Clement, DH, and roster construction

DMZ · December 6, 2008 at 10:55 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I should have brought this up in the Hinske post, but I wanted to focus largely on the player and thinking about how to look at free agent possibilities.

How the team decides to use Clement will have a big difference in what they look at in off-season acquisitions, and they’re not really going to know that until they’re into spring training probably.

Say Clement’s knee is great and they decide to play him at C/DH, trying to keep him a viable C option with Kenji the primary backup. A 2/3rds split in favor of Johjima would get him into about fifty games behind the plate, then you put him at DH the rest of the time.

Tada! There’s your lefty DH, essentially — there’s not enough playing time left to justify buying even a Hinske-esque DH. You still have to find someone, preferably right-handed, to pick up DH starts against left-handers (and that assumes that you’re pushing Clement behind the plate against some of them), and it’d be nice if that person could cover some other roles as well.

Is fifty games enough, though, if you really want to have Clement be the catcher of the future? Or is it possibly too much? I know the knee surgery went about as well as possible, but we don’t really know how well he’s going to hold up to any catching workload (much less how he’ll endure long-term).

You see the problem. And using Clement as the DH on the same day as Johjima catches puts a lot of pressure on the team to carry a third catcher on the bench, making the team:
DH: Clement vRHP, ? vLHP
C: Johjima/Clement/?
1B: Branyan vRHP, ? vLHP
2B: Lopez
SS: Betancourt
3B: Beltre
LF: ?
CF: ?
RF: Ichiro!

Assuming they carry 12 pitchers to start the season, they have five spots to fill two starting positions, probably a backup outfielder, possibly another catcher (depending on Clement’s use), a utility player, a platoon partner for Branyan and then another solution for Clement-as-DH.

Now, you might already be thinking “what about finding some utility infielder who can really, truly field up the middle, and using them to swap Lopez or Betancourt into DH for our severe groundball ptichers?” or “What if we find a third catcher who is an only-break-glass-in-case-of-catcher-need guy, can cover first, and is a decent hitter against lefties and off the bench?” or something similarly wacky.

And I would say “a Shawn Wooten-type? Now that is interesting…” and probably go make myself some coffee and forget about it as I got distracted looking through minor league free agent lists. That’s why I love the offseason.


35 Responses to “Clement, DH, and roster construction”

  1. DMZ on December 6th, 2008 11:00 am

    Shawn Wooten, if you’re curious, played for two teams in the PCL last year, hitting .195/.283/.287 in 58 games. In 2007 he was on three teams in similar spot duty.

  2. Lance on December 6th, 2008 11:26 am

    [error>sentence ratio]

  3. The Ancient Mariner on December 6th, 2008 11:34 am

    This sort of thing is the reason I always hoped Craig Kuzmic would pan out.

    It’s also the reason I’m not assuming we carry 12 pitchers. I don’t know enough about either Zduriencik or Wakamatsu to be confident we’ll only go with 11, but I think there’s a good chance.

  4. wsm on December 6th, 2008 11:34 am

    If Clement is healthy, and the team wants to see him catch, he needs to be behind the dish pretty consistently against RHSPs. Give him 100 starts at C and let him DH another 30 games or so. Fifty’s not nearly enough. If he can’t handle 100 now, he never will. Give him a first baseman’s glove to play with and move on.

    Plus, I would think you’d want Joh in there vs. lefties, if he has to play. So give him those 40 starts, plus another 20+ to keep Clement fresh.

    The Branyan signing smells like Clement insurance to me. I think Z is planning on Clement being the everyday catcher, but if his knees can’t hack it early on, they can always sit Branyan to find a spot for Clement in the lineup.

  5. DMZ on December 6th, 2008 11:38 am

    Ah, yes, but you see what I’m saying– that as you make the Clement at C playing time decision, you start to affect the rest of the roster construction.

  6. JonAssink on December 6th, 2008 11:41 am

    Is Craig Wilson still kicking around in Tacoma? He fits the catcher in a pinch roll and certainly would be cheap.

  7. egreenlaw9 on December 6th, 2008 12:38 pm

    I’ve never really understood the need for a third catcher if you have Joh at C and Clement at DH/1B/C.

