Crown Gems: Catchers Edition – Please Yorvit!
By Wally Fish
In this edition of Crown Gems is lots of good stuff about catchers.
Bryce Harper received his GED results in the mail last week. He will now be able to play baseball for the College of Southern Nevada this spring, and should be a part of the 2010 draft class. Bryce will be in the mix for 1st pick overall, but there is a lot of baseball to be played between now and then.
On Friday the Royals signed 25 year old Steve Lerud to a minor league contract. He spent the 2009 season playing for Double-A Altoona in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He finished the season with a line of 0.240/.339/.336 with 38 BB and 53 SO in 304 AB. Lerud threw out just 37 of 136 would be base stealers for a CS% of 27. In 6 minor league seasons he has hit 0.228/.314/.363 with 177 BB and 467 SO in 1,740 AB. He also has thrown out base stealers at a 30% clip over the course of his career. After striking out basically once a game, 414 SO in 424 G, he whiffed just 53 times in 95 games in 2009. If he ends up in Omaha, he figures to back up Manuel Pina. In the long run, he is nothing more than AA or AAA roster filler.
The news “broke” on Friday night and it kind of got lost in the shuffle. Former Royals minor leaguer, Matt Tupman, was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse. He is currently a free agent, and this suspension is certainly not going to help him find a job. Tupman, now 30, hit 0.256/.297/.313 while splitting his time between the Royals and Diamondbacks organizations. He is a career 0.265/.342/.338 hitter in the minors, but his skills have dropped off after peaking in 2006 and 2007. On May 18th of 2008, Tupman appeared in his only major league game. He got just one at bat that day in the top of the 9th and hit a line drive single to RF off of Marlins reliever Kevin Gregg. The Royals won that day 9-3. Tupman will always have a perfect 1.000/1.000/1.000 line because I don’t see any way he gets another shot at the big leagues.
After suffering through the rumors over the weekend, Royals fans can breathe easy. 38 year old Ivan Rodriguez signed with the Washington Nationals late last night. It is reportedly a 2-year $6 million contract. Pudge figures to back up 25 year old Jesus Flores who hit 0.301/.371/.505 in 29 games before missing the rest of the 2009 season due to injury. This seems like a good move by the Nationals since Pudge can mentor Flores and also have an impact on a very young and impressionable rotation. Intangibles and mentoring capability aside, $6 million over two years seems to be a bit excessive. I think this signing all but guarantees that Buck will be non-tendered in a few days. A few months ago I guesstimated that Buck would earn a minimum of $4 via salary arbitration, but as the offseason has played out, I was starting to think that the Royals could keep JB in the fold for between $3 and $3.5 million for one season.
Rodriguez signing with the Nationals means that 32 year old Wil Nieves is a prime candidate to be non-tendered. Wil hit 0.259/.313/.299 in 224 AB for Washington last year which helped to improve his career line of 0.234/.282/.293. Hopefully the Royals don’t even think about it.
With Pudge off the market, the Royals were linked to Jason Kendall (35) and Rod Barajas (34). The two are very different players at the plate with Kendall’s superior OBP seeming to be a better fit in KC than Barajas’ superior SLG. In 14 ML seasons, Kendall has hit 0.290/.369/.383 with 684 BB and 641 SO in over 7,000 AB. In 2009 he hit 0.241/.338/.305 with 46 BB and 58 SO in 452 AB. Barajas, on the other hand, has hit 0.238/.284/.408 with 143 BB and 444 SO in just over 2,500 AB. In 2009 he hit 0.226/.258/.403 with 20 BB and 76 SO with 429 AB. Neither player provides much of an upgrade offensively over John Buck. In fact, just keeping Buck would give the Royals a player who fits nicely in between the offensive capabilities of Kendall and Barajas. To further muddy the waters, Barajas is a Type-B free agent who turned down the Blue Jays’ arbitration offer yesterday.
Earlier this morning at around 8 am, Tracy Ringolsby of Fox Sports was reporting that Jason Kendall was “focusing on a possible contract with Kansas City.” Nothing has happened since that report.
Then this afternoon, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star got wind that the Royals were taking a look at 34 year old Jose Molina. The “forgotten” Molina played with the Yankees last season and hit 0.217/.292/.268 in 138 AB. This would be the worst possible signing of all the players linked to the Royals this offseason. He has an inferior BA to Buck, an inferior OBP to Barajas, and an inferior SLG to Kendall. He epitomizes the worst of all the players, and no amount of defense is worth adding Jose Molina to your 40-man roster.
To make matters worse, the Detroit Tigers signed 26 year old Robinzon Diaz, who was recently let go by the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was hoping the team would take a chance on Diaz because he was the youngest, cheapest, and best available option.
The Rays Dioner Navarro (25) remains a non-tender candidate and moves to the top of my wish list now that Diaz is off the board.
Within the last few minutes, the Royals have been linked to having interest in 31 year old Yorvit Torrealba. I’d be happy if the team lands him, but it’s going to be tough since the Mets, Giants, Blue Jays, and Rockies are also after his services. Yorvit hit 0.291/.351/.380 in 213 AB with Colorado in 2009. Surprisingly he hit better on the road (0.292/.360/.371) than he did at home (0.288/.345/.384). To be a player for his services they are going to add years, not dollars. With the way the market has developed, if the Royals were willing to go 3 years, $11 million, we’d have a legitimate major league catcher who isn’t used up.