03/25/2005

Catcher

Is this a position for which there should be a battle being waged?

Is Jason LaRue worthy of a rubber stamp for the starting assignment?

I wasn’t very excited when the Reds resigned LaRue for 3M. Nothing against LaRue in particular, I just thought it seemed like a pretty steep price for his talent. He is what he is, a bit above average hitting, questionable defensive catcher, and a good clubhouse presence. Worth 3M? Maybe by current market prices when considering time of service, but consider the following:

Career B Age AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP AVG OBP SLG OPS
LaRue R 31 1674 203 401 95 6 62 222 129 493 72 .240 .319 .415 734
Estalella R 30 904 126 195 49 5 48 147 130 290 7 .216 .315 .440 755
Valentin B 29 728 65 167 36 4 17 81 55 139 3 .229 .283 .360 643

AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO OBP SLG
2004 NL c .258 585 61 151 31 1 14 71 48 98 .323 .386
2004 AL c .264 580 71 153 32 1 17 81 49 112 .326 .410

Valentin looks pretty weak stacked up against these guys, so is the fact that he’s a switch hitter make him worth a roster spot? Probably not:

Valentin G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS
Career vs RH 235 572 50 131 33 4 16 68 47 110 .229 .287 .385 .671

Estalella appears to be pretty much the equal of LaRue with the bat over his career. They both will carry low batting averages with an edge to LaRue. Both have a little power with an edge to Estalella. Estalella has the edge in the batting eye category, and still holds a slight edge over LaRue if you take into account free passes by way of HBP (BB+HBP/PA Estalella .13, LaRue .11). Overall, I’d probably have to give Estalella the edge when taking into account that he has recieved AB’s on a less consistent basis.

Defensively, I’d have a hard time imagining that Estalella could be a downgrade, if anything, I’d suspect that he’d at least be a slight improvement. Here are the numbers if you put any stock into them. My take from them is that Estalella would come out a bit ahead.

Career Tot Pos G PO A E DP FP lgFP RFg lgRFg GS Inn PB
LaRue C 508 2862 272 33 32 .990 .992 6.17 6.46 441 3888.6 59
Estalella C 299 1775 113 15 23 .992 .991 6.31 6.43 199 1757.3 21

So, bottom line, looks like LaRue could have, and can be, replaced pretty easily, at a 2.5M cost savings.

I’m sure we could come up with very similar arguements for Freel over either Jimenez or Randa also.

Later,
Tom

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Freel over Randa or Jimenez? I’ve got to take issue with that. Jimenez has a huge power advantage over Freel, and if you look it up, was in the top tier of NL second basemen last year. I’m inclined to believe he will improve on that this season, maybe even breakout. Randa is what he is, a short-term solution until Encarnacion is ready. He and Freel have about equal offensive value. The Reds desperately need a ‘super utility’ player like Freel ON THE BENCH, who can play allover and actually provide some offense because this team is going to be riddled with injures again. I agree that Freel deserves playing time, and don’t worry, he’ll get plenty, but his value is his versitility in the field. Suppose Freel was a starter, what would the Reds do when the inevitable injuries come? What happens if a player gets hurt during interleague play? Freel’s value is as a great utility player, not a starter.

  2. It might be closer than you think.

    I too prefer Freel as a supersub, I don’t feel he has any business being a starter and I like the depth that he adds to the team. But last year Freel demonstrated that he could produce pretty much on par with Jimenez and Randa:

    2004 AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO OBP SLG OPS
    AL 3b .269 613 92 165 32 3 24 90 8 4 65 121 .343 .449 .792
    NL 3b .276 630 86 174 35 2 24 95 5 2 56 100 .339 .452 .791
    Jimenez .270 563 76 152 28 3 12 67 13 7 82 99 .364 .394 .758
    NL 2b .278 644 90 179 31 5 16 73 12 5 55 97 .339 .416 .755
    Randa .287 485 65 139 31 2 8 56 0 1 40 77 .343 .408 .751
    Freel .277 505 74 140 21 8 3 28 37 10 67 88 .375 .368 .743
    AL 2b .259 617 83 160 35 4 14 69 12 5 52 113 .320 .397 .717

    Name 2005 Salary
    Jimenez 2.87 M
    Randa 2.15 M
    Freel .4 M

    Note the OPS numbers above do not give Freel credit for his SB’s either. That’s pretty similar production for 1.75 to 2.5 M less.

    It just poses an interesting situation would the Reds have gone with Estalella and Freel instead of LaRue and Jimenez. The offensive would have suffered minimally, and who knows what DanO could have produced with the additional 5M dollars.

    Later,
    Tom

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