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Yorvit Torrealba?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, November 14, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I loved Paul Lo Duca's fire and passion, but strictly from a baseball business perspective I could understand the Mets electing to go in another direction for their catcher. But now multiple news outlets are reporting the Mets are close to a deal with the Rockies' Yorvit Torrealba. I have to admit that I find it a puzzling move. A guy that played in Colorado last season, batted .255 and slugged .376 certainly isn't going to bring anything special to the table offensively. Worse than that, his road line of .212/.292/.326 suggests that what little respectability his offensive numbers had was primarily due to Coors Field.

Defensively, although he has a great arm, he threw out less than 20% of potential base stealers last season. (In fairness, I should point out his career number is 32%) He always looked to me more like one of those career backup catchers than a budding star.

Estimates of the value of the proposed deal seem to be 2-3 years for about $5 million per year. While that's hardly exorbitant given the current financial climate in MLB, that's still an investment. If Torrealba struggles at the plate at anything close to his road numbers from last year, he would not be a viable starting catcher here.

The "genius" tag seems to have evaporated on Omar Minaya, and that's fine. I never thought he was a genius, anyway, but I saw the logic in his moves. This one is a little harder, because it seems to me that a GM with a reputation for thinking outside the box might find a catcher out there who is undervalued who could produce offense equal or greater than what Torrealba -- overvalued on the basis of a decent run through the NL playoffs -- is likely to put up.

Now maybe Minaya and his baseball people see something in Torrealba that the rest of us don't, and this time next year we are talking about what a great signing this was. I doubt it, though. Torrealba, who will turn 30 next July, most likely is what he is at this point in his career. If he comes to New York for $5 million per year and really struggles, not only is this signing going to look bad but it's going to shine a harsh spotlight back on last winter's terrible decision not to protect top catching prospect Jesus Flores while keeping multiple pitchers on the major league roster who are nothing but an unpleasant memory at this point. If the Mets still had Flores and allowed him to split the catching duties with Ramon Castro next season, I'd be willing to bet his production would equal or top what Torrealba might provide.

I think by last winter I was comfortable with Omar Minaya as GM, and that's not easy for a 40-something Mets fan who has witnessed one front office folly after another over the passing decades. I'm less comfortable now, and that really has little to do with the seemingly bad off-season decisions from last year. Anyone is going to make mistakes, but electing to sign a catcher like Torrealba smacks of the worst kind of playing it safe. Unlike many Mets fans, I'm not particularly high on the idea of making Ramon Castro a starting catcher, simply because I don't feel he can stay healthy while catching full-time. Still, there is no reason why he couldn't catch a lot of games if you chose to deal for a young catcher (with the upside that Torrealba so clearly seems to lack) and wanted to work him in slowly. Making bad deals like last winter's failed trades cause a GM to lose approval from the fan base, but to my mind choosing to overpay for mediocrity is at least as troubling, if not more so.

Hey, I hope if this Torrealba signing does go down that he excels here and I am proven wrong. I'll be the first to cheerfully poke some fun at myself if that happens. But I don't see Yorvit Torrealba as an answer for a team that could probably use a little more power from their catcher next year. To me, this is a real head scratcher.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (10)

I'm just not a big fan of Torreabla, he's horrible.
Lo Duca outproduced him the only difference is Torreabla played half his games at Coors Field, just disgusting. This will easily be the worst move Omar has made because I've been able to understand pretty much ALL his moves in the past, this one though, there's no reasonable explanation.
There better not be a press conference for this POS guy.
I don't like Paul Lo Duca who's whiney act got very old this season and I feel he's over-rated by Mets fans for the same reason, his "fire". BUT I just absolutely hate Torrealba with a passion.

As another 40-something Mets fan, I share your anxieties about Torrealba and -- who are we kidding -- everything else about this anxiety-producing Mets franchise.

I think of Torrealba and the image of Junior Ortiz comes to mind... what a stellar career he had for the Mets (and protecting his spot on the roster caused the team to lose Tom Seaver to the White Sox)...

But I digress... I'm through over-analyzing the moves of the Mets management... That ship sailed years ago. Sure, I'd rather see them develop their own talent in the farm system and make a few bold trades along the way, rather than bolster the team through free agency, but I'm not invited to their private business conversations... so I'll just watch anxiously from afar.

Let's hope for the best regardless of whether or not Torrealba/Castro becomes the catching platoon.

Where's Ron Hodges when you need him?

Let's go Mets!

Hey Kids, I am a 60-something Mets fan and think this is stupid, I would keep Paul and Ramon with more time to Castro and look for a young catcher next year or so.I have heard Ramon Hernanez .263 and Gerald Laird A .983 FIELDING % and is 28 y/o put any one of them with Castro and we would be a.o.k....Remember CHOO Choo Colemen?

mike - everything you said is spot on - i was all for bringing paulie back to begin with - but torrealba? to me, is a head scratcher -- what is he thinking? i just don't get it and i don't like it...like you, i hope i'm wrong...but i have a bad feeling about this one...do you think if he hadn't have had the post season he had omar would still be so high on him?

