Ben Nicholson-Smith had a post yesterday morning at Sportsnet about Cuban backstop Yenier Bello, who is a step closer to being made available to MLB teams, and is sure to get a certain subset of fans salivating (or, actually, maybe all of them). We’re told that he’s a power hitting 28-year-old backstop with significant experience who– most important of all– is not J.P. Arencibia. Sounds refreshing, right?
Well, the free catching market isn’t exactly bountiful, so yes. Yes he does. Even knowing next to absolutely nothing about the guy. That’s just how great it’s been this year!
But the thing is, that means if Bello is a player teams looking for catching help are truly eyeing, it’s very possibly going to be a long, uncomfortable winter, because holding such a narrow focus may mean sitting out the catching market altogether, waiting for the Cuban to be cleared by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control. Nicholson-Smith explains that “it could take many months for OFAC to grant Bello the permission he needs to finalize a deal.”
He also notes that “multiple teams have already expressed interest” in him, and that the Jays– while not necessarily one of those teams– are one of a few big league clubs who’ll be looking for catching upgrades this winter. Could we be breathlessly awaiting news on him all winter? I’m not sure putting so many eggs in one basket is a realistic possibility– not for the Jays, and not for the other teams we’re told will be looking for help behind the plate, the Mariners and the Phillies.
The reason the Phillies could be in the market for a catcher, you may be aware, is that their incumbent starter, Carlos Ruiz, will be a free agent. Over at Benny Fresh’s old stomping ground, MLB Trade Rumors, they profiled Ruiz yesterday, noting that the Jays may be one of the teams who’d be a fit, should he choose to leave Philadelphia– and, perhaps intriguingly, that he’s not likely going to be made a qualifying offer by the club. His departure from Philadelphia is not necessarily a foregone conclusion though, as both he and the Phillies have expressed interest in his return. Doing so would give the late-blooming 35-year-old-to-be a good chance to spend his entire career in the organization, and is made all the more plausible by the fact that the Phillies don’t have much in terms of an in-house replacement.
But that may not all work out, and MLBTR also tells us that, despite his having a down year– which included a 25-game suspension for not getting a proper fake script for Adderall like the rest of the damn league– Ruiz looked a little more like himself in the season’s final two months, posting “a more Chooch-like .288/.343/.444 line.” He could be an intriguing guy to look at for the Jays. Then again, he’s getting old, and including the minors was behind the plate for 100+ games for nine straight years before only getting into 92 this season. You worry that a down year, at that age and at a physically demanding position like that, just maybe isn’t so easy to bounce back from. Plus, based just on reputation he’ll likely be somewhat expensive– sort of like the other guy we’ve heard the most about, as far as the catching market goes: Brian McCann.
Now, if the Jays can convince McCann to take their money and still have the resources to do whatever else they need, sure. Do it. McCann is going to be 30 next season, so a deal in the five year range is at least palatable, theoretically, and he hits well enough that you can use him at DH– plus, he’s a left-handed power bat this team should could certainly not turn their noses up at.
But it ain’t happening. (I’m pretty sure, at least.)
That, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting options on the market. Especially if– wait for it…– the Jays are maybe willing to work a little bit with what they’ve already got.
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