Could Kawasaki Be the Key to Signing Tanaka?

Friday, December 27, 2013  |  by 

Editor's note: three-quarters of the way through writing this article, I completely changed my mind, essentially rendering most of it contradictory. But please read through anyway to see when the holiday eggnog wore off.

Masahiro Tanaka will pitch in Major League Baseball in 2014; that is no longer speculation, that is a fact. The Rakuten Golden Eagles have posted the Japanese right-hander and negotiations will likely reach a feverish pace in the coming weeks.

Many teams are poised to make a bid, one of them perhaps being the Toronto Blue Jays.

Alex Anthopoulos has neither confirmed nor denied whether the Blue Jays are interested, but as a team starved for starting pitching, it behooves them to at least inquire into Masahiro Tanaka's services.

Unlike the Yu Darvish sweepstakes a few years ago, the Blue Jays aren't the odds-on favourites to land the Japanese phenom. This time around, expectations are much more tempered in Toronto when it comes to the Tanaka posting.

Now that the negotiating window for Masahiro Tanaka is open, any team willing to shell out the $20 million dollar posting fee can proceed with negotiations. And interestingly enough, the Toronto Blue Jays could be using another player in their negotiation tactics.

Could Munenori Kawasaki very well be the key to signing Masahiro Tanaka?

Back in late September, the Globe and Mail's Tom Maloney speculated the Blue Jays may potentially look to use Munenori Kawasaki as a bargaining chip in luring Masahiro Tanaka to sign with the Blue Jays:
"The Jays have an option on popular infielder Munenori Kawasaki’s services. The first step toward attaining Tanaka is purely financial; thereafter, Kawasaki could be useful as a club ambassador in their negotiations with Tanaka."
At the time, I remember reading this and thinking nothing could be further from the truth. Not only was it a stretch that the Blue Jays would pick up Kawasaki's $1 million dollar option, but it was even more unlikely that one Japanese player would sway another to sign with the same team.

But the past few weeks have presented a unique set of circumstances that might prove otherwise. Since the Blue Jays have inked Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league deal for 2014, combined with the recent changes to the posting system, perhaps there is some merit to Munenori Kawasaki swaying Masahiro Tanaka to sign with the Blue Jays.

Kawasaki really could be an ambassador for the Toronto Blue Jays organization, and the best selling tool the Toronto Blue Jays may have. After all, any team willing to pony up the $20 million dollar posting fee is automatically in the running.

In that respect, the Blue Jays could offer Tanaka the familiarity of having another Japanese player on the roster. Now, there's no guarantee that Kawasaki would even make the big league roster, but it's certainly conceivable he could break camp as a bench player.

To me, the timing of the Munenori Kawasaki minor league deal also seemed very suspicious; it coincided just two days prior to Masahiro Tanaka officially being posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

By all indications, Munenori Kawasaki wasn't coming back with the Blue Jays next season anyway. They declined his $1 million dollar option, and rumours were that Kawasaki was heading back to Japan to play for his homeland one again.

Then the Blue Jays announce out of nowhere on Christmas Eve that Kawasaki was coming back on a minor league deal next season with an invite to Spring Training.

Maybe it was a good will gesture by the Blue Jays to sway Masahiro Tanaka to come to Toronto? Or perhaps it was just a coincidence. But something seems kind of fishy to me.

As crazy as it sounds, Kawasaki could provide some semblance of an edge for the Toronto Blue Jays in negotiations with Masahiro Tanaka. His signing is not contingent on keeping Munenori Kawasaki on the roster, but Kawasaki could help bridge the gap.

When going up against the limitless pocketbooks of the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, or perennial contenders like the St. Louis Cardinals or Texas Rangers, the Toronto Blue Jays need any edge they can get.

And if it comes in the form of Munenori Kawasaki, then so be it.

Editor's note: this is when I finally woke up and realized just how crazy it is to think Munenori Kawasaki could somehow lure Masahiro Tanaka to come to the Blue Jays.

Actually, come to think of it ... the Blue Jays are hardly in a unique position; the Yankees have two Japanese players (Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro), the Red Sox have a pair (Koji Uehra, Junichi Tazawa), and the Dodgers, Royals, Rangers, Mariners and Cubs also have a Japanese player on their roster.

Also, it's pretty presumptuous to assume one Japanese player would be enough to persuade another to sign a sizable contract with the same team. And very rarely in baseball does one contract signing ever predicate another.

The only instance I can think of is Dave Winfield signing with the Blue Jays on the heels of Jack Morris doing the same. Winfield did so partially on the grounds that Jack Morris inked a free agent deal with the Blue Jays just one day prior. 

And that particular scenario is completely different than that of Masahiro Tanaka. Dave Winfield considered the Blue Jays because another elite player thought he could win a World Series in Toronto.

The Blue Jays signing Munenori Kawasaki to a minor league deal isn't exactly banging down the doors to bring in any elite free agents this time around .. nor should it.

So if the Blue Jays are planning on using Munenori Kawasaki as a Japanese ambassador to Masahiro Tanaka, there are seven other teams out there who could very well do the same.

And is it really conceivable Masahiro Tanaka would potentially turn down millions of dollars somewhere else just to play with a guy that he played against in Japan? It's not like he and Kawasaki were even teammates ... if anything, they may just be acquaintances.

Well ... there goes that idea.

I guess Munenori Kawasaki isn't the key to signing Masahiro Tanaka after all. Maybe sending Tanaka a fruit basket would be a better idea instead?

Fun with FanGraphs Fielding Charts: Blue Jays Infielders

Monday, December 23, 2013  |  by 

It looks like the fine folks at Fan Graphs have bestowed all the good little baseball fans an early Christmas gift; none other than offensive and fielding spray charts.

You've likely seem random spray charts throughout Twitter the past week, and I have to say these charts are quite fascinating. Offensive spray charts are one thing, but these defensive spray charts have opened up a whole new window into defensive analysis.

For the most part, I think these spray charts reaffirm what we already know; really good fielders are really good fielders, and poor fielders are poor fielders. There may be a few pleasant surprises in the bunch, but mostly it's fairly consistent across the board.

It's safe to say defense was one area where the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays were severely lacking. One can point to new infielders adjusting to playing on the Rogers Centre turf, but overall defense was not at a premium.

Brett Lawrie and Ryan Goins were the lone standouts in what was otherwise a below average fielding team. And thanks to FanGraphs spray charts, here we can look at all of the Blue Jays infielders individually.

Here's the name of the game; in the Made Plays charts, red and orange dots are really good, and green dots are bad in the Missed Plays charts.

And keep in mind, these guys are making upwards of 300 plays a season, so a few dots here and there shouldn't be cause for concern.

Adam Lind

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Truth be told, first base is not exactly a premium position when it comes to defense, so it's not really crucial to have an extremely defensively sound first baseman. Adam Lind seems perfectly adequate at his post at first.

The only thing that really comes into question is Lind's durability in the field. After some nagging back issues the past few years, it seems like the Blue Jays are slowly but surely transitioning Adam Lind back into a full time DH role.

Last year, Lind only played 76 games at first base despite not missing any time on the disabled list and staying relatively healthy in 2013. That could mean Edwin Encarnacion may see significantly more time at first in 2014.

Edwin Encarnacion

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Ahh yes ... the dots on the left side of the diamond are a reminder that the Blue Jays moved Edwin Encarnacion back to the hot corner briefly due to a myriad of injuries early in the season. Much like Adam Lind, Encarnacion fielded his position adequately.

There's no empirical data to support this, but I feel that Edwin Encarnacion's biggest asset in the field is his ability to pick throws out of the dirt. In numerous occasions, he was able to scoop balls out of the dirt and hold onto them for outs.

Maicer Izturis

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Next to Emilio Bonifacio, it was probably Maicer Izturis who received the most criticism in 2013 when it comes to Blue Jays infielders. Izturis definitely had trouble adjusting to the learning curve which comes with working on artificial turf 81 games a year.

Judging by the graphs, it looks like he really didn't have all that difficult a go a second base with the Blue Jays; there aren't many high difficulty made plays, and he only missed a handful of routine plays at second.

The odd thing about Maicer Izturis is he appeared to be a defensively sound infielder entering the 2013 season. There were no indications he may have difficulty on the turf, so the onus should fall on advanced scouting for failing to pick up on that.

It appears Izturis did have some trouble with easy plays at shortstop at third base, but perhaps part of that can be equated to him moving around the diamond so frequently this past season.

Maicer played 56 games at second base, 28 at shortstop, and 36 at third base. So now with close to a season's worth of experience playing on the turf, perhaps Maicer Izturis will can anticipate how baseballs will behave on the turf much better in 2014.

Ryan Goins

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

He is probably the one Blue Jays infielder that will draw the most debate this offseason; will Ryan Goins be good enough to man second base full time in 2013? Judging by his small sample size, he was absolutely terrific at second base.

But that's inherently the problem as well; it was just a small sample size. Goins undoubtedly took away numerous hits at second base, but he only played 32 games down the stretch. What would these results look like extrapolated over a full season?

And no offense to Ryan Goins here, but compared to Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio, Goins looked like a Gold Glover. So the defensive bar at second base wasn't set that incredibly high in the first place. 

Munenori Kawasaki

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

This one's just for fun; when Munenori Kawasaki took over for Jose Reyes, nobody was expecting a defensive wizard, they were just expecting a placeholder until Reyes was healthy to take over his post at short.

Truth be told, Kawasaki didn't have all that great a range at either shortstop or second base, and his throws across the diamond sometimes didn't even look like they'd make it to first base. But again, he was merely a replacement level player up the middle.

Emilio Bonifacio

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

This is where things start to get really ugly. Emilio Bonifacio made a handful of difficult plays of the middle, but that certainly doesn't outweigh the incredible amount of routine plays he missed on the right side of the diamond.

By my count, there's eight plays he missed that were 90-100% fieldable, four that were 60-90% fieldable and about seven plays that were 40-60% fieldable as well.

This is where the margin of error on defense really rears its ugly head; that's 19 plays an above average second baseman should make. And 19 plays that were potentially game-changing, as well.

In retrospect, perhaps Emilio Bonifacio was completely out of place at second base anyway. Many said he was just an outfielder masquerading as an infielder, and these charts definitely reaffirm that theory.

Jose Reyes

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Jose Reyes' reputation as one of the fastest men in all of baseball may precede him, but for whatever reason his quick feet don't seem to translate into more outs in the field. Reyes also may have been hampered due to his knee injury, which could have slowed him down a tad.

Nobody expected Jose Reyes to look like Andrelton Simmons or anything out there, and frankly Brett Lawrie would likely pick up a lot of the slack on the left side of the diamond anyway.

Brett Lawrie

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Speaking of Brett Lawrie, he basically reaffirmed his status as the Blue Jays best defender on the roster. All those red dots in the Missed Plays chart above really illustrate the difficult body of work that Lawrie had.

While these aren't quite as flashy as Manny Machado's spray charts, in Brett Lawrie's defense, Machado had 49 more games to display his defensive prowess than Lawrie did this past season.

These charts are also a sobering reminder how the Blue Jays tried to briefly transition Brett Lawrie back to second base. Boy, I'm kind of glad that experiment didn't pan out.

Mark DeRosa

Source: FanGraphs

Source: FanGraphs

Last but not least, there's Mark DeRosa. Give the man credit; for a 38 year old who was asked to play three infield positions during the 2013 season, and by all indications he certainly held his own in the field.

DeRosa played the bulk of his time at second and third base, filling in for the injured Brett Lawrie and Maicer Izturis. At no point did his age really show on the field, and never was really a defensive liability. Not bad considering the Blue Jays inked him for a mere $750,000 dollars.

Is Alex Anthopoulos Tempering Expectations?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013  |  by 

The question at the end of the 2013 was "how will the Blue Jays repair their rotation?" But over time, that question has progressed to "will they even upgrade their starting rotation at all?"

It's a query that's been covered to death this offseason when it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays (see last week's post), and frankly it's the same one that's going to resonate until Opening Day ... or whenever do they add some starting pitching.

But in recent weeks, I've noticed a particular trend when it comes to Alex Anthopoulos; he really has begun to gear down and temper expectations for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays season.

It seems like AA has really let his foot off the gas in particular when it comes to his quest for starting pitchers. At no point during the Winter Meetings has he declared a "need" for pitching, but just casually mentioning the Blue Jays could be in on particular free agents if the price comes down.

Jeff Blair acknowledged this on his show yesterday and I tend to agree with him;
Alex Anthopoulos could be deliberately dampening expectations this time around.

The reason for this is potentially two-fold. One, is to better manage fan expectations. After what transpired last offseason, the Blue Jays fan base when absolutely ballistic. Not surprisingly, expectations got incredibly out of hand going into the 2013 season.

Once that bar for expectations was set so incredibly high, anything less than a playoff appearance was viewed as a disappointment. And not only did the Blue Jays fail to make the postseason, they finished 2013 about as horribly as a preseason World Series favourite could.

So in that sense, Alex Anthopoulos is perhaps hoping to under promise and over deliver with this roster going into 2014.

The second reason why the front office could be gearing down is because the Blue Jays don't want other teams to think they're desperate. Truthfully, the Blue Jays are in dire need of improving their rotation, but they certainly aren't letting on like they are.

If the Blue Jays publicly stated just how badly they needed starting pitching, executives from other teams and player's agents would begin circling like sharks. Interested teams would likely fire over their low-ball offers for Toronto's best players and/or prospects.

That invariably would drive up the price for any prospective free agent or any other team seeking return in trade for a starting pitcher. So by playing it cool, I guess the Blue Jays are avoiding falling into a trap where they feel they need to make a trade or free agent signing.

Who knows just how much that would drive up the price for a starting pitcher, but chances are once those executives or agents got wind of just how desperate the Blue Jays are, they would look to exploit that in the best way possible.

The Blue Jays are in a very precarious position because they have a myriad of hurdles to overcome to sign a free agent starting pitcher; there's the "five year maximum" contract policy, and then of course there's the issue of overpaying a free agent to come to Toronto.

Although when it comes to the Blue Jays five year maximum contract policy, at least Alex Anthopoulos has recently stated there may be a bit of wiggle room to make it a maximum of six years now.

Not to mention, as recently as yesterday, AA referred to the Blue Jays window of contention being a five year window as opposed to three. That has all the makings of a General Manager who doesn't feel like he needs to contend now (or at least is giving that impression).

It's also plausible that Alex Anthopoulos really could be waiting until the market cools off and may sign a starting pitcher in January or February. The Cleveland Indians managed to add Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher late in the offseason, and they ended up making the playoffs.

So it is fathomable the Blue Jays may just be biding time to sign that starter they really need, but they also run the danger in that particular player signing elsewhere. And if it's a tradable asset they're after, the longer they wait ... the likelier it is that player will disappear as well.

Fans should begin preparing themselves for the likely scenario that the Toronto Blue Jays could begin the 2014 season with the very same starting rotation they have. The Roy Halladay signing may very well be the only pitcher the Blue Jays "add" this offseason.

The Blue Jays also could just stand pat with their current depth of starting pitchers. They may not get a second baseman, they may not find a platoon partner for Adam Lind, and they may not find some outfield help.

But then again, they could also blow everybody out of the water like they did last offseason. Isn't it fun to speculate?

Image courtesy of Sportsnet

Roy Halladay: The Ultimate Class Act

Monday, December 9, 2013  |  by 

Very few players in the history of baseball elicit the kind of response that Roy Halladay does. Halladay was a consummate professional, the fiercest competitor, and the ultimate class act.

And now Roy Halladay's career has officially come full circle as he has officially retired as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays; the very same organization he started his career with some 16 years ago.

Halladay caps off his career with a laundry list of accolades over his 16 year career; a pair of Cy Young Awards, a perfect game, a no-hitter (in the playoffs nonetheless), eight All-Star appearances, five Top 5 Cy Young finishes and 203 career wins under his belt.

Strictly from a fan standpoint, this was just a very cool thing for Roy Halladay to do. In previous instances, I haven't quite understood why players sign these pseudo one-day contracts to retire with the team of their choice ... but now I finally get it.

I'll try to best describe my feelings on Harry Leroy III, but like many people today, I'm at a loss for words on how to describe this entire situation because it really was quite unexpected.

I never imagined Roy Halladay would return to the Toronto Blue Jays, but he managed to do so in the best way possible. Personally, I'm grateful that Halladay decided to officially retire as a Blue Jay because it reaffirms that he really did enjoy his time as a Blue Jay.

It's nice to know Roy Halladay looked back on his time in Toronto with fond enough memories that he wanted to retire as a Blue Jay. It truly is the ultimate honour and a privilege.

Even though he went to the Philadelphia Phillies to give himself a chance to win, Doc respected the Blue Jays organization enough to walk off into the sunset with them. That's not something you'd see too many baseball players perform these days. 

Much like Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay really was the best thing about what can be described as a forgettable era in Blue Jays history. Doc never really played for a contender during his tenure as a Blue Jay, but he competed as though every start was Game 7 of the World Series.

Halladay will likely be remembered most for his relentless work ethic; showing up the ballpark before sunrise, running the stairs at the Rogers Centre, and often being the first one to arrive and the last to go home.

He may not have been the most personable player, but that was part of the appeal of Roy Halladay. Doc approached the game like a cold, calculated robot; and his on-field efficiency reflected that work ethic.

Halladay very rarely displayed emotion and thus very seldom let those emotions get the better of him. And yet it's funny how a man who displayed very little emotion on the field has elicited a wave of emotions from fans, teammates and coaches.

Looking back, there are so many great Halladay memories; his ten-inning shutout, his one-hour fifty-minute complete game, the famous Halladay vs. Burnett, his first start back in Toronto after going to Philly, and of course his near no-hitter in just his second big league start.

The rebirth of Roy Halladay is one of the most fascinating stories you'll ever read, which SI's Tom Verducci delves into quite thoroughly. It's a great tale of how Halladay fell from grace and returned to become even more dominant than before.

It really is a shame Doc never captured that elusive World Series ring he was looking for, but it only seems fitting that he ended his career where he started as a first round draft pick in 1995. If he wasn't going to end his career winning a World Series Championship, at least he ended where he began.

Roy Halladay is in a very unique category of Blue Jays players; while he may not have spent his entire career in Toronto, fans rooted for him even in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

I recall his no-hitter in the playoffs against the Reds in 2010; I sat glued to my couch for the entire nine innings, watching like a proud parent as Halladay put forth one of the greatest post-season pitching performances of all time.

And it happened once again when Roy Halladay made his fateful return to Toronto in July of 2011. Doc came back to a deafening applause from the fans at the Rogers Centre, cheering as if he were still donning a Blue Jays uniform.

Because Roy Halladay never participated in any playoff runs during his time with the Blue Jays, he'll likely go down as one of the most underrated pitchers of his time. Part of that may have to do with him not playing for a contender for so many years.

At the same time, Roy Halladay was still one of the best pitchers of his generation. That's not even a hyperbolic statement, he truly was one of the best. And hopefully, those merits will seal his fate as an eventual inductee into Cooperstown.

As a fan, I really do feel like I'm indebted to Roy Halladay for all that he did with the Toronto Blue Jays. He certainly didn't need to come back and end his career with the Blue Jays, but he did ... and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Thank you for everything, Roy Halladay. It was great to have you back ... even if it was only for a day.

Images courtesy of The Grumpy Owl and The Star

Alex Anthopoulos' Aversion to Free Agent Pitchers

Friday, December 6, 2013  |  by 

Would you believe me if I told you that Alex Anthopoulos has never signed a free agent starting pitcher to a Major League contract? It's true. For whatever reason, AA seemingly has an aversion to inking starting pitchers to contracts.

Over the course of his four year tenure as General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has never signed a free agent starting pitcher. In fact, it's been nearly seven years. Think back to 2007 when Tomo Ohka inked a $1.5 million dollar contract.

There are still a few notable elite arms out on the market like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, but as the days and weeks pass, it's increasingly unlikely the Blue Jays will sign a free agent pitcher at all. 

Earlier this week, Alex Anthopoulos spoke with the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy and shed some light on how the free agent landscape looks for the Blue Jays:
"As the prices in free agency sit today, I’m not optimistic. But that could change. We’re definitely having dialogue in trade. I wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily close, but we’re having active dialogue."
Not surprisingly, Alex is leaning more towards trading for starting pitching rather than signing a free agent. And courtesy of his chat with Brendan Kennedy, we've now learned the reason why AA is leading towards trade is predominantly because of the price.

After middle-tier starters like Ricky Nolasco signed for 4 years and $49 million, and Jason Vargas signed for 4 years and $32 million, that unequivocally set the bar for upper-tier starters such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.

If someone like Nolasco can command an AAV of $12 million, then just imagine what Jimenez and Santana could fetch; probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of $16-$17 million a season and at least five or six guaranteed years.

So at that price, one can understand why Alex Anthopoulos would prefer to go the trade route. You may not necessarily agree that's the way for the Blue Jays to go this offseason (I don't), but at least there's rationale behind it.

Is it a reluctance to overpay free agents to come to Toronto? Or is it a refusal to let the top remaining free agents set their own price?

Trading away players would obviously cost prospects or big league players, but from an outsider's perspective, signing a free agent pitcher would be the easiest way to fix the starting rotation without giving up anything more than just cash.

It's perplexing that a team with close to a $135 million dollar payroll for 2014 is suddenly pinching pennies when it comes to starting pitchers. They have no issue paying Mark Buehrle $18 million dollars a season, but are reluctant to sign someone like Ubaldo Jimenez for a similar amount.

The Blue Jays could likely find a starting pitcher through trade that comes at a reasonable salary, but they'd still be paying in the way of prospects. And these days, prospects are valued like the Holy Grail.

So whether it's in the way of cash or prospects, the Blue Jays would be paying to upgrade their starting rotation ... one way or another. The currency is the exact same.

Frankly, after Jimenez and Santana, the free agent starting pitchers aren't all that intriguing anyway. There's the middle-tier of Bartolo Colon and Matt Garza, but after those arms, the quality of starting pitchers drops off significantly.

So if the Blue Jays aren't going to sign either Ubaldo or Santana or one of the remaining middle-tier starters, they may as well not even bother dipping into the free agent pool at all. The lower-tier starters are a dime a dozen, and internal candidates are a plenty.

Speaking of which, maybe one of the reasons why Anthopoulos has less of a sense of urgency to upgrade the starting rotation because some of the young prospects like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are further along than originally predicted.

Anthopoulos also seems very confident that Brandon Morrow will be a mainstay in the rotation in 2014. He's noted that Morrow is throwing at 100% with no discomfort, which certainly is encouraging news, but Opening Day is still four months away.

Perhaps the state of the Blue Jays starting rotation isn't quite as dire as they were at season's end. As it currently sits, the Blue Jays starting rotation is at least six arms deep, and could potentially be as deep as 14 starting pitchers.

But this particular scenario is quantity over quality. It's not like the Blue Jays have 14 dependable starting pitchers at their disposal; many of them are guys coming back from significant injuries, players without options, and relievers that may or may not transition into the starting rotation.

Is Alex Anthopoulos convinced a starting rotation comprised of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and maybe Marcus Stroman or Todd Redmond is championship worthy? I really have a tough time believing those guys will lead the Blue Jays back to the playoffs.

But then again, I've been wrong before ... just think back to last year. Most people thought the Blue Jays had a championship calibre starting rotation, and it was anything but.

Instead of overpromise/underdeliver, perhaps this year's motto for the starting rotation will be underpromise/overdeliver. And if they don't end up signing any free agent pitchers, that adage will likely ring true for 2014.

Image courtesy of The Star

The Catcher Carousel: Arencibia's Out, Navarro's In

Tuesday, December 3, 2013  |  by 

Often in life, there are the things you want to do and the things you should do. Rarely does it seem like those two things ever converge into one path, but this was actually the case with the Toronto Blue Jays and J.P. Arencibia.

After his disastrous 2013 and a not particularly great body of work the past three seasons, the Blue Jays should have non-tendered J.P. Arencibia ... and they in fact did.

Now Toronto's catcher carousel spins once again as J.P. Arencibia is out and Dioner Navarro is in. Navarro's 2-year/$8 million dollar contract all but sealed the fate of Arencibia, who is officially a free agent. 

The decision came as a bit of a shock to me because while most would have loved to see almost anybody else behind the plate, many believed the Blue Jays didn't have the wherewithal to make the switch.

I think that's the most surprising part about all of this; at no point did the organization ever really hint that they were going to let go of J.P. Arencibia. They had every opportunity to throw him under the bus ... and they didn't.

If anything, the front office all but assured Arencibia of his job security, despite his lackluster performance offensively and defensively. They continued to run J.P. out there every day, although he clearly struggled in nearly all facets of the game.

The way Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons handled the entire J.P. Arencibia situation with kid gloves this past season indicated to me that J.P. would in fact remain the Blue Jays starting catcher. Apparently, that was not the case.

On the same token, Arencibia essentially forced the Blue Jays into upgrading at catcher. They either could have brought back J.P. and hoped he would improve, or they could improve immediately by bringing in practically any other catcher.

The Blue Jays made the wise choice and brought in another backstop.

One wonders whether non-tendering J.P. Arencibia had more to do about the dollars than the lack of production. Considering J.P. was slated to hit close to $2.5 million in arbitration, methinks it was more the former than the latter.

Hypothetically speaking, say Arencibia's 2014 salary would only be $750,000 or even $1 million, would the Blue Jays still have non-tendered him? Judging by the way the organization spoke of J.P., I don't think so.

Part of me feels kind of bad for J.P. Arencibia; this is a guy who spent seven years in the Blue Jays organization and experienced his fair share of ups and downs. At one point, he was even ranked as the number two prospect in the Blue Jays organization.

But at the same time, the Blue Jays gave Arencibia every opportunity to succeed. He held a starting catcher job for three consecutive seasons, and yet he just wasn't able to display the characteristics of even an average starting catcher.

Ultimately, the Blue Jays couldn't afford to carry an offensive liability on the roster like J.P. Arencibia at that high of a price point. And even if he were to backup Navarro, it wouldn't make sense to pay $2.8 million for a player that doesn't offer much other than a boatload of strikeouts peppered in with the odd home run.

When it comes to Dioner Navarro, obviously the primary concern is durability. He hasn't caught more than 100 games in a season since his days with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, but Navarro doesn't necessarily even have to receive the brunt of the work behind the plate. The Blue Jays could split the catching duties 70/30 or with Josh Thole if they deem necessary.

For around $200,000 more this season, the Blue Jays get a starting catcher in Dioner Navarro who can not only hit, but who also has a decent on base percentage; a characteristic that was sorely lacking from J.P. Arencibia's game.

Dioner Navarro may not provide a tremendous amount of offense at the catcher's position, but if he can hit better than .194 and get on base better than a .227 clip, he'll already be an upgrade over his predecessor.

And that's what this all really boils down to; carrying J.P. Arencibia on the Blue Jays roster was simply cost prohibitive. There was a strong possibility his 2014 couldn't be nearly as bad as his 2013, but it just doesn't make sense to have so many question marks surrounding one player projected to make close to $3 million dollars this coming season.

So just like that, the J.P. Arencibia era is over. I think some people want to seek gratification in the Blue Jays ridding themselves of J.P., but Arencibia's departure is just the latest in the long line of failed first round draft picks by the Blue Jays.

J.P. Arencibia being non-tendered marks the 7th of 10 first round picks from 2004-2008 that have either been non-tendered, traded, or outrighted off the roster by the Toronto Blue Jays.

That list includes David Purcey, Zach Jackson, Ricky Romero, Travis Snider, David Cooper, Trystan Magnuson and now J.P. Arencibia.

Given those picks were made during the much-maligned J.P. Ricciardi era, but Alex Anthopoulos was Ricciardi's right-hand man as Assistant GM from 2006-2009. And those are seven picks that could have potentially been the building blocks of the Blue Jays roster.

From a player development standpoint, non-tendering J.P. Arencibia was a failure on the part of the Toronto Blue Jays. And they ran Arencibia so far into the ground that they couldn't even swing a trade to fetch something in return. That says a lot.

Arencibia may have shown he was very strong-willed, but the onus should have ultimately fallen on the organization to recognize those shortcomings early and mold J.P. into the player they wanted.

That's what I'll take away from J.P. Arencibia's time in Toronto; he was a highly-touted prospect that was supposed to be the catcher of the future. He certainly came in with a bang, and now he'll leave town with nothing more than a whimper.

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