One of the biggest question marks (or "unsettled," as Lynn Henning put it this morning) on the Detroit Tigers' roster this spring has been the back-up catcher position. What makes the dilemma more complicated, however, isn't just figuring out which player will fill that role; it's how long the need exists on the team.
If Brandon Inge isn't traded, he can fill in for Pudge Rodriguez. If and when Vance Wilson's right elbow is healthy enough for him to throw again, he'll likely be the catching understudy. If Inge is dealt and Wilson isn't yet ready, perhaps the Tigers look within their system and use Dane Sardinha when needed.
So maybe signing someone from the organization isn't necessary for the Tigers. But if that's the way Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are leaning, maybe the Boston Red Sox put someone on the shelf that could be of interest. Earlier this afternoon, the Red Sox released Doug Mirabelli, preferring a less expensive option for the role of Tim Wakefield's knuckleball caddy. Mirabelli was set to be paid a base salary of $550,000, with additional roster and performance incentives that could add another $1.25 million to the contract.
Of course, Mirabelli could just sit back and wait for Boston to re-sign him if one of their younger replacements proves inferior at blocking those knuckleballs that will inevitably float into the dirt.
But is this any kind of option for the Tigers? Mirabelli will turn 38 this season, and hit .202/.278/.360 last year with five home runs and 16 RBI in 127 plate appearances. Defensively, he threw out 22% of basestealers and his pitchers posted a 4.09 ERA while he was behind the plate. His ratio of wild pitches and passed balls per game seems horrifying (.680), but the knuckleball has to be considered a factor there.
Or you could just say something like, "Well, if he was so good, how come the Red Sox don't want him?" But they also have two candidates that could take Mirabelli's job. The Tigers' back-up situation is a bit more hazy.
Would Mirabelli be worth taking a chance on, if he agreed to a incentive-laden contract? Or should the Tigers just see how far they can go until Wilson gets the all-clear sign to throw again?