The Injury To Buster Posey Has Created A Huge Void For SF
The devastating injury to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey has created a huge void for the Giants. Posey was a fine defensive catcher and also one of the team's offensive leaders.
At the time of the injury, Posey was hitting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBI. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year also had a solid OBP of .368 and even had three stolen bases.
Posey, in his first full year with the Giants, had also become a team leader and was well respected among his teammates. He and Tim Lincecum were face-of-the-franchise-caliber players.
Eli Whiteside has assumed the starting catcher spot for the Giants, but they would be wise to find another backstop. Whiteside is a good defensive catcher but has never been much of an offensive threat. He is batting only .176 and really is not an everyday player.
Reserve Chris Stewart was playing in Triple-A Fresno prior to Posey's injury. He has played parts of five seasons in the majors and has a career batting average of .176 and OBP of only .222. I do not believe he is a major league-caliber player.
The Giants offense was not a juggernaut prior to losing Posey, so they can not afford zero production from any position in the lineup. GM Brian Sabean will be looking at some options to bolster this position.
The first thing to remember when evaluating the potentially available catchers on the market is that any contender in the National League is extremely unlikely to make any deal to help the Giants. Additionally, any team in the NL West is also not going to help its division rival.
That being said, let's take a look at a few of the catchers the Giants could be targeting.
J. R. Towles could be available.
J.R. Towles is a solid defensive catcher, a good ball blocker and said to call a good game. The other thing is the Houston Astros aren't in the playoff hunt, so Towles could be expendable.
Towles is earning only $424,000 this year and is not under contract for 2012. His salary is negligible in the grand scheme of things, and because he is a somewhat marginal player, he would not cost the Giants much to get him.
The one knock on Towles is that he is a weak offensive catcher. Towles has a career batting average of .189 and in 95 at-bats this year is hitting under .200 again.
There is not much difference between Towles and Chris Stewart, the current Giants backup. Although an option, I would not make a deal for Towles if I were San Francisco GM Brian Sabean.
Matt Treanor makes a tag at the plate.
Matt Treanor is a veteran catcher in his eighth season in the majors. Treanor is a solid backstop but has never been much of a hitter.
Treanor has a career batting average of .226 and is currently hitting .215 with the Royals. At age 35, Treanor is not in the long-range plans for the Royals.
The Royals got off to a good start in 2011 but have faded badly. They are currently eight games below .500 and in fourth place in the AL Central. The Giants could get Treanor for a low-level prospect if they wanted to go that route.
Treanor would only be a slight upgrade over Chris Stewart. I don't think it would be worth it to bring him in.
On the flip side, Treanor's wife is Misty May, arguably the greatest beach volleyball player of all time. If her husband Matt played for the Giants, maybe she would come around often and bring her hot beach-volleyball-playing friends to AT&T Park. Just an idea, Mr. Sabean...
Former Giant Bengie Molina is available.
Bengie Molina played for the Giants from 2007 to the mid portion of the 2010 campaign. In those three-and-a-half years, Molina was a productive offensive player and was very well liked by the pitching staff.
With the emergence of Buster Posey, Molina was dealt to Texas, where he helped the Rangers get to the World Series. Molina clearly did not want to be a part-time player behind Posey, so it was time for Molina to go.
Molina is not with a team in 2011 and has not played at all. I am fairly certain that Molina is now sufficiently humbled to be accepting of a part-time role in 2011. Molina's relationship with Giants pitchers was very good, and I'm sure they would welcome him back with open arms.
Prior to signing Molina to a contract, the Giants must work him out and put him through a battery of physical tests to see if he has anything left. He was not in very good shape before, and the fact that he hasn't played at all this year means he is most likely in rather poor shape at this time.
If the Giants check into Molina and he appears even fatter and slower than before, then they need to dismiss this idea as pure folly. However, if it looks as though Molina can still play, he would be a viable option to play a couple of games a week for the Giants behind Eli Whiteside.
The other important thing to remember is since Molina is not with another team, the Giants would not have to give up any prospects to acquire him. If he's in shape, he is worth considering.
Koyie Hill blocks the plate against Jose Tabata
Koyie Hill is a solid backup catcher and would be a good addition to the Giants. The Chicago Cubs aren't going anywhere this year, and they have a lot invested in their No. 1 catcher, Geovany Soto.