    Granted, if Clement’s knees are blown, then yeah, we need a backup C to spell Johjima. But if that were the case, then it wouldn’t really be like carrying three catchers, would it?

    Beyond all that – isn’t this the year to figure out these sorts of things?

    We’re stuck with Kenji till 2011, whether he’s the back-up or the starter.

    Let’s wait and see how Clement pans out. Maybe he has an awesome year behind the plate and solidifies his spot back there for years to come. Or maybe he shows us his bat more than makes up for a weak glove at first. Worse comes to worse – he hits poorly or is oft-injured and he doesn’t factor into any of the positions.

    I’d have to think at that point, for 2010 and beyond, his health & productivity wouldn’t be counted on and could be seen only as a bonus if he somehow turned it around.

    Furthermore, it can’t be that terribly difficult to find a back-up catcher in our minor leagues or via a small trade when if/when needed, would it?

    I think the worst thing that could happen here is bringing on too many guys to fill Clement’s possible roles, see him lose playing time to a career-year stop-gap player and not get the chance to show if he can make it in the bigs.

    Yeah, he may not work out. But he could also be one of our cheap, if medium-talent level players for the next few years that allows us to focus our money on the stars of the future.

  8. ML on December 6th, 2008 12:47 pm

    [wrong post]

  9. thr33niL on December 6th, 2008 12:53 pm

    I say start Clement behind the dish as much as he can handle. But start him and give him the chance to play the position he was drafted for. We know Branyan cannot hit lefties to save his life so get Johjima a first baseman’s glove and throw him out there against lefties. He can be the backup catcher and platoon mate with Branyan at 1B.

    Then we can use our DH spot for a FA Bradley, Griffey, Ibanez type to bring some real production in the middle of the order. This platooning DH idea isn’t the answer. It will just give us more ‘iffy bats scattered around the lineup.

    (vs. RHP)
    RF Ichiro
    2B Lopez
    DH Bradley/Griffey/Ibanez
    3B Beltre
    1B Branyan vs.RHP/Joh vs. LHP
    C Clement
    LF Balentien
    SS Betancourt
    CF Reed/Moss/Stocker

    Looks pretty solid to me.

  10. The Ancient Mariner on December 6th, 2008 2:13 pm

    egreenlaw9: If Johjima goes down and Clement is both the backup catcher and in the game as DH, you lose the DH for the rest of the game; and though unlikely, there’s also the increased chance of losing both in the same game and leaving Heir of Bloomquist behind the plate. That’s at least part of the concern.

  11. wabbles on December 6th, 2008 2:34 pm

    Isn’t Ibanez our emergency catcher? Oh, wait…I’ve had Clement penciled in at DH (with Branyan at 1B at least half time) ever since he went under the knife. I think the comment at the time was knee surgery is bad for baseball players but death for catchers. I just assumed we’d either carry Rob Johnson or try persuading Jamie Burke to return. (He can leave, can’t he? Don’t we have to tender him a contract by a certain date just like Bedard?)

  12. DMZ on December 6th, 2008 3:57 pm

    Yeah, the problem w/r/t Clement and Johjima in at the same time is that if Johjima takes a bad foul tip off his thumb or something in the first inning, he either has to play through the pain, probably not hitting or catching well or the lineup operates at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the game.

    And that’s really your only option: without a third catcher, putting your utility guy back there is going to result in any number of passed balls and the opposing team running wild on the basepaths.

  13. dirk on December 6th, 2008 4:25 pm

    Think the Tigers would trade Inge for Washburn (or something else)?

    That would allow Inge to play 1st against LHP, and be super sub at 3B, LF, and C.

    Inge’s 3 yr split vs. LHP: .270 .337 .459 .796

  14. xxtinynickxx on December 6th, 2008 4:39 pm

    Dirk has a point Inge would work, if he was available. Its fun to speculate but the Mariners have to play free agency slow and simple. And who knows what winterball players and spring training will bring so cross your fingers for smart moves and great growth!

  15. matto on December 6th, 2008 4:55 pm

    There’s a reason Burke is still on the 40 man roster. He IS the 3rd catcher and the team will most likely carry HIM.

