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Many questions behind the plate

The Sports Xchange

The Dodgers will have decisions to make about the catching position this offseason, just as they did a year ago.

Both of this year's catchers, Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro, will be free agents when the season ends.

Barajas showed his value with four RBI and two hits, including a three-run home run, in the Dodgers' 8-2 victory over the Rockies on Friday night. He departed after six innings because of a mild right groin strain.

Remarkably, Barajas is second on the team in home runs with 12. Overall, he has produced about what you would expect, a slash line of .227/.281/.416 with 33 RBI. He's a threat to go deep but doesn't hit many singles or walk much. He calls a good game and is fair at controlling the running game.

He's probably overpaid at $3.25 million, but the Dodgers were desperate for a catcher last year after deciding to part ways two-time All-Star Russell Martin.

Dioner Navarro was signed for $1 million because the Dodgers weren't sold on A.J. Ellis as a backup and they needed depth. Ellis had an option remaining, so they knew he could shuttle between the majors and Triple-A Albuquerque -- which he has done twice this year, when Barajas and Navarro went on the disabled list once each.

Outside of three game-winning hits in the final third of 1-0 wins, Navarro hasn't done much offensively -- as his .199/.286/.337 slash line indicates.

At the trade deadline, the Dodgers acquired Tim Federowicz from the Red Sox, along with two pitchers, to address their lack of catching depth but had to part with popular outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson.

Since coming to the Dodgers, Federowicz is slashing .318/.380/.614 in 12 games at Triple-A Albuquerque, including three home runs. Federowicz is known as a strong defender and natural leader, and the Dodgers think he'll keep hitting better.

Another reason the Dodgers traded for Federowicz is the lack of free agent catchers available. Ramon Hernandez is the best available, which says a lot.

Since Federowicz arrived at Triple-A Albuquerque, Ellis' playing time has diminish greatly. He's done this year what he's always done: call a good game, work hard, throw OK, walk a bunch but not hit for any power.

Ellis is slashing .309/.473/.425 in 58 minor league games. In 72 games in the majors, Ellis has a career .247/.344/.277 slash line. That's better than Navarro, but for whatever reason, the Dodgers haven't ever seemed sold on Ellis, who is now 30 years old.

Next year, Ellis will be out of options, so they can't use him as the third catcher who serves as a safety valve. They need to make a decision on him.

Trading away Robinson was unpopular with fans, so the Dodgers have a lot invested in Federowicz having an impact in the majors. He'll be given every opportunity to win a job next season -- if not on Opening Day, then sometime around midseason for sure.

Federowicz is a likely candidate to get a call-up in September to evaluate how close he is to the majors.

The ideal situation is teaming Federowicz with a veteran to learn opposing hitters. That could be Barajas, but the Dodgers probably would prefer him at a cheaper salary, especially since he'll be 36 next year. They'll still need a third catcher, in case of injury, as well.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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