Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ivan Rodriguez to the Mets? Definitely Not

Earlier today, NBC's Hardball Talk reported that the Mets were linked to veteran backstop Ivan Rodriguez. However, Adam Rubin was quick to dismiss the rumor, citing a club source who said that: "We are not bringing Ivan here."

The Mets believe they have an adequate catching duo heading into spring training with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas poised to be the 2 who break camp with the club. The reported interest in the former AL MVP isn't shocking as the club had previously been connected with reports of interest earlier in the winter. However, entering his age 40 season, signing the injury prone catcher wouldn't be a wise decision by the club unless they're struck by the injury bug.

You'll be hard pressed to find someone in baseball who would call into question Pudge's work ethic and demeanor behind the plate. A surefire Hall of Famer, Rodriguez has maintained a phenomenal physique as his career has progressed, especially when one takes into account that he plays the most physically demanding position in the game. At this stage of his career he'd likely serve as the backup catcher behind Josh Thole, effectively relegating Mike Nickeas back to minor league purgatory. Coming off of his worst statistical season, Pudge simply wouldn't be an upgrade to the club.

While he spent most of the season on the disabled list, Pudge put up career worsts in slugging, OPS and OPS all while posting his lowest OBP since his rookie season. Offense aside, his defense has remained fairly consistent. Low sample size aside, Pudge gunned down 52% (13-of-26) of would be base stealers while appearing in only 37 games. The other positives? Many would say his leadership abilities and intangibles would make him worth the league minimum alone, but bringing in Ivan Rodriguez at this stage of the game would simply be sending the wrong message to a club that has been deconstructed and built as an underdog. Is Pudge an underdog? Absolutely. Is he better than Mike Nickeas at this stage of his career? Absolutely not.

Perhaps "Absolutely not" is too definitive of a statement. In all likelihood, Rodriguez's offensive numbers would be superior to Nickeas'. Having gone through the system and growing with much of the rotation including Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese, Nickeas brings familiarity to pitchers without having to learn how they work. In addition, Pudge won't be banging out anything higher than a mediocre OBP, so if the upgrade between the two players isn't sizable, maintaining Nickeas as the backup catcher heading toward Opening Day is the correct move to maintain clubhouse chemistry.

At this stage of the game, the only way I can see Pudge falling into the Mets lap is if there's an injury sustained to either Thole or Nickeas. Unless that happens, the move would be lateral at best and demeaning to morale at the very least.