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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 25, 2008 4:05 PM

Johjima press conference

Posted by Geoff Baker

kenjo0425 004.jpg

A shot above of the Kenji Johjima press conference after his three-year, $24 million extension was announced today. Bill Bavasi is on the left, with Johjima nest to him. Going on down the line, there's interpreter Antony Suzuki and player agent Allan Nero. I asked Bavasi what today's extension means for the future of Jeff Clement as a catcher in this organization.

Here is what I asked and what he answered.

"I would guess that at some point along the way, because of Jeff's bat -- and assuming Kenji plays the way he can -- Jeff's going to get exposed to another position at some point,'' Bavasi said. "But we have not given up on him as a catcher. A lefthanded hitting catcher with power, those are real tough to find. So, this doesn't change Jeff's track to the big leagues much at all. Because his track to the big leagues is with his bat more than his glove anyway.''

Fair enough. Which is why I asked Bavasi a follow-up about whether he could see Clement breaking in at one position and then switching back to catching later on. Doesn't happen much. pretty much never. OK then, the alternative is that Clement catches a few days a week and serves as a DH or first baseman at other times. Remember, this team felt at spring training that there was no point in Clement being up here if he could play every day. Point being, it's doubtful he's going to be a full-time catcher for this club anytime soon. Bavasi said the question was too hypothetical to answer.

So, my logical conclusion? He comes up, fairly soon, to hit as a DH. And he gets to work in some games as a catcher. But logic doesn't always dictate the correct answer here. Look at Cha Seung Baek. Last night's game screamed for a long reliever after Jarrod Wasburn bowed out before the sixth. But Baek stayed glued to the bullpen bench. Not sure what his role is.

NOTE (4:54 p.m.): Let me alter what I said slightly in the previous paragraph. The situation didn't "scream'' for a long reliever. A starter getting knocked out in the third inning screams for one. This didn't. Sure, Baek could have been used in the sixth instead of Roy Corcoran. I know these guys have their roles and such, but by the time Baek's role actually comes up, his arm will be rusted to his side and unable to throw a pitch. Just wanted to clear that up.

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Posted by Walrus

4:18 PM, Apr 25, 2008

If / when Clement comes up to bigs for SEATTLE, what will Burke's role be?

Fr whatever it is worth, what are Cairo's, Baek's, and Norton's roles???

Who gets cut, when Bedard comes up tomorrow???

Bavasi has a lot of questions he should be answering...but I guess if it works for Bedard...

Posted by Mike

4:18 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Geoff--Welcome to the club of not understanding Mariner logic.

Has HoRam been picked up? Maybe we can trade for him again.

Posted by wayupwaydown

4:18 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Well, so much for letting Clement rot in AAA honing his catching skills.

Bench Vidro tonight. Please. Or force Clement to play 1B in Tacopma for a few weeks and get him ready.

Posted by Adam

4:20 PM, Apr 25, 2008

So, for this deal to be a success, we have to hope:

1. That Clement can't cut it as a catcher, where his bat has the most value, so that Johima has to play all three years of the deal, or

2. That Johjima defies age and plays at a level that would overcome Clement's value (skill + age + salary) at the position.

So we are rooting for failure or a near impossibility. Nice.

And Bavasi's comments seem pretty clear: "We don't think Jeff can be a big-league catcher."

Posted by apb98105

4:21 PM, Apr 25, 2008

It's a little surprising that the M's would want to move Clement out of his natural position as it might disrupt his positional development, daily routine and his confidence on the field. The Kenji contract might also give Jeff serious doubts about his near term prospects.

I guess they are banking on Clement to bail out the disastrous 1B/DH situation with Sexson/Vidro. The silver lining is that he wont experience all the wear and tear of fulltime catching duties if he gets called up for his offensive skills over the next couple seasons.

Posted by MsontheRally

4:24 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Geoff I'm totally with you about Baek... if we don't use him there's no point in keeping him. Either play him or find him a team. It's wasting our space and his time to sit on the bench.

