Yorvit? Say It Ain’t So

According to Newsday‘s David Lennon and Ken Davidoff, the Mets are about to sign Yorvit Torrealba.

Per the article:

“Having lost out on Jorge Posada, the Mets are wasting no time in trying to close a deal with Yorvit Torrealba, and it looks like an agreement could be struck by the end of this week.

General manager Omar Minaya, spurned by Posada’s decision to return to the Yankees late Monday, contacted Torrealba’s agent yesterday with the intent of moving ahead quickly, according to a National League official familiar with the situation.”

Let’s hope that this is pure, highly adulterated bunk.

And there is a good chance that it is, in fact, bunk. Check out the last few words in the above-quoted text, specifically:

“. . . according to a National League official familiar with the situation.”

Who might that be? Someone who does the contract filing in the NL offices? Possibly. If so, he / she would be a pretty reliable source, we’d think. Let’s hope that it instead is the cleaning lady for the secretary of someone who does the contract filing, and she got the names or teams mixed up.

As Matt Cerrone has stated several times over the past few days on MetsBlog, the fascination with Torrealba makes no sense. Let’s take a look at who Yorvit Torrealba is:

1. A very average defensive catcher.

2. A below-average offensive catcher.

3. A below-average offensive catcher playing half his games in a hitter’s park.

4. A catcher who never caught more than 76 games in a season before 2007.

5. A catcher whose career high in games caught is 113.

6. A player who has never had 400 at-bats in one season.

7. A batter with these career numbers: .251 Avg., .313 OBP, .391 SLG.

8. A batter who strikes out once out of every five times he comes to the plate.

9. A batter who grounded into 19 double plays last year — in less than 400 ABs.

10. A player who at age 29 is not expected to improve.

On top of all the facts above, there’s speculation that the Mets are offering Torrealba a three-year, $15M deal. WHAAAAA ? $15M for a mediocre to below-average catcher? Makes me think about strapping on my old shin guards and walking into Omar Minaya’s office to plead for a five-minute tryout. If I’m Ramon Castro, I may hold the pen for a few more days and then demand a similar deal. I don’t see a significant difference between Castro and Torrealba, other than the fact that Castro projects to be a better offensive player. Take a look at each player’s career numbers on Baseball Reference and you be the judge:

(go ahead, I’ll wait)

Ramon Castro
| Yorvit Torrealba

Back already? Good. Did you see what I see? Did you see two journeyman catchers, with nearly identical career offensive numbers? OK, Castro looks like more of a slugger, I’ll give you that.

The “buzz” is that Torrealba is highly regarded as a defensive backstop. Huh. That’s a funny one, especially since Yorvit was second to last in the NL in throwing out baserunners — he threw out 15 and allowed 61 SBs, for a 19.7%. As a catcher myself, I do understand that stolen bases are allowed more often by the pitcher than the catcher. But less than 20% is atrocious. It’s Piazza – like. Even Paulie managed 23%, with that rag arm of his and a staff of pitchers who often didn’t even recognize runners on base. Torrealba’s agent assures us that the throw-out percentage was affected last year by a strained shoulder. Excuse me? This is supposed to make us feel better? Not only is the guy remarkably mediocre, but also damaged goods?

The truth is, Torrealba was once considered a great defensive catcher, because he had a fantastic arm. He had a gun, in that other realm of rifles occupied by Yadier Molina, Pudge, Tony Pena, Benito Santiago — you get the idea. His arm was his number-one strength and his ticket to the big leagues. Without it, he would be a career AAA player or washing cars right now.

However, his arm is not what it once was. Torrealba injured his shoulder while lifting weights during the 2005-2006 offseason. He claims he was lifting weights to try to become a better hitter. (Strange, since most hitters get better not by lifting weights but by working in the batting cage. But what the heck do I know?) As a result he landed on the DL TWICE in 2006. Hmm … shoulder “strain” in 2007, two shoulder injuries in 2006 … kind of sounds like a chronic issue, doesn’t it? Appears that shoulder is not getting better. Suffice to say, his throwing will continue to be affected.

