Monday, December 24, 2007

Wish List Almost Fulfilled -- Except For Catcher Of The Future

There have been plenty of early Christmas gifts for the Tigers and their fans since the 2007 season ended. Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis have been added in trades. Kenny Rogers was re-signed, and Willis was inked to an extension.

But at the risk of sounding greedy and unappreciative, I'll make another plea to Santa Claus, er, GM Dave Dombrowski.

Where, oh where, is the Tigers' catcher of the future?

Rodriguez keeps himself in marvelous shape, but the calendar stops for no man

This isn't the first time I've asked such a question. But the answer hasn't presented itself, and I think it's something -- here I am, sounding like a broken record -- that needs to be addressed.

Pudge Rodriguez has turned 36. That's 66 in catcher years. Remember, the so-called experts warned of Rodriguez's age when the Tigers signed him in early 2004 -- when Pudge was 32. Signs have creeped in that the calendar is catching up with him, though Rodriguez keeps himself in excellent condition. Never have I been in the Tigers clubhouse and NOT seen Pudge giving himself a strenuous workout before a game in the team's weight room.

But sooner or later, even the most well-conditioned athlete has to bow to Father Time. And at 36, that time surely must be on the horizon for Pudge.

Vance Wilson's absence in 2007 due to injury was greater than many would admit, or care to notice. But Wilson is among the game's top backup catchers, and no disrespect to Mike Rabelo, but the Tigers could have used Wilson -- even for half the season -- on many, many occasions.

Yet Wilson is not the long-term answer. He'll be 35 in March. No bright catching prospects exist in the Tigers system; it's the one area where the team is deficient in young talent.

My guess is that the Tigers will utilize another package of prospects and young major league talent to secure a catcher in his late-20s -- probably in 2009. Unless a free agent becomes available. Rodriguez could at that point become a DH or a part-time first baseman.

I know it's too late for this Christmas, Santa Dave, but don't forget the part of the wish list that hasn't been crossed off yet.


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