Ronny Paulino Signs, Felix/M’s Mull Extension, etc.
1: The M’s were quite clear after trading John Jaso that they intended to pick up a veteran catcher to split time with Jesus Montero. Someone who wouldn’t cost a lot, so they can jettison him once they deem Mike Zunino MLB-ready, but someone who could handle a staff and with a bit more defensive chops than Jaso/Montero. Yesterday, they settled on Ronny Paulino, who signed for $1m which could grow to $1.2m if he breaks camp with the team. This may not be their final decision; there are several free agents out there, and they could always make another move either at the beginning or the end of spring training, but they have their veteran catcher now.
Paulino will be 32 for the season, and has played very sparingly the past two years. He’s a career .272/.324/.376 hitter, though much of that production came when he was the starter for the 2006-07 Pittsburgh Pirates. He had a solid year in limited time in 2009, but his power has dropped each season since then, and thus he’s not expected to add much at the plate. Behind it, the story’s mixed too. His CS% has dipped under 30% in recent years (though CS% is down league-wide too), and while he has fewer PB+WPs allowed per inning than Montero, Olivo or Jaso, he’s not exactly Pudge Rodriguez in that department.
Paulino’s main attribute is his ability to hit left-handed pitching; he’s got a career wOBA of .367 against southpaws. Still, it’s a bit strange given that Jesus Montero also hits lefties well, so the M’s aren’t platooning or helping shield Montero from tough RHPs. And there’s also the fact that Kelly Shoppach, a free-agent back-up catcher with slightly better CS%/PB numbers, has a career .374 wOBA against lefties. George Kottaras, the guy the A’s DFA’d to make room for Jaso, hits lefthanded and while his average will always be low, at least offers power/patience (sort of like Shoppach). Kottaras is no one’s idea of a great fielding catcher, so the move highlights that the M’s view the C position as a defense-first job. Despite publicly wanting to improve their offense, the M’s have willingly punted on offense at catcher in order to shore up some suspect defense.
This was highlighted today when Buster Olney reported that the Mariners included John Jaso in their proposed package for Justin Upton, which the D-Backs slugger vetoed. If true, it adds a bit more credence to reports that other GMs saw the M’s package as a gross overpay. It also highlights that the M’s appear to have been shopping Jaso around quite actively – he came up in rumors with the Pirates and Diamondbacks before ultimately heading to Oakland. There’s value in trading a guy like Jaso at the peak of his value, particularly if you think he just had a career year. But the willingness to include Jaso in various deals again shows how little the M’s brass thought of his catching prowess. I still don’t see why he was so much worse than Miguel Olivo or Jesus Montero, but the M’s front office, stocked with ex-catchers, obviously disagreed. They may have worried that Jaso wouldn’t work well with one of the pitching prospects, should Hultzen/Paxton/Maurer/Walker push their way to Seattle in the second half of the year. These are perhaps reasonable concerns, and the M’s were careful not to give Jaso a start at C with Erasmo Ramirez starting last year, but it’s still remarkable the degree to which they outweigh offense. In a year in which the M’s desperately need to improve their batting, they were still willing to punt Jaso due in part to concerns about his D.
2: In happier news, the Mariners are rumored to be discussing a new four-year extension with Felix Hernandez. Ken Rosenthal reports that a 4/$100 million deal to keep Felix a Mariner through 2018 may be a possibility. Felix’s current contract pays him about $20m per year for 2013 and 2014, and the extension would give him a raise to $25m/year from 2015-2018. Pitchers are impossible to project, and health issues make long contracts for hurlers risky. But I’m on board for this extension. Felix clearly, improbably, wants to stay, and the M’s need to make sure their best player and the undisputed face of the franchise does just that.
3: The Philadelphia Phillies added Delmon Young for $750,000. That’s a tiny sum in MLB terms, but it seems to keep Phillies’ prospect Domonic Brown blocked (unless they want Young to be a bench bat only). Many of you have already mentioned it on twitter, but I imagine many teams are inquiring about Brown’s availability in the wake of the Young signing. Given that the M’s team is mostly corner OFs and 1B/DHs, I can’t imagine Zduriencik would be involved too heavily, though it wouldn’t cost them much to swap out Brown for, say, Bay. USSM/Fangraphs head honcho Dave Cameron points out that Young isn’t that older than Brown, and may make sense for a team like Philadelphia that doesn’t care as much about bases on balls. He also points out that Brown hasn’t exactly made the most of his (few) chances with the Phillies.
4: Wendy Thurm had a great piece in Fangraphs today regarding the lawsuit several fans filed against MLB alleging that its blackout policy violated anti-trust laws. Yes, baseball’s had an anti-trust exemption, but that doesn’t mean the courts (or Congress) couldn’t revisit that. It’s fitting somewhat that Thurm’s article came out on the day that new reports valuing the Dodgers deal with Time Warner at between $7-8 billion came out. Many, like Maury Brown, pointed to Cleveland’s tv deal in late December as a sign that smaller teams can’t count on eye-popping deals like the LAs and Texas teams, and Thurm makes the good point that regional sports networks are probably factoring in losing this lawsuit either in the price they’re willing to pay or with opt-out language. The M’s can opt out of their current deal in 2015, but it seems increasingly likely that the market two years from now may be substantially different.
5: Finally, for those of you who’ve had enough of wall-to-wall Manti Te’o coverage, enjoy the single funniest baseball article I’ve read in the last year: Sam Miller’s satire on Baseball’s Greatest Hoax.