Archive for the ‘Aaron Cibia’ Category


We seem to have reached the portion of the evening where reports from today’s activity in Orlando will being filtering out. Or maybe we’ve just got this one, but either way, it’s a hum dinger, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet tells us about all kinds of things Alex Anthopoulos has been up to so far today, which sounds as though it’s mostly centred around finding a new catcher and a high-end starting pitcher.

Obvious, I know, but given AA’s reluctance over the course of the season to acknowledge just how poorly J.P. Arencibia was playing, there have genuinely been concerns among fans that the club may have been willing to ride out 2014 while banking on a rebound from Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst’s favourite Blue Jay.

Fear not:

The catching market this off-season is a robust one, and as the general managers’ meetings opened Monday at the swanky JW Marriott Grande Lakes in sunny Orlando, Alex Anthopoulos has been in the thick of it, according to multiple sources.

Inquiries have been made on A.J. Pierzynski, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carlos Ruiz and given the way Anthopoulos operates, you can bet he’s at least checked in on Brian McCann, as well.

Davidi goes on to tell us that the market may be slow in developing, and that his sources say that some unexpected teams had been looking into the free agent catchers as well, which could slow things down even more. But the important takeaway is, of course: holy fuck, we’re not going to have to watch J.P. Arencibia again next year.

Well… not up close, at least. With out luck I’m sure that, from afar, we’ll see him turn the corner both defensively and at the plate. But, honestly, who cares??? It’s entirely like the Aaron Hill thing: even if his departure works out as absolutely fucking abysmally as possible for the Jays– and Hill’s time in Arizona pretty much has (even though it’s a moot point, considering that the Jays were not going to pick up his option after 2011 anyway)– Arencibia simply isn’t ever going to work out here. Or… if it is, we just can’t be willing to wait for it any longer.

And there’s more: Davidi notes that the Jays have been kicking the tires on some starters as well…

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J.P. Arencibia finished the 2013 season with a .227 on-base percentage, which is not the worst OBP by a qualified hitter since 1900. It’s not the second-worst. It’s not the third-worst. It’s not the fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-worst on-base by a qualified hitter since 1900.

It’s not an on-base percentage of a qualified hitter at all.

Yes, Arencibia, at the end of the season, dropped just below the threshold needed in order to qualify for the batting title. To do so a player needs to have 3.1 plate appearances for every originally scheduled game that his team played, which means that, playing a 162 game schedule, a player needs 502 PA. Arencibia finished the year with 497.

He was five plate appearances shy of posting the second-worst qualified OBP since 1900, and the worst since Hal Lanier in 1968.

The fact that he wasn’t qualified doesn’t change how bad he was, and so this conspiracy theory is maybe a bit silly, but something interesting did happen on the final weekend of season that could have impacted his qualifed status: Josh Thole caught a day game after a night game in order to give Arencibia the day off.

Thole caught as R.A. Dickey pitched– with the dome closed, you may remember– on September 28th, and then was back out there the next afternoon, catching J.A. Happ.

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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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My suggestions here won’t be quite as delicious as the one made the other week by Jon Hale of the Mockingbird, who figures J.P. Arencibia can improve his on-base by simply never swinging when the count is full, but there has been a lot of good debate on Twitter of late about just what the Blue Jays can do to improve themselves next year, especially given the obvious fact that– as I noted among my Assorted Weekend Thoughts yesterday– the Jays have had absolute black holes at four positions on the diamond this year, ranking last in MLB in wins above replacement for catchers and second basemen, 27th of 30 teams when it comes to third basemen, and 25th for left field.

They also ranked 27th in WAR for starting pitchers, though elsewhere things are brighter: 10th for relievers, 3rd at first base, 11th at shortstop, 4th in right field, 6th in centre, and 1st at DH.

Of course, some of these rankings are a little wonky [read: horribly imprecise]– they include all the value provided by the guys who’ve regularly taken turns at each position, rather than just the value provided while they were playing at the position, meaning Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion’s WAR totals are simply combined to create the figure for both 1B and DH– but apart from those two positions (where they should probably be knocked down at least a couple of spots in the rankings for each), they generally pass the smell test, I’d say. Meaning, then, that the Jays mostly really need a whole lot more out of C, 2B, 3B, and LF.

