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What Are They Thinking?

After last night's game (yet another loss), the Mariners designated Roberto Petagine for assignment to make room for catcher Luis Oliveros from AA San Antonio. Petagine was the only left-handed bat on the bench and Oliveros will be the third-string catcher.

This move makes absolutely no sense at all from any angle. I still believe that Petagine is a better hitter than Carl Everett and a platoon between Petagine and the recently acquired Eduardo Perez would have been an improvement over playing Everett every day. Petagine could have been a valuable asset if Hargrove had ever used him (he only got 27 ABs the entire year) and now it looks like Perez is destined for the same fate. So, though I think it was idiotic to designate Petagine for assignment, the Mariners probably are not losing much since Hargrove has been even more idiotic with his sparse use of the bench.

Still, why cut the only left-handed hitter on the bench for a third string catcher? As it turns out, Kenji Johjima will miss today's game so he can fly back to Japan and spend an extra day with his family, which includes a new baby. Johjima has more than earned the bonus day since Hargrove plays him too much (once again, too reluctant to use the bench) and it has probably been five months since he has seen his family. Since Kenji obviously won't be available, Hargrove was uncomfortable with the idea of having only one true catcher available for the game. I would be willing to take the risk, since it would be for only today's game and Willie Bloomquist could play catcher in a pinch, but I won't fight this point and concede that there is some logic in calling up a catcher.

However, that is still not an excuse for getting rid of Petagine. The Mariners could have easily called up Oliveros and kept Roberto on the bench. What they could have done instead is transfer Mike Morse to the 60-day DL (since he tore up his knee in Tacoma and is probably done for the year anyway) to make room on the 40-man roster for Oliveros and then they could have "sent down" Felix Hernandez. King Felix isn't getting into today's ballgame so using his slot for a day would make sense. The only problem is that he would have to wait 10 days until being recalled so he would miss one start after the All-Star break. However, the Mariners wisely want to limit Felix's innings anyway, so even this would not be a huge deal. Seattle could send Oliveros back down after the All-Star break and call up someone for a spot start. With just a little creativity, Petagine could have been spared.

With this first error having been addressed, now I can get to my biggest problem with the move: why was Luis Oliveros the choice? The Mariners have not one, not two, but THREE catchers in AAA and all would have been better options than Oliveros. Luis was batting just .194 in AA with a mere two extra base hits, both doubles, in 98 at-bats! Clearly, the kid is not even close to ready for big league pitching. Why was he the choice over any member of Seattle's AAA catching trio, Rob Johnson, Jeff Clement, and Guillermo Quiroz? Johnson is batting .250 in AAA with just a spark of power, but still much more than Oliveros. Furthermore, the organization raves about Johnson's defensive ability (though I have to wonder if they are just blowing smoke up our posteriors. After all, they called up Luis Oliveros in front of him). Jeff Clement was the M's top pick, third overall, only one year ago and everyone agrees he can hit. He still needs work defensively and is coming off an injury, so I am not too angry that he did not get the call. However, I still would have picked him over Oliveros because he can atleast do something. Plus, calling Clement up even if just for a day would create much more buzz and a little shot in the arm for a team that has been battered and bruised in July thus far. Finally, there is the man that should have been called up, Guillermo Quiroz. Quiroz actually made the opening day roster but was designated for assignment for apparently no reason a week into the season and Rene Rivera took his place. No other team claimed Quiroz and he was assigned to Tacoma where he has hit .313 with 8 doubles and 3 homers in 134 at-bats. He is only a year older than Oliveros but much more accomplished, as he has a couple months in the majors already under his belt and was selected to play in the All-Star Futures game a couple of years ago too.

In the end, designating Petagine for assignment and calling up Oliveros probably has very little impact on the team. However, I cannot get over how abominable the move is. I cannot find any logic in it at all. It is utterly and completely wrong, no matter how dissected. As much as I believe continuity is key to winning, moves like this make me seriously question Bill Bavasi and/or Mike Hargrove's baseball acumen. This move is so bad I almost hope both are fired over it.