Pudge on the Outs

Like a lot of free agents, Ivan Rodriguez is looking for a job. However, while most of the big names will eventually find work, even if it’s for less than they had hoped, it appears at least somewhat likely that Pudge might be on the Kenny Lofton/Sammy Sosa forced retirement path. David Samson, president of the Marlins, recently stated that there is zero chance that Florida will sign Pudge, and the other teams with catching needs simply don’t sound interested.

I find this pretty strange, honestly. Over the last four years, Pudge has been worth 2.2, 2.5, 1.6, and 1.9 wins, if you assume that he’s been average defensively. I know pitchers have reported having problems with his pitch calling, but he’s still generally regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of all time – it’s hard to imagine that he could have declined so much that his defense would take away all of his offensive value.

This is, after all, a catcher who hasn’t posted a wOBA below .300 since 1992. Those aren’t exactly laying around on the waiver wire. Brad Ausmus, who just signed for $1 million with the Dodgers yesterday, has had a wOBA of greater than .300 only one time this decade. His career wOBA is .298, compared to Pudge’s .350. Ausmus found two suitors, and when the Padres lost him to LA, they turned to Henry Blanco, who has a career .282 wOBA.

Both of those guys have good reputations for their work with pitchers, but that is apparently the only criteria teams are using when choosing which catchers to sign. You’d have to believe that Pudge was the worst handler of pitchers of all time to make up for the offensive gap between him and guys like Ausmus or Blanco.

Clearly, there’s something about Pudge that teams don’t like. Much like with Kenny Lofton, though, he’s definitely still a major league caliber player who wants to keep playing. He may not get that chance, however.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Steve Wower
Steve Wower

WAR tells a team the value they may or may not be getting but it doesn’t tell a team how the player will really effect the difference between their RS and RA.

Pudge might be a 2 WAR player and Abreu might be a 2 WAR player in ’09. However, adding an Abreu will impact pythag much greater though because those 20 runs in the position adjustments aren’t going to apply to Pudge’s actual production.