I guess it maybe makes sense when it’s a guy who could still potentially return to his old club, but I completely don’t get some of the terminology that gets thrown around at this time of year– the horse race-like “frontrunner” stuff when we know nothing about what anybody is even offering to make us believe they “lead” in the “chase” for some player, or what we’ve got tonight from Jon Heyman at CBS Sports, where the Jays, Twins, or Rockies might “steal” Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the “incumbent” Red Sox.
Is that really what’s going on? Or are these just teams that supposedly have some interest in a free agent who the Red Sox may not quite see the value in, seeing as– as Heyman points out– they’ve got “some decent catching prospects on the way, especially Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.”
In fact, Heyman full-on acknowledges that the “Jays have checked in, but the extent of their interest is uncertain.”
So… what are we learning here, exactly? Pretty much nothing. The small number of teams still looking for a starting catcher, I guess?
The market behind the plate seems to, indeed, be developing more quickly than others– which, naturally, has a bunch of Jays fans on edge at the possibility of J.P. Arencibia actually returning, remote as that may be (we hope). Brian McCann, who doesn’t appear to have ever been an option for the club, and Carlos Ruiz are both off the market, having gone to the Yankees and Phillies respectively, each for probably one more year than most other clubs– certainly the Jays– would have preferred to go.
Geovany Soto was gone early, and Jose Molina and now George Kottaras are both off the market as well, with Molina signing a two year deal to stay in Tampa this week, and Kottaras being acquired by the Cubs after being D’d FA last week by the Royals. Both of those guys had been pined for by Jays fans for various reasons– partly, I’m sure, because one has the right passport and the other was the “one that got away.”
I wouldn’t quite characterize Molina that way, personally. Yes, the explosion of interest around pitch framing has certainly featured him prominently, suggesting that the Jays may well have undervalued him (and I’m being generous here) during his time here. However, the club drafted supplemental pick Tyler Gonzales after Molina departed as a Type-B free agent, so he served his purpose and there was no way he was ever actually staying. Not that he was even a full-time option then, let alone now.
The same can be said of Kottaras, though he was definitely an interesting name, beyond even the local connection. Ewan Ross of Blue Jays Plus made the case for Kottaras– a guy who I’d basically call J.P. Arencibia plus
10% more walks a 10% higher walk rate (which… actually, isn’t so bad at all, is it?)– earlier in the week, but even still conceded that he didn’t feel he was “a viable alternative for the starting job.”
As a backup, though, or even in a more generous time share? Since Kottaras is a left-handed hitter and has caught the knuckleball before, that could totally work… except Josh Thole has the same story, and one of the too-many inexplicable contract extensions of the Anthopoulos era. Sure, I could be fairly easily convinced to take Kottaras over Thole, but that’s not really the main issue anyway, is it?
The Jays need to find an everyday guy… I think. I mean, of course they do, but there is going to be some measure of risk in anyone they go after. We looked at Dioner Navarro as a plausible option this week, but’s not like he’s had a tonne of full-time work in the last four seasons either. Maybe the Jays should have taken a chance on Kottaras getting every day at bats, but I just don’t think that’s the kind of gamble they’re interested in with such a key position at this point in time. Navarro has at least been a big league starter before.
Thing is, if that’s the limitation the Jays are going to place on themselves it leaves the market increasingly bare.
They’re not out of non-Arencibia options, mind you, but there’s certainly a reason why Navarro and now Saltalamacchia are seeing their names connected here. The Jays have to do something, and beyond those two– at least in terms of free agent possibilities– the list gets grim rather quickly. John Buck? A.J. Pierzynski? Kurt Suzuki? Kelly Shoppach?
There are, of course, trade targets, too– like Ryan Hanigan or Chris Iannetta, both of whom seem like far more plausible acquisitions than someone like Jason Castro, whose name seems to have left the rumour mill entirely, or Wellington Castillo, whose name I don’t believe was ever floated, though plenty of fans have pipe dreamed on the possibility, given that the Jays have supposedly been talking to the Cubs on Samardzija.;
Of the realistic possibilities remaining, irrespective of cost, I’d say Salty, Navarro, and Iannetta are fairly clearly in the top group. And with Boston, as Heyman says, potentially looking to find a player for not quite as long as the three- or four-year deal Salatalamacchia will surely command, and– as he also points out– with the Rockies already having Willin Rosario (though they’d prefer to move him out from behind the plate), and with the Twins having Yosmil Pinto perhaps ready to take over now that Joe Mauer is moving out from behind the plate permanently (and since, y’know, Ryan Doumit is awful there), maybe there actually are still enough options out there for the Jays to actually find a way to do well for themselves by continuing to wait out the market.
Many of the better value deals do seem to typically end up coming from the tail end of the market, and it’s not like the Jays have to do a whole lot to massively upgrade on the value they got from behind the plate last year anyway, so it wouldn’t necessarily shock me if waiting it out a bit longer is really their plan. But holy shit, is that ever going to make for even more nervous times as we continue to sit and hope to be relieved of the spectre of another goddamn year of J.P. Arencibia, eh?
I mean, I can’t imagine anybody believes he could possibly be as bad again in 2014 as he was last year, but does anybody believe that’s a risk worth banking on??? Do the Jays???
I still can’t bring myself to believe that they do. I get the feeling they may test my faith here though.