This week, the arbitration deadline came and went with few surprises. One player that became an unprotected free agent intrigues me as an option for the Chicago Cubs.
The Minnesota Twins have decided to part ways with Joe Mauer's backup, Mike Redmond.
Redmond's name on the availability list made me wonder who would be the better option to back up Geovany Soto in Chicago this summer between Redmond and Koyie Hill. Let's examine how these two backstops compare.
Redmond, who will be 39 in May, is a career .289 hitter with no power. (His career high is four home runs.) However, he has a career .345 OBP.
Hill, on the other hand, will turn 31 in March and has a career .215 average with an equally powerless resume. Hill's career OBP is only .286, though.
According to FanGraphs, Redmond has significantly better plate discipline than Hill. Redmond swung at only 22.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in his career, while Hill is reaching at a 28.4 percent rate. On pitches outside the zone, Redmond makes contact 69.6 percent of the time, while Hill only touched the ball 47.5 percent of the time. Advantage: Redmond.
When you come inside the strike zone, the quality of Redmond's at bats is again superior. Redmond makes contact with 95.9 percent of pitches he swings at inside the strike zone, while Hill only puts wood on the ball 83.7 percent of the time. Again, substantial advantage to Redmond.
Both players are good defensive catchers, and made less than $1 million last year. Redmond, however, has a World Series ring from the 2003 Marlins. (Salt in the wound, right?)
So looking at the two next to each other, Redmond looks like an older, but better, option.
But why do I care about the Cubs' backup catcher? Because Soto was awful last year.
In 2009, Soto went through a rough sophomore slump. His post-World Baseball Classic admission of marijuana "experimentation", and subsequent poor physical condition when he got to Mesa with his teammates, was frustrating and his poor performance on the field made things worse.
All Cubs fans should hope Soto bounces back to his 2008 form next season; the Cubs have a significantly better chance of making noise in October if they have the Soto that hit .285 with 23 home runs, instead of the pudgy kid who gave the team .218 and 11 home runs the following season.
There is, however, no guarantee that Soto will bounce back. Just because a player had a big rookie season doesn't mean they'll be an All Star for the following decade; give Jerome Walton a call if you don't believe me.
If Soto doesn't bounce back, the Cubs need to have a better offensive option on the bench than what Hill provided last year. In 2009, the Cubs gave their opponents two outs every time through the order, in the 60 games Soto didn't appear. You cannot win a division if 37 percent of your games are played at that kind of a disadvantage.
Therefore, it is my opinion that the Cubs should strongly consider upgrading their backup catcher position by adding Redmond. His experience and superior abilities in the batters box at a marginal increase to the bottom line make sense. He would provide much better insurance against another bad season from Soto than Hill.
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