Friday, December 04, 2009

Mets Catcher Situation, Part 2: The Plot Thickens is reporting, via Francisco Blavia of Lider en Deportes, that the Mets have signed C Henry Blanco to a one year, $1.5 million dollar contract.

Blanco is a career .228/.292/.366 hitter - though that number improves to .252/.304/.384 in the last four seasons. He is not much of a hitter, obviously, but he has a reputation as a STERLING defensive catcher. In fact, last week when comparing Josh Thole's ability to check the opposition's running game, Jonathan Mayo used Henry Blanco as a comparison. He is playing this season at age 38.

This, along with the signing of Chris Coste, gives the Mets four catchers who played in the majors last year. Um... what are we going to do with all of them?

Initially, I believe this to be a decent signing. Although $1.5 million represents a raise over what he earned last season, and he is going to be 38 this year, it's not the kind of signing, in dollars or years, which hurts the Mets. This is how I see the Mets catching situation panning out in the early part of the season:

MLB: Blanco/Santos
AAA: Thole/Coste

The thing about this arrangement which, frankly, is dumb, is that Blanco and Santos in a lot of ways replicate one another. Both have no upside, both have excellent defensive reputations. But there is one good part to this -- their splits:

Santos, 2009, OPS: 616 vs. LHP, 727 vs. RHP
Blanco, career, OPS: 739 vs, LHP, 627 vs. RHP

Blanco's splits were even more pronounced last season, when he posted an awful 563 OPS against RHP and an amazing 1039 OPS against LHP (albeit in only 59 at bats). In 2008, 668 v. RHP and 771 v. LHP.[1]

IF (and I repeat, IF) the plan is to platoon Santos and Blanco, and have Coste mentor Thole in AAA for the first few months, then I approve. Santos and Blanco, as noted above, will be pretty bad offensively, but that's alright in the short run. If they can platoon and hit somewhere around .280/.320/.400 together, I'll take that... until Thole, as I anticipate, forces a promotion. As a bonus, Thole will have Chris Coste take him under his wing[2] and teach him a little about defense[3] and adjusting to the major leagues. In fact, Adam Rubin, the Mets beat reporter for the Daily News, had this to say about Coste:
Praised for his grit and willingness to teach, Coste likely will be assigned to Triple-A to mentor Thole, help the Bisons have a winning season after a woeful 2009 and provide depth.
HOWEVER, if the plan is (as Rubin reports in that same article) to trade for or sign yet ANOTHER catcher, this move makes no sense at all. If the Mets acquire a #1 guy -- then where does Omir Santos go? Do the Mets carry three catchers at the major league level? Will this catcher even be better than Josh Thole is likely to be (probably not)? Will this catcher have the same favorable platoon split as Santos/Blanco?[4]

As for now, I like the plan. But this is the Mets... so stay tuned.

[1] All splits courtesy of the fantastic

[2] Remember, Coste was the 33-year-old rookie and might be an excellent role model for perseverence, etc. Indeed, succeeding so late in his career, it may have been because he was a great student of the game. All speculation of course.

[3] As for defense, though, Coste's reputation is poor. But that may have to do more with his age and lack of athleticism than it does with technique.

[4] If it's Molina, it won't.

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