In part seventeen of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at back-up catcher Chad Moeller… THE FIGHTIN’ “GOOD GAME CALLER”!
The 34 year-old veteran started the year backing up Gregg Zaun behind the plate – was sent down when Matt Wieters was brought up – and then was recalled after the O’s traded Zaun to the Rays. Before the season I projected Moeller to hit much like your typical second-string back-stop, posting a .229/.281/.344 line in 75 plate appearances.
Moeller started out on a tear, batting .292/.346/.583 in April, but he couldn’t keep that up all year. He did finish better than expected though, hitting .258/.313/.438 in an even 100 PA. That kind of production from a catcher is actually pretty good, and even in limited time Moeller was worth 0.5 Wins Above Replacement. If he could keep that level of play up over a full season, he’d be around an average (2.5 WAR) player. I’d certainly take that from a back-up catcher, and so I think it’s pretty likely that the O’s will exercise the $0.85 M club option they have on his contract. After all, Moeller was worth $2.3 M this year while being paid just $0.8 M. That’s a nice little bargain to have.
[Edit: Looks like the O's actually didn't pick up Moeller's option. Hard to think they'd bring him back cheaper than that. Kind of confusing, given that Moeller's .324 wOBA was 25th in baseball amongst catchers with at least 50 PA. Note; there are 30 teams in baseball. His .747 PrOPS was pretty much in line with his .751 actual OPS (and skewed more heavily towards OBP, which is a plus).
It's really not a big deal at all - and Moeller's career wOBA is just .277 - but it'll be interesting to see who they bring aboard to back up Wieters next year. Gregg Zaun and his .334 wOBA apparently want to stay in Tampa Bay. I wouldn't mind 32 year-old switch-hitter Josh Bard. Career .259/.326/.389 hitter, .312 wOBA. Hasn't played much (or that well) in the majors the last couple years, but his 2009 PrOPS line was a respectable .266/.325/.401. Doesn't strike out too much and has been known to take a walk in the past. Spent the year with the Nationals organization, so it'd be a short trip and a step up for him. The only player I actually explicitly asked for last year was Zaun, and that seemed to work out OK.]
[Edit 2: Seems like the move was made with 40 man roster implications in mind. From the Sun:
MacPhail said declining Moeller’s option was more of a 40-man roster decision, and the Orioles have already offered the veteran catcher a minor league deal at the same rate that he would have received had they picked up his option. Said Moeller: “I was disappointed, but [MacPhail] has to do what he thinks is best for the organization. I understand that. I’m going to look to see at what options are available and if there is nothing better as far as a guaranteed major league job, I’ll probably be back.”
That makes sense. Fair chance he comes back then.]
Photo by Keith Allison.