Throughout his career, Yorvit Torrealba was described as a highly enthusiastic guy with a fantastic arm, but not much bat and therefore projected as a solid “catch and throw” second-stringer. His teammates gush about his energy and excitability. Those were/are his strengths: strong arm and energy. Except, he no longer has a strong arm, he has an injured arm. And he’ll never hit — especially not at Shea. So the Mets will be committing $15M to a guy with a lot of enthusiasm. Great.

Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and more productive to either a.) re-sign Paul LoDuca to a one-year deal or b.) wait for Miguel Olivo to be non-tendered? Hey, I’m not saying Olivo is a good choice, but he’s essentially the same player that Torrealba was (great arm, excitability), except with a bit more offense, and would be less expensive in terms of dollars and years.

Maybe the rumors are unfounded. Or perhaps, the Mets are signing Torrealba as a very expensive back up to the next backstop they acquire this winter.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 1:29 pm
    I’d be upset to see torrealba get a 3 year deal. I don’t think I’d mind at 2 years and a reasonable amount of money. You can always find a taker for that type of contract if it doesn’t work out. I really don’t think that there will be much difference between he and LoDuca next year. Catchers generally develop later than other hitters, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him improve in the next several years, espescially considering his limited playing time in the past. I’d hope the mets have done their homework on that shoulder though.
  2. joe November 14, 2007 at 1:34 pm
    There is no homework to do in regard to his shoulder — it was injured all of 2006, all of 2007, and remains injured. Even if Yorvit claims his shoulder is “OK” (strange, since he was complaining about it through September) there’s no way it’s anywhere near what it once was — shoulders don’t magically heal themselves in a month. And without that arm, he has less value than Castro — even with Castro’s bad back.

    It would surprise me greatly if he developed as a hitter. Where do you get the idea that catchers develop more slowly as hitters? From what I’ve seen they get worse, especially after age 30. If a guy isn’t hitting by age 25, he’s generally not going to hit. But then, Mike DiFelice surprised me with his hitting this past year.

  3. isuzudude November 14, 2007 at 1:41 pm
    I refuse to believe this nonsense, for pretty much all the reasons you pointed out in the article, Joe. I keep looking at the quote from the article and the line, “Having lost out on Jorge Posada, the Mets are wasting no time in trying to close a deal with Yorvit Torrealba.” Did Omar really think he had a chance at signing Posada, or that signing him to a 5-year deal was the answer to the Mets catching vacancy? No way. All that rubbish was speculation by “experts” who overlooked the fact that the Yankees were never going to let Jorge go. That having been said, now Omar’s #1 back-up plan after failing to land Posada is Torrealba? Moreover, for a 3 year, $15-mil deal?? You know, there’s an old adage that goes: if it smells like sh*t, and looks like sh*t, it’s probably sh*t. Nothing about that signing would make any sense. Torrealba hit just .212 with 2 HR in over 200 at-bats away from Coors last year, is a sub-par defensive catcher, and is no where close to a $5-mil a year catcher. No other team in the league would give him that kind of money. So why the Mets, and why so quickly? It sounds MUCH more like this Lennon & Davidoff tandem with Newsday are big Yankee guys, and are coming up with crap to shove it in the Mets faces that the best cacther on the market, Posada, chose to stay in the Bronx instead of relocating to Queens. Keep an asterisk on this “buzz” item. If Lennon and Davidoff are wrong, cross them off the list of being credible.

    Now, if they’re right and Torrealba signs, then he’s either going to be one helluvan expensive backup, or he’s going to be one of the worst starting catchers in all of baseball. Considering ALL the other options the Mets have to mull over as far as filling their catching void, giving Torrealba a 3 year deal would be awfully pathetic, and Omar gets a big fat F.

