How Badly Did The Mariners Want Henry Blanco?

Jeff Sullivan · June 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As you know now, the Mariners picked up Henry Blanco and dumped Kelly Shoppach. Blanco was just dropped by the Blue Jays, and Shoppach’s going to go somewhere else, since I can’t imagine he’ll eventually report to Triple-A. It’s a weird move, in that it’s pretty lateral and it came out of nowhere and the Mariners are bad. But because the Mariners are bad, it doesn’t really matter what this means for 2013, and neither Blanco nor Shoppach are long-term assets. Pretty much every transaction leads to some sort of freakout. There’s no reason for a freakout over Henry Blanco or Kelly Shoppach.

What interests me most about this is a quote from Jack Zduriencik in the official press release:

“We had interest in Henry this off season,” Zduriencik said. “And recent circumstances developed allowing us to acquire Henry. We are pleased to be able to add him to our 25 man roster and look forward to his contributions.”

How that reads is that the Mariners wanted Blanco, but he wound up signing with Toronto, so the Mariners settled on Shoppach instead. Clearly, the Mariners prefer Blanco to Shoppach now, and it’s not like anything has changed about them in the last couple months. They’re still the same guys, so the Mariners would’ve preferred Blanco in the offseason.

If Blanco had just wanted to go to the Blue Jays instead, fine. The Blue Jays looked like they’d be a good team. But the Blue Jays signed Blanco to a non-guaranteed $750,000 contract in January. The Mariners signed Shoppach to a guaranteed $1.5 million contract in February, with an additional $500,000 in possible bonuses. It follows that the Mariners should’ve offered at least that much to Blanco, if not more. I don’t know what they actually did, but something is curious here. Did Blanco prefer the Blue Jays that much, that he would’ve turned down a lot more money and a roster and playing time guarantee? Why weren’t the Mariners able to get Blanco when they first wanted to? I suppose at the time of Blanco’s signing, the M’s still had John Jaso on the roster, and that might’ve complicated things, but if they really wanted Henry Blanco it seems like they could’ve found a way to get him, unless he just didn’t want to come. It’s weird. Whatever.

In terms of immediate performance, this move doesn’t matter. Blanco’s a worse hitter than Shoppach, but he’s a better defender, and these are aging backup catchers we’re talking about. Blanco is a lot more suited to a backup role than Shoppach is, and maybe Shoppach didn’t feel like being behind a rookie like Mike Zunino or a healthy Jesus Sucre. Because Blanco is coming up on 42, he doesn’t stand to have a direct impact on the future of the Mariners. The organizational hope is that he mentors Zunino and makes Zunino better from this point forward. That’s the whole idea, and Blanco has admitted as much already. He’s here to help another guy improve, and he’s better at that than Shoppach is, I guess. Zunino has a lot to learn about catching in the big leagues and Blanco has been doing it for a while. Zunino isn’t going to learn to hit from Henry Blanco, but I should hope he already knows that and won’t try.

Of course, Zunino’s defensive stuff is supposed to be his strength. Of course, the Mariners have actual coaches, and Eric Wedge was a catcher in his day. Of course, we don’t know if this is actually going to make a difference, because it’s basically like a smaller version of the Mariners signing Raul Ibanez for his leadership. Blanco’s been able to remain employed for a long time, but he’s bounced around a lot since 2008, so it’s not like anyone has found him of incredible value. Zunino might develop independent of Blanco, but the most important lesson is this doesn’t matter at all in the short term and there’s really no meaningful downside. If Blanco’s a little worse than Shoppach, so what? So actual what?

This does further suggest that Zunino’s here for good. If Blanco’s here to help mentor Zunino, then Zunino probably isn’t going back to Triple-A when Jesus Sucre heals up. That’s not a guarantee and even the team is probably going to be somewhat open-minded, depending on how Zunino looks, but it would be a surprise to me if Zunino were demoted down the line. This is the direction they’re going, and Zunino’s probably going to play a lot, ready or not. They think he’ll become ready. Maybe he will. Maybe with Blanco’s help!

As a teenager, Henry Blanco was a third baseman. He caught his first game as a professional in 1995. He made the move for good in 1996, after he debuted in the Dodgers organization in 1990. You see a lot of catchers move to other positions. You don’t often see it the other way around. That’s a thing about Henry Blanco you know now.


9 Responses to “How Badly Did The Mariners Want Henry Blanco?”

  1. G-Man on June 14th, 2013 9:30 pm

    I can’t believe there are no posts in this thread.

    There is something going on that they’re not telling us here.

