I've become convinced that The Cat is simply forcing a decision to be made on somebody else. There is NO WAY he isn't a Major League bat right now, and he's certainly no embarrasment with the glove.
You can send him down and secure that extra arb year, but even that is a two or three-week thing, and then you have the same decision to be made.
I just think it is obvious that the move is with Figgins but nobody is reporting smoke signals indicating such. We're determined to show him off in the hope that we can dump his next year's salary (we'll have to buy this year's no matter how well he performs).
So....minus a Figgins move, we can:
1. Trade Olivo and let the kid catch 120 games this year. That open's up a DH spot and The Cat is in the lineup.
2. DL Ryan. Figgins/Kawasaki/Seager play SS. Figgins never sees 3B again. If you keep Wells, too....then Figgins probably doesn't see CF. In this scenario, he's just an expensove maybe-utility player. Wait....never mind.
3. Send Seager to Tacoma. This only postpones the eventual decision as he's going to whack the ball all over down there and I hate messing with a kid who can play. He can play.
4. Keep 11 chuckers. Uh...this is only very short term as nobody goes with 11 for very long.
5. Abandon Carp or Smoak. Uh....no.
6. Mess around with Wells. Send him down. Let Figgins get some CF time and SS time and let him sniff 3B once in a great while. Or maybe you mess around with Saunders, which would be capital S stupid at this point.
7. Send down Catricala for a few seconds.
I've advocated #1, think #2 makes some sense, as well, and can live for a few seconds with #7, maybe.
But if you send Catricala down, you better know that you have a 20 game limit with Figgins and that he's G-O-N-E at that point....or you just require another decision then. So that decision needs to be made before you make the move.
I will not be surprised if we put Wells in Tacoma and we watch the Figgins debacle play out for a few weeks longer.
And all this occuring with Liddi also showing all the signs of being and a ready-for-prime-time-player right now.
Youth, it seems, must be served.
There is no way we get somebody to gobble up two years of Figgins. So really the cost of disposing of him immediately is one year's $7M.
Heck, it would be worth a good chunk of that in positive PR.
Doc, calculate how many WAR Catricala is worth right now. I'm pretty sure it is well north of $7M.
Does Dick Allen ring a bell?
We've got one of those.
PS: A dump Figgins move really is an investment in both Catricala AND Montero, because is maximizes both of their PA's.
=== March 13, 2012 ===
We cross-checked Vinnie's defense and, to the general surprise, it clears the bar with ease.
The bat? Earlier we had waxed ecstatic about his aiki-esque quick, compact power. Like a 19-year-old Ken Griffey Jr., Vinnie Catricala does things with a baseball bat that most other major league players are not capable of doing. Such as, in this case, hitting an inside fastball over the center field fence. On a 1-2 count.
How does Vinnie look, in a whole game, as opposed to on the highlight reel? That was the question. The answer: better than he does on the highlights. If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'.
=== See Ball, Hit Ball ===
On the morning of March 14th, SSI readers got to the point long before Dr. D got there. Catricala can take the ball all over the field -- in his second at-bat, he first lasered a foul ball double down the line, and then instantly fought another pitch off the handle down the RF line. There were 89 degrees' difference between the two "hits," this occurring in one AB.
Catricala had another RF hit fall in, and in his single out, he rifled a frozen rope out to the right fielder, again. That Batted Ball In Play (BABIP) had approximately a .500, .600 chance of being another hit, with about a .350 chance of being a double.
But it wasn't the Edgar Martinez line-to-line hitting ability that was the best part. The best part was that Catricala was purely reactive, every single pitch, all game long.
See, with only 62 games in AA, there isn't any way that Catricala has any sense of ML pitch sequences. You remember Dustin Ackley saying, "It's been a rough ride, having no idea what's coming."
Catricala's gorgeously-short path to the ball allows him to take a loooooooong look at each pitch, letting it travel almost into the catcher's mitt, and then ZZZZING! unsnap the bat and smack it hard the other way. You can imagine the catcher's frustration.
Catricala has a leisurely violence to his aspect as he watches, unhurriedly, the ball travel towards him. This is what Casey At The Bat would have looked like. When he lets a pitch go by, his upper lip phantom-ly curls. This isn't my twisted imagination (this time). Catricala knows very well that he can hurt these guys, and that's what he wants to do. When the ball isn't there to allow that, he's smoldering.
Johnny Bench had exactly this unhurried danger to his presence. Jim Thome and Ichiro, those guys are sort of crackling with violence up there, muscles contracted, like they can't wait to do damage. Vinnie Catricala, Johnny Bench, they're latently relaxed in their acrimony. They know they have time, after the ball is in the air.
Manny Ramirez does this. It's the difference between Peyton Manning's happy-feet c'mon c'mon let's GO! in the pocket, and Tom Brady's ain't-no-thang tranquility. Okay, I know you've got a soft underbelly somewhere. Just hang on one second .... oh! here we are....
Catricala has so much time to look at the ball, that it's easy for him to let pitches go by. He had a 4-pitch walk in his first at bat. And he's the kind of dangerous hitter whose walks will steadily increase as ML pitchers book him. He hasn't walked terribly much in the minors; I fully expect him to walk 80 or 100 times in the majors five years from now.
If I've got to have one guy seeing extra pitches in AAA, it would be Kyle Seager. He's working without AAA experience, too. Why Seager over Catricala?
But you could keep both. Either use 11 men in the bullpen, with Erasmo and Furbush munching innings, or do something with Casper Wells short-term while Figgins serves as the only backup outfielder. Does Wells have options? Guess they'd have to go to the "Unable to Perform" list. He still looks a little disoriented up there....
The word is that Catricala is slated for AAA, however he performs in spring. Funny that Eric Wedge has him hitting cleanup tonight, in a clever attempt to simulate the added pressure that Catricala would face in the major leagues.
That Vinnie Catricala should perform like this, under the "See Ball Hit Ball" restriction that he labors under, it makes you wonder how he'll perform later. As Bill James said, "I think that the best, and the only, place to learn to play major league baseball is in the major leagues."