Post season aside his numbers just don't justify him being signed. Trade for Hernandez with Baltimore and have him split time with Castro. That would seem more logical, and I don't think it would cost the Mets a high end prospect either. Is this the begining of some panic moves or just making a move to make one?

l.j.- wouldn't it bother you if they had to give up someone to get hernandez when they could've signed him as a free agent 2 years ago? that would drive me nuts, especially since we have so little left in the way of prospects as it is...and i'm willing to bet that baltimore would be asking a very unreasonable price for hernandez anyway...

Benny - Other than making fun of me for liking Lo Duca's fire -- you little weasel :^) -- I pretty much agree with everything you say here.
Matt - I thought things had stabilized over the past couple of years that I could relax. I guess if signing Torrealba is the worst thing Omar ever does I'll get over it. By the way, over-analyzing the moves the Mets make is kind of the reason for being of this blog, so I reserve the right to keep doing it.
Al - Wow, Ron Hodges and Choo Choo Coleman in the same comments section. We're showing our age big-time on this blog.
Joyce - I doubt very much Minaya is basing his decision on the post-season. I guess he just sees Torreabla as a reasonable cheap option for catcher.
L.J. - Whatever my misgivings, I doubt that it's a panic move. They obviously don't like Lo Duca and don't want to waste a lot of resources on C. I still don't like it, though.

I'm definitely in the minority on this, but I don't hate the Torrealba move as much as everyone else. To me this is a lateral move, not an upgrade or a downgrade. And considering what was out there on the Free Agency market, Torrealba may have been the best non-LoDuca left.

The fact of the matter is that all the reports of the Mets souring on LoDuca and now wanting him back are likely very true. For whatever reason, it seems they were not bringing the guy back under any circumstance. And that's a decision you have to trust the front office about, because none of the rest of us know what really went on in that clubhouse.

Torrealba is not a wonderful player by any means, but he's younger and has a track record of having a solid defensive game behind the plate. By all accounts, pitchers feel very comfortable with his defense and the way he calls a game. That seems to have been an area the team felt LoDuca was somewhat lacking. And I think that single idea is the driving force behind the Mets pursuing Torrealba in the first place.

The most interesting parallel I see in this situation happened in the Bronx about 11 years ago, when a popular catcher named Leyritz was pushed out of the Yankee organization in favor of another light hitting Colorado catcher named Girardi. No one understood that move when it happened either, but it worked out well for the Yankees in the end. I'm not saying Torrealba is Girardi, but I think there's more to picking a backstop than most of us as fans can see or understand.

As far as the Castro/Torrealba platoon goes, I like the idea myself. Castro can be a beast at the plate when he's healthy - and he clearly deserves more playing time (but not too much). I think this platoon allows for Castro to get more at bats, but still get enough rest to not wear out. Torrealba caught more games in 2007 than he ever had before in the majors, and it hurt his usually solid defensive track record as the guy played with a strained shoulder all year. This platoon would also, in theory, allow him to rest the shoulder and perhaps return to a higher level of defense.

Maybe I'm just an optimist Mike, but I don't completely hate this idea at all. If you're not going to bring back LoDuca, then the Mets could do alot worse than Castro/Torrealba. I'd be much more upset if they had to give up any sort of prospect to acquire a player that is marginally better than what we should expect out of our present plan behind the plate.

I'm glad I came across this site. I'm a recently transplanted New Yorker living in Florida now. I read the sports sections on the Daily News and Post websites every day and I thought maybe I was the only one scratching my head over the Mets wanting to sign Torrealba (I'd be more understanding if it were JessicaAlba :-D).

I used to think Minaya was the answer to all the Mets problems, but after some other head scratching signings like Scott Schoeneweis and signing Mota to a two year deal after being suspended for steroids I don't know how much faith I have in him.

I like Castro and if he can stay healthy I think he's about as good an option as anyone. I could understand if the Mets didn't sign Lo Duca so they could use some of the money they saved to spend on free agents at other positions, but it sounds like they are making Torrealba a pretty sizeable offer. Considering how good the rest of their offense is it would make sense for them to sign a great defensive catcher, but he's not that good defensively either.

Beats me.

Salman - I won't speak for everyone, but I wouldn't characterize myself as "hating" this potential signing. I'm just honestly worried about the Mets committing themselves long-term to a catcher who is offensively challenged. I think his skills translate to backup catcher for a good team. As stated above, I hope I'm wrong.
Gregg - I guess I'm willing to give Minaya the benefit of the doubt, based on what happens this off-season as a whole. I understand the Mets not wanting to trade prospects for a C, and there are no real great free agents. I guess it still rankles me that they blundered on Flores last winter. I'd rather see him catching around half the games this year. Oh well...

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