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The Catcher Plan: Stand Pat

Pat Gillick the catcher planPat Gillick, the current president of the Philadelphia Phillies, has had a storied and successful career as a baseball executive. The Blue Jays won championships in 1992 and 1993 while he was their general manager. He went on to have successful stints with the Orioles and Mariners as well before landing with the Phillies in 2006, and in 2008 the Phillies won a championship. In 2011 Gillick was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Think about some of the players in the hall of fame. Think about their nicknames. They are awesome. The Splendid Splinter. The Sultan of Swat. Mr. October. If you are great at your job, you get a cool nickname. Makes sense to me.

In spite what you’ve seen in the movies, baseball executives are not cool and not handsome. Gillick is not your Brad Pitt type. (Neither is Billy Beane really, though certain followers view him as dreamily.) Still, you’d think a guy like this would get a pretty good nickname himself, if he were to get one at all. But it was not to be. Pat Gillick’s nickname is “Stand Pat,” due to his reluctance to make trades.

That is not only a corny nickname, but an inaccurate one as well. I still remember calling my friends when we heard that he acquired Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff and debating who won the deal (It was Gillick). I mean, those were 4 all-stars; I can’t pull that off in a fantasy league and he did it in reality, and it was a key to winning a championship. Stand Pat?!? The guy also made a big trade for David Cone as well as trading Jim Thome to make room for Ryan Howard – he seems pretty aggressive to me.

Someone with a resume like that doesn’t deserve that nickname. I’m doing some thinking on why he got it and thinking “boy he must have been a pain in the butt to deal with sometimes to get that”. He made some pretty high-profile moves, but he always had a good reason for making them. And if a trade didn’t appeal to him then he just didn’t do it.

A number of you play in a lot of fantasy leagues, and if you’re like me they are most likely for shits and giggles. It’s not a huge deal if you trade for a guy who goes belly up for a couple of months. Trading is fun. Keeper leagues are a little different; you are probably in them with some knowledgeable people and some of them may be your friends so your bad deals have long-term repercussions. Odds are you will hear about your mistakes for a long time, so sometimes it’s best to stand pat.

As we turn to catchers this week,  I think it pays to look back before we look forward. Before the 2015 season, two of the most desirable keeper targets at the position were Jonathan Lucroy and Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco had a little bit of hype coming into 2014, but even optimistic projections didn’t call for 25 home runs. Lucroy had a bit more of a track record and was coming off a season where he had 53 doubles, a .301 average and was 4th in the MVP voting. A good batting average out of the catching slot is really valuable.

If you had a guy like Russell Martin (who is inconsistent and getting older) you might have been anxious coming into this season, and it might have seemed advisable to send Martin and a piece over for a catcher upgrade. There are plenty of other catchers who are owned in leagues that are worse than Martin too, so Lucroy and Mesoraco had appeal to plenty of teams.

But if you hung on to those middling options like Martin, Derek Norris or Miguel Montero, you had a leg up in 2015 because Lucroy fell back a ways and Mesoraco was injured for almost the entire year. Now if you had worse options than that, maybe you were lucky enough to drop them for Francisco Cervelli or Nick Hundley because you didn’t have to wait for a highly touted guy to give you a turnaround that never came. Let it be a reminder: there is really only one blue chip guy at the position, and he will be moving to first base for the Giants before long.

So when I look at this crop of catchers going into the 2016 season, I see a bunch of players who are similar. We don’t have a lot of guys who will take the league by storm at this position. A player will finish tenth at the position one year, maybe fifth the next, and get dinged up a little the following year. I kind of look for boring guys who will hang around and get me some power, and hopefully some counting numbers. There’s not a lot of sex appeal here, and especially not here.

When ranking the catchers (catcher rankings come out Sunday), I have Salvador Perez about 7 slots ahead Derek Norris. But, if I’m a Norris owner, I don’t feel like I’m in a hideous situation and the Perez owner is in a great one. It wouldn’t be a total shock for Norris to outperform Perez over the next three seasons – at least not to me. I don’t feel like this is a big upgrade, so I’m going to stand pat. (Except, maybe for Travis d’Arnuad: Only 26 and made big strides this year . . . Get it out of your mind! Be resolute!)

Those are my views for catchers in dynasty leagues; the grass is not that much greener so look for your upgrades elsewhere, where there really matter.

 

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2 comments on “The Catcher Plan: Stand Pat

  1. Good piece, Michael. I couldn’t agree more. After Posey, anyone could do anything in any year. That’s why I boldly listed Vogt as #2. May as well hope for further improvement, instead of being scared away by an injury-plagued second half.

    • Thanks for commenting Kevin. I know we tend to have a similar take on things, and though you have Vogt a lot higher than I do it wouldn’t shock me to see anyone ranked in the top 20 or so to end up second at the end of the 2016 season.

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