There has been a lot of talk since the team acquired Jesus Montero as to what this means for the catching situation. The team believes that Montero can catch and plan on working with him in order to maximize his potential value to the team. The big question is what does this mean for the remaining catchers on the team. I decided to take a look at how the Minnesota Twins have dealt with this similar situation over the last few years to attempt to find the answer to the question:
Just how many catchers do the Mariners need on the 25 man roster?
Other than 2011, in which Mauer was hurt for an extensive period of time, the Twins have had to juggle an all star hitter in the demanding catcher position. So let’s look at how the Twins kept his bat in the lineup as often as they could while not overworking him as a catcher from 2008-2010.
Mauer started 135 games as a catcher and only 4 as a DH (this was honestly shocking to me), his back up Mike Redmond started the remaining 28 games (this adds up to 163 because of a one game playoff verses the White Sox). The only other catcher used that season was Ryan Jorgenson, who didn’t start any games and only caught 3 innings.
Mauer started 105 games at catcher and 28 as the DH. This season saw Redmond start 39 games and Jose Morales start 19 (Again a 163 game season due to a playoff game with the Tigers). Morales was never a very permanent addition to the roster, he started the season in AAA Rochester, was called up on May 15 and sent down 6 days later on the 21st then recalled again on June 13 this time lasting a little over a month, he was sent back down on July 15. His final recall was on August 29, just in time for September roster expansion. Morales’ first 6 day call up lines up with a time when Mauer and Redmond were both nursing injuries, however the June call up does not so it would seem the team decided they needed a third catcher on the roster for that time.
Mauer started 107 games at catcher and 22 as the DH. Drew Butera took over as the primary backup, starting 44 games with Morales starting 4 games and Wilson Ramos starting 7. Again the Twins used primarily a two catcher roster configuration. Ramos was on the major league roster for 10 days between May 2 and 12. Mauer hurt his heel on the first and missed 6 games. Morales came up from AAA on July 26 and left on August 15, reappearing once more on September 1. Mauer was again nursing minor injuries in late July which explains Morales’ recall.
2009 and ‘10 seem like a realistic expectation for what the Mariners could be looking at for next season. It doesn’t seem that outlandish to expect 100 games out of a starter, 40 out of Montero and the remaining 22 to come from a third catcher. The third catcher however would need to qualify under one of two conditions, have an option left in order to shuttle back and forth as Morales did for the Twins or have the positional flexibility to play positions other than catcher. It is unrealistic to think the Mariners can carry a catching only player for the whole season and only expect him in 22 games so if this is the route I see 5 options in front of them.
1. Olivo is the starter, Montero backs him up, Jaso shuttles back and forth as needed
2. Olivo is the starter, Montero backs him up, Jaso stays in AAA, Chris Gimenez is a third catcher and backup corner outfielder
3. Jaso is the starter, Montero backs him up, Adam Moore shuttles back and forth as needed and Olivo is cut/traded
4. Jaso is the starter, Montero backs him up, Chris Gimenez is a third catcher and backup corner outfielder, Olivo is cut/traded
5. Olivo and Jaso form a catching platoon, Montero is the primary DH and only catches in emergencies
Unless the team really plans on easing Montero into catching and only having him behind the plate 20 or so times then option 5 doesn’t really work from a development standpoint as this way they are taking plate appearances that could go to Casper Wells or Mike Carp and giving them to Olivo.
Any scenario where Olivo, Jaso and Montero are all on the team for an extended period of time just doesn’t work without giving up an incredible amount of flexibility on the rest of the field. Personally I think option 4 works the best for this team, the Twins made it work without an emergency third catcher as often because for 100 something games there was a back up catcher on the bench. In the Mariners situation this would be flipped, if Jaso is starting then Montero is DHing. So for 100 something games there would be NO catcher on the bench. If Jaso needs a mid game replacement then Montero would have to switch positions and a new DH would have to come off the bench. This puts more pressure on Montero’s catching abilities. I guess what I’m saying is that Olivo is expendable since he isn’t here for the long term.
Plus, well, Olivo is bad and I don’t know why I wrote such a big piece in order to say “the team should ditch the bad player”.