Three Years with Yorvit

At this point, it doesn’t make much sense to criticize Omar Minaya on the signing of Yorvit Torrealba. The deal is done, and Yorvit is more or less guaranteed to be the starting backstop come April. And, he’ll likely be around for at least another year or two beyond 2008. So, we may as well get used to Yorvit — the sooner the better.

Several pundits and bloggers have explained away the seeming insanity of handing a three-year, $15M contract to a career backup catcher with Rey Ordonez-like punch and a barky shoulder. As I mentioned earlier this week, this deal makes me think about strapping on the old shin guards and walking into the offices of MLB GMs — even as a washed-up, 37-year-old, semipro wannabe with two herniated disks. Heck, I’d be OK with the “paltry” two-year, $6M contract they’d likely offer. (Did I mention how wonderful I am at calling a game and working with pitchers? Or my over-the-top enthusiasm and energy? Or my knowledge of 30 very common Spanish phrases?)

Anyway … as much as it appears to be insanity to know-nothing bloggers such as myself, I suppose we have to give Omar Minaya the benefit of the doubt and believe that he knows something that we don’t. My guess is that he’ll extol the intangible, non-statistical strengths of Torrealba — the high-strung enthusiasm and energy, the remarkable ability to handle pitchers, his propensity for throwing down the correct fingers in calling pitches, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, Minaya will completely skirt the fact that Torrealba’s .255 average in a hitter’s park last year was a career high, and that for the next three years we can expect the backstop position to resemble the days of Jerry Grote as far as offense is concerned. (Matt Himelfarb, please feel free to enter the conversation here and let us all know just how statistically awful Yorvit projects to be.)

But — and this is a huge but — Minaya could somehow be right on with this signing. I am not too proud nor embarrassed to admit that I thought that Omar was completely off his rocker when he signed Jose Valentin, Chad Bradford, and Endy Chavez to contracts during the winter of 2005-2006. The Valentin signing in particular got my goat — it seemed to me to be the stupidest, most nonsensical deal imaginable. Yet, I ate crow when Valentin proved to be an outstanding all-around second baseman in ’06, and got used to crow after watching Bradford become a bullpen stopper and Chavez evolve into a fan favorite and role player of legendary proportions. By the end of 2006, I came to understand that Omar knew much more than me, which explained why he was GM of the Mets and I was toiling as a nondescript blogger.

So before I go ape crazy yammering about how awful a move this Yorvit Torrealba signing is, I’ll keep quiet and wait to see what happens. As fans, we were beside ourselves witnessing the lack of drive, energy, and motivation during most of 2007, so perhaps the high-energy Torrealba is exactly the antidote we’ve been craving. Maybe his enthusiasm alone will make up for his rag arm and lack of offense. Who knows, maybe his arm will magically heal and his offensive skills will suddenly advance. For all we know, this time next year we will be thinking, “how did we ever doubt the importance of Yorvit Torrealba?”

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. Micalpalyn November 16, 2007 at 8:44 am
    Its an unfair comment I know but consider some other salient facts in your judgement.

    1. For the last 10yrs we’ve had TWO catchers (of note) Piazza ad Loduce. before that we had hundley, and an ensemble cast. Charlie O’brien was the best receiver of this bunch and he had some telling comments as he refused to return to the Mets.

    2. Castro: I think HE is the key. IF he could have stayed healthy HE might have had 4-5M/yr. I think this combo could end up being Javy Lopez/Eddie Perez. I think Yorvit could be comparable to Yadi Molina (who should have won the GG).

    3. I am LESS inclined to judge this signing on the hitting stat. I want to see how the pitchers progress. We have a young staff, and I am going to be looking at Ollie in particular, and Maine too. Confidence is a part of Ollie’s make up deficits- I think Yorvit could help.

    4. Joe: Offense is not this team’s issue. Reyes, Castillo (Gotay), Beltran, Wright, Moises, Del, Millz/Endy –Where is the easy out 1-7? The problem i see from last yr is the inoppurtune piching meltdowns. And the question can Yorvit make THE difference.

  2. joe November 16, 2007 at 9:33 am
    Five or ten years ago, I would have been OK with the Mets signing a catcher based on his defense. However, MLB has changed drastically in the past few years — mainly due to games being decided by the worst pitchers (middle relief) — and so my opinion is that if you don’t have outstanding pitching and defense, you need as much offense as possible to win. The Mets may have good pitching next year, not outstanding. And though I don’t necessarily think the Mets need to have a Phillies-type lineup, I do think they cannot afford an automatic out — which Torrealba might be outside of Coors.

    Unless Yorvit’s arm heals quickly and completely, I think he compares more favorably to Bengie Molina rather than Yadier, defensively. Though he’d be more like Yadier offensively than Bengie.

    As I made clear in the post — I’ve been terribly wrong before (Valentin, Chavez, Bradford, Easley), which is why I’m going to reserve judgment on Yorvit from here on out.

  3. isuzudude November 16, 2007 at 11:31 am
    Joe, you’re right that Omar found diamonds in the rough with guys like Valentin, Chavez, Mota for a brief spell. But this is also the same GM who signed Mota to a 2-yr deal despite the steroid suspension, and Schoeneweis to a 3-yr deal despite just a handful of good games with the Reds, and he traded Brian Bannister when he was on the verge of developing into a serviceable major league starting pitcher. So Omar is not immune to making bad decisions.

