The Blue Jays signed Frank Catalanotto to a one-year contract today. Catalanotto has played mostly second base and left field in his career but will reportedly take over for non-tendored Jose Cruz Jr. in right field. There is a possibility that he was brought in to backup youngster Orlando Hudson at second even though the Blue Jays claimed they signed him as an outfielder.
I know that Cruz was going to make a lot of money and Catalanotto comes relatively cheaply, but I think it's a dumb move. And I'll tell you why.
First, Catalanotto is 28 and has played over 103 games only once in five seasons. He played only 68 in 2002 and had two stints on the DL, the first time missing seven weeks due to lower back problems and the second, a year-ending broken hand after being hit by a pitch on August 16.
Second, Catalanotto is more useful as a three-quarter time player. Stick him at first, second, left, DH, etc. to give someone a rest. If he starts in right, one of his main assets, his versatility, is minimized.
Third, I don't think he'll hit enough to be a corner outfielder. Aside from a career year in 2001, he has been an average to slightly above average hitter his entire career. Given that he's 28, he could have a break out season, but it's just as likely that he'll stay average.
Fourth, Catalanotto has played a grand total of 16 games in right field with zero assists. Well, maybe that's too small a sample, right? Well, he has played 104 games in left field in his career and has two assists to show for it. Maybe he doesn't have the arm to start in right.
Last, Catalanotto made almost $2.5 M in 2002. How much cheaper than Cruz can he be?
Don't get me wrong, Cruz was an average hitter who would have received a large salary increase via arbitration. They were correct to let him go. But they need a serviceable right fielder. The best free agent right fielder out there is Reggie Sanders. Or if they wanted to go the versatility route, why not go after John Mabry, who had a big second half with Oakland? Fellow free agent Alex Ochoa may also have been a better fit. He will be 31 next season and is just an average batter but is a pretty good defense right fielder. And there are probably a few others that I missed whoa re still available.
The point is that they did not get the best player available for the position. Given the bargain prices and the players available, they flubbed it. In the baseball vernacular, they pulled a boner. And every runner who takes an extra base rounding second on a single to right in 2003 is going to thank them for it.