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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 21, 2013 at 8:34 PM

Looks like Ronny Paulino will join the Mariner mix at catcher

That’s the word on twitter, with journalist Alexander Azuaje tweeting earlier today that Paulino will sign with the Mariners for $1 million. That’s pending a physical, of course, and would almost certainly be a minor-league deal with a camp invite. No guarantees, in other words.

I’m not convinced that Paulino, 31, is now slated to be the backup catcher in Seattle to start the 2013 season. It still wouldn’t surprise me if the Mariners signed another catcher to fill that role, with Paulino providing some veteran depth and insurance just in case.

We’ll see. He certainly would be easily expendable if/when Mike Zunino is ready to come up. But Zunino can’t play every single day at Tacoma (even 22-year-olds need a rest every once in awhile), and Paulino would be the kind of guy who could serve that backup role at Triple A. Last year, Paulino spent the first half of the year as Matt Wieters’ backup in Baltimore (mainly because Taylor Teagarden got hurt), then spent the second half in Triple-A once Teagarden was activated.

Paulino is 31, comes from the Dominican Republic, and has played for the Pirates, Marlins, Mets and Orioles in his eight-season career. He has a decent defensive reputation. He has posted a .272/.324/.376 career slash line. Paulino’s forte is hitting left-handers (which also happens to be Jesus Montero’s forte, which seems to me to be a clash of fortes); for his career, Paulino is .325/.379/.465 against lefties.

Paulino’s other forte is have monster debuts. In his first game as a Met in 2011, he went 5-for-7 and drove in the winning run in the 14th. In his first game as an Oriole last year, he went 4-for-4. Paulino was suspended for 50 games in 2010, while with the Marlins, for violating MLB’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, for which he blamed a diet pill.

Paulino fits the No. 1 criterion for Mariners’ catchers: Having a name that ends in “o”, following the tradition of Montero, Jaso, Olivo and now Zunino.

Again, there are other catchers still out there whom I wouldn’t rule out, including left-handed-hitting George Kottaras, who was DFA’d by Oakland when they acquired Jaso, or Kelly Shoppach, who played for Eric Wedge in Cleveland and is a free agent. But at any rate, it looks like we can soon add Ronny Paulino to the Mariner mix.

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