Matt Wieters, pictured on first base during a game Sept. 15 at Toronto. Photo: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
When the players you sign in the offseason make less than the new pitching coach and bullpen coach hired last month, the Hot Stove portion of the year is slowing down.
The Baltimore Orioles acquired Johnny Monell from the Giants on Saturday for cash considerations. Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said Monell would compete for the backup catching job in Spring Training.
On MASNSports.com Sunday, Roch Kubatko listed nine catchers the Norfolk Tides used last season, a few of them having been called up by the O’s at some point.
Take Luis Exposito, for example.
When I hear something like the idea that Exposito’s deficiencies behind the plate were glaring (not to mention when I watch the games and see it), it makes me wonder what combination of scouts and minor league coaches answered yes when asked if he was ready for a major league job, regardless of what organizations he’s been with. Or if it wasn’t a matter of being promoted but being claimed after being released, whose word Duquette was relying on by claiming him.
Somewhere in my hazy memory, it seems like Exposito was sort of a warm body brought in here when the club was waiting for Taylor Teagarden to get healthy the year before last. Sometimes a GM’s hands are tied except to grab a player just because he’s available, and no one in his own farm system is ready. Which, come to think of it, was most likely the case with all nine of those scrap-heap catchers.
But there is always method to Duquette’s – well, not madness – but there’s a method to his maneuverings. Sooner or later, Matt Wieters will need to play fewer games because of his workload last season. Also sooner or later, the Orioles will be facing the more and more realistic necessity of trading him if they can’t pay him. So developing talent now is the path to take, either to groom as Wieters’ replacement, or to package later on for a strong, starting catcher.
The cavalcade of catching candidates speaks to the fact that one hasn’t stood out in the farm system since Wieters.
Signings that build minor league depth are the stuff of which off-seasons are made in the land of small budgets, or budgets that aren’t Yankee, Dodger, or Angel budgets.
Last month’s hirings of Dave Wallace as pitching coach and Dom Chiti as bullpen coach deserve plenty of credit as the right moves to make. They are not just a couple of “anything would be an improvement” people – even though, yes, anything would be. Their experience in the Atlanta organization, and overall, will benefit the Orioles’ pitchers. New ideas on ways for starters to get beyond the 5th or 6th inning are the most important thing.