Over at the Cubscast message board, fan desperation has gotten to the point of debating light-hitting backup catchers. The Cubs let Hank White fly (along with this $3 million option el grande) and instead took a flyer on Paul Bako. Both catchers are now making $750,000 in one-year deals, Blanco signing with the Padres. Neither catcher is an accomplished hitter. Both are getting up there in age. Blanco is clearly the better defensive backstop. But all in all, neither one screams "difference maker" in what is already a backup role.
I agreed completely with Hendry's decision to decline Henry Blanco's option. In world of constricting financial belts and pending mega-franchise sales, every last million bucks is critical. But one story had me wondering if the Cubs didn't jump the gun on signing Bako's three-quarter million contract.
Word on the Hot Stove Blvd. is that the Marlins are pondering a $1 million deal to Pudge Rodriguez. Florida, whose entire team payroll could barely pay Mark Texiera's taxes, have a chance at landing a perennial all-star catcher (who is, admittedly, pretty much all out of ennials) for a cool million. But the Marlins have to turn over their couch cushions to see if they have the money. The Cubs, on the other hand, could snatch up Pudge in a move that, compared to the Bako signing, would be an absolute steal (and if Bako was behind the plate, there's no risk of getting caught).
So why not? Why not make an attempt to sign his Pudgeness? Even if Hendry had to eat Bako's contract (and, let's face it, he could eat it for breakfast and still have room for crullers) the move would still be well worth it.
The Cons: His bat has slowed down, his arm is not the cannon it once was, and who knows when the after effects of 'roids will do in his kidneys. Plus, he might not show the Cubs the same generosity that the Marlins could expect. And after this winter, wouldn't you give someone a discount in exchange for 90-degree weather?
The Pros: Every aspect of his game is still twice as good as Bako's (although Paul reportedly has impeccable kidneys, some insiders calling him a nephrological marvel, a true renal genius). Rodriguez admits he can't play more than three or four times a week.
I've weighed both sides, and while the cons win by word count, the pros take it in a landslide in terms of baseball sense. I would love having a backup that can actually hit and that could spell Geo on a more consistent basis down the stretch in a season. Make the move, Jim. To make the Bako contract easier to swallow, I will send you $5 myself. I know, generous. That's how bad I want this championship.