  4. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm
    Joe, just want to point out where a couple of other catchers we are looking at were at the age of 28. Ramon Hernandez had just had his first season batting over .275. LoDuca at age 28 had 174 career at bats. Jorge had his breakout year that season, batting 287 with 86 rbi’s. I know Varitek isn’t available, but he was batting .248 with 10hr and 65 rbi’s at that point. Better catching prospects whom we are considering are kelly shoppach at 27, and gerald laird at 28. Generally catchers in the minor don’t play nearly as often as other position players, and develop more slowly at the plate because of this. Even guys that break into the majors very early don’t tend to put it all together until they’ve seen several seasons as a regular, probably due to their limited ab’s.

    I don’t think torrealba is the way for the mets to go at catcher. I do think he’ll produce about the same as loduca and barrett, and that those three are the class of the free agent market now (as sad as that is). None of us really know what omar has in mind for trade possibilities, but he may see teams asking too much for their young catchers. If this story has any merit, I’d have to think we’re saving all of our trading chips for something else (possibly pitching). I wouldn’t be thrilled with torrealba, but I’d be happier with torrealba and one of sheets, burnett, bedard, sabathia, or santana than I would be with Ramon Hernandez or kelly shoppach/cliff lee, joe blanton, carlos silva, livan.

  5. joe November 14, 2007 at 3:00 pm
    skibolton –

    OK, those are good examples to support your argument. Nicely done.

    However, all of the players you name — LoDuca, Hernandez, Varitek, etc. — showed promise with the bat as amateurs and/or in the minors. Torrealba has never given any scout a reason to believe he’d be a successful hitter.

    For example, LoDuca was a .300 hitter throughout his minor league career. Ramon Hernandez also hit over .300 several times in the minors and showed pop (10-15 HRs per season). Varitek had his struggles initially as a pro, but displayed power and was a three-time All-American in college, breaking all kinds of hitting records at GA Tech.

    Yorvit, however, was a career .263 hitter in the minors, with 25 HRs in over 2100 ABs. Like I said before, if they don’t hit before they’re 25, they don’t hit, period — with few exceptions.

    That said, I strongly disagree with your assumption that Torrealba will produce numbers near LoDuca next year. And if he does, then why is Paulie leaving? I do agree that the trade market is slim and the Mets would have to overpay, but as mentioned in my post, why make a nutso commitment to Torrealba when you can probably get Olivo for next to nothing as a stopgap?

    Also, I find it hard to believe that the O’s wouldn’t salary dump Hernandez. And I’m certain he’d be more productive than Torrealba.

    If it’s true that the Mets are in a rush to sign Torrealba, then Omar is operating purely on panic and this is going to be one scary offseason.

  6. isuzudude November 14, 2007 at 3:25 pm
    How about this uncanny connection:

    Guess who Torrealba was traded for back in the offseason leading up to 2006 when he went from the Mariners to the Rockies?

    Marcos Carvajal.

    So I get it. Omar is regretting cutting Carvajal, and since he can’t get his hands back on the journeyman pitcher, he wants to bring in the guy who should at least be equal in talent to him in Torrealba.


  7. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 3:26 pm
    Joe, I agree with you about hernandez and olivo, and think that both would be much better fits with the mets than torrealba. I’d also rather have shoppach, montero, paulino, bengi molina, laird, or johjima. I really think that all of these guys could be had. If omar goes after torrealba, I would have to think that either he sees something in him that he likes, and therefore may have targeted him anyway, or he just doesn’t think any of these guys is worth what they will cost in terms of prospects. I really think this may put a spotlight on not protecting flores last winter, which might turn out to be the worst move we made.

    I think there must be something about LoDuca that the fans don’t get to see, either in his relationship with coaches or teammates. Omar didn’t want to talk extension last spring, and he seems to see paulie as a last resort now. I think there has to be something going on that is just not being publicized. The front office clearly isn’t keen on having paul behind the plate next year, for whatever reason, while his performance and relationship with the fans would certainly justify bringing him back.

