The Veteran Catcher
Since Kenji decided to head back to Japan, one of the things that Jack said to the media afterwards has gained a decent amount of attention, is that this creates a hole where they’re probably going to have to bring in a veteran catcher this winter. To some more traditional writers, the thought of breaking camp next year with a catching tandem of a rookie and a second year guy is unthinkable. However, I’d suggest that the Mariners would love to do just that.
The M’s are going to bring a veteran catcher to spring training next year, certainly. But they don’t want him to make the team, and that’s why it’s far more likely that they’ll sign a guy to a minor league deal late in the winter than that they’ll give guaranteed money and a promise of a job to a free agent backstop. While it’s true that Johnson and Moore don’t have a lot of major league experience, they aren’t kids, either.
Rob Johnson is 27-years-old – older than Franklin Gutierrez. Adam Moore will turn 26 next May, so in baseball terms, he’s basically the same age as Jose Lopez. For young players, these two are really old. Describing them in terms of their major league experience doesn’t paint an accurate portrait of the amount of time they’ve spent learning the game and developing in the minor leagues.
If you’ve been around the M’s front office at all, you know how much they think of Moore. If you listened to the M’s coaching staff or the pitchers on the team this year, you know how much they all think of of Johnson. The M’s would love to be able to break camp with the pair as their catching combo next year, and they wouldn’t give a second thought to the lack of an experienced veteran. Johnson’s off-season surgeries and just general wisdom mean that the team won’t come to camp without an option in case either of them prove not to be ready for opening day, but the Mariners aren’t going to expend resources to put themselves back into a position where they can’t go with a Moore/Johnson combo if they want to.
Losing Johjima was a gift, and they know it, even if they won’t say so publicly. They’re not going to put themselves back in a similar spot where their catcher of the future or Felix’s personal caddy has to head back to Tacoma because they gave an older guy guaranteed money. Zduriencik saying that he’s going to have to “bring in a veteran” is not the same thing as bringing in someone to take one of their jobs.
So, don’t expect the M’s to make a run at any of the catchers that most fans have ever heard of. They’re not going to be in on Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall, or Jason Varitek. They’re probably not even going to talk to guys like Gregg Zaun or Mike Redmond. Instead, expect the M’s to bring a Jamie Burke type (though probably not Burke himself) to spring training on a non-roster invite. They’ll have a veteran catcher in camp, but in the best case scenario, they’ll be cutting that guy in March. They don’t want him to make the team.