Which… obviously.

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Toronto Blue Jays v Atlanta Braves

In the transcript of the Alex Anthopoulos conference call after Wednesday’s quiet trade deadline, which Gregor Chisholm has helpfully provided over at North Of The Border, there is something that I found rather conspicuous by its absence.

Asked about his areas of focus as the deadline approached, here’s what Anthopoulos had to say:

“We’re always in the market to add a starter especially with the way the rotation has been for us so we definitely explored some things there and we’re still looking to acquire some middle infield help, that’s definitely something we’ve taken a look at as well. Those were probably the two areas we were most active in overall and then there were some other ideas thrown at us that were larger concepts but just didn’t seem like things we needed to rush to do now.”

Now, here’s where I’d normally say that maybe the GM didn’t bring up the club’s gaping hole behind the plate because he didn’t want to throw the incumbent under the bus, but… uh… he certainly doesn’t seem terribly bothered by the notion of doing that to his de facto second baseman, so… what the hell?

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Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

I know a thing or two about getting shit-talked by shit-hearted shitstains on the internet (mostly, y’know, because I intentionally antagonize the fuckers, but that’s neither here nor there), and yet I still found it staggering today to see the volume of tweets from human garbage who actually value time in their sad lives so little as to bother tweeting in the direction of J.P. Arencibia in order to vent in his @reply stream about what a worthless ballplayer they think he is.

In response to this digital projectile vomiting of criticisms, and perhaps, his guttural need to respond in kind– which I can… uh… kinda totally relate to in a very small way– Arencibia announced today that he was shuttering his Twitter account.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of the network Arencibia complained to Paul Beeston about caught his final tweets, which have now slipped away into the digital ether:

“It’s unfortunate to see how words are twisted to make false stories,” ‏@jparencibia9 wrote to his 145,000 followers.

“I give way too much of myself to have others try and make me out to.. Something/someone I’m not,” he continued in a series of tweets that have since been deleted along with his account.

“Solution. I make myself very accessible with constant charitable events, and opening up to social media for the fans. I will no longer be on twitter. Thanks to all the fans who support and praying for the others that hate. God Bless.”

I can’t speak to twisted words and false stories, but… whatever. In the long run, that’s probably for the best, though temporarily– if you do a search on his name– it doesn’t appear to be doing much for the image problem of the once fan- and camera-friendly catcher.

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Gregg Zaun joined Bob McCown and Michael Grange last night on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports, responding to the recent comments about him from J.P. Arencibia (audio here - starts around the 16 minute mark). I called it “the great put-on” when we podcasted about it last week, and suggested as much in the post that included the transcript of the comments as well. But now? Yeah… not that I was ever really serious… but, uh… I don’t really think that it was.

More to the point, though, Zaun actually kind of nailed it, displaying a little of the occasionally Saber-esque common sense stuff that first made him endearing as an analyst in the process. At least, by my reckoning he did. And his criticism of Arencibia’s “warped sense of reality” when it comes to his I’m a “run producer” nonsense, and the way that the Jays’ catcher went about broaching the subject in public, was actually rather elegant. Y’know, for Zaun.

Here’s the transcript:

ZAUN: I think his perception of my analysis is that I’ve somehow forgotten how hard it was to play the game in the three years since I retired. Unfortunately for him, I remember how easy it was for me to do certain things– catch the baseball, block it, make it stay right in front of me. I had my ups and downs with throwing the baseball based on surgeries, but he doesn’t really have that excuse just yet. You know, I’ve been a proponent of his in a lot of ways.

McCOWN: You were a defender of his when I was critical of him at the beginning.

ZAUN: No doubt. I always take an honest look at the catchers. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hard on guys. I mean, I expect a lot out of a guy– and the first thing I expect him to be able to do is catch the baseball. So, when a guy leads the league in passed balls year after year, it’s embarrassing, and it’s not right. And I know this guy has so much more in him than we’ve seen.

McCOWN: Analytically, why is this guy not getting it? Do you think his work ethic is weak?

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