With the Miami Marlins spring training season only one game old the team already finds itself down a back up catcher. Jeff Mathis was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in this past offseason’s blockbuster trade and was penciled in as the Marlins’ back up catcher behind starter Rob Brantly. Mathis took a foul ball off his collarbone in Saturday’s spring training opener. The seemingly harmless incident that is a regular part of catcher’s life resulted in a fractured bone this time. Mathis will be out of action for six weeks and leaves the team in a precarious position in terms of its back up catcher spot to start the season.
The remaining options in camp include 2008 1st round pick Kyle Skipworth, Jake Jeffries (backed up Skipworth at AA Jacksonville in 2012) and 2010 3rd round pick Jake Realmuto. All are young players with not a lot of success on their resumes’ in the minor leagues. Skipworth is generally regarded as a bust after being drafted 6th overall in 2008. He has struggled offensively at every level including a robust .217/.285/.414 performance at AA Jacksonville in 2012, his second season in AA. Jeffries served as Skipworth’s backup in AA, which should tell you all you need to know, but just to reinforce the point let’s mention that he hit just .233/.297/.323 there. Realmuto is probably the Marlins’ most promising catcher prospect coming into the season, but he was only in A ball Jupiter last season and didn’t exactly tear it up with a .256/.319/.345 season.
What about free agents you say? Well a quick look at the Free Agent Tracker function over at mlbtraderumors.com tells us that only old friend Matt Treanor remains unsigned and available. Treanor was the back up for the Dodgers in 2012 and put up a disappointing .175/.281/.282 batting line. Bad even for the low standards you might expect for the always light hitting journeyman. But the Marlins are in a desperate situation here, so they might as well give him a call says you. Just to further complicate things though, it seems that Treanor just had a minor knee surgery that will also keep him out of action for six weeks according to Juan Rodriguez at the Sun Sentinel.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the current predicament requires some out of the box style thinking so let’s have some fun with it and play a little make believe. As we all know, the Marlins find themselves entering a season where expectations are extremely low on the field and with the offseason shenanigans the front office pulled, attracting fans will be difficult to say the least. So here’s an idea, with the team celebrating its 20th anniversary this season why not take this opportunity to bring back some of the Marlins fan favorites at the catcher position.
July 14, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Florida Marlins former catcher Ivan Rodriguez waves a baseball to the crowd as he is honored during a ceremony before a game between the Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Top candidate, of course, would be Pudge Rodriguez who played as recently as 2011 with the Nationals. Now Pudge just accepted a cushy front office job with the Rangers a few days ago that he probably doesn’t want to lose, so we may have to turn to second choice candidate and 1997 World Series champion Charles Johnson. Let’s see here, when did CJ last strap on the gear? Oh, it was back in 2005 and he probably has no idea where that gear is by now and it’s probably teal anyways. Who’s next? Hey, what if we try a little player/manager action and let Mike Redmond serve as his own backup catcher. This way he wouldn’t even have to get up from squatting behind the plate to make a pitching change and he could treat his players to one of his famous nude batting practice sessions to help break out of a team slump. Even though, as a first year manager, he probably doesn’t want to take on that much responsibility, so I say we turn to the original. The Marlins should bring back Benito Santiago as the back up catcher to open the 20thanniversary season. Benito is 47 years old now and probably couldn’t get out of the crouch position after the first inning, but as you may remember he used to like to throw down to second from his knees anyway so nothing has really changed since 1993. Who do you think it should be?