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You gotta have a catcher...

So as I pick at the carcass that is Yankees defeat, I decided to endeavor an exercise. It occured to me that Jorge Posada (who has the ability to become a free agent if he chooses) would be a good option as far as being the Mets starting catcher next season.

I think that determining who the starting catcher is next season will be the most important thing the Mets will do this offseason (because I don't see the pipe dream wishes for Santana and Oswalt coming true). Catcher is the most interesting of needs, because there is one player who could be out there, who is significantly better than all the others. It doesn't interest me to evaluate the other positional possibilities at this point, but for some reason, I've been preoccupied thinking about catcher these last two days. I figured it was worth a closer look.

Possible Starting Catchers

2008 Mets

Paul Lo Duca

Upside: You know what you're getting. He's gonna hit about .270 with 8 home runs, and not strike out very much. He'll give you a lot of good at-bats, even if the results aren't always what you'd like. He wants to be here and that's a big plus in my book, so he'd probably offer a "hometown" discount to stick around

Downside: You know what you're getting: a hothead, good for a couple temper tantrums and back-page stories per year. You're also getting a guy whose throwing arm isn't very good and who seems to be on the downside of his career as he gets older.

Walk-Off factor: He hasn't had a walk-off RBI as a Met yet, though he did provide a funky walk-off memory with only the second walk-off error by pitcher win in Mets history.

Ramon Castro

Upside: He's good offensively and he's better defensively than what he showed last year (when he couldn't throw any baserunners out). If he can do what he did and maintain it over 120 games, you've got yourself someone who is going to be very valuable.

Downside: He's too hefty and he has back issues, so the chances of him replicating that success over an extended period are slim.

Walk-Off factor: He had one as a Met, back on April 16, 2005, against the Marlins. Guillermo Mota was the opposing pitcher. That's major points in Castro's favor.

Ronny Paulino

Upside: He'd come cheap and Omar Minaya is supposedly a fan. He's a young 26 and he hit like his old self after the All-Star Break (.296 with 6 home runs, and was at .341 in September). If you were going to trade for him, you'd be in position to keep him long-term, as he's only played 2 major-league seasons.

Downside: The fans I sat next to in Pittsburgh told me they'd be happy if we took him off their hands. That reminds me too much of our Art Howe scenario, though I'm guessing Ronny Paulino hasn't lit up any rooms with his effervescent personality. He's also fat and slow, as much so as Ramon Castro. His throwing arm is supposedly good, but he threw out 27% of basestealers, which doesn't exactly make you a deterrent to baserunners.

Walk-Off factor: Got a walk-off double to beat the Mets in the midst of that September sweep that enabled the Mets to clinch the 2006 NL East title at home. He's got 2 career walk-off hits, both coming in 2006.

Jorge Posada

Upside: He's really good. He had the best season for a catcher his age, ever (.338, 20 home runs, 90 RBI). He is a good hitter, a smart hitter (74 walks), and by all accounts, a good clubhouse guy. He's a switch-hitter, he's durable, and he's a good fit for the lineup.

Downside: He's a Yankee (and I've had a hard enough time accepting Braves), he's 36 (catchers tend to not be very good at that age) and teams run on him like crazy (102 steals allowed, 3rd most in the majors). That's not a great combination, though the offensive numbers make up for it.

Walk-Off factor: Posada would give the Mets their most prolific walk-off walker since Ron Swoboda. Seriously, Posada has a knack for the bases-loaded walk. He's got 22, tied with Derek Jeter for third-most among active players. Three of them were walk-offs, and there's no doubting his batting eye. In all three of those instances, the count was 3-2 and Posada was smart enough to take Ball 4 to win the game. He's also got 2 career walk-off home runs, both coming with his team trailing at the time.

Brian Schneider

Upside: If the Nationals are ready to hand the starting job to Jesus Flores (a Mets gift via Rule V Draft last year), perhaps they'd let Schneider go as the secondary piece in a deal that brings Chad Cordero/Jon Rauch aboard as well. Schneider's best quality is that he's a strong defensive catcher and we imagine that's why we've heard that Omar Minaya likes him. He throws out about 31 percent of those trying to steal.

Downside: He's not that good. You're basically getting a guy you have to hit 8th, because in a best case, he's hitting .250 with 8 to 10 home runs. His eye at the plate may be good, but he's a significant offensive downgrade.

Walk-Off factor: Remember the game in 2005 where the Mets almost blew a bajillion-to-one lead to the Nationals because they yanked Pedro Martinez for Danny Graves? Well, if Brian Schneider had hit a ball about a foot higher in the 9th inning, he'd have had a go-ahead HR instead of a game-tying double. Schneider has one career walk-off hit, a home run to beat the Reds in April, 2003. Most times, if he comes up in a walk-off scenario, you're pinch-hitting for him.

Yorvit Torrealba

Upside: He's only 29 and he's better offensively and defensively than Brian Schneider. He's a winner and it seemed like the NLDS broadcasters were giving him credit for the success of the Rockies pitching staff recently. He hit .389 against the Phillies in the regular season and .500 against them in the playoffs (small sample size), which we like.

Downside: His free agent pricetag goes up the better that he and the Rockies do in the postseason, and a closer look at the numbers indicates that he isn't that good. He's also never played more than he has this season- 113 games. He went from throwing out 21 of 52 baserunners last season, to 15 of 76 in 2007.

Walk-Off factor: He beat the Phillies with a walk-off hit on July 6, one of two walk-off hits he's had in his career.

Verdict: My inclination is that if Posada declares, the Mets should pursue him and offer him the best 2-year deal possible. Sell him on the idea that he'd be playing for Willie Randolph, that he wouldn't have to move, and that he'd be a difference-maker next season. When he asks for three years, float an option out there (make it contingent on his walk-off hit total :) ) and see how he responds. If that fails, I'm not sure which of the other options I like best. But it's clear that Posada is significantly better than all of them, so he should be labeled high-priority.


Stan said…
I have read similar posts/articles in the past week but none of them ever mention Johjima. He is not a free agent but has 1 year left on his contract. His numbers are pretty good and he knows some English and Spanish. He has earned multiple gold gloves in Japan and unlike the Kaz situation, we can see his real stats in the major leagues before acquiring him. 2 years ago there was some talk that the Mets were interested but having a non-english speaking catcher may have scared them off. His numbers at the major league level should ease those concerns.
He looks like a .290 hitter with around 15 homers and is good defensively behind the plate. He threw out 46% of base stealers this year. I don't know if Seattle's needs match up to what we can offer but I think he certainly deserves a look.
Anonymous said…
Sorry, S. I'd love Johjima, but we have no starting pitching to spare, our outfielders are old, our benchplayers are old, our bullpen stinks.
No way they'd give him up to us.
-- JBF

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