Giant Catching Predicament: Eli Whiteside Vs. Chris Stewart
By Bryan Rose
With the imminent return of Buster Posey, the Giants find themselves in a bit of a predicament when it comes to their backup catching situation. Going into the 2011 off-season, backstop Chris Stewart heads to free agency while down home twanger Eli Whiteside sits on an arbitration eligible deal that would pay him about $800,000 next season – a near double of his 2011 salary.
Much as I like both of them from a personality standpoint, neither player proved to be much of importance on the field – both struggling beyond comprehension at the plate and both very average behind the dish. Though, in fairness to Chris Stewart, he played a much better defensive position than Whiteside did from the eye test, who continually misplayed and mishandled balls all year long, something we weren’t that accustom to seeing from him even a short season ago.
Frankly, improving the backup catcher position should be a priority of the Giants but given their glaring needs elsewhere, it’s going to fall near the bottom of the list in terms of importance. So come Spring Training, chances are, the Giants are going to be scrapping the bottom of the catching free agency barrel or simply deciding between either Whiteside or Stewart since they obviously wont be carrying three catchers.
Neither catcher proved to be more of a favorite to the staff as they each handled the game well – not to discount them either, but when you’re catching a staff like the Giants – is it really that difficult? But I regress….
Offensively, both are painful to watch and they’ve both proven they’ll never have any offensive ability, but that’s not something you’re super concerned about with your backup catcher. With that said however, when comparing the two, you do like Stewart’s ability to bust out the !1@!#! GROUNDD ATTTACKKK!!! VRRROOOOM!! bunt he likes to sneak up on opposing defenses with – something Whiteside has proven he can’t do.
Defensively, as we talked about above – neither is going to knock your socks off, but Chris Stewart does appear to have a few more abilities and intangibles over Whiteside. Thad said, Whiteside was actually more efficient with the glove this season, catching 583.2 innings with only five errors to his name, Stewart on the other hand committed seven in 460 innings (the majority being balls thrown into the outfield, which appeared to be Stewart’s glaring offense).
So what happens to Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart? Well – as far as Whiteside goes, I can’t imagine the Giants (cash strapped as they are), will be willing to pay Whiteside double his 2011 salary, especially after the pretty poor overall year he had. I’d expect the Giants to non-tender him, allowing him to become a free agent. With Stewart, considering his quick gun behind the dish, minor offensive attributes that he holds over Whiteside and the assumption he’ll return cheaper than the 800K that was due to Whiteside, I’d expect to see Stewart back in black and orange next year with Whiteside leeching on to another squad or returning and spending time in Fresno until the Giants need a catching call-up.