Kicking Tires: Should the Giants Sign Pudge Rodriguez to Mentor Buster Posey?
Ah, November baseball.
Not the part of the month where frigid temperatures make players taking part in the World Series dress like they’re about to embark on a voyage to the Arctic. This is the part where the Major League Baseball hot stove gets going and gets going awfully quick.
The San Francisco Giants won 88 games this past season and you would think that they would be knocking on the door of the playoffs with that kind of win total. But they did that with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, one that basically put up the same numbers that they did when they had lost 90-plus in 2007 and 2008.
One of the biggest questions is what the Giants will do behind the plate. Incumbent Bengie Molina is a free agent and despite being 35 years of age, has made it no secret that he has seeking a two-year contract at the very minimum. The Giants may offer Molina arbitration because he is a Type A free agent, but it would be a terrible move to offer him a multi-year contract because Buster Posey is just waiting in the wings.
Do the Giants seem willing to completely hand Posey the keys to the best pitching staff in the National League when he is still a rookie? Not a whole lot of people are convinced they will, at least to begin the 2010 season.
That's where Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez comes into play.
Bringing Rodriguez to San Francisco for 2010 is something that Andrew Baggarly tossed around on Monday and that fellow Giants Community Leader Evan Aczon and myself have discussed quite a few times before Baggs posted it on his blog.
Could we have scooped the great Baggs? Possibly, but back to the point of all this.
It's not often there is a 13-time Gold Glove winner is out there on the open market at a position where the Giants are still completely up in the air. They would probably bring Molina back, but not for more than a year.
The signals the Giants have sent regarding Posey are anything but easy to understand.
The general consensus on the 2008 Golden Spikes Award winner has been that the bat will take a lot less time to develop than his defensive skills behind the plate. Then, at the Giants' end-of-the-year press conference, GM Brian Sabean said that the bat is the thing that is still up in the air.
I find that very hard to believe considering Posey has been so good, so soon after being drafted in 2008. You never know what Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy are really thinking when it comes to personnel decisions. You can't honestly tell me, and a whole lot of other people, that a judgment on whether Posey is ready or not for the big leagues was made on his 17 at-bats after he was brought up in September.
Never mind that 14 of those 17 at-bats came after he was sitting on the bench for more than three weeks after he was promoted on Sept. 2, because the numbers Posey put up in the minors speak for themselves.
You don't find too many catchers in their first full year as a professional hitting .325, walking almost as much as they struck out, recording an OPS of .947, and throwing out close to 50 percent of runners trying to steal a base.
Am I in the corner that says Posey is ready for the big leagues? Definitely. I also understand that the transition from catching in the minors to catching in the majors is a difficult one, so expecting Posey to completely rake right out of the shoot would be just a little too much to ask.
And that's part of the reason that the Giants should bring in Rodriguez to be a stand-in while Posey is still adjusting to life as a big-league catcher. He can’t only be a guy who spells the 22-year-old Posey from time to time, but he can also be like another coach that can help Posey with the finer details of the position.
Understandably, Pudge is not the same player he once was with the bat. He's not a lock like he was in the prime of his career to get 20 homers and 80 RBI. His stats at the plate with the Astros and Rangers weren’t anything impressive—.249 average, 10 HR, 47 RBI.
But what he did show last year besides his usual good defense behind the plate was that he is fine aiding a young catcher break into the majors. When he was traded to the Texas Rangers in the middle of August, it wasn’t to be the full-time catcher. Instead, Rodriguez split time with one of Texas’ young catchers, Taylor Teagarden.
With the Giants, he would likely do the same thing. Seeing as he made only $1.5 million in 2009, it won’t be a move that breaks the bank like bringing back Molina likely would. And with the Giants needing to improve in so many other areas offensively, having a bargain or two on the roster wouldn’t hurt.
It just makes too much sense having the best catching prospect in the game pair up with one of the best catchers in the history of baseball.
Posey is clearly the future behind the plate for the Giants. But it wouldn’t hurt to have somebody there helping him along the way as he continues to get his feet wet.
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