It seems vogue to start talking about the 2012 Rays because everyone but Joe Maddon seem convinced the 2011 Rays are booked. (For whatever reason, Maddon’s optimism is just one more thing I really like about the guy.)
I’m not ready to start talking about 2012, even if the skipper and I disagree on the way 2011 will end, but I am willing to indulge in some future speculation based on some recent events. In the last two days, we have gotten a little taste of the bat we acquired for Matt Garza.
I remember talking to Joe Aiello of View From the Bleachers when the Garza deal went down. He predicted that we’d love Sam Fuld but that he was not an impact player. (one point for Joe). He predicted that Brandon Guyer was the best athlete in the deal and that Chris Archer might actually turn into a really good big league pitcher. (two more points for Joe). He predicted that Hak Ju Lee was the wild card because he could be great or flame out. (Looks great so far.) And he predicted that Robinson Chirinos was the best bat in the haul. (Here’s the post. Clearly, I was still learning WordPress. Sorry.)
All season I’ve had my eye on Chirinos while watching John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. A catcher that can hit? Have we ever had that here?
But, watching Chirinos hit — and watching him throw — I can’t help but wonder if he comes Port Charlotte and finds a first-baseman’s glove in his locker. If this kid is going to hit like this, do we really want him catching long term? Forget for a minute that he isn’t a very good catcher. Just think about the number of games catchers miss due to injury or rest. We don’t hit well enough as an organization to keep a promising young bat on the bench because we are playing a day game that followed a night game. Right?
Also, let’s not forget that first base will be a need position again this winter. I suppose there is an outside chance that the Rays will re-sign Casey Kotchman but, he is hitting enough this year to get a payday from some dopey GM elsewhere in the league. If Kotch gets overpaid, we are back to the world of “maybe Dan Johnson really is an everyday big leaguer.”
Wait. There’s more! Chirinos is different that Mike Piazza, Joe Mauer, or the other catchers that have refused to move positions over the years because he has not been a catcher his entire life. For Piazza, Mauer, and players of that ilk, catching is a part of their identity. But Chirinos was an infielder (SS, 2B, and 3B) until the Cubs started experimenting with him behind the plate in 2008. The Cubs didn’t move Chirinos into the bucket full time until 2010. That is recent enough that it can be undone.
There is one downside to this idea. The pitchers that have been working with Chirinos at Durham this year seem to love throwing to him. Maybe he can’t throw, but the Durham pitchers claim he can frame pitches well. But we cannot run an organization based on the whiny demands of pitchers. Right?
Moving Chirinos to first, much like moving Zobrist to short, solves two problems. It gives the Rays a reason to have his bat in the lineup every day AND it prevents the Rays from handing out air-sickness bags everytime Chirinos tries to throw out a runner at second. I say we do it. Who’s with me?