  2. Seattleken on June 14th, 2013 9:46 pm

    While DFAing Wedges guy in Shoppach was a surprise, it just confirms the M’s plan to stick with Zunino as number one this year and likely next five. Blanco though looks done, he can’t catch up with 90+ heat anymore.
    His super defense of his 30’s wasn’t evident watching him in Toronto this season didn’t catch a stealer and had 8 passballs. Of course Dickey was the major cause but watching him try to block balls in the dirt he looked 41. On a positive side he did frame the ball well.

    It might stunt his development, but then its the M’s we always push our elite prospects to the show and that works well right?

  3. Hunter S. Thompson on June 14th, 2013 9:48 pm

    It blows the whole Zunino is only up until Sucre is healthy BS out of the water.
    Unless the plan was to go with Sucre and Blanco two AAA catchers for the rest of the season, and then yeah fire Z and Wedge now because they have no idea what they are doing.
    Funny on the 25th an. of Bull Durham you’ve got the old pro mentoring the young gun just like the . . . oh wait they weren’t burning the young guys service time by having a has been show him the ropes in the majors, they were doing that in the minors where mentoring is supposed to happen.

  4. Seattleken on June 14th, 2013 9:55 pm

    For sure the have decided to start the clock, the same way they did with Arod which cost them an MVP type season later.

    The M’s appear to be run by the marketing department, which explains most moves re: Ibanez, Bay, and rushing Zunino.

  5. MT on June 14th, 2013 10:07 pm

    Perhaps Blanco felt the Blue Jays were World Series contenders, so he preferred a winning team? His career’s winding down, so if he had a chance to be on a winner, I think he might take that opportunity. One theory to explain why he might’ve chosen Toronto over Seattle.

  6. Mike Snow on June 14th, 2013 10:13 pm

    The Mariners wanted Blanco in the offseason, but probably not as a replacement for Shoppach, as he was assumed headed to Seattle for quite some time before actually signing. If I had to guess, they had Blanco in mind for the spot where they ended up signing Ronny Paulino. Approximate dates when these deals were going down (based on news reports, not necessarily when transactions were officially announced):

    Blanco to Blue Jays – Jan. 11
    Paulino to Mariners – Jan. 21
    Shoppach to Mariners – Jan. 29

    The Blanco and Paulino contracts were much more comparable, and it would make sense if the Mariners missed out on one and turned to the other. They would still have wanted to sign Shoppach.

    Also, if all the noise around mentoring reflects actual sentiments, it would make even more sense this way. Shoppach was signed to team with Montero for the catching role on the major league team. They knew well enough that Montero wouldn’t be any kind of permanent regular catcher, so mentoring him in that spot is less critical. Long-term, they just wanted him capable enough to not be a disaster for spot duty (debatable, but that’s another matter). Shoppach was signed to provide some offense, and since he’s no longer providing any, they have no reason to stick with him.

    Blanco, or in his place Paulino, they were offering a minor league contract – in other words, with a view to teaming up with Zunino in Tacoma. As their catcher of the future, Zunino is the guy they really want to get mentored in the role. Blanco was their first choice to mentor him at AAA, and now that he’s been called up and they have the opportunity, Blanco’s going to mentor him in the majors instead.

  7. gopilots70 on June 14th, 2013 11:56 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that we didn’t really “start the clock” on Zunino. In terms of team control isn’t this the same as if he started the year with the big team in 2014?

    I think it is just going to cost us more money due to an extra year of “super 2” arbitration.

    I assumed that this might have to do with an off-field problem with Shoppach, but I agree with Mike Snow’s rationale that they wanted Blanco all along to mentor Z.

    I thought Zunino looked great behind the place today. So quick to block and so demonstrative with the pitchers. And the power wasn’t bad either.

    Besides all the bad, and I know it is early, it really looks like we have 3 kids that can play really, really well. Ballplayers. Franklin, Zunino, and Seager. Throw in a Morales to bat and DH and a hopefully resurgent Ackley (who I think is a ballplayer to, but will he hit) and we are starting to build something.

    Miller and Romero could add to the mix soon. I like the guys that this group has drafted. Both the relievers and the position players. I hope the Big 3 are not far behind. And if Erasmo holds up…….

    Wait till next year!!

  8. wabbles on June 15th, 2013 12:34 am

    The Mariners need new ownership. Not just new management, new ownership. I’ve been listening to this “mentoring” crap for more than a decade now. It’s crap. Period. You have coaches and managers to develop players, not other players. That this line has been fed to us for more than a decade now indicates that it’s not the fault of the people in the uniforms but those who hired them. This entire organization needs a reboot. Quickly.

  9. Westside guy on June 15th, 2013 1:05 pm

    I saw Henry Blanco on TV last night, during the game. He looks like an age-progressed version of Michael Morse.

    Seriously, I thought “who’s the old guy?” He appears to be in his mid-50s.

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