By Jim Callis
December 16, 2004
Shortly after trading one catcher (Benito Santiago) on Thursday, the Royals made another deal that may have found his replacement as the backup to John Buck. Kansas City acquired Eli Marrero from the Braves for righthander Jorge Vasquez. Atlanta also included a significant amount of cash to help offset Marrero’s $3 million salary in 2005, the end of a two-year $5 million contract.
Though he played only the outfield in 2004, the 31-year-old Marrero has spent more time at catcher than at any other position in the majors. He hit .320/.374/.520 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in 90 games last season, playing primarily against lefthanders. The Royals plan on using him in the same fashion. He was less pull-conscious in 2004 than he had been in the past, and using the entire field made him a better hitter. He has slightly above-average speed, which helps him on the bases and in the outfield. His arm also can be an asset there or behind the plate. Marrero is a career .250/.307/.410 hitter with 53 homers and 227 RBIs in 615 games.
Vasquez, 26, made his major league debut this year by posting an 8.10 ERA in two appearances. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, he improved when he moved to the bullpen full-time in 2002. He mainly works with a low-90s fastball and a splitter. Vasquez spent most of 2004 at Double-A Wichita, going 4-5, 4.68 with 19 saves in 49 appearances. Opponents hit .227 with three homers against him as he fashioned a 71-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 60 innings. He owns a career 15-30, 3.41 record with 27 saves in 192 minor league games.