The prognosis on Chris Snyder’s back injury is not good: he has a herniated disc, needs surgery, and won’t return for at least a month and possibly more (Rob Biertempfel said earlier today his season is in “limbo“). That leaves the Pirates’ catching situation looking like this:
- Ryan Doumit is out with an ankle injury that will keep him on the shelf until sometime in July.
- Snyder is out until late July or August at the least with his back problems.
- Jason Jaramillo is out with an elbow problem for at least a “couple weeks.”
- The Pirates now have a Major League catching tandem of Dusty and Wyatt, which I’ve seen people suggest may be a tandem of inept deputies in a John Wayne movie or perhaps a country music duo. No one has suggested to me that they’re Major League catchers.
Pretty much everyone’s reaction to this news is that the Pirates need to trade for a catcher. Clint Hurdle, in Biertempfel’s article linked above, suggests that it’s his preference to go outside the organization and get something that resembles a catcher for his lineup.
I’m not opposed to that idea, per se, but this entire situation freaks me out in the worst way. Everyone remembers Jason Kendall’s gruesome ankle injury on the Fourth of July in 1999, but not as many people remember that the Pirates were .500 (40-40) after the game he was injured in. After it became clear that Keith Osik was not a big league catcher, Cam Bonifay went out and dealt 23-year old Jose Guillen for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota to try to get the Pirates to .500 in 1999. That attempt failed, and the Pirates were left with a backup catcher instead of a talented outfielder entering his prime.
The Pirates don’t need a long-term solution at catcher. They have Tony Sanchez. If they’re going to get a short-term solution at catcher, it has to be better than Wonder Twins. The short-term fix catchers that are on the free agent market (Bengie Molina) or that teams might be willing to part with right now (guys like Ivan Rodriguez) for very little are probably not appreciably better than what the Pirates have (don’t tell me about intangibles, look at the numbers: neither Molina nor Pudge can hit anymore).
The Pirates do have a Rule 5 crunch coming over the winter and it’s possible that they could make some kind of trade that I would probably hate in the short-term that would be ultimately irrelevant (think Ronald Uviedo for Dana Eveland, if we’re assuming that Uviedo never amounts to more than a replacement-level reliever), but the ultimate question here is exactly how much the Pirates should be willing to give up for the six weeks or so that they need a catcher.
It’s a tough situation for the Bucs. Brown has looked pretty shaky defensively behind the plate and the lineup is already trying to support Ronny Cedeno, a punchless Harrison/Wood combo at third, a usually terrible Jones/Diaz/Paul rotation in right, and Lyle Overbay. The Brown/Toregas situation is the worst of all of them, but catcher isn’t a position they have a long-term need at, and so it’s probably not a place that they’re willing to trade any prospect that they really value for a short-term upgrade. Honestly, I think the best answer is probably to call Eric Fryer up and let him start and just see what happens. He probably can’t be worse than Brown or Toregas and at least he’s got something of a future based on the way he’s hit the ball thus far this season.