When the Seattle Mariners traded John Jaso to the A's, it left them with one catcher on the roster -- a righty of questionable defensive ability who's demonstrated that he can hit well against lefties, but who's demonstrated that he struggles to hit well against righties. The Mariners talked openly about how they would shop for another catcher, since, while they like what they have in the organization, the prospects aren't yet ready. And by "prospects" I mean "Mike Zunino".
It seems the Mariners have found their guy, reportedly signing a righty of questionable defensive ability who's demonstrated that he can hit well against lefties, but who's demonstrated that he struggles to hit well against righties. And he's almost 32.
Ronny Paulino firmó con los @Mariners por $ 1 millón de dólares; si hace el equipo puede recibir $ 200 mil en bonos gracias a su desempeño (source)
In other words, according to this report, the Mariners have signed Ronny Paulino for $1 million, and if he actually makes the team out of camp, he'll get a small bonus. The door will be open for, say, Zunino to really open some eyes, but if this report is true, you can expect that Paulino and Jesus Montero will be the guys at the beginning.
This is the sort of deal that makes sense -- Paulino's a veteran, which the Mariners probably like, he'll be comfortable serving as a backup, and he'd be easy to move out of the way in the event that he needs to move out of the way. The Mariners are going to give Montero an opportunity to prove himself as a backstop. Paulino's not going to come in expecting an awful lot of playing time, not after getting into just 20 games last year with the Orioles. This is a nothing signing that had to be completed in order for the Mariners to have more than one catcher on the team.
The relevant information:
Paulino vs. LHP: .325/.379/.465 (664 PA)
Paulino vs. RHP: .247/.298/.333 (1368 PA)
Earlier in his career, the Pirates liked Paulino for his work behind the plate. The Pirates, however, don't exactly know good defensive catchers, and last year the Orioles reportedly weren't fond of Paulino's work behind the plate. His throwing numbers are about average. His pitch-blocking numbers are about average. His pitch-framing numbers are below average. Objectively, Paulino isn't much better than John Jaso back there, but there's more to catching than I'm able to evaluate, and more importantly, who cares? This is Ronny Paulino. This is a temporary backup backstop on a probable non-contender. Why even write about him at all? Why even acknowledge this reported transaction?
Paulino does have an unusually long Baseball-Reference Bullpen page. Without question, my favorite part:
Paulino hit .490/.490/.837 with a team-leading 15 RBI in 17 games in Grapefruit League play entering the final preseason game in 2007, when he added two more RBI though his average fell to .481.
Paulino has been suspended for a violation of the MLB drug policy. He blamed a dietary pill, and it seems like he was telling the truth, although it usually does. For an idea of his perceived value around the league, here are players for whom he has been traded in the past:
- Jason Jaramillo (2008)
- Jack Taschner (2009)
- Hector Correa (2009)
Paulino was also selected in the 2002 Rule 5 Draft -- and later returned to his original team -- and last year he lost his job to Taylor Teagarden. There's a chance that Ronny Paulino has been criminally underrated. There's a better chance that Ronny Paulino has been non-criminally normal-rated. He's hit lefties okay, but he's the picture of a backup.
It would've made sense for the Mariners to target someone more complementary to Montero, but then left-handed catchers don't really exist, and so there's only so much they could do, especially on a budget, especially given their demands. The Mariners were going to sign some generic backup, and it appears they've signed some generic backup. Paulino might be a great guy, he might be someone we could really like. He's probably not going to be around here for long, because Mike Zunino is on the fast track, and why not assume that a top prospect will make a seamless transition to the bigs? I can't see how that could possibly go wrong. "Best to just take top prospects for granted," that's what I always say.