"We've got to figure out what's going on so we can get him back and get him on the field," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Twins' 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. "This is another effort to try to figure out where we are at and what we need to do. He's not on the field yet. He's not able to consistently go out and do anything. Concerned? Yeah."Wow. Those are some striking words from Gardenhire. The Twins need a productive Mauer both offensively and defensively if they are going to compete in the AL Central this season so this injury is already a major setback. Mauer brings so much to the table for the Twins that its tough to fathom this team seriously competing without Mauer...right now. He's the best player the Twins have and those simply do not grow on trees.
If Mauer is out for a significant period of time, the Twins would need to explore outside options. Mike Redmond is a solid backup catcher, but he has never been a productive regular for a extended period of time. He is a suitable backup for Mauer, but does anyone really believe that Redmond is anything more than a backup?
Enter Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge remains unsigned and unwanted by a majority for the league for some reason. The former all-world catcher is in the twilight of his career and not come close to putting up the gaudy offensive stats that he did with the Rangers. For that matter, Pudge has actually declined quite a bit at the plate, especially in the OBP department where Pudge has lived in the .300 area over the past few seasons. Simply put, that's unacceptable.
On the plus side, Pudge can still hit for a high average with some power. A .280 batting average with 10-15 home runs should not be out of the question for Rodriguez if he is given the chance to play full time.
But where Pudge really excels is with defense. The 37 year old Rodriguez is a 13 time gold glove winner, who can still get the job done. Pudge calls a very good game behind the plate, has great fundamentals, and has one of the strongest arms in baseball. Outside of the Molina brothers (Yadier and Jose), Pudge is still one of the best at throwing out would be base stealers (32% in 2008).
While Pudge leaves much to be desired at his diminished state, he would help the Twins remain competitive until Mauer returns. It remains to be seen if the Twins would actually pony up to sign Rodriguez, but that will be completely dependant on the extent of Mauer's injury. Hopefully Mauer will be able to get back on the field in the near future.
But if Mauer can't get back on the field, would Ivan Rodriguez be a good replacement?