Should The Toronto Blue Jays Trade Dioner Navarro?
Dioner Navarro lived up to the high offensive expectations from Toronto Blue Jays fans after arriving in Toronto prior to last season. After the J.P Arencibia experiment finally burned out, the Blue Jays signed Navarro to a two-year, $8 million contract. Navarro’s role as a Blue Jay has come into question after the big Russell Martin signing on Monday solidified who would start behind the plate in 2015. Before we get into that, let’s break down what Navarro did in 2014.
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He certainly had a successful 2014 campaign as the starting catcher for the Jays. He set career highs in games played and plate appearances, taking on a heavy workload for the first time since 2009 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Alex Anthopolous certainly got good value in Navarro after his first season with the club, proving his contract to be quite the bargain. He made just $3 million in his debut season as a Blue Jay and played in 86% of Toronto’s games. Needless to say, the thirty-year-old was a work horse and exceeded many expectations last season, including mine.
Sep 3, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro (30) singled during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Navarro slashed .274/.317/.395 last year, typically batting in the sixth spot behind Adam Lind. The switch-hitter hit 12 home runs for the Blue Jays and added another career high with 69 runs batted in.
These stats are what is important to keep in mind about Navarro as his defensive faults will no longer be a deciding factor with Martin in town.
There has been plenty of trade talk surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays since last season ended. Alex Anthopolous is never shy to check in on the trade market and we have heard names like R.A Dickey, Mark Bhuerle, and J.A Happ being thrown around most recently. There are two obvious solutions for Navarro: keep him as a designated hitter and a backup to Martin, or trade him.
Considering the stronger part of Navarro’s game is his offense, keeping him as a primary DH might not be such a bad idea. His power numbers are lacking from what you may expect from a designated hitter, but he does contribute in other ways. He hit extremely well last season with runners on base (.293) and runners in scoring position (.343).
Sep 15, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro (30) celebrates as he doubles during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles defeated Toronto Blue Jays 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Keeping Navarro as a DH would allow manager John Gibbons to field a consistent lineup that would benefit from his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. The decision to keep Navarro in the lineup regularly would create more defensive responsibility for Edwin Encarnacion at first base, as Navarro has never played a game at that position.
Taking on a pure backup role for Martin becomes an issue because of the R.A Dickey knuckle ball situation. Since the Dickey and Josh Thole bromance seems to be unbreakable, this would leave the Blue Jays with two backup catchers and one less roster spot that could be put to better use. If Gibbons is more comfortable playing Encarnacion at the DH position to keep him rested, then a trade is much more likely.
Trading Navarro and his relatively cheap one year contract is much more feasible than trying to move Dickey and Thole. There are a few teams who could have interest in Navarro’s services at $5 million and at the same time, the Jays can fill a need at second base, in the bullpen, or perhaps in the outfield.
Chicago Cubs, Starting Catcher: Welington Castillo
The Chicago Cubs were believed to be the front-runners in the Russell Martin sweepstakes. They were willing to dig deep into their pockets for the all-star catcher but were surprised by the Blue Jays and their $89 million bid. It is clear that the Cubs need an experienced catcher behind the plate to work with their young pitching staff. They missed out on the biggest free agent available at the position, but there are other options. Rather than overpay for a guy like Miguel Montero, the Cubs could come back and get Navarro as a rental and take a leap at Matt Wieters next off-season.
Sep 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Cubs designated hitterLuis Valbuena
(24) hits a ball during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The potential return for the Blue Jays could be infielder Luis Valbuena, who is a former Blue Jay. The 28-year-old never got a shot with big club and was eventually claimed off waivers by the Cubs. He set career highs last season in all major offensive categories as he flourished as the Cubs starting third baseman. Valbuena played some second base last season and has also played a bit of shortstop in his career. The well-rounded utility man hit 16 home runs last season and could be a nice addition to the Blue Jays lineup and could compete for the starting second base position.
Boston Red Sox, Starting Catcher: Christian Vazquez
It would be tough to see Navarro walk over to a division rival. But it is no secret that the Boston Red Sox have a big hole at the catcher position. Vazquez is a rookie and they have limited options behind him to start behind the plate. Navarro would fill a need for the Red Sox and would plug a reliable everyday bat into their lineup. The only way the Blue Jays would move him to Boston was if they could fill a direct need of their own, and Boston’s weakness at the catching position might incline them to overpay.
Brock Holt would be a fun name to talk about for the Blue Jays. The utility man has played just about every position in his career and could play whatever role the Jays see fit. He could plug into left field, third base, or even second base depending on how the rest of the off-season pans out.
Aug 27, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox short stop Brock Holt (26) throws to first base for an out during the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
It seems as though the Red Sox are high on the twenty-six year old, and may need some extra incentive to move him. Despite the hype from the streaky player, a Navarro and Holt swap isn’t too far off in my opinion. With his above average glove, Holt is the ultimate bench player who can fill in wherever needed due to injury or to give starters a rest. Whether he can be a consistent starter in the big leagues or not remains to be seen.
Pittsburgh Pirates, Starting Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
The Pittsburgh Pirates of course lost Martin to the Blue Jays, and recently added Cervelli to fill the void. However, Cervelli may not be enough for a strong Pirates team that has made the playoffs the last two seasons. His career offensive numbers are quite average and Navarro could fit in nicely and compete with him for the starting job. Cervelli is no stranger to playing in a backup role.
Pedro Alvarez comes to mind from the Pirates. The under-achieving third baseman would bring a booming bat to the Rogers Centre and move Brett Lawrie over to second base. In order to bring in the big left-handed bat, the Jays would likely have to prepare a package starting with Navarro and Happ. The move would make sense for the Pirates as Josh Harrison has emerged as an exciting player and took the job at third base.
Jul 11, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcherMat Latos
(not pictured) in the fourth inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
They could also use Happ in the back-end of their rotation. As for the Blue Jays, Alvarez would replace the left-handed bat that was Lind. With tons of power and a high ceiling, Alvarez would be an exciting acquisition if the Blue Jays could pry him away from the Pirates, although they made need to give up more to do so.
There is so much up in the air for the Blue Jays as we wait for Alex Anthopolous’ next move. If we have learned anything about him, it’s that he is unpredictable.
What do Jays fans think about Dioner Navarro’s future with the Blue Jays? Should they work him into the lineup or try to trade him?
Let us know what you would like to see done with Navarro in the comment section below.
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