Hill is making $850,000 this year and is arbitration-eligible for 2012. He's in his eighth season in the majors, all in the National League. This is advantageous as Hill knows the league and the hitters.
Hill is an average defensive catcher but would most likely be an upgrade over Chris Stewart on offense. Hill would be an adequate backup who could play two or three games a week.
Ramon Castro has National League experience
Ramon Castro would be a viable No. 2 catcher for the Giants. He has played 13 years in the major leagues, the past two-and-a-half with the Chicago White Sox. Prior to joining the pale hose, Castro played 10-plus seasons in the National League with the Marlins and the Mets.
The White Sox already have A.J. Pierzynski as their starting catcher, and he is under contract for the 2012 season. Castro has played sparingly in Chicago and has only 47 at-bats and a .213 batting average.
Castro has had offensive success in the past, however. In 2010, as a reserve, he hit .278 with eight home runs and 21 RBI in only 115 at-bats. He is an offensive upgrade over the current Giants backup, Chris Stewart.
Castro is an adequate defensive catcher with a career .990 fielding percentage. The league fielding percentage is .992, so Castro is right there. He has also thrown out a respectable 30 percent of the baserunners attempting to steal against him.
The Giants have a positive history of dealing with the White Sox, and since Castro will be a free agent following this season, he would come cheap. He is a decent option and could be expected to catch two or three games a week for the Giants.
Jorge Posada has been a Yankee for 17 seasons.
Jorge Posada is a NY Yankee legend, but he is nearing the end of his career. Posada will turn 40 years of age in August, and he is not the player he once was. He's currently hitting only .178 in 146 at-bats this season.
In 2010, Posada hit .248 with a very solid OBP of .357. He also hit 18 home runs and had 57 RBI. In 2010, Posada saw time behind the plate in 83 games. He has yet to catch this season, playing first base once and acting as the DH in 42 games.
If Posada can catch a couple of games a week, he would be worth considering as a backup to Eli Whiteside. His experience makes him a potentially valuable addition for the Giants if he can still catch. Posada could also get a positive surge that can often accompany a change of scenery.
Posada is at the end of a four-year, $52.4 million contract and is making $13.1 million this year. He will be a free agent in 2012. The large amount he's owed for the remainder of 2011 largely offsets the amount Barry Zito is owed for the rest of this year.
Posada has had problems with Yankee manager Joe Girardi, and it could be time for him to move on. Many people have speculated that the Giants could possibly unload Zito for Posada. The Giants undoubtedly would have to pay off a sizable percentage of Zito's remaining salary, but if that number is 50 to 60 percent, it might be worth it.
Zito is owed a total of $39 million in 2012 and 2013. There is also a $7 million buyout for 2014. How much of that remaining $46 million the Giants would be willing to pay is the real question.
Zito could be an asset for the Yankees, as they need pitching, and their offense can give him more run support than he gets in San Francisco. I think a Posada deal for Zito and cash considerations is highly unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Humberto Quintero is a solid option for the Giants
The Houston Astros are mired in last place in the NL Central, 14 games under .500. The Astros are in rebuilding mode and are very cost-conscious. This makes the nine-year veteran Humberto Quintero expendable.
Quintero is a solid receiver but just a so-so hitter. He's batting .248 with no home runs and nine RBI thus far in 2011. He is currently on the DL with a sprained ankle incurred in a home plate collision, somewhat similar to the play that broke Buster Posey's ankle.
The injury to Quintero was not nearly as severe as Posey's, and he will be back soon. He would be a solid addition to the Giants and could split time with Eli Whiteside. I believe he is a significant upgrade over Chris Stewart.
Defensively, Quintero is also very good. He works well with his pitchers, blocks the ball well and has a strong arm. Over his career, Quintero has thrown out 35 percent of opposing runners on stolen base attempts, a very high number.
The Astros have some decent young catching prospects in the minors, including Koby Clemens and Jason Castro, so Quintero probably does not fit into Houston's long-term plans. Castro is out for the year but was a top prospect before he was injured.
The Giants should be able to acquire Quintero for a couple of low- to mid-level prospects. This is a direction worth considering.
Ronny Paulino could be moved by the Mets.
The New York Mets are in major cost-cutting mode. In addition to big-contract stars like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, the Mets will be very open to move veterans who do not fit into their long-term plans. Ronny Paulino is in this category.
