December 20, 2014

Should the Dodgers Trade for Catching Help?

Yes, Russell Martin is out for four to six weeks, with four of those weeks being during Spring Training.  But I don’t think the Dodgers should hit the panic and trade for a replacement catcher.  We’re talking about two weeks people!  Steve Dilbeck at the Los Angeles Times agrees:

“If that’s the length of his absence, making a trade seems unlikely and unwise. You don’t give up a young player to plug a two-week hole.

And, really, there is no catcher of significance left who’s a free agent. The only free-agent catcher of any renown is Paul Bako, and the Dodgers have already had that experience. He was a backup to Dioner Navarro in 2005.”

I’m with you, Steve.  Bako is no better than the young A.J. Ellis.  The Dodgers obviously feel comfortable with the kid (after all, they traded top catching prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in 2008), with backup support from the 41 year-old Brad Ausmus.  Ausmus should be a fantastic influence on Ellis, while he tries to make the adjustment to being an everyday catcher at the big league level.  Here’s a little more on Ellisfrom Ken Gurnick:

Ellis, 28, was an 18th-round pick out of Austin Peay University in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft who has a .278 career Minor League batting average and more career walks than strikeouts.

He hit .314 in 90 games at Triple-A Albuquerque last year, leading the organization with a .438 on-base percentage. He had brief callups in 2008 and ’09.

Joe Torre is also on board with A.J. Ellis:

“I have no hesitation at all,” Torre said of catching Ellis, who has 12 games of Major League service and a .077 career batting average. “He handles a game well. He’s a tireless worker. Being a former catcher, I know how important the defensive end is. He’s made himself a good hitter, he’s a grinding type of guy. I’ve seen him enough to be comfortable with it.”

Here’s my real worry with this situation right now: I’m a little worried that Martin totally downplayed the abdomen issue when speaking to reporters the first time, calling it “not anything major.”  Yes, I’m encouraged that he thinks he’ll be back by opening day, but abdomen injuries like this are tricky and Martin has never had to deal with something like this on a professional level.

When I read quotes from Martin about his desire to continue to bulk up while resting his abdomen like, “I know my guns are going to be even bigger,” I worry that he’s not looking at potential causes for the injury (over-training) and potentially being naive when it comes to his recovery.

My opinion?  Take all the time you need, Russell.  If Martin doesn’t rest enough, comes back early and promptly gets hurt, the Dodgers are screwed and Martin may be battling through this thing for months, if not longer.  That’s another story, and one I would prefer to not think about right now.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers