In what has been one of the most dramatic off seasons in club history,Toronto has addressed some of its main weaknesses while continuing to add to an already potent (when healthy) offense.
As the majority of pieces fall into place, only 1 question remains. Who is the Blue Jays 5th starter in 2013? With the front end of the rotation locked down by a line up such as Morrow, Johnson, Romero, Buehrle, one spot remains open for debate.
Despite showing flashes of brilliance out of the rotation, the majority of fans and analysts believe that J.A. Happ is best suited for a long man/ 6th starter role out of the pen for this up coming season as he will likely fill the void left by Free Agent, Carlos Villanueva.
Always looking for ways of addressing team needs, Toronto has been linked to such names as Jair Jurrjens and Alexi Ogando however in order to acquire such talent, a deal will have to be cut that will certainly send somebody packing out of Toronto.
The popular candidate for a trade of this caliber is 26 year old Catcher, J.P. Arencibia.
With the Blue Jays acquiring a pair of veterans in John Buck and Bobby Wilson, people seem to be under the impression that Arencibia’s days in Toronto are numbered. Of course when talking about Toronto’s Catching depth, one should not forget to mention the fact that rookie “phenom”, Travis d’Arnaud appears to be ready for a Major League call up following parts of 6 seasons of MiLB ball.
With d’Arnaud, the Blue Jays are uncertain what to expect out of the 23 year old prospect as not only has he never played in a big league game, the Long Beach native is also coming off a season ending surgery that kept him on the shelf since last August.
Although d’Arnaud’s MiLB line is impressive (.286/.343/.474) its worth pointing out that Arencibia also appeared to be dominant during his 5 seasons of Minor League ball by posting a .275/.319/.507 slash.
These MiLB totals are certainly more impressive than a .222/.275/.433 line that Arencibia has posted in parts of 3 seasons at the MLB level. I guess the point that I’m getting at is that you can never really have a true read on a player’s talent level until you see them perform at the MLB level.
Now these are simply offensive numbers. Defensively, d’Arnaud appears to be more polished than Arencibia however we have all witnessed Arencibia grow defensively over the past couple of seasons and the fact that he is a mere 26 years old only works in his favor. There is no doubt that Arencibia has benefited from his time working with former Catcher and Bench Coach, Don Wakamatsu and the over all numbers show for it.
(Meaningless Fact – Arencibia has a higher MLB CS% (27%) than d’Arnaud’s MiLB marker at 25%)… Take it for what it is.
On a side note, Arencibia is Romero’s “Personal Catcher”. Ever wonder how much of an effect Romero’s pitching style plays into Arencibia’s defensive numbers? It’s no small secret that when on, Romero features some of the nastiest movement in the league. Pitches like that would give any Catcher difficulty if they end up in the dirt… No?
As the speculation grows, I find myself talking to a lot of Blue Jays fans about Arencibia. One question I always ask them before I go on my rant about his value to the team is who, in their perspective, has been the most potent Blue Jays Catcher in club history.
The answers vary. I’ve had a few Darrin Fletcher’s, a fair amount of Ernie Whitt’s … One smart ass said Brian Milner and although his career .444 Batting Average is awfully impressive, I don’t think he quite makes the cut on this list.
The common answer I get is Pat Borders.
Pat Borders got extremely hot at the right time during the 1992 season. His .450 Batting Average, 3 RBI and 4 Extra Base Hits were enough to lock him up as the 1992 World Series MVP and although he played well during his time in Toronto, you may be surprised to see who his overall numbers stack up against.
Pat Borders – 8 seasons with Toronto. (.256/.290/.388)
J.P. Arencibia – 3 seasons with Toronto. (.222/.275/.433)
Sure Borders didn’t strikeout nearly as often as Arencibia does but I honestly wonder how many people gave him hell for finishing 7 of his 8 years in Toronto with an OBP under .300.
Statistics aside, Arencibia brings more to this team than meets the eye. One can not put a value or percentage beside how he works with his Pitchers and teammates or what he brings to the club through other endeavors.
Although he provides Toronto with outstanding trade value, I personally believe Arencibia’s best fit is with this club as they set their sights on the playoffs in 2013. Ask yourself this, would you really want an untested, rookie Catcher as your number 1 behind the dish with the type of expectations that have been placed on this team following this winters trades?
Better yet, do you see Toronto sacrificing its offensive game by having John Buck or Bobby Wilson start regularly instead of J.P. Arencibia and his 20 HR potential?
*John Buck had his best overall season at the MLB level in 2010 with Toronto. The 29 year old hit a career high .281 with 66 RBI and…. 20 Home Runs.
In Arencibia, the Blue Jays know what they are going to get. His numbers both offensively and defensively are steadily improving and his working relationship with key members of this team is not to be under estimated.
As I see it, J.P. is your number 1 Catcher in 2013 with John Buck as his back up. d’Arnaud starts the season in Buffalo backed by Bobby Wilson who will serve as a mentor to the 23 year old as he begins to make the final adjustments necessary for his future call up to the Bigs.