Posted by Mike

4:26 PM, Apr 25, 2008

I'm starting to think that Bavasi got tired of stockpiling players who should only DH (Ibanez, Wilkerson, Norton, Vidro & Sexson) and is now collecting catchers. I wonder who we'd have to trade to get Miguel Olivo back?

Posted by Miles

4:30 PM, Apr 25, 2008

I've heard some speculation about this being a move to free up Clement for a trade. Bavasi's comments about not moving Clement to another position right away make sense in that context.

Posted by Dave

4:30 PM, Apr 25, 2008


Isn't the only way this makes any logical sense is if Joh is traded or Clement is traded?

I really don't understand M's management logic.

Posted by helpFelix

4:31 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Ok there's no more guess work with Johjima being here in 2009. Bring Clement up TONIGHT, and bench Vidro!!! Simple as that!

Regarding who gets cut when Bedard comes back, I have to think until Lowe gets a little better control he will be going down. Just my thought anyways.

With Johjima signed, and Clement to DH, this makes Burke totally expendable. Cincy has been begging for a MLB ready catcher from every team out

Trade Burke for Griffey, and put Griffey in RF and CUT Wilkerson. Griffey can DH a few times a week giving Johjma a break. This solves our bench problem too, because our Power LHB DH now can be our backup Catcher.

There's already reports out of Cincy that fans & Cincy executives want Jay Bruce up SOON, but a trade has to happen 1st with either Dunn or Griffey! Dusty Baker wants badly to lockup Dunn for the longterm, so my bet is Griffey.

Seattle adds BOTH Griffey for RF, and Clement to DH and THEN we all can settle down and take the AL West lead for the remainder of the year.

Ironically, the Griffey move alone would be enough PR to provide sellout crowds for the remainder of the year at Safeco Field!!!

Posted by seavet

4:32 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Jason Varitek is 36 years old. Johjima has proven himself sturdy and tough.

I expect the Baek question to be answered sooner rather than later. (For those of you thinking in 30- second increments, that's not the type of timeframe I mean.)

Posted by Tacoma Rain

4:35 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Can someone PLEASE give me a reason why ANY ONE of you think that Clement can play first base???
He has NEVER played it, even in high school.
Clement has said PUBLICALLY this year that HE does NOT WANT to play first base.
And for you Richie fans, Clement is not very tall, so he won't have Richie's defense
(Adam and others who are not Richie fans - feel free to laugh at that last comment)

Posted by Adam

4:35 PM, Apr 25, 2008

This just sends a bad message to Clement. He's worked his tail off for the last three years to become a big-league catcher. Roger Hansen, the M's catching instructor, says he'll be a good ML catcher.

And here comes Bill Bavasi, not even waiting until his 32 year-old catcher shows that he's not beginning the permanent decline in production that many catchers of that age experience, locking Johjima up to a three-year deal AND admitting that Clement's going to have to play another position if he wants to be a big-leaguer.

How does that make Jeff feel? And why do they even bother paying Roger Hansen a salary?

Not exactly a vote of confidence for Clement....

Posted by ethan

4:37 PM, Apr 25, 2008

is that a interpreter next to Kenji? i really think a 24-hour translator is needed for Bill Bavasi..
can we find someone that is fluent in IDIOT?

Posted by Adam

4:38 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Trade Burke for Griffey

And then maybe we can deal Sexson for Pujols!

Posted by Mike

4:40 PM, Apr 25, 2008

If it were me and I did want the Johjima I've seen the last two years locked up I think I might have waited until I had a little more evidence that '08 Joh is slumping rather than deteriorating. There is no good reason to do this now unless Bavasi has something else up his sleeve.

(runs screaming into other room)

Posted by Matt McMullen

4:40 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Howard Lincoln you genius. Now I know how Nintendo managed to become the Atari of the 21st century...forward thinking like this:

--We have a right-handed hitting Dead pull-hitting catcher who is 32 and off to the worst start of his career in a ballpark that is death to right-handed pull hitters.

