Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On backup catchers and Scott Boras

Scott Boras, baseball's most renowned/notorious player agent, was roaming the site of the general managers meeting this week even before the GMs arrived, and he apparently rehearsed his pitch for two of his clients on the Star Tribune's Joe Christensen.

The Twins are actively
looking for an
alternative to
Drew Butera.
The clients in question, Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Veritek, are a couple of faded stars now looking for a backup gig someplace. The Twins are looking for a No. 2 catcher who'd be an upgrade on Drew Butera, so theoretically there's a fit there.

Theoretically. I'm not trying to needle Joe C. for taking the notion of either with the Twins seriously; I did a post on the same possibility recently. I am wondering what the point would be for the Twins, however.

Terry Ryan told Christensen that Joe Mauer's goal is to catch 130-plus games in 2012, and Mauer is Plan A. If all the Twins need is some one to handle the other 32 -- the equivalent of catching Carl Pavano's starts, basically -- Butera is sufficient, and probably cheaper than either of Boras's clients.

The problem, of course, is that Mauer didn't catch even 50 games in 2011, and you don't want to have the weak-hitting Butera catching 110-120 games. The Twins want to have a superior Plan B, somebody they can turn the job over to if need be. And at this point to their careers, I don't think either Rodriguez or Veritek fits that bill. Once a week, OK; five games a week, I don't think so.

But then, that's the deal with backup catchers. They're backups because they're flawed. Butera can't hit; Rodriguez is broken down but hanging on in pursuit of 3,000 hits; Ryan Doumit is a defensive butcher. Catchers one can rely on to handle the job for a full season are relatively rare and priced accordingly.

Rod Barajas, for example. Christensen had named him early on as a possible target for the Twins, and he's not a particularly outstanding player. He's 36, and he hit .230/.287/.430 last season for the Dodgers in 99 games. He got $4 million from the Pirates to be their No. 1 backstop.

The Twins are not, and should not be, eager to spend that much on somebody they hope doesn't get 150 at-bats. If they're going to spend that kind of money, it ought to be on somebody they can still use if Mauer bounces back. Somebody like Doumit.


The Twins haven't had a lot of dealings with Boras over the years, and when they have it's generally been situations in which Boras has little leverage.

I can only think of three Twins-Boras encounters in more than 25 years. Kyle Lohse is and was a Boras client; he's the only Twins player to go to an arbitration hearing since Andy MacPhail became the Minnesota general manager back in 1986. Veritek was a Twins draftee in 1993 and, with Boras as his "advisor" (a legal fiction designed to placate the NCAA), declined to sign. And the Twins scooped up Kenny Rogers after training camps opened in 2003 when they decided they needed a veteran to fill out their rotation and Rogers was still looking for a job.

This is another situation in which Boras' clients probably need the Twins more than the Twins need the Boras clienst. I can't help but wonder how he'd handle a situation in which the Twins (or somebody else) effectively say, We'll take either of them -- whichever costs less. Does he take the bird in the hand for Pudge, or for Veritek? Does he seek a bigger payout for Pudge, or for Veritek? There is a potential here for a conflict of interest.

Whether or not they deal with Boras this winter in their search for a catcher, Boras looms over this summer's amateur draft. The Twins have the No. 2 pick in June, and Boras is likely to be the advisor to a good portion of the likely top picks. Be it by luck or design, the Twins haven't had draft day collisions with Boras for some time. That may well change come June, and may remind Ryan of why he wanted out of the general manager's gig four years ago.