Just Say No

Monday, March 16, 2009

Judging from the latest reports, the Marlins are considering making an offer to Ivan Rodriguez. Allow me to offer my two cents: Don't do it.

Let's break down the implications of a Pudge signing for the Marlins. For this purpose, let's assume that if Pudge signs with the Marlins, he will be given the everyday starting job behind the plate (let's say this works out to ~120 starts). It is pretty clear that he won't sign with the Fish unless this demand is met. Offensively, Rodriguez would be considered an upgrade over current starter John Baker, but I am skeptical. Take a look at Pudge's OPS+ over the last 5 years. After posting an OPS+ of 136 in 2004, he OPS+ed 94, 97, 85, and 87 in subsequent seasons. Simply put, the man is 37, an age when most players' offensive numbers decline. I cannot guarantee Baker would be better (he posted an OPS+ of 121 in 197 at bats last year), but if he performs at league average (OPS+ of 100), I would prefer that to a 37-year-old Pudge.

But hitting isn't everything when it comes to the catcher position. The Marlins will score plenty of runs if Hanley, Uggla, Maybin, Cantu, and Gaby Sanchez play up to their collective potential. If Pudge could still play the catcher's position as well as he did in his prime, I would gladly ignore his deteriorating offense. Let's take a look at his stolen base/caught stealing percentages over the past ten years:

SB CS CS% Attempts Att/Game
34 41 54.7% 75 0.53
20 19 48.7% 39 0.45
23 35 60.3% 58 0.55
26 15 36.6% 41 0.41
40 20 33.3% 60 0.43
40 19 32.2% 59 0.48
33 35 51.5% 68 0.55
25 26 51.0% 51 0.41
47 21 30.9% 68 0.54
52 25 32.5% 77 0.69

At his peak, Pudge was the best at throwing out would-be base-stealers. His peak, however, is long past. His caught-stealing rate has entered the pedestrian 30% range, still better-than-average, but not a dramatic upgrade over your average catcher (which is what I'll go with since John Baker's CS% is atrocious, but taken from a small sample size).

The other major factor to consider is how well Pudge is at calling a game and handling the pitching staff compared to Baker. Pudge can call a good game, but is he worth the money? Baker and likely backup Mike Rabelo will probably make less than $1 million combined in 2009. Pudge will require at least that much, and probably more. Frankly, I'd rather see the Marlins save their money now in case they need to add a piece at the trading deadline in July.

Rodriguez was one of the pieces that put the Marlins over the top in 2003, when he signed what was possibly the most effective one-year contract ever. This time around, he's more likely to be a drain on the offense and a hindrance to the development of John Baker.

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that Pudge has signed with the Astros for $1.5 million in a one-year contract, with additional performance incentives worth up to another $1.5 million. That's cheaper than I expected him to cost, but still too much for my tastes...


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