Jack Cust was officially signed today, but the real news is about whose 40-man roster spot he took: Rob Johnson's. Rob was designated for assignment today to make room for Cust, in what is a bit of a surprising move.
I will admit, the fan in me immediately heaved a sigh of relief. Rob Johnson, to date, hasn't shown anything that warrants a spot in the major leagues. He is a catcher that isn't that good at catching the ball, and he does it with no power and plate discipline only in name.*
*I would agree that Rob took plenty of pitches, but many of them he should have swung at. It's not like Rob Johnson is a guy that pitchers are pitching around. I don't have any real analysis for this point, but Johnson took a bunch of good pitches to hit, which in my book is not plate discipline.
However, after taking a step back to analyze the situation, this is a precarious move, especially right now. Until Miguel Olivo officially signs, the Mariners have only 1 catcher on the 40-man roster, and the roster is full. It's a good rule of thumb to have three backstops, so that's alarming.
Thus, even when Olivo signs, the Mariners will still be short a catcher on the roster, and there are no real internal options. As much as I wasn't a big fan of Rob Johnson, he would have been one of the three best catchers on this team, even once Olivo signed.
I suppose I should give the front office the benefit of the doubt, given how fishy this move looks. Maybe they have a trade lined up that will bring in another catcher. Maybe there is already a deal in place for Rob Johnson.
Still, Johnson had some upside, and somebody needs to gear up behind the plate. Somebody else is going to have to go when Olivo signs too, and why couldn't that player have been the one DFA'd today?
This is an odd move, at least in a vacuum. No big dominoes have to fall, but a few have to before I feel good about letting Rob Johnson go. If I were Z, it would have been Chaz Roe getting booted off the roster today, even though that would have made the Jose Lopez "trade" look terrible. In the end though, Z might just be going towards a logical finish in a little different order.
I would anticipate the M's inviting some non-roster catchers to spring training, and stashing at least one away in AAA. Until then, a source of headaches and groans is gone, but has left a hole that definitely needs to be filled.