Making the case for Miguel Olivo


We’re only a couple weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, and there’s one catcher that is likely to be talked about quite a bit once that happens. First, let me say that I’m not excited to see Olivo in back on the Mariner’s roster. My hope is that he’ll get traded to a contender in July so the M’s can pursue someone better next winter. Still, I often find it entertaining to take the position opposite of my personal belief, and see if I can create a realistic argument for that side. So we’ll see. I figured I’d do so by examining the main complaints I’ve seen against Olivo:

1) Olivo simply isn’t that good.

The first thing we need to look at is just how bad the 2010 M’s catchers were. The catcher position combined for an outlandishly bad .250 wOBA and a OPS of just .564.  This should come as no surprise, but these totals were by far the worst in the Majors last year. In fact, the last time a team’s catchers put together that bad of hitting numbers over a full season was the 119 loss 2003 Tigers. Yes, the catching really was that bad last season in Seattle. It wasn’t just bad, it was 119 losses bad. Throw in the passed balls by Rob Johnson and odd catcher interference calls against Moore and you have a group of catchers that really weren’t very good at anything.

Olivo offers a significant improvement, even if his overall numbers are anything to be excited about. His .327 wOBA and .764 OPS are significant improvements over what was on the M’s roster no matter how you look at it. This is an instant 3 and a half wins of an upgrade.

2) This signing blocks the development of Adam Moore.

This argument against Olivo requires that you make 2 assumptions. The first is the Moore is actually going to be a good major league player. This can be debated. His 2010 season sure didn’t offer us any hint that there’s talent there. I didn’t expect him to light it up offensively, very few rookies ever do, but I wanted him to show signs that he would eventually develop into decent player. There really wasn’t anything I could look at and use to make that claim. Nothing. Not his isolated power, not even his contact rate, nothing.

The second assumption is that Moore is ready to try and break into the majors at this point.  It’s harder to fight this point, except to ask what has happened between the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011? Also, If he’s not showing signs of being able to handle it, and you believe that he has the talent to eventually be a productive player, then the only proper conclusion is that he just wasn’t ready. It would stand to reason that if you’re planning on giving Moore a chance at being successful, you need to give him another season in AAA to prepare himself.

3) All of Olivo’s recent success was because he played for Colorado. He wont be able to replicate that elsewhere.

This is factually incorrect, even though I’ve seen it posted all other the place. He did have a pretty good year last year, playing 112 games for the Rockies and posting a .327 wOBA. The two previous years he played for the Royals. 2009 was even better than his 2010 when he posted a .334 wOBA. In 2008 he posted a .313 wOBA also in Kansas City. While not as good, it’s still not too shabby. In fact, the only truly bad year he’s had 2005 with Seattle, though 2003 and 2007 weren’t exactly great.

4) Olivo was so awful as a Mariner in 2004 and 2005. He can’t hit at Safeco.

It’s impossible to say that he didn’t struggle during his last time in Seattle. In 2005 he was particularly bad, posting a .191 wOBA before being traded. In 2004, he wasn’t as bad as M’s fans like to remember, with a .274 wOBA. It’s bad, but still much better than what Moore, Johnson and Bard were able to generate. So unless the bottom completely drops out on Olivo like it did in 2005, his worst is still an improvement over last year.

There’s another things that must be considered. 2005 was, well, five years ago.  Players continue to work on things. They learn, they improve, and they also get other injuries that can cause regression. Five years is a very long time for a major league player, especially a catcher. Olivo’s performance five years ago doesn’t necessarily indicate how he’s going to do in 2011.

5) This was money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

I don’t completely buy this argument. The two places where the Mariners were the worst in 2010 were Catcher and DH, and the M’s had already signed Jack Cust to cover the DH spot. The M’s also got him for below his value (at least according to his performance in 2009 was worth $12.9 million, and it was $9.0 million in 2009. So the $3.5 million the M’s are paying Olivo for 2011 is low for what they’re getting. They spent money on their biggest remaining need and got more than they paid for. Sounds like financially it was a good signing to be honest.

So does this mean I’m now in favor of the Olivo signing?

No, no it doesn’t. The Mariners are in full rebuilding mode, and brining in anyone that doesn’t have a long term future with the M’s seems like a wast of time and money. I understand GMZ wanting to make sure 2011 is better than 2010, but Cust and Olivo are just short term stopgaps and wont be here when the M’s finally can contend in 2012 or 2013. I’m just saying this isn’t quite as horrible as many in the Mariners blog network seems to want to believe it is.

I finally broke down and got my twitter account setup. Follow me at @MarinerMyers