November 14, 2012
After the big Marlins deal, what's in store for Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia?With the acquisition of John Buck, a window has opened for Toronto to trade young power-hitter
By MELISSA COUTO, QMI Agency
TORONTO - By now, everyone has heard of the blockbuster deal the Toronto Blue Jays made with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday evening.
Everyone knows about the two much-needed starting pitchers, and good ones at that, the outstanding upgrade at shortstop, and the speedy outfielder who doubles as a second baseman.
But Toronto also secured one more player in the deal -- John Buck.
Though everyone seems to be oohing and awing over Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, and with good reason, the conversation has thus far glanced over the importance of the Blue Jays' new (old) catcher, and what that means for J.P. Arencibia, who crouched behind the plate for 102 games for Toronto last season.
In the immediate aftermath of the mega-deal, one has to ask: With Buck in the picture, and with the ever-so-talented Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the wings, is J.P. Arencibia's job secure?
Right now, the Blue Jays have a variety of options in front of them. Let's take a look at them:
1. Keep Arencibia until the trade deadline, using Buck as a backup
This gives the Blue Jays a chance to increase Arencibia's trade value. If he has a great first half offensively, the return will be more valuable
The Blue Jays also will have a chance to assess the areas on which they need to improve throughout the season. Maybe Rajai Davis will have a breakout year and left field won't seem like such a glaring problem come July.
This would offer the manager (whoever he turns out to be) the option of using Arencibia as a DH, if needed, while Buck catches. For this to work, though, one of Bobby Wilson or Travis d'Arnaud would also need to be on the roster -- no manager wants to play both catchers in any given game.
Just as Arencibia's trade value might increase if he manages to put together a solid first half of the season, his trade value could plummet if he stumbles early on. Arencibia certainly got off to a rocky start in 2012, hitting .188 in the month of April. Though he turned it around in May, he reverted back to those abysmal numbers in June, hitting just .189 through the third month of the season, striking out 29 times in 22 games.
Waiting until the middle of the season would mean that teams currently looking for catchers would have already signed their matches. And with the free agent waters flowing with catching talent as it is this year (Russell Martin, Mike Napoli, A.J. Pierzynski, to name a few), teams serious about securing a productive catcher will land one easily, for the right price. But for teams that don't necessarily have the dough to sign a Russell Martin, trading for a catcher will be the way to go and Arencibia's cheap contract and capable skills make him a very attractive option this offseason.
2. Trade Arencibia right now, use Buck as your starting catcher
The Blue Jays could patch up that hole in left field quite easily, and maybe get a nice prospect for a catcher of Arencibia's ability. That way, they would be able to land someone who could help them immediately, as well as long-term.
If the Blue Jays are intent on going with d'Arnaud for the future, they will have to unload Arencibia at some point. And with catchers in high demand right now, this might be as good a time as any to make a deal.
With Buck firmly in place as their starting catcher, the Blue Jays could bring up d'Arnaud and ensure he would be learning the ropes from a seasoned veteran. The 32-year-old Buck will be starting his 10th year in the leagues this spring.
Buck certainly has experience catching Buehrle and Johnson, but he also is familiar with the Blue Jays pitching staff from his time in Toronto, catching Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Casey Janssen and Brett Cecil, who might find a place in the Jays' bullpen.
Jumping the gun right now would mean that the Blue Jays could be missing out on some opportunities later in the season. Who knows which teams will need catchers, due to injuries, etc., once the season starts? Who knows what Arencibia's value will be if the Blue Jays wait? It's all about the unknowns.
What if d'Arnaud isn't deemed major-league ready come spring training? The Blue Jays claimed Wilson off waivers last week and he can provide some insurance there, but if d'Arnaud can't be called up, will the Blue Jays have gotten rid of their starting catcher too early?
3. Keep Arencibia, using Buck as a backup
This gives the Blue Jays another year with Arencibia, who despite difficulties with the bat at times, has proven to be a capable defensive catcher who is improving with each season.
The Blue Jays also have in Arencibia a player who can hit around 20 home runs per year. Keeping a guy like that in the lineup certainly has its benefits.
Let's face it, the public loves Arencibia. If nothing else, it will keep fans happy.
Even though he didn't have the greatest of seasons with the Marlins last year, Buck won't be happy in a backup role and having a disgruntled teammate is never a good thing.
With so much talented catching depth waiting, why keep Arencibia?
4. Trade d'Arnaud, keep Arencibia as your star catcher
This scenario is highly unlikely. Many teams have already had their eyes on d'Arnaud but Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has shown he'll be keeping his top prospect. The 23-year-old catcher looks to be a key cornerstone of the Blue Jays' future and they're not going to part with him unless they can land something extremely substantial in return.