Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thoughts on Buster Posey's Future

Ever since the horrific collision that nearly tore Buster Posey's foot off that the ankle, Giants fans have been understandably anxious about the continued risk of injury for him playing the catcher position.  Add in a 9 year contract and the need to keep him healthy and productive for the length of the contract and you don't have a situation that reduces anyone's anxiety.

Buster has played quite a bit of first base, and played the position well, with above average UZR's in a small sample size.  Some people point to the fact that Buster played SS in college as evidence he can play just about anywhere, but that was during his freshman season.  I don't think there is any serious fan who has watched him play lately who thinks he could move to SS.

Bruce Bochy has made some intriguing comments in the past about Buster possibly moving to 3B.  With Pablo Sandoval possibly headed out of town as a free agent, those comments have been seized upon to make a case for Buster Posey to be Pablo's replacement at 3B, should the need arise.  Then, 2 days ago, Bochy threw cold water on that idea saying there is currently no discussion about Posey moving from catcher as his primary position and while Buster Posey has the tools to play 3B, it would take time for him to learn the finer points of the position.  The transition to 1B would be much easier and quicker.  If and when the time comes for him to move away from the catcher position, it will be to first base.

So what's going on here?  Did Bochy just contradict himself here?  Is he blowing a smokescreen to protect Pablo Sandoval's feelings while there is still a possibility that he may stay and sign a new contract?  I decided to look up Bochy's prior quotes and see  if they shed any light on the issue.

The first report we read about Bochy saying Buster Posey might move to 3B came on October 3, 2012.    It was reported by Andy Baggarly on CSN Bay Area who said that this was not the first time he had heard Bochy discuss the subject.  Baggarly went on to say that he had spoken to other coaches and scouts who thought Buster would make a fine third baseman someday.   Here's the exact quote, "I think he could play third.  That's how athletic I think he is."  Bochy may have expanded on the thought, but if he did , Baggs did not report it.

The subject apparently came up again during a pregame chat with reporters on August 21, 2014.  As reported by Baggs, who, by the way, seems to have had a particular interest in the subject for a long time, Bochy's exact quote this time:  "I think he'd be a really good third baseman.  We like him where he's at now.  An this is something(that would happen) if he took the time to learn it in the offseason and spring training.  But, he's an athlete and he has the hands and arm."

Again, we are not given much of the context here in terms of what questions were asked by reporters or why the subject came up.  From reading the rest of Baggarly's article it seems that it came when Buster was slumping and questions about fatigue being the cause were coming up.

Then, this weekend the subject came up once again, probably because of internet and radio talk about possible replacements for Pablo should he leave via free agency.  This time, Bochy chose to be both more expansive and more precise in his wording:

"Right now, no.  Down the road, I'm sure it's something we will talk about.  You've got to like Susac's development over this past year.  We said the same about Hector.  Unfortunately, we are dealing with some (concussion) issues with Hector.  You'd like to lighten the load on Buster.  Whether at some point down the road he will get out from behind the plate, I can't answer that, but right now, there is no plan to do that.  But I will say, it's always nice to have that option.  It's a beautiful thing having that kind of option where you have somebody you trust to  be able to handle the staff, whether it is Susac or Sanchez.  I think it would be more to first base.  I think he could go at third base, but I think it takes some work because of slow rollers, bunts and things like that.  His hands, his arm, everything would work, but it would take a lot of work."

For what it's worth, and probably quite a bit, Brian Sabean has always been adamant that Posey is the teams's starting catcher.  That is what the value of his contract was based on, and that is where he is going to play.  I found one one source, Bay Area Sports Guy, whoever that is, who says he knows that Buster himself will not discuss the subject of moving off catcher at all.

So, what's going on here?  I have a few thoughts to add:

1.  I do not see any contradiction in Bochy's earlier comments and his current ones.  He's never said that Posey was going to move to 3B, now or in the future. He's always said he has the tools, still does.  He has always said it would take extended work(offseason plus spring training) to get him ready to play 3B.

2.  There are hints of internal debate about the issue with Sabes and Buster on one side and Bochy kind of on the other.  I don't get the idea that it's something Bochy feels adamant about, though.

3.  I believe it is highly unlikely that Buster Posey is anything other than the starting catcher next year or even the year after that.

4.  I believe it is highly unlikely that Buster Posey will ever be the Giants third baseman.

My personal opinion after watching Buster Posey play first base in quite a few games over the past 3 seasons is that he would not make a very good third baseman even with a lot of practice.  I just don't see the fluidity of movement, the quickness afoot and instincts for the position.  But I'm no scout and could be wrong.


  1. Ask and ye shall receive...

    Thanks Doc. Well done here.

    With each passing year in the squat, his fluidity of movement likely decreases. Range left, right, and in diminishes from wherever it would be right now which is probably below average for a 3B.

    I guess I can see one more year of Posey behind the dish as Susac is developed into the frontline catcher. More of Posey at first later in the season.

    Now your next entry can be "Thoughts on Brandon Belt in left field".

    1. Buster had a sweet swing and was dialed in after ST. But there has been a slow drop-off with all of the dings from catching. I recall foul tips to his foot, knee, nuts, shoulder/neck and at least three direct shots to his melon. His BA and Power would improve over a whole season if he moved to first, and he will have a long career.

