Adam Moore, Backup

There have been a lot of criticisms of the Mariners' signing of Miguel Olivo. Many of them have to do with Olivo himself, and what he brings to the table, and those are perfectly reasonable. There is valid reason to worry that Olivo's going to come in and post a .250 OBP, contributing a whole slew of outs from the bottom of the lineup.

But one of the criticisms has been that bringing in Olivo effectively closes the door on Adam Moore. That signing the veteran means the organization isn't going to give Moore a chance to develop into a starter, which seems like a bad move for a team in the Mariners' position. And this is one that I'm not buying.

The Mariners came into the offseason targeting a veteran catcher. A lot of people were hoping for Gregg Zaun, because Zaun could serve as Moore's partner or backup, which would put Moore in line to start 80-100 games. Now that Olivo's in town, Moore's in line to start more like 50-60 games, because Olivo signed as the starter. So what we're talking about - in round number form - is a difference of about 20-50 starts. Considering that game action actually makes up just a fraction of a guy's experience, this doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

There's a prevailing assumption out there that young players need to play, and that they need to play as often as possible in order to develop. The more starts, the better, and you can see this when, say, Michael Saunders sits a game out. People don't like it when Michael Saunders sits a game out. But where's the proof? Where's the proof that playing as often as possible is better for a young player's future? Obviously, a guy needs to get his reps, but there's something to be said for easing a player in.

Fans are all about giving young players an opportunity to "sink or swim". That's okay if you're talking about an elite-level talent like a Stephen Strasburg or an Albert Pujols or a Buster Posey. Those are young guys who have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop and capable of adjusting and learning in a hurry. But for a lesser talent - not a bad talent, but a lesser one - I think it's easy to see how that could be overwhelming. Especially for a player like Moore.

Moore's a catcher. We've known for a while that catchers tend to develop the slowest of all player types, and this is presumably because there is so much more that goes into their game. And look at Moore a year ago. He batted .195. He didn't walk and he struck out all the time. He struggled to throw runners out. He allowed a ton of passed balls and wild pitches. Adam Moore got into 60 games last season and had a hard time with pretty much everything.

And fans wanted to give him a chance to sink or swim in 2011. I'm all about playing Moore, but I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that dumping too much on Moore too quickly could actually be bad for his development. Moore has to improve his game across the board. He has to adjust to playing against the highest level of competition in the world. And people want to see him do that while starting. It could work, but there's a serious gamble with his confidence. There's a good chance that could be too much for Moore at once, and he'd end up getting down on himself. And a baseball player without self-confidence is a baseball player without a bright future.

Run Moore out there 100 times and there's a chance that all it does is make him feel like shit. Not only could he bat .200 again, but he could struggle to apply what he's learning in practice to game situations. When you change a pitcher's throwing mechanics, you have to take things slowly because you have to overwrite his muscle memory. Throw a guy with freshly new mechanics right into a starting job and he'll revert back to what he used to do. Moore could and should have an easier time learning and applying in a smaller role with less pressure.

A lot of people out there think that blocking Moore with Olivo is bad for his development, but I think there's a strong argument to the contrary. This way, Moore gets to take things at a slower pace. He isn't so much in the spotlight. Additionally, there are other factors that I can't speak to, but that have come up in other places. Olivo could "push" Moore. Olivo could serve as Moore's mentor. I don't know how much value there is getting a push, and I don't know how much Moore could pick up from watching Olivo go to work, but enough people talk about these things that they probably can't be written off entirely.

It's possible that the Mariners have, indeed, given up on Moore. I don't know. I'm not in the front office. They could trade him next week. But I don't interpret this move in that way. I think the Mariners know that Moore is talented, and they know that they can't ask him to start. Not immediately. So they brought in a veteran to help out, take some of the pressure off, and maybe teach Moore a thing or two. It's not a bad idea.

As long as he sticks, Moore will still get a chance to develop, even in a backup role. Not only will he play at least a couple times a week - he'll also be in practice every day, learning from Major League coaches and Major League teammates. And if he gets better, then I'm sure the Mariners would love nothing more than to see him start challenging Olivo for playing time. Sure, they signed Olivo for two years, but he isn't a guy that's impossible to trade or impossible to bump. If Moore shows that he's ready, then - and only then - will he get his chance.

Catching is hard. Moore needs time. Olivo will help to provide it.

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