieters (if either are available), I realize Wieter’s probably not available but if you’re going to throw a Pineda package at a team for someone, he’s the someone that I would be willing to give up.
Again, this is pure conjecture. I’m not saying the Mariners need to go after Wieters or Iannetta or Hernandez or even Shoppach. It’s just a position I’m more worried about the organization filling considering the lack of immediate alternative options that we have either at the major league level or high minors. Because of the lack of options I’m suggesting going after someone that can at least provide defensive stability to a position that has had a ton of issues since… well maybe since Dan Wilson.
I’m feeling really good about what they’ve done with the minor league depth last year but it’s going to be a couple of years before it’s really close to being ready. This team of course has a lot of holes to fill but the team needs to do something specifically behind the plate this off-season and can’t just hope on Adam Moore stepping up to the plate.