--We have seen the burnden that bad long term deals with players at the end of their careers can have on the franchise. (Boone, Olerud, Spezio, Everett, Sele, Weaver)

--We have a left handed hitting catcher in our organization that is hitting .375 with a .500 OBP and the Clubs catching coordinator Roger Hanson said this about him: “Jeff’s real close, and I mean real close, if not ready,” said Hansen. “He can be really good, probably one of the best out there. That’s where he’s headed now. He can be easily better than Jason Varitek, and that’s easy for me to say, because I worked with Jason when he was with our organization. I had Chris Widger, too, and he was really good. But Jeff should be head and shoulders above either of those guys.”

--We have a manager that is fundamentaly incapable of using a bench or splitting playing time for players among multiple positions.

Conclusion from that data???:
Lets Block Clement from ever being our starting catcher by moving him to first where we desperately need an upgrade. Lets take a #1 draft pick who was drafted based on the forecast that he could be a plus offensive player at a difficult position to fill and move him into a position where he will be league average.

This is the equivalent of putting a 2nd TE into your "Flex" position becuase you Really want to have both Marcus Pollard and Ben Watson on the field (one of them might get a 3yard TD this week) rather than finding a decent 3rd RB or 4th WR.

Can't wait for us to sign RAUUUUL "face of the franchise" Ibanez to a 5 year extension to insure he has 4 crap years for us and not have 1 okay year somewhere else.

Posted by Blair

4:43 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Locked up a good catcher for three years, I don't see anything too wrong with that. Better to have a good catcher under your control and a good prospect on the horizion then let kenji go for nothing and then play Clement and have him turn into a bust. This way if Clement is looking like a major league level catcher we can trade Kenji for something instead of just losing him in free agency. Oh and Help Felix do you really think the Reds would take Jamie Burke for Ken Griffey Jr? Don't see a lot of older backup catchers traded for a starting outfielder.

Posted by Mike

4:46 PM, Apr 25, 2008

I joked about it earlier. Now i'm getting that creepy "he couldn't possibly be stupid enough to do this" feeling I had when we traded for HoRam and Vidro.

Clement for Griffey.

(runs screaming from room again)

Posted by Al

4:49 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Bavasi said. "But we have not given up on him as a catcher. A lefthanded hitting catcher with power, those are real tough to find. So, this doesn't change Jeff's track to the big leagues much at all. Because his track to the big leagues is with his bat more than his glove anyway.''"

I think Bavasi is indicating that Clement's going to make the big leagues for another team after the M's trade him, Triunfel, Saunders, Balentein, and Ramirez for Hideo Nomo.

Just saying it't not out of the realm of possibilities that with this veteran loving club, they choose to trade him for another veteran like Eduardo Perez.

Honestly, don't hate the deal, just don't like what's happening to Clement, the 3rd overall pick and who's peak value was at catcher.

Posted by scrapiron

4:50 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Three scenarios play out here:
1. Clement gets called up for a C/DH rotation and Burke gets released. Since Johjima is now signed for 3 years, there is no rush to get Clement everyday playing time as a catcher and he can now get his regular at bats as a DH and they bought themselves some time to develop Clement as a catcher. Both players get used a lot in Mariners uniforms.

2. This just sets up Johjima for a trade. Now that the Mariners don't have to trade Johjima before he's a free agent, his value actually increases since the team trading for him now knows they can have him for three years.

3. This sets up Clement for a trade. His value is high right now and many teams could use a catcher with his ability, even if the Mariners can't find room for him.

Johjima for Griffey makes a lot of sense, Clement for Griffey does not. Burke for Griffey? Only in Bizarro-world.

Posted by Bambaata

4:52 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Welcome to Bavasi Logic.

He says: "A lefthanded hitting catcher with power, those are real tough to find."

Translation: So we will turn him into a 1B. We will waste three years of Clement's development/career in focusing on improving his defense as a catcher, and instead turn him into a lefthanded hitting 1B with power which are not nearly as tough to find. Of course, we will now have to spend this year having him learn how to play 1B, but don't worry, I plan on signing Richie Sexson to a three year contract extension. I will then figure out that means Clement won't be able to play there either, so we will have the highest drafted DH ever, which is something we can all be proud of.

Mommas, don't let your sons be drafted by Bavasi.

