Zunino and Freitas It Is, Marjama Optioned by Mariners

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 16: David Freitas
SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 16: David Freitas /

With Mike Zunino being activated off of the DL today, joining the team in Arlington for their three-game series vs the Texas Rangers, the Mariners had a decision to make. Stick with Mike Marjama as the backup catcher, the guy they handed the job to out of spring training? Or give the job to David Freitas? They went with Freitas.

Marjama was the better offensive catcher in Peoria. In 40 at-bats he slashed .300/.391/.550/.941. He hit 2 HR, walked five times, scored seven runs and had six RBI. Compare that to Freitas’ line of .238/.273/.238/.511, .313 BABIP, 0 HR, 0BB, 5 SO, 1 R and 1 RBI in 21 AB and there is no doubt Marjama earned his way onto the Opening Day Roster.

Over the last three weeks, however, on the big stage in games that have mattered, the production has completely flipped. Both catchers have seen similar playing time. Marjama has logged 27 at-bats in 10 games played while Freitas has logged 28 at-bats in his 11 games played. With sample size just about identical, it’s clear one catcher has outperformed the other.

Mike Marjama: .111/.172/.222/.395, .143 BABIP, 1 R, 0 RBI, 2 BB, 6 SO, -0.2 oWAR

David Freitas: .286/.355/.429/.783, .421 BABIP, 4 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 9 SO, 0.3 oWAR

If the offensive numbers weren’t painting a good enough picture, there’s the defensive side of the baseball to look at as well. In 72 defensive innings, Marjama has committed one throwing error and has yet to catch any of the three would be base stealers who have attempted to take a base off of him. Freitas, on the other hand, has logged 78 defensive innings, has a 1.000 FLD%, and has thrown out one of the five baserunners who has attempted to steal on him.

It is a small sample size and I understand these may not be the best statistics to look at considering the different factors that come into play, especially with the caught stealing numbers (pitcher’s time to the plate, who the base runners are, etc.). But with that said, based on what we have seen up to this point Freitas has had a slight defensive advantage over Marjama.

From the standpoint of managing the pitching staff, both have been competent. I wouldn’t say one catcher has outperformed the other in this immeasurable phase of the game. And since we have yet to see any quotes from anyone in the rotation or in the bullpen stating they prefer one of these guys over the other, it is safe to say the pitchers have been comfortable with both – no advantage either way.

So as this day approached, I considered Freitas to be the “should be” front-runner to keep the backup job. Based on the eye test as well as the offensive numbers, the decision seemed obvious. But considering some might see choosing Freitas over Marjama as Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto admitting they were wrong just three short weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think they might go the other way.

In the end, they made the right choice. With Zunino back, the Mariners 50/50 split time at the catcher position will be no more. So they needed to run with a backup who is already comfortable at the plate. That guy is Freitas. Marjama will benefit from extra reps as the everyday catcher in Tacoma as he attempts to get back to producing like he did in March.

Who knows, Marjama may very well earn his way back onto this roster once he regains confidence at the plate. There’s no telling how Freitas will handle the less frequent, more intermittent playing time and that might impact his productivity at the plate. Both of these guys will need to make adjustments in their new roles.

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However, both have worked hard to earn their spot and are proving to be capable of jumping behind the dish every fourth day. Which brings me to my biggest take away from this three week battle for the eventual backup role – the Mariners have some depth at the catcher position… and that is a good thing to have.