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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Spring Training Position Battle EVERYBODY'S Talking About: Blue Jays Catcher

I don't have to tell you that when Toronto announced the signing of Jose Molina this afternoon, the shockwaves reverberated around the world.  It was a press conference the baseball media had been anticipating for days and marked the resolution of a free agent storyline that had dominated the headlines of months.  What may especially surprise you is that the man known primarily as "the middle Molina," "the other Molina," or "the Molina that can't hit" may not be guaranteed a spot on Toronto's opening day roster.  The Blue Jays don't have many players with the "star power" of the former Yankee and Angels back-up, but Cito Gaston is renowned for his willingness to go with the hot hand, so Molina will have to earn his way, just like anybody else.

The Blue Jays rookie GM, Alex Anthropologist, has spent his first offseason in the typical fashion of a young administrator looking to make his mark, he's been collecting second and third string catchers.  He began on the 11th of December by signing John Buck, a product of the Kansas City farm system, that bastion of drafting and development.  Buck started each of the last five seasons as the Royals primary backstop and proceeded each time to lose at-bats to cagey veterans with household names like Paul Bako, Jason LaRue, and Miguel Olivo.  At the beginning of 2010, after nearly 600 major-league games, Buck still hasn't raised his OBP to .300

Thankfully, the Jays GM didn't stop there.  On the very next day he re-signed Raul Chavez, a 37-year-old journeyman, who in fourteen seasons has never been deemed worthy of as many as 200 major-league at-bats.  A week later, in the blockbuster trade of the offseason, when Anthopoulos sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, one of the prospects he got in return was a catcher named Travis d'Arnaud.  d'Arnaud hasn't advanced past A ball, but his 738 OPS at that level suggest he profiles as, well, Raul Chavez or, with a little luck, Ramon Castro.

Meanwhile, the Jays have two young, twenty-something catchers, J. P. Arencibia and Kyle Phillips, each of whom now have had considerable experience and moderate success at AAA.  There is absolutely no reason to believe the combo of Arencibia and Phillips would be any worse, at least offensively, than Buck and Molina, or Buck and Castro.  Even if they were, getting them experience in the big leagues during a season in which Toronto must be considered a rebuilding franchise, seems a worthwhile proposition...seem, in fact, very much like the definition of "rebuilding."  Even if Anthopoulos and Gaston have reservations about going with two rookie catchers, I still can't understand why they need THREE hopeless veterans.  What a nightmare the past year has been for Blue Jays fans.

1 comment:

The Man with the Golden Arm said...

Solid post. The points you made about rebuilding are exactly what I have been thinking. This year is going to be brutal. Put a sign on the door that says: Let's make a deal!