Paulino is 30 years old, and the Mets already have a good young catcher in Josh Thole, who is only 24. The Giants could definitely use someone like Paulino. He would be a big offensive upgrade over both Whiteside and Stewart.
Paulino is familiar with the hitters in the National League, having played all seven of his seasons here. Defensively, he is average, but offensively, he would be an asset for the sluggish Giant offense.
Paulino has a career batting average of .275 and is currently hitting .305 this season. He and Whiteside would make a nice tandem behind the plate for the Giants.
GM Brian Sabean would likely be able to get Paulino for a mid-level prospect or a couple of low-end prospects. He is a player the Giants should have on their radar.
Ivan Rodriguez is a future Hall of Fame member
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is a future Hall of Fame member. Currently playing for the Washington Nationals, Rodriguez is splitting time behind the plate with Wilson Ramos.
The Nationals have some good young talent, but they're still two or three years away from having a chance to contend. At age 39, Rodriguez is not in the long-term plans in Washington.
Rodriguez is playing out a one-year, $3 million deal, so the Giants would be responsible for the prorated amount of that contract. Due to his age and status as a short-term rental type of player, the Giants would not have to give up too much to acquire him.
Pudge is in his 21st big league season and is still a decent player. Offensively, he has declined and is hitting only .205 thus far in 2011. I do believe that will improve, however, as Rodriguez hit .266 as recently as last year.
Defensively, Rodriguez is still a very good catcher. Nobody knows more about playing the position than Pudge, and he still looks very good behind the dish. He knows the hitters, their tendencies and is an expert at calling a game.
Pudge still has a strong arm and is throwing out 38 percent of runners on steal attempts against him this year. I strongly believe that Rodriguez's experience would be an asset to the Giants. He can still play, and a move to a contending team would rejuvenate him.
Jose Molina is excellent defensively.
It's truly amazing that three brothers can all make it to the major leagues as catchers. Bengie, Jose and Yadier Molina all made it and have had very good careers.
Jose is the middle of the three Molina brothers and the most unheralded. However, don't let that fool you; he is a very solid player.
In his 12th year in the bigs, Jose is currently hitting .333 in 66 at-bats for Toronto. It's highly unlikely he will stay at that level, as he's a career .240 hitter.
Toronto is currently fourth in the tough AL East, but it's only 3.5 games behind the division-leading Yankees and Red Sox. If the Blue Jays falter over the next month or so, they will be ready to make some moves.
Molina has seen his playing time diminish as rookie J.P. Arencibia has taken over the No. 1 catching job. This makes him expendable.
Jose has a wealth of postseason experience, which would come in handy for the Giants. He even played on two World Series championship teams, the 2002 Angels and the 2009 Yankees.
Defensively is where Molina shines. He is an excellent receiver of the ball, calls a good game, blocks the ball in the dirt and throws extremely well. Molina's career percentage throwing out opposing runners trying to steal is an outstanding 40 percent.
For a team built on its pitching staff, Jose Molina would be a great acquisition. It would likely take a decent prospect, but as long as we're not talking Brandon Belt or Zack Wheeler, it's worth the cost.
Tim Lincecum leads a great pitching staff for the Giants
The Giants have put together arguably the best pitching staff in all of baseball. Their starting staff of Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong matches up with any rotation in baseball. Only the Phillies can claim to have better starting pitching, and that's debatable.
The Giants bullpen, I believe, is superior to the Phillies, however. The back end of the pen is anchored by closer Brian Wilson, and the rest of the bullpen is strong from top to bottom.
When you have the pitching staff the Giants do, you must go for it and try to win. The formula worked in 2010, as the Giants won their first World Series title in San Francisco history.
Top-quality pitching can be a fleeting thing, as injuries can occur and effectiveness can diminish at any time. The Giants have excellent pitching, so the time is now to try to win while they have such a dominant pitching staff.
For this reason, it is imperative that the Giants improve their catching situation. There are some decent options out there, and the Giants need to make an aggressive move to get one of those catchers.
Eli Whiteside is hitting just .164 and has a career average of .222. Backup Chris Stewart is a career .167 hitter and is 0-for-9 thus far in 2011. This simply is not good enough if the Giants hope to win their division and make a deep run in the postseason.