#1: Toronto signs C Dioner Navarro to a 2 year, $8m contract.
The Jays kicked off the week by making a move. Unfortunately for some fans, it wasn't the kind of splashy, big ticket addition that was hoped for. Instead, Dioner Navarro was brought on board to be the team's newest catcher, all but spelling the end of the J.P. Arencibia era for the Jays (more on that in a bit)
|The new guy (bluetoro.ca)|
Last year with the Cubs Navarro set career highs across the board with a .300/.365/.856 slash line and 13 HRs. All while playing 89 games splitting time with Wellington Castillo. I don't think anyone expects Navarro to repeat that season in Toronto, but all that the Jays need is for him not to completely suck. And that's doable. Consider that his career slash is .251/.313/.684, including a handful of lean years from 2009-2011. That's worlds better than Arencibia's career .212/.258/.666 line. In fact, only 3 of Navarro's 10 seasons saw him post an OBP lower than J.P.'s career high of .282. Just in case that's a little confusing, look at it this way:
the best OBP that Arencibia could muster was still worse than 70% of Dioner Navarro's season OBP totals.
Also even though Navarro isn't the power threat that Arencibia is, he's got OK pop. Last year he hit 13 HRs, and while that was in the fairly hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley and some of the other bandbox NL parks, it's not like he relies on wall-scraping HRs to get the job done. For the visual learners, observe the following:
|Dingers! Data & Image courtesy of ESPN hit tracker (hittrackeronline.com)|
That is a look at all 13 of Navarro's dingers with the Rogers Centre outfield wall overlaid for reference. From that, he would've just lost one HR off his total based on the dimensions of his new home park. For reference, he would've lost 2, maybe 3 dingers in Fenway, 2 in Yankee Stadium, 0 in Camden Yards, and 3 in Tropicana Field. And 2 of the ones he loses in each park are the same HR as the one that wouldn't clear the Rogers Centre walls either, so for the most part any HR that Navarro hit would be a HR in any of the AL East parks. That bodes well for him being able to provide a little bit of power for 2014.
Defensively, Navarro isn't all that great, but again J.P. didn't set the bar very high. Both catchers throw out about 25% of base-stealers, and while his, ummmm, rotund physique means that he's not agile enough to cover a lot of defensive ground behind the plate. But it's also worth noting that Navarro has allowed the same number of passed balls in his career as Arencibia has, in spite of hte fact that he's played more than twice as many games in the majors.
So we have a new catcher who is a better hitter, an OK power hitter, at worst a wash defensively, and has a rep as a very good gamecaller. It's not Brian McCann at umpteen million Yankee dollars, but it's an improvement in what is otherwise a very weak catching market. Even if it's just a stopgap to A.J. Jimenez or one of the other catchers in the system, it's still not a bad move for the short term.
*Since I started writing this piece, it's come to my attention that Bluebird Banter used a similar graph of HR distance for Navarro in their piece on his signing. As always, I try not to read other sites' pieces before I set down the ideas and basic content for anything I write so as not to be swayed. the fact that we went for similar tools for similar outcomes can be chalked up to a case of great minds thinking alike.
#2: J.P. Arencibia is non-tendered by the Blue Jays, becoming a free agent
Well, it's official now that the J.P. Arencibia era is over in Toronto. It's not secret that those of us at Blue Jays Hipsters have had a fairly grim view of Arencibia's 2013 season and his future with the Blue Jays. I'm not going to rehash in detail everything that I've said multiple times before about the strikeouts, the lack of walks/hits, the spats with the media, and all that. You can comb our archives for other pieces on J.P. to get a better read on those.
Obviously the writing was on the wall for J.P. when Navarro was signed to the Jays. To some it was surprising that Arencibia didn't get traded from the Jays before they non-tendered him, but honestly I don't think that comes as much of a shock. His season wasn't just bad last year. It was epically, historically awful. Combine that with the fact that everyone knew the Blue Jays were looking to unload him especially after signing Navarro, and it's really no wonder that any team made a move for him. Because why would you trade for Arencibia, even if it was just giving up a D-level prospect or a bag of baseballs when you can wait a few more hours and have a chance to sign him on the open market?
Some people believe that Arencibia will be motivated and free of the baggage of the Blue Jays situation and propel himself to a bounceback season. While I think he will almost certainly have to be better than he was last year, I'm not confident that he's going to suddenly make massive leaps and bounds into relevancy again. He still strikes out too much, can't take walks, swings at awful pitches, and has nothing valuable in his approach aside from home runs. Since becoming a pro in 07, he's hit over the .240 mark exactly 3 times: Once in 249 PAs in Low A, the following year in High A in 262 PAs, and in 2010 in a full season (459 PAs) in AAA Las Vegas when he was repeating that level. As a big leaguer he's pretty universally been a bad hitter, and now entering his 5th MLB season, and closing in on 30 years old, he no longer has the "potential" tag to offset his struggles.
Huh, I guess I did talk about J.P.'s struggles again even after vowing not to.
UPDATE: Friday night J.P. signed with the Texas Rangers for a reported 1 year, $1 million. The twist in this is that the Rangers apparently were ready to work out a trade for Arencibia prior to the tendering deadline, only for J.P. to decline to negotiate a contract with Texas and collapse the trade talks. And now a couple days later he turns around and signs a contract with that team for less than his arbitration value was expected to be. So the Jays lose out on the chance to recoup some value for Arencibia in trade and J.P. ends up right where he would've to begin with on a low-value contract. Makes you wonder what the thought process is that led him to turn down the initial Rangers overtures.
#3: Blue Jays trade Brad Lincoln to the Phillies for P Rob Rasmussen and C Erik Kratz
Much of Tuesday had buzz of a Blue Jays trade brewing. Alex Anthopoulos even broke his customary veil of silence to say that he was working on a trade (albeit a minor one). That trade turned out to be sending Brad Lincoln out in exchange for minor-league pitcher Rob Rasmussen and Phillies backup catcher Erik Kratz.
For Lincoln, this closes the books on his couple years in the Blue Jays system and he leaves in the same way that he entered: as a failing prospect who hadn't materialized his promise into pro success. After being acquired for Travis Snider, he just never seemed to fit in. As a short reliever, long man, spot starter, whatever the role, he just couldn't find success. Mostly he was victimized by the home run, but he also saw his strikeout numbers fall off and especially in 2013 his walk rate skyrocketed. It was not a recipe for success and it meant that Lincoln spent a lot of time in Buffalo waiting for enough injuries to warrant getting called up. What it also meant was that getting called up in 2013 burned the last of Lincoln's options which necessitated this trade since there's no way in hell he was going to force his way into the 2014 bullpen.
In return the Jays get back a pair of players with options, which helps create some added roster flexibility moving forward. But what about the pieces they got specifically?
|Rasmussen in one of his many different unis (MiLB.com)|
The lefty hurler lacks ideal size, measured between 5'9 and 5'11 and tipping the scales at 155-160 lbs. To this point in his career he's been a starter through the minors, reaching as high as the Dodgers AAA affiliate last season (where he got absolutely smoked and was summarily demoted to AA), but chances are with his frame and limited pro success he will be destined for the bullpen as early as this season in Buffalo. According to scouting reports, he has a 4-pitch mix that he uses:
- 4-seam fastball that tops out at 94, usually sits in the low 90s
- Mid-80s slider with big break (was once voted as the best slider in the Marlins organization)
- A low-80s curve that grades as a plus pitch, with late break that he uses as an out pitch and which he will throw in any count.
- Changeup that is in the low 80s, with the magical 10mph separation that scouts like between a player's heater and change.
|Something Kratz does well (Zimbio.com)|
What's also interesting about Kratz is that this isn't his first time in the Blue Jays organization. In fact, he was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2002, the year the team took Russ Adams as their 1st rounder. He spent until 2008 in the Jays system before leaving for the Pirates and then finding his way to the Phillies for the last 3 years.
Also Kratz is responsible for this:
which is outstanding. I mean, that's practically worth trading away Lincoln on its own.
This first week of December might not have had the flash and impact that fans have been looking for, but it is a sign that this team is not simply going to roll into 2014 looking the same as they did at the end of 2013. It's only small changes for now, but it's a start.