Can we just make sure that Artie Moreno isn't sending checks to this guy?

Posted by all4ms

4:54 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Very weird move. As much as I like Kenji, I was expecting to see Clement behind the plate full-time in 2009.

To me, it can only mean that Bavasi has given up on Clement as a catcher, although he did not and would not specifically say that. Perhaps Clement's defense is a lot worse than what we've been expecting it to be. That's the only reason I can think of that triggered this deal.

Posted by scrapiron

4:54 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Roger Hansen says that Jeff Clement is better defensively than Jason Varitek, so that tells me he's ready now. Call him up and let him catch twice a week.

Posted by Al

4:55 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Does anyone really belive Bavasi can get a good deal with Clement or even Johjima as a centerpiece to a trade?

Also does anyone know if Joh got sometype of no trade protection?

Posted by seavet

4:55 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Still delivering common sense, scrapster. Thank goodness.

Who's the Cincinnati GM these days? Burke for Griffey. Golly.

Posted by all4ms

4:59 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Because his track to the big leagues is with his bat more than his glove anyway."

Bavasi is planning for Clement to be future Ms DH. He's going to have him solely focus on his hitting, and not have to worry about anything else. That's the only way this deal makes sense.

Posted by Tacoma Rain

5:16 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Just out of curiousity....

How does this deal actually HELP Bavasi / M's out IF Bavasi wants to trade either Clement or Joh???

The other team will know we have to trade one of them, so thus we would be trading from a point of WEAKNESS...

So Bavasi will actually now get LESS for either one of these guys, than he NORMALLY would get in trade, and considering his past trades...


Posted by lwl

5:39 PM, Apr 25, 2008

I cannot effen believe it.

and I thought Maury Wills was the M's low point.
w r o n g ! ! ! !

Posted by kingk

5:50 PM, Apr 25, 2008

That's it...i've been bashing the naysayers here because it's early in the seasom , but after this NO MORE BAVASI YOU ARE A MORON..We are going nowhere...i am officially on the dark side now with Adam and the rest I am depressed

Posted by BMSOlympia

5:53 PM, Apr 25, 2008

I don't agree with this move at all. When will we start building this team around young, inexpensive talent, rather than over pay for veterans? Rob Johnson is an excellent defensive catcher in our system. Seems like a good guy to pair with Clement over the next several seasons.
3 years at 8million/per? Way too much for a catcher in his mid-30's.

Posted by Faceplant

5:58 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"With Johjima signed, and Clement to DH, this makes Burke totally expendable. Cincy has been begging for a MLB ready catcher from every team out"

There is NO WAY the Mariners play their catcher, and backup catcher in the same lineup, and the same time.

Posted by Faceplant

6:00 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Bavasi is planning for Clement to be future Ms DH. He's going to have him solely focus on his hitting, and not have to worry about anything else. That's the only way this deal makes sense. "

In which case we burned a 3rd overall pick on a DH, one of the most easily filled positions in baseball. Yipeeee!

Posted by Faceplant

6:03 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Clement gets called up for a C/DH rotation and Burke gets released."

I'm telling you guys, there is no way this team puts it's catcher, and backup catcher in the same lineup at the same time. It isn't going to happen. Burke isn't going anywhere.

Posted by benjam71

11:44 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Clement's job is to chase Johjima, and Johjima's job is to keep Clement in the minor leagues".

If Philly had used that philosophy, Jim Thome would still be their 1st baseman and Ryan Howard would still be in the minors.

This team takes the field every night with 6 starting players from free agency, 1 fresh from Cuba, and one (Lopez) that actually came through the M's system. 4 out of 5 games our starting pitcher is a free agent acquisition also. Wonder why we get so little for so much payroll?

3 years from now Adam Jones will be a 30-30 player making about $800K a year before he is eligible for arbitration, while we spend $10 million a year looking for a mediocre replacement for Raul or Ichiro. What happened to finding your own players and bringing them up when they are young and ready, and letting them blossom, instead of trading them or letting them rot in Tacoma?

Having players push each other is a great idea, but when you sign a guy to a 3 year contract, it sends a negative message to the guy doing the pushing.

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