    I also agree that the orioles should be looking to dump hernandez. That said, they haven’t done anything that made any sense in years. The year after signing javy lopez to a large contract, they went and got hernandez. They keep refusing to dump tejada. They traded for sosa. When do they ever do what any sensible gm would? They may actually be the worst run franchise in pro sports at this point. Who knows, they’re probably thinking they can compete in that division next year with the team they have.

  8. julie November 14, 2007 at 3:48 pm
    I would also like to know what the heck has turned the Mets against LoDuca. Something we aren’t hearing about. They have really turned on him, hard.
  9. joe November 14, 2007 at 3:51 pm
    skibolton, I think you are exactly right on both points re: Yorvit and Paulie. My hunch (can I call it “buzz”? LOL) is that the Wilpons soured on LoDuca when the story about the teenager came out, and he didn’t do anything to help himself with his constant meandering whines to the press. Of course, his quickly diminishing skills don’t help either.

    And I think Omar has greatly overvalued Torrealba for something as you said, HE sees. Minaya, after all, is a former scout and likes to think of himself as an astute judge of talent. Generally I’ve agreed with many of his pickups over the past two years, and he’s blown me away with a few (Chavez, Valentin in particular). But it’s OK to make a mistake with those under the radar, inexpensive gambles. If indeed the Mets are committing 3yr/$15M to Torrealba, it could turn out as ugly as the Mota or Schoeneweis deals. And then where do you turn for a replacement? There’s absolutely no one in the organization and if Castro is re-signed, he has a barky back. Signing two career backup catchers with chronic injuries and hoping to get 162 games out of them smells like a recipe for disaster.

  10. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 4:06 pm
    Signing JR House to hang out in triple A may make some sense.
  11. joe November 14, 2007 at 4:15 pm
    Agreed. A few more guys would help too. There are no squatters whatsoever in the org, other than Mike Nickeas and 17-year-old Francisco Pena.
  12. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 4:19 pm
    I wonder if some of this “buzz” is being leaked by the mets. It certainly wouldn’t hurt torrealba, so he’d stay quiet, and it may help lower a different teams asking price in a salary dump type move. If the orioles thought they might lose the only team that could afford to take ramon off of their hands, do you think they may just offer to give him for filler?
  13. skibolton November 14, 2007 at 4:19 pm
    Or eat some $$$
  14. joe November 14, 2007 at 4:34 pm
    skibolton, I like that thought. Omar can’t possibly be dumb enough to give Yorvit 3/15, but he could be bright enough to manipulate the hot stove in his favor.

    Looking back at the past two winters, I remember very few signings by the Mets that were expected, predicted, or otherwise leaked.

    Makes one wonder …

  15. sincekindergarten November 14, 2007 at 6:26 pm
    Julie, to maybe answer your question, the Wilpons may have soured on Paulie due to some of the comments that he had in September about the Mets. Yeah, he wanted to fire up his teammates, but not by calling them out publically in the media. Also, his affair with a teenaged (but legal) young woman, while he was married, didn’t help matters for the “morally-minded” Wilpons. (Supposedly, one of the minor reasons that Steve Phillips was fired was the fact that he was having an affair with a single woman who worked in the Mets front office, or something like that.)
  16. Micalpalyn November 14, 2007 at 6:32 pm
    I am in wait and see mode:

    I think the starter of the two is Castro. But essentially Yorvit could be expensive insurance. Then again Omar might be driving Andy McPhail to take an offer he has already extended.

    Interesting irony: Delgado could have been had by Omar (at the same time as Beltran & Pedro) but went to Fla. That cost us Yusi Petit. Ramon Hernandez (and Benji Moilina) had $7M/yr but chose to salivate on those offers, so Omar not willing to pander snatched LoDuca at a cost of Gabby Hernandez.

    I think Omar probably feels the Castro/Yorvit combo has as much chance of working out as any other plausible scenario I feel the money he’s spending on the catching position is $6-7M similar to what he was paying Pauli.

    Plus does not lose a pick. And he’s anxious to move onto something else.