CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has confirmed that Ronny Paulino is Seattle-bound, adding that he'll join the Mariners on a minor league contract. When I wrote about Paulino the other day I made the incorrect assumption that he was being brought in on a Major League deal as the primary backup to Jesus Montero. With this news, let's quickly revisit.
For now Montero remains the only catcher on the 40-man roster, but he'll be joined in big league camp this spring by Paulino as well as minor league veteran/non-prospect Jesus Sucre and top prospects Mike Zunino and John Hicks. Paulino is the most qualified to back up Montero, but GM Jack Zduriencik mentioned recently that more catching depth is on the way.
There are a few catchers still remaining in the big league free agent pool, though none offer significantly more than Paulino.
Kelly Shoppach, 33 this season, hits for power, particularly against left-handed pitching, but does little else. He strikes out a ton, walks at a pedestrian rate, and is known as a very poor defender. Familiarity could be a factor, however, as manager Eric Wedge had him in Cleveland between 2006 and 2009. Shoppach played with the Red Sox and Mets last season.
Chris Snyder, 31, didn't find success with the bat as the Astros backup last season, but he offers some power and a better plate approach than Shoppach. The former Diamondback starter is known as an adequate defender for a backup, though a major back injury in his past is cause for concern.
Matt Treanor, 37, doesn't hit but has always found work due to a defensive reputation built heavily on the intangible stuff. This past season with the Dodgers Treanor took his offensive ineptitude to a new level, hitting just .175 on the year and going two full months without a hit. There's some thought that the Mariners would go out and get a defense-first catcher to pair with Montero, and Treanor could be considered that guy.
Brian Schneider, 36, hits left-handed and was known as a great defender once upon a time, but his time spent on the disabled list with ankle and hamstring issues last season is troublesome. Barajas, 37, still has some pop but doesn't have much else going for him on the stat sheet. Miguel Olivo's still out there...
And that's it.
The position isn't one of impact and these players don't do a lot to differentiate themselves, so the Mariners' decision might come down to who they think will work the best with the pitching staff and provide a positive influence for Montero and Zunino. It would be hard to get excited or upset with any of these guys, though I'm partial to Snyder as long as he's healthy.
There are alternatives, of course. Another backup type could come through on the trade market or waiver wire (think George Kottaras), or perhaps Zduriencik intends for Paulino to make the team and will only be adding another AAA journeyman. Or maybe Zduriencik has something bigger in the works.
We'll find out soon enough. Spring Training is right around the corner.
Mariners to Sign Paulino, Commit to Montero?