  16. matto on December 6th, 2008 5:02 pm

    I meant to add that as of now Burke is the 3rd catcher but given his cost, I would expect he’d keep that job if they go 3 deep at the “C” position.

  17. 3cardmonty on December 6th, 2008 5:05 pm

    The possibility of losing the DH for a few innings seems remote enough and the cost marginal enough that I don’t see how it merits wasting an entire roster spot on a third catcher.

  18. draketw206 on December 6th, 2008 5:10 pm

    What’s the status on morse? Haven’t been keeping up, is he good to go this season?

  19. msb on December 6th, 2008 5:17 pm

    Isn’t Ibanez our emergency catcher? Oh, wait…

    no, it’s Willie. Oh, wait….

  20. diderot on December 6th, 2008 5:38 pm

    The possibility of losing the DH for a few innings seems remote enough and the cost marginal enough that I don’t see how it merits wasting an entire roster spot on a third catcher.

    Agree totally. Is this really a concern for a team coming off 101 losses?
    Note Derek’s question marks for CF, LF and righthanded DH. Yes, Balentien should get some more of those ABs to see what he can do. As far as the free agent market, I vote for Juan Rivera.

  21. Mr. Egaas on December 6th, 2008 6:12 pm

    With Pudge gone, the Tiggers could be looking at Inge more to catch for themselves, so one would wonder about his availability.

  22. Edgar For Pres on December 6th, 2008 7:30 pm

    I also think the 3rd catcher is not needed. If Kenji is catching and gets hurt in the 1st inning, you shift Clement to catcher and give up the DH position. The difference between Kenji’s offense and a pitcher’s hitting ability can’t be that huge right?

    How likely is it that Kenji gets hurt and can’t play? I’m guessing less than 1%. So maybe one game. Can you really justify carrying a third catcher for the one game you have to give up the DH position because Kenji gets hurt? It just seems like a huge waste of a position.

  23. The Ancient Mariner on December 6th, 2008 7:40 pm

    Did nobody read the original post? What Derek said wasn’t a third catcher, he said

    “What if we find a third catcher who is an only-break-glass-in-case-of-catcher-need guy, can cover first, and is a decent hitter against lefties and off the bench?”

    In other words, a guy who would be useful even leaving catching aside, but who has the additional ability to fill in behind the plate for a game if worse comes to worst.

  24. diderot on December 6th, 2008 8:48 pm

    Did nobody read the original post? What Derek said wasn’t a third catcher, he said

    “What if we find a third catcher who is an only-break-glass-in-case-of-catcher-need guy, can cover first, and is a decent hitter against lefties and off the bench?”

    Yeah, sure, and if he can throw 98 with movement and win 15 games, lets use him there, too.

  25. JMHawkins on December 6th, 2008 9:25 pm

    I agree that carrying a third catcher just to avoid the somewhat remote possibility of losing the offense of the DH isn’t great, but…

    Factor in making, say, Felix make a couple of PAs, maybe run the bases (hey, he doesn’t hit a salami every at-bat), pull a hammie…

    The Clement Question makes the Branyan platoon deal a little less exciting. On the other hand, if your DH vs LHPs can also catch in a pinch, (quick, somebody check Jamie Burke’s stats vs LHPs… hmm, .805 last year, .787 career, that would be acceptible, league-avg DH was .775 last year).

    So, plug Burke in as your DH vs LHPs and you’re good to go. That leaves 4 roster spots for LF, CF, 1B vs LHPs, and a utility guy.

    Hmmm, well, maybe not so good. I think the M’s may want to go with an 11 man staff to start the year.

  26. wabbles on December 6th, 2008 9:47 pm

    Something just occurred to me during this entire discussion: It’s a new day in Marinersdom. It’s not a given that we are going to have the 12-pitcher, 3-catcher, Bloomquist/Cairo, no legitimate CF backup roster construction that we’ve had in years past. So as far as solving this riddle, maybe we do carry Burke as a DH platoon/backup C instead of a C. Can he play first?

  27. Grizz on December 6th, 2008 9:49 pm

    What if we find a third catcher who is an only-break-glass-in-case-of-catcher-need guy, can cover first, and is a decent hitter against lefties and off the bench?