      And instead of paying $72 mil for a Cuban OF, I say man up and pay Panda. His defense has been very good. So next years lineup could look like this;

      Pagan CF
      Panik 2B
      Posey 1B
      Panda 3B
      Pence RF
      Belt/Morse LF
      Hector/Susac C
      Crawford SS

      my thoughts... NVDude

    2. Thoughts on Brandon Belt in Left Field? That would be a short post. Not going to happen.

    3. What about thoughts on trading Belt for a LF? A while back I saw the intriguing suggestion of trading Belt for the Pirates' Marte. As much as I like Belt, the Giants could gain a net WAR benefit from having Posey at 1B, Susac at C and Marte in LF (or center). You'd probably lose some WAR at C, but might have the same or better at 1B and definitely better in LF.

    4. that was my suggestion although I'm sure someone else has thought of this. Marte likely has more value than Belt these days. My other thought is Belt for Christian Yelich.

    5. I don't think the Giants could get either Marte or Yelich for Belt. Maybe as part of a package? Pirates do have a surplus of OF's. Travis Snider is looking like someone who might be available this offseason.

    6. I also think it would take a little more than Belt to acquire younger, toolsy OFers like this. There's a disparity in money and both may reliably produce greater WAR or equivalent.

      Don't think the Fish have OF depth to make the trade but they might be interested in a 1B to hit behind Stanton.

    7. I think the Pirates could like adding Belt. He was a 4 WAR player last year and he still has upside. Maybe the Giants would have to throw another chip in there (maybe a reliever or Duffy), but it could work. Although, trading Belt this offseason could be selling low.

      I would not want Snider. He is having a good second half, but I don't like his defense. Same reason I wouldn't want someone like Dexter Fowler from the Astros.

    8. The allure of a guy like Marte or Yelich is that the can play center when Pagan cannot - Marte can likely play better, don't know about Yelich who has played some in CF, but is primarily LF like Marte. Just fantasy trades is all. Not sure how much imagination or drive Sabean has to make a big trade.

      Sabes will have another offseason scratching his head about how to fill LF.

  2. I would prefer to let Morse and Crawford move on. Morse is an-error-in-waiting in LF and if Crawford can't better the .230 avg, I would rather see Adrianza or Duffy at SS. Crawford looks out of shape and disinterested in the game at times.

    I just don't think that Buster has the foot speed at 3B. They would bunt him into oblivion. I like him as a catcher and I hope it is years before he has to move to 1B...


    1. Buster's foot speed looks good enough to me. It's not like he is hobbling around the bases on that ankle at all. He may have to trim down his lower half a bit to get even quicker but he is every bit as quick as Miggy right now. He has the footwork, arm and hands to be pretty good over there.

    2. Miggy is actually a pretty bad fielder.

  3. A lot of the talk about moving Posey is that we just want to see him play! No one wants to have his career derailed because of a concussion. We love him and we already saw him go down with the ankle injury and it hurt us all. We want him to succeed because we want him to always play at his best. If he can play catcher and stay healthy for the next 3 years so be it. We will all cross our fingers. I just see him now wearing down and it affects his performance. I love that he plays for the Giants. If he hit 8th in the lineup like every other catcher then who cares! For the Giants he bats 3rd and we need his bat in the lineup more so than his play calling and taking hits behind the dish.

    1. I completely agree with you here. In more concrete terms, the added position value of him playing catcher is not going to do a lot of good if his career effectively ends 3 or 4 years short of the end of his 9 year contract.

  4. Couple of thoughts here. Guys like Panda and Donaldson have made the move from behind the dish so I think it is more likely than not Posey can too. Miguel Cabrera held down 3B for a team that was pretty successful last year. Not saying he played well there but he did prove you can still win with below average D at 3B. Most plays at 3B are reaction plays and Posey has good reflexes and the arm to handle it. The drop off in value from C to 3B isn't as much as if he went to 1B so I think they have to at least give him a chance to show one way or the other whether he can handle it. I don't see Posey catching for more than 2 seasons with Susac, Sanchez, and Garcia all knocking on the door so if it isn't 3B he will be playing 1B by 2017.

    1. While Buster is a very good hitter, he's not Miggy Cabrera at the plate and never will be. Pabs and Josh Donaldson made the move at a much earlier stage of their careers.

  5. Um, anyone up for asking Buster what he would like to do with his future?

    To my knowledge, I have never heard him say he wants to do anything but sit in the squat. I know, it's fun to speculate, but any position switch will be mainly his decision to make.

    I agree that bringing Susac/Hector along could potentially give the Giants a solid catching tandem by 2016. Even if Pablo leaves, I don't see Posey moving to 3B in 2015. It's too soon for both Posey and Susac/Hector. So we just better pay the Panda.

    1. From everything I was able to find on the subject, whenever Buster is asked by anyone about moving off catcher, he just shuts down. Refuses to discuss it. I think that pretty much tells you how he feels about it.

  6. Wonder if Sanchez can play third? Word was that he looked pretty good at first and with all the concussions he might want to start thinking about a position switch. KInd of looks like Panda too!

  7. Well, I'd say Buster's future looked pretty good tonight - catches a 1 hitter, hits 2HR as the game winners. Squat on, Buster.