Pudge having a hard time finding work

February, 24, 2009
Among the future Hall of Famers still looking for work: Ivan Rodriguez.

I remember when famous catchers just hung around forever. Remember Jim Sundberg? After two absolutely horrible seasons with the bat, he stuck around for two more (during one of which he did luck into a few hits). Remember Bob Boone? Same thing, except he got three more seasons after eight horrible seasons (as a hitter).

I guess those guys aren't exactly typical, but I'm still surprised Pudge hasn't found a new team yet. Might he wind up with the Mets, though? According to Jon Heyman, he might:

    Ivan Rodriguez. He's got a couple possibilities but apparently at very low rates. The catching market is dreadful as the teams with a need for a catcher also happen to be teams without cash to spend, teams like the Marlins and Astros. I-Rod will use his performance in the WBC for his native Puerto Rico to try to show he's better than he played for the Yankees. I-Rod played well at times for Detroit but word has gotten around that well-respected Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't digging him by the end. His best bet, ultimately, may be the Mets, who are shopping backup catcher Ramon Castro. Castro's stock plummeted in the eyes of the Mets when he declined a chance to [become] the starter a winter ago, seemingly because he preferred being a backup and having more days off. Castro is very talented, but the problem is that the teams that seek catchers aren't apt to want to trade for someone making $2.25 million.

Castro is not that talented. His career numbers include a .310 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage, and that's while being babied; he's never finished a season with more than 240 plate appearances, and he has just one season with more than 157. Granted, he's showed some real power in each of the past two seasons, and catchers do sometimes develop late (or so they say). But it's hard to imagine a 33-year-old catcher suddenly, and for the first time in a long career, playing 120 games and hitting 15 to 20 homers. I mean, stranger things have happened, but …

Anyway, the Mets should consider themselves lucky to have him. The right-hitting Castro and the left-swinging Brian Schneider make for a pretty solid platoon.

Which makes this talk about Rodriguez all the more puzzling. Admittedly, I don't have any kind of handle on Castro's defense. But he's a better hitter than Rodriguez, and I can't imagine he's much worse behind the plate. No, Pudge probably isn't as bad as he looked while a Yankee this past season -- .257 on-base percentage in 33 games -- but that doesn't mean he's good. Over the past two seasons and 943 plate appearances, he has a .305 on-base percentage, ranking 16th among the 18 catchers with at least 800 plate appearances in that span. Sure, he does a little better in the power department, but overall, he's been no better than John Buck and Kenji Johjima. Not exactly sterling company.

I'm surprised Rodriguez doesn't have a job yet. But he now has been pretty awful for two seasons running, and eventually they will stop giving him a uniform.



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