    I’m amazed that leading up to the signing, everyone and their uncle was against Yorvit as the starter. Now, we’re all looking for excuses to justify the signing. He’s bi-lingual. He calls a good game. He has heart. We don’t need offense out of the #8 hole. I don’t get it. If we were just looking for a good pitch-caller with little starting experience and no bat, why not just sign a guy like Jeff Bennett or Kelly Stinnett at a $750-thousand a year rate? Why sign a light-hitting, no arm, injury prone starter to a $15-mil deal?? Am I to understand we went from wanting to throw a 5 year offer at Posada to going to Torrealba, a .212 hitter away from Coors with a horrible arm and high strikeout propensity, as a Plan B? How do the Wilpons okay the signing of a career back-up with little hope of improving upon his skills to a 3 year pact, for more money a year than any other team in baseball would have given him, regardless of how much Omar is infatuated with him? If Torrealba’s biggest selling point is his pitch-calling, all I have to do is point back to last season. I’d sign on the dotted line right now to get the same performances out of El Duque, Perez, and Maine in 2008 as 2007, and that was with Lo Duca catching. How much better does Omar expect Torrealba will make his pitching staff? I don’t believe he’ll transform them all into 200-inning, below-1 WHIP pitchers just by calling good games.

    Imagine this for the next 3 years:
    Mike Piazza is back behind the plate (but he don’t have hit bat), and Rey Ordonez is back hitting 8th (but we don’t have hit glove). Is that the kind of player we want?

  4. skibolton November 16, 2007 at 11:50 am
    I really took some time to think about the deal last night, and the idea seems to be sitting better with me this morning. As much as fans from other teams see the NY on the mets uniforms and assume that omar has unlimited money to work with, I really don’t believe that is the case. I also think that some gm’s may feel that they can get better prospects in return for a salary dump from the mets because of some of the one’s we’ve been involved with in the past (vaughn, green, delgado, loduca, castillo). The front office has shown a willingness to take these types of contracts before, so a team like the orioles probably sincerely believes that the mets aren’t worried about the dollars left on hernandez’s contract…just the quality of the player. I have to believe that some catchers we looked at were less atainable than we as fans had hoped.

    I liked the idea of shoppach or laird, but if I was with either of their teams, I don’t think I would have a ton of motivation to move them. Neither makes much money, and both see fairly regular action. Unless a team gave up a ton for these guys, why move them? I’d be happier keeping our better prospects than trading them for laird or shoppach, and I’m sure the rangers and indians would rather have depth at catcher than a fringe prospect or package of fringe guys.

    This season’s catching market is far from strong, and personally I don’t see any better options than yorvit. I don’t think loduca would have come back on a 1 year deal, I think it would have taken at least 2, and I don’t see any better options than these two. Personally, I’d rather see yorvit in queens 3 years from now than loduca. Even next year I’d think they produce about the same. I also have to think that loduca will find a home relatively soon, which would net us an extra draft pick in the 40-50 range. While it’s a crapshoot how this will turn out, I’d still like to have extra picks available, allowing omar to take some gambles with whom he picks.

    I also would rather have seen castro back than paulie. If bringing yorvit on board gives us more opportunity to see castro, I’m all for it. I do have concerns about his back and conditioning, but maybe an opportunity to earn more starts will convince him to get in better shape this offseason. I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but loduca didn’t exactly inspire confidence when he came to the plate last year. He certainly didn’t inspire any in the field. Even if yorvit is no better, I didn’t come to expect much from paulie last year. I also did some looking at his past stats, and I’m not as concerned about his throwing. Even with the arm bothering him in 2006, he still threw out 20 of the 56 guys that ran on him. He also hit .274 away from coors that season. Morales, fogg, and cook all have slow, slow deliveries, and not much velocity either. I have to think that he would improve on that stat next season.

    For the next several years, the catching market looks awful. I don’t think there will be a option to get a signifigant upgrade at the position through that route, it would have to come via trade. I just think that yorvit may have been the most reasonable option when taking age, contract, and cost of aquiring them into account. I certainly hope that we see some catchers aquired in the draft this year.

  5. joe November 16, 2007 at 11:55 am
    The Piazza / Ordonez image is pretty much what I’m seeing — good one. I agree and am also amazed that everyone is talking about the intangibles to explain away the signing.

    Here’s my position: it’s done, we’re stuck with Yorvit as the everyday catcher for 2008, deal with it. And hope like hell that we’re completely wrong and that Yorvit will make a Kafka-esque transformation into a Molina — catching like Yadier and hitting and motivating like Bengie.

  6. skibolton November 16, 2007 at 12:01 pm
    By the way guys, torrealba has a reputation as an outstanding defensive catcher. His caught stealing rate was awful this year, but as far as defense goes, (blocking the plate, fielding his position) he is still very good. His range is very good for a catcher. His arm is still a cannon, even with the injury. The problem seems to be a different arm slot affecting his accuracy, not a weak arm. LoDuca’s problem was never the accuracy, he had a rag arm. Nothing in any scouting report I’ve seen mentions any problem with arm strength because of his injury…just accuracy. The guy hasn’t done anything to prove he can hit, but it’s just not accurate to say he has no arm anymore.
  7. joe November 16, 2007 at 12:08 pm
    Guys change “arm slots” because of pain. He probably changed his arm slot while he was struggling with the shoulder injury in 2006, and it became a bad habit. Or he’s still feeling pain.

    I didn’t see a “cannon” this past season — not in regular season nor in the postseason. I would not be surprised in the least if he has both rotator cuff issues as well as elbow issues (compensating for shoulder) in the near future.

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