I've been pretty silent -- that is, absolutely silent -- on the issue of catching for the Giants in 2006 thus far. The reasoning is simple. If I dwell on it, I'll scream.
There are some roles on a team that I believe you can get away with having some dude in a uniform: backup 1st baseman, pinch-hitter, and 5th outfielder all come to mind. But backup catcher isn't one of them.
Brian Sabean's non-move in regards to filling this spot is a bit mystifying to me. After all, this is a guy who seems to love making moves, even ones that seem unneccesary. I was reminiscing the other day about Reggie Sanders, who had a solid season offensively and a good season defensively for the Giants in 2002 playing right field, but was not brought back in 2003. In comes Jose Cruz, Jr., who was palatable offensively and stellar defensively in 2003, but also was not brought back for 2004. The two-headed monster of Michael Tucker and Dustan Mohr handled the right field duties in 2004, and both were effective in their roles...but again, were let go before 2005.
By the time we get to Moises Alou, folks, that's four roster moves made where one would have sufficed (simply re-signing Sanders). Not exactly a model of efficiency.
Another example is Dustin Hermanson, Tim Worrell, and Joe Nathan. While Sabean has hung onto the likes of Jason Christiansen and Matt Herges, both of whom were mediocre at their best during their tenure with the club, Sabes sometimes treats good relievers like hot potatoes. Worrell, Hermanson, and Nathan were good enough to keep (Worrell and Nathan after the 2003 season, and Hermanson after the 2004 season), and all were better than others who were allowed to stick around.
While I do see that all three might have cost more money than Sabean was willing to spend, let's look at two moves that were made for 2005 and think; LaTroy Hawkins and Armando Benitez. Didn't have much problem taking on payroll there, did he?
Wouldn't it have been worlds easier to just pay those players (all three of whom probably would have made close to the same salary combined as Benitez makes by himself) than go through all of this musical reliever crap? Not even to mention Sabean is doing it again with Scott Eyre, letting him go in the exact same fashion as Worrell and Nathan -- right after their career years.
Sabes, you can trade relievers after their career years, because their value is at the highest and you'll get something in return. But just letting them go because you don't want to pay them money that you end up spending on other relievers anyway? Just doesn't make sense.
Sabean, to me, seems to believe that the only thing that validates his presence as General Manager is moving players in and out, fitting pieces to a puzzle that ends up making a picture strikingly similar to the puzzle he dismantled the year before.
So, why the complacency with backup catcher? While I don't agree with many of the things Sabean's done, the only stupid move he's made was Alex Sanchez (although that was stupid enough for three or four other stupid moves of the normal variety). I'm not about to think he's going to let Justin Knoedler be the backup for a 35-year old Mike Matheny all season long, is he?
Both Knoedler and Yamid Haad amassed negative VORP's last year (Value Over Replacement Player), but I can see how one might pass over Knoedler's numbers given that he only had 10 at-bats to show anything.
But riddle me this -- if the organization believed Haad was the #1 guy behind Yorvit Torrealba, and believed it enough that they were willing to send Torry on his way and bring Haad in, what do they project for Knoedler after their #1 guy was so horrible? No, Knoedler cannot be any worse, true, but...
...is this over-confidence in Knoedler, or over-confidence in Mike Matheny's ability to play the vast majority of the season at a high level?
I think it's the latter, and I cannot help but think there's a very good chance that this could easily hurt the Giants in 2006. We all should already know that Matheny's offensive output last year was above his normal levels (and, by the way, notice how those numbers came back to the mean by the end of the season?), and there is. not. any. way. that. he. will. hit. for. that. high. of. an. average. with. runners. in. scoring. position. again.
So, anybody with some sense should realize the only direction for Matheny's offensive production to go is down, especially given his age of 35. Which brings us to another point -- games played. Matheny played 134 games last year, and a la Benito Santiago, saw his offensive numbers fall deeper into the season when his legs were no longer fresh. Does Sabes now propose to have Matheny play more games next season after seeing this phenomenon of old catchers getting tired late in the season for four of the last five seasons?
I guess that's the case, because otherwise he's trying to say that Knoedler can start about 30 games next year and be productive -- and that's 30 games if the 35 year-old catcher they currently have doesn't get hurt.
Seems an incredible stretch of common sense to me.
UPDATE: Thanks to Adam for this update, which apparently just happened a bit after I made this entry -- Todd Greene has signed a minor-league contract with the Giants within the last hour or two. Greene is 34, and has had some decent offensive production at times, although notably his best offensive years have been with the Rockies and Rangers, respectively.
Things make a lot more sense now than they did...oh, about three hours ago. Greene seems capable enough for a backup role, although officially he's to compete for the job.