A CATCHER IT IS!

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Geovany Soto was pulled from Monday night’s game in the fifth inning and began shaking hands with his Cubs’ teammates in the dugout. It was obvious, he had been traded, and the only question was where. Late Monday evening, the news leaked that Soto was headed to Arlington. The trade involved cash, so had to be approved by MLB. It was Tuesday morning and is now official.

The Rangers had made their intentions known that they wanted a top of the line starting pitcher and to upgrade their bench in trade talks this July. The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant consistently contended that they were interested in upgrading the catching situation, and he proved to be correct.

The Rangers sent AA starting pitcher Jacob Brigham to the Cubs in return. There could be another player to be named later or cash considerations to complete the trade. Brigham was 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA in 21 starts at AA Frisco this season, though he is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last three starts. He is known for having a very good arm with erratic control.

Yorvit Torrealba was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Soto.

Soto is a former Rookie of the Year and National League All-Star, and is considered a very good defensive catcher. He is making $4.3 million this year; hence the cash considerations coming from the Cubs to offset a portion of his salary. He is contractually under control for next year as an arbitration eligible player. Essentially, the last two months of 2012 and hopefully some playoff games will serve as a tryout for Soto. If the Rangers are pleased with what they see, they can go to arbitration with him. If they aren’t, they can non-tender and let him go.

The Ranger tandem of Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba has not been good defensively. Napoli has been charged with eight passed balls, while Torrealba has been charged with four more. Soto in 51 games has been charged with one.

To date the Ranger tandem has 11 caught stealings in 71 opponent attempts, a 15.5% ratio. Certainly, there are factors in this statistic other than a catcher’s throwing ability, most notably the pitcher involved; and the Rangers do have some pitchers that are easy to run on. However, Soto is 14-37, a 37.8% rate.

Soto is hitting just .195 with six home runs and 14 RBI’s in 51 games, a sharp variance from his career batting average of .254. However, Soto was on the disabled list from mid-May until mid-June with a knee problem and has hit much better at .241 since being reactivated.

Mike Napoli is eligible for free agency after this season, and it isn’t likely that the Rangers will pay the figure he will command. He is making more than $9.0 million this season after his spectacular 2011 offensive season, but has not lived up to those numbers. He is hitting just .228 with 17 home runs and 38 RBI’s.

Certainly, there is a learning curve for Soto – new pitchers to learn on his team and new oppennt hitters to learn from coming to a new league. However. he picked up 21 games in the standings – from 17.5 games out of first place with the Cubs to 3.5 games in the lead with Texas – which hopefully will rejuvenate him.

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