    Josh Phelps. He can sort of play first, he hits lefties, and he caught 17 innings in 2007. He would not be a bad platoon mate for Branyan because while Branyan is useless against LHP, Phelps is merely mediocre against RHP (so he would not need a pinch hitter after he pinch hits for Branyan). Surprisingly, Phelps is only 30 (31 next May). He signed a minor league deal with the Giants, but would be available in the Rule 5 draft.

  28. Al in Portland on December 6th, 2008 10:05 pm

    I’ve always loved the argument that you shouldn’t have your spare catcher DH … ohmigod, the horror of losing the DH position for part of a game… would most of the pitchers have been any worse than Vidro last year?
    As far as acquiring Inge, I think the Tigers are moving him back to third as Guillen is going to work on playing left field this winter, supposedly to make it easier on his back.

  29. DAMellen on December 6th, 2008 10:37 pm

    I thought Clement was kinda platoon proof. Has that changed?

  30. 3cardmonty on December 6th, 2008 10:54 pm

    Did nobody read the original post?

    To clarify, I was responding to matto’s post directly above mine suggesting we keep Burke as a 3rd catcher. Although now that I think about it, Burke more than satisfies DMZ’s criteria:

    “What if we find a third catcher who is an only-break-glass-in-case-of-catcher-need guy, can cover first, and is a decent hitter against lefties and off the bench?”

    Maybe we should just hold onto Burke…

  31. Teej on December 6th, 2008 11:21 pm

    I thought Clement was kinda platoon proof. Has that changed?

    The word was always that he was crushing soft-tossing lefties in AAA. That type of pitcher isn’t nearly as common in the majors.

    That said — and I’m hesitant to draw any conclusions from only a couple hundred at-bats in the bigs — Clement has still hit lefties better than righties both in the majors and in the minors.

    It might be nothing, though. We need more at-bats to see.

    EDIT: PLEASE! give him at-bats!

  32. Joe C on December 7th, 2008 12:43 am

    I understand that you’d be at a huge disadvantage if Johjima had to leave a game and Clement was at DH, but I’d still be ok taking that risk. Weren’t the Mariners at a huge disadvantage every game they let Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn start last year? I’d pretty much punt that game and call up whoever is on call in the minors for the next game. I don’t think the roster construction should put so much emphasis on an eventuality that may or may not happen in one game.

  33. tn32 on December 7th, 2008 12:49 am

    The Mariners should do something big at 1B, like trading JJ for Prince Fielder. And it’s true that JZ is comfortable with people he knows from the Milwaukee club, so why shouldn’t that extend to players too?

    The batting order might be:

    Ichiro (he should be made to bat in the 3 hole)
    Betancourt (make the kid see more pitches per AB)
    Beltre (best spot in the order for him)
    Fielder (trade JJ and get him)
    Griffey (DH and platooning in LF)
    Clement (show more plate discipline, platoon at C)
    Morse (he’s got it, let him play)
    Johjima (why he’s still with Ms?)
    Lopez (more improvement coming at the plate)

    Feels like it might be stronger than last yr. But how much can really change while Lincoln’s in charge? We need to dump Nintendo.

  34. Sneekes on December 7th, 2008 3:48 am

    I’m of the opinion that 2009 should be about finding our what we’ve got, and how those players (Clement/Balentien/Valbuena etc) fit into a winning team in 2010 onwards. If the M’s lose a couple of extra games in 2009 due to not having a 3rd catcher on the bench – then so be it – winning 70 games rather than 72 doesn’t make any difference (may even get a higher draft pick!).
    And the worry about Felix getting injured as a result of havinng to hit is so unlikely it’s not worth factoring in – they manage it OK in the other league.

  35. The Ancient Mariner on December 7th, 2008 5:52 am

    I am not in favor of punting any more games due to lazy roster construction, personally. Despite diderot’s content-free mockery (no surprise given the handle), there are guys like Phelps and Wilson out there (is Wilson still with the organization?), useful bench bats who can catch in a pinch, and I don’t see any downside to putting out the effort to add one if we can.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.