Throughout the off-season, there have been rumors about the Marlins trying to upgrade their situation at catcher.This past weekend, Florida finally added their catcher when they acquired Ronny Paulino from the Giants in exchange for minor league pitcher Hector Correa. When you think of the names that have been linked to Florida – Ivan Rodriguez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Paul LoDuca – amongst others,Paulino certainly doesn't qualify as the “sexy” choice.
But does the lack of name appeal necessarily mean a lack of impact?Once looked upon as the Pirates' catcher of the future, Paulino's stock came crashing down with a disastrous 2008 season where he hit .212 and was banished to AAA Indianapolis. His fall from grace in Pittsburgh culminated in a December trade to the Phillies for Jason Jaramillo. It would be the first of three times that Paulino would be dealt this off-season. Just a few hours before the trade to Florida, Paulino had been traded to San Francisco for reliever Jack Taschner.
As Paulino has seen his OPS regress from .754 in 2006 to .703 and .582 there has to be some questions about his bat. It's hard to put much stock in spring training stats, but a .206/.270/.382 line in 34 at-bats isn't one to inspire confidence.
For all of his recent struggles, the one thing that can't be taken away from Paulino's resume is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. It is in this area where Paulino has looked like an all-star, hitting a staggering .355/.417/.498 against southpaws with eight homers and 42 RBI in 259 at-bats.
Paulino's ability to hit lefties would seem to be a perfect compliment for incumbant starting catcher John Baker. A rare left-handed hitting catcher, Baker was a pleasant surprise in 2008 with a .392 on base percentage and 32 RBI in 197 at-bats. The one big negative was Baker's .213/.316/.319 performance against lefties with 19 strikeouts in just 47 at-bats.
Even if Paulino's terrible 2008 season is an indication of what to expect in 2009, Paulino's .690 OPS against lefties would be an upgrade over Baker against lefties. The trade also allows Mike Rabelo to return to AAA as insurance. The 29-year-old Rabelo has proven that he does not have the bat to be much more than an emergency third catcher on a contending team.
Both players have their questions marks (was Baker a two-month wonder? can Paulino bounce back?), but in an ideal situation, Baker and Paulino could combine to form a very effective platoon for less than $1 million. Paulino also provides a guy who has started at the big league level if Baker regresses in 2009.
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Written by Jason Bernstein