Reds Add Catching Depth

The rigors of catching make depth in the position important for baseball teams over the course of a long season. Last year signing veteran Dioner Navarro to a minor league contract paid dividends for the Reds the last couple of months of the campaign. Now he's gone and Friday they picked up Miguel Oliva with a minor league contract to be available if needed in 2013.

Around one year ago the Reds were looking to add catching depth and signed veteran Dioner Navarro to a minor league contract. He rewarded that decision by leading Louisville in hitting and earned a late-season call-up. His bat didn't stop after that and he hit .290 over the final two months which returned him a slot on the Reds postseason roster. He was a good man to have in the organization, but it was no surprise that he decided to take his chances somewhere else where he has a better shot at making an opening day roster in 2013.

Friday the Reds made an attempt to perhaps repeat the story by signing veteran Miguel Olivo. The 34 year-old catcher made his MLB debut in 2002, has a career stat line of .241 AVG/.275 OB/.418 SLG, and has hit double-digit home runs in each of the last seven seasons. Last season he hit .222 with the Mariners and he's also played for the Rockies, Royals, Marlins, Padres, and White Sox.

Defensively he will allow some passed balls and led his league in that category four consecutive seasons from 2006-10. He's also led all catchers in his league in errors three times. He does know how to gun down a runner, which he's done successfully in more than one third of stolen base attempts against him.

Olivo's addition will make the sixth catcher reporting for the Reds when they begin spring training on February 12. He may not be the oldest catcher headed for Louisville because previously this offseason the Reds re-signed 37 year-old Corky Miller to continue hanging signs for their AAA pitchers. Other receivers reporting early will be starter Ryan Hanigan, backup Devin Mesoraco, minor league pickup Nevin Ashley, and top Reds catching prospect Tucker Barnhart. Joining them will be 28 pitchers.

That position is now a bit crowded for the Reds. Underrated Hanigan has done a solid job the past four years and Mesoraco figures prominently in future plans. Previously 28 year-old Ashley figured to be first in line if the parent team needed to put in a call for help. Now if Olivo and Miller split time at Louisville it would push him down to AA where they will want to see Barnhart getting a lot of action.

Give Olivo credit for holding down a MLB job for long time, but he's getting long in the tooth for the rigors of donning the tools of ignorance and there's no reason to expect much more than his production of recent seasons. He did hit 19 HR in 2011, but his on-base pct. has been below .300 nearly every year. Best case scenario for Cincinnati is that their former minor league player of the year Mesoraco takes the next step toward becoming the player they envisioned when they invested a first round selection on him in 2007 and later traded 2010 first rounder Yasmani Grandal. Olivo is an insurance policy that the Reds are hopeful they won't need before roster expansion.

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