Before they were fired Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya both indicated that 24-year-old Josh Thole would likely be the Mets’ starting catcher in 2011 after playing regularly down the stretch as a rookie, but new general manager Sandy Alderson isn’t quite as sold on the idea.
Alderson said yesterday that the Mets are “thin” at the position are “looking for more catching” while explaining that “it would be a little bit premature if I were to make a judgment on Thole without ever actually having seen him play.”
Here’s a little more of Alderson on Thole:
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Josh. So I expect that he’s going to be a very important piece for us. I’m not making a judgment about Thole as the No. 1 or No. 2. Whether he plays the majority of games or not, we’re going to need additional catching help. So I think in part it’s going to depend on what I hear and what others think of Thole. And the second is going to depend on what’s available out there otherwise. But we’re very happy that we have him. Exactly what his role will be is a little undetermined.
Thole is a left-handed hitter, so it would make sense for the Mets to pair him with a right-handed-hitting veteran backup and re-signing Henry Blanco would seemingly be a good fit. I do think he deserves a shot at the clear-cut starting job, though.
Thole doesn’t have much power, but he hit .277 with a .357 on-base percentage and 25/24 K/BB ratio in 227 plate appearances as a rookie after posting a .376 on-base percentage in six seasons as a minor leaguer. He’s never going to be a star, but for a team with plenty of other holes to fill a 24-year-old catcher with good on-base skills making the league minimum is worth leaving alone.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.