Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 15, 2007
BASEBALL: Yorvit Who?

So, the Mets have apparently located $14.4 million they don't need and given it in a 3-year deal to Yorvit Torrealba, who backed into the Rockies' starting catching job this season when rookie Chris Iannetta wasn't ready to hit major league pitching; Torrealba thus cleared 225 at bats for the first time in his career. ESPN notes:

The Mets . . . are signing Torrealba mainly for his defense. Rockies pitchers gave Torrealba a lot of credit for how he called a game, though he did not have a high success rate when trying to throw runners out.

Torrealba only caught 13-of-74 base-stealers, while the man he replaces, Lo Duca, nailed 17-of-89.

So, he's here to call games for Pedro Martinez? You'd think when you sign a defense-first, catch-and-throw catcher, you'd at least get a guy who can throw. The money here is bizarre; good catchers are scarce, but it's not like Torrealba's skill set is at all hard to find cheap. Certainly he's a lesser player than Ramon Castro, who will be signed far more cheaply to back him up (granted, Castro's not physically up to playing every day). I suppose I could understand skimping on the catching position - deciding that it's not worth spending a fortune on guys who are not really stars, like Michael Barrett - but if that's your goal, why plunk down $14 million? Why not just beat the bushes for some other guys who can hit .240 for peanuts?

Torrealba will be 29 in 2008, and is a career .251/.391/.313 hitter, .242/.377/.299 away from Coors Field; there's no reason to think he is due to make a big step forward as a hitter, and those numbers are poor even for a #8 hitter. Despite batting less than 400 times in 2007, he managed to finish in the top 10 in the league in GIDP. There is no possible explanation for this deal.

UPDATE: Cerrone talks to a Denver writer who calls Torrealba a "clutch hitter." In 2007, Torrealba batted .201/.254/.270 with men in scoring position and .205/.298/.277 with two outs. His career batting line in the postseason is .238/.357/.298.

BOTTOM LINE: I would score this signing as being similar to the contract the Phillies gave Adam Eaton. Honestly, if they were going to sign a guy who can't throw, they may as well have brought back Piazza.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:46 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The explanation is Omar's Latino connection, right? For a while I kept thinking that there's nothing to it, but I think clearly there is.

Posted by: Al at November 15, 2007 6:30 PM

Omar is throwing crazy jack at guys because they are both Latino? That makes no sense but then again there does not seem to be any plausible answer to this. This more than triples his current pay. Back up catchers, unless it is an unusual situation, are worth about $1 million bucks or less.

Posted by: jim at November 15, 2007 6:54 PM

It's not a good signing on the surface. Below the surface, Torrealba isn't likely to be a substantially better hitter than he appears to be, though perhaps he will prove better defensively. Throwing can vary a lot year-to-year for various reasons other than ability. Still, the best that can be said is that Omar may deserve the benefit of the doubt on his defensive assessment.

Posted by: Jerry at November 15, 2007 6:57 PM

Omar is holding on to his youngsters for one of 2 reasons. They're real good or he's looking to make a big splash. You watch- Omar will improve both starting and relief pitching through trades because he used free agency for catching (and probably Castillo at second base). Don't be shocked if he offers Mariano 4 years as well!

Posted by: Daniel Lebenstein at November 15, 2007 8:42 PM

None of that is a good reason to spend $14 million on a player who is neither good nor hard to replace with a cheap alternative.

Posted by: The Crank at November 15, 2007 8:44 PM

You gotta have somebody behind the plate in case nody hits the ball! He is cheaper and younger than LoDuca. Posada is not available- did you prefer Michael Barret? They say he calls a great game- Let's see what else Omar has up his leeetle sleeve this winter. If he dosen't come up with some real pitching help then I'm with you- but watch and see. He's very "outside the box". Don't be shocked to see a major leaguer go in a trade along with one or two minor leaguers.

Posted by: Daniel Lebenstein at November 15, 2007 9:06 PM

Deduct the $ that we're not paying Glavine, Sele, LoDuca, and Green in '08 and add Torrealba's salary to that. We have the $ and the players to do a sign/ trade deal for Santana without giving up anyone we'll miss. Outfielders are a dime a dozen. Pitching... Pitching... Pitching!

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2007 9:34 PM

I think Omar was simply not going to sign LoDuca no matter what. The fit was poor with him and management I guess. And he was going to spiral into a steep decline ...and catchers, good catchers are rare.

BTW Crank, I could think of one catcher who was great defensively with a questionable arm--it got worse after the injury, but I think it's safe that Torrealba won't make us think of Gary Carter.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 15, 2007 9:37 PM

Yorvit is not the best thrower, that is true. However, these days it is more and more important to have a bi-lingual catcher who can motivate pitchers. As a Mets fan who happens to live in Denver, I have witnessed this numerous times over this last season where Yorvit is concerned. Don't worry, this is a great acquisition for the Mets.

Posted by: Jenna at November 16, 2007 9:02 AM

I was hoping you'd write on this, Crank. I guess the organization got fed up with LoDuca's tantrums and his weird eyebrows. And how do we know Castro can't work regular catchers hours? Obviously he can't or we wouldn't be throwing this kind of money at mediocrity, but it seems like we could have platooned the position a whole lot cheaper.

Posted by: spongeworthy at November 16, 2007 10:08 AM

You are paying him $10 mil less than we're paying Eaton. And you guys have more money to waste.

Still, I don't get it.

Posted by: hoyasaxa at November 16, 2007 12:02 PM

In Minaya's defense, he thought he was getting both Joe Torre and Jessica Alba.

Posted by: rbj at November 16, 2007 1:38 PM

In Philly we are thrilled at Omar Minaya's ineptitude.

Is there an SI curse for GM's?

I hear Eckstein's next!

Posted by: John Salmon at November 16, 2007 3:10 PM

Hmmm..... Who hit .500 against the Phillies in the NLDS? Yeah, that would be Yorvit Torrealba. Sorry, sounds like sour grapes to me.

Posted by: Jenna at November 16, 2007 6:16 PM

In general, I'm not one to question Omar's apparent preference for Latino players. But at some point, I think it's fair to ask whether he's putting an undue PR burden on David Wright when it comes to dealing with the predominantly English-speaking media. Glavine and Lo Duca were the go-to guys for quotes over the last two years (something Lo Duca took a fair amount of heat for complaining about). If Endy Chavez plays right field on opening day, Wright will be the only player in the lineup who speaks English as a first language.

Posted by: Jerry at November 16, 2007 6:51 PM

And .143 in the World Series, Jenna. His overall postseason numbers are nothing special.

Posted by: The Crank at November 16, 2007 9:00 PM

All's well that ends well.

Posted by: Greg Schreiber at November 17, 2007 6:24 PM

ESPN is now reporting that the Mets have pulled the offer and ceased negotiations with Torrealba. Hallelujah!!!

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3116496

Posted by: Phunwin at November 17, 2007 9:27 PM
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