I think about baseball a lot. Like, too much, probably. It’s the main reason that three years into a Master’s degree, I’m still toiling away ever so slowly on the completion of my thesis. You see, baseball is just far more interesting than anything else. Period.

A few days ago, while “writing my thesis” I was thinking about J.P. Arencibia and prospect catcher Travis D’Arnaud. D’Arnaud, acquired in the Roy Halladay deal from Philadelphia, has moulded himself into one of the very best prospects in the game. Arencibia, meanwhile, has become a decent young catcher, but one that seems to have a lot of trouble playing defense and a lot of trouble getting on base.

Allow me to indulge in some completely baseless speculation for a minute.

Last season in AA-New Hampshire, D’Arnaud was outstanding. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 home runs and a .402 wOBA in his age 22 season. It was a breakout offensive year for him and although some of that was likely buoyed by a suspiciously high .365 BABIP, it’s clear that D’Arnaud can hit. He also grades out as an above-average defensive catcher; something Arencibia will never be able to lay claim to.

For comparison’s sake, Arencibia was also in his age 22 season when he played in AA-New Hampshire back in 2008. He posted a .282/.302/.496 slash line with a .348 wOBA in 67 games that year before moving up to AAA the following season.

D’Arnaud will start 2012 at AAA-Las Vegas and is likely to see Major League time at some point this year. If he comes at all as advertised, he will quickly supplant Arencibia as the ‘catcher of the future’ which leaves the Jays with somewhat of a decision to make.

Arencibia should continue to improve given that he’s only 26 and even if his OBP leaves something to be desired, a catcher with his kind of power is always going to have some value.  But, do the Jays believe enough in Arencibia sticking as a viable everyday catcher to consider trading D’Arnaud for some Major League pieces, or do they let Arencibia accumulate more value in 2012 and then trade him next offseason to make way for D’Arnaud? A lot of this hinges on the continued positive development of D’Arnaud, but if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to put money on Arencibia playing for some other Major League organization in 2013.

And the “news”:

According to Jerry Crasnick, the Blue Jays, along with the Mariners, Reds and Mets are “keeping tabs” on free agent lefthander Jeff Francis. Let’s hope “keeping tabs” means making sure no delusional front office member even considers actually pursuing him. It’s not as if I don’t like Francis, but something about an 84 MPH fastball in the AL East makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Speaking of players the Jays might be sort of, kind of interested in, the Oakland A’s are reportedly “muy interesados” in Manny Being Manny. When news first broke of Ramirez’s possible return, the A’s immediately jumped to mind as a team who would be interested, given other teams might be undervaluing him and he could be had for very little.

Rangers part owner Bob Simpson says he would prefer his team re-sign Josh Hamilton rather than sign Prince Fielder. This is roughly why owners shouldn’t meddle in front office affairs.

The Giants and arbitration eligible ace Tim Lincecum are making “progress toward a deal” according to Andrew Baggerly of the San Jose Mercury-News. The duration of the contract the two sides are discussing is unknown, but they both appear to have common ground on the financial figure for one or two years. Lincecum is under team control until after the 2013 season and is expected to make a record amount of money for a player with less than six years of service time.

The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona was outed following a hush money dispute with the real Fausto Carmona. This story seems to bring out the worst in uninformed nonsense from the internets. People would like to somehow blame Carmona/Heredia and question his character, but he is merely the result of a system that takes advantage of the poverty experienced by some players who are signed in Latin America. MLB and player agents in the Dominican are far more to blame.

The Washington Nationals have reportedly signed outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse to a two-year contract extension worth $10.5-million. The deal buys out Morse’s two remaining arbitration years.

The Clevelands have acquired starting pitcher Kevin Slowey from the Colorado Rockies for minor league pitcher Zach Putnam. Slowey was acquired earlier this offseason by the Rockies from the Twins for pitcher Daniel Turpen. I’ve always seen Slowey as somewhat of an underrated pitcher; he’s routinely among the league leaders in walk-rate and any pitcher who does that has a lot of value.

Crashburn Alley is simply put, one of the best baseball blogs on the internets. Whether you’re a Phillies’ fan or not, it’s worth checking out on daily basis. Yesterday, Crashburn’s main author Bill Baer looked at the relative value of third baseman Placido Polanco and came to the conclusion that the Phillies could do much worse.

Did you know that Charlie Furbush posted a higher K-rate than Edwin Jackson, a lower walk-rate than David Price and a lower xFIP than Chad Billingsley? Jeff Sullivan from Lookout Landing examines Charlie Furbush as a possible rotation candidate for the 2012 Mariners.