Toronto Blue Jays: Exploring Potential Teams for Dioner Navarro
By acquiring Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders earlier this off-season, the Toronto Blue Jays have depleted much of their potential trading chips. In the aftermath of these trades, general manager Alex Anthopoulos now finds himself in a precarious situation where he must find a creative way to fill the remaining holes on the roster without trading away future assets, or over inflating the payroll.
Sep 3, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro (30) hits a 2-run home run during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Front and centre of this situation lies one of the Blue Jays only true trading chips left – incumbent backup catcher Dioner Navarro.
After signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin earlier this off-season, Navarro has been one of the Blue Jays hottest trade rumour names, as the 30-year-old Venezuelan has drawn “pretty strong” interest on the trade market.
One of the teams specifically interested in Navarro is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In theory, the idea of trading Navarro to the Diamondbacks makes sense. He would have a chance to immediately compete for the starting catