J.P. Arencibia And His Precarious Job
I’ve been a supporter of J.P. Arencibia (JPA) over his Blue Jays tenure up until very recently. The guy has power, pitches in with the community, wants so badly to do well, and is just a nice, general good guy. The ladies like him too, which gives him additional appeal with a subsection of the fan base. With that being said, since the end of August, he’s been absolutely brutal and has regressed a whole new level even when you thought he couldn’t get any worse this year. Perhaps it’s due to his knee soreness or other lingering injuries that haven’t been bad enough to get a DL stint. Regardless, he’s just been some kind of awful.
GM Alex Anthopoulos recently said that “We need to upgrade the production,” which right now, I’m in total agreement with. At the very least bring in somebody to compete with him for the starter’s job. So here are some quick thoughts on other free-agent catching options available:
For Brian McCann, I would love to have him, but that’s really unlikely considering the number of teams that would be after his services and the estimated contract of 5 years and $80M. By all accounts though, he’s an excellent receiver and team leader.
A.J. Pierzynski could be another option, but he’s a workhorse so signing him would likely mean entirely giving up on JPA since he wouldn’t get any playing time. Maybe that’s okay. However, I’m not even sure he’s much of an upgrade at this point in this career since he’s batting only .273/.298/.426 with Texas, which is quite similar to JPA in his two previous years. Also, if you believe this, JPA has out-walked Pierzynski this year with 18 compared to 11 in essentially the same number of at-bats! Who knew! So the question is can JPA rebound to match the production of a currently 36 year old Pierzynski?
For Jarrod Saltalamacchia, I don’t know why this guy is always mentioned for the Jays. He’s had a good year offensively no doubt, but his defense is similar to JPA’s, which is one thing the Jays want to improve (actually according to DRS, it’s -8 compared to JPA’s +2). Personally, I feel like Salty isn’t much of an upgrade over the JPA of 2011 & 2012, but that’s just me and probably my bias factoring in against the Red Sox too.
Kurt Suzuki will be turning 30 this fall, which still isn’t that old yet, but his -3 DRS is worse than JPA’s according to Fangraphs. Twice traded the past two years, he’s shown periods of showing his former self with the bat, but with regular playing time, his bat seems to be exposed. The plus side of having Suzuki is that it could take only a one year deal to get him to fill the gap until A.J. Jimenez gets here from the minors.
John Buck could be another short-term option for 2014 although his numbers aren’t spectacular. He sports a slash line of .219/.286/.363 overall after that torrid start and a -10 DRS. Still, for one year, he walks more than JPA and still offers some power. The question is though, who catches Dickey’s knuckleball?
It appears that Dioner Navarro has had a bit of a resurgence with the Cubs this year hitting .300/.365/.492 in 240 at-bats. In fact, he’s featuring career bests in OBP and SLG in addition to HR% (4.9) and in HR per Fly Balls (12.9%), so maybe he’s learned how to develop some power. He appears to be just average on defense (0 DRS) and again, may represent some good competition in Toronto for a share of the catching opportunities.
Carlos Ruiz will be 35 by next season and yet could very easily land a two year deal on the free agent market despite serving a PED suspension earlier this year. DRS has been favourable to him over his career and he often sports a potent bat for a catcher with an average OPS+ of 104 over his career. Yes, he’s not showing as much power as last year, but 2012 was the outlier where he had a .935 OPS. Ruiz is a quality catcher and is most certainly a starting catcher next year on some team.
Some additional food for thought, The Eye in the SkyDome posits that other potential trade candidates could include Jason Castro of the Astros and the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy. Batting Leadoff thinks David Ross of the Red Sox could be had in addition to Ryan Hanigan of the Reds. Those would be fine options too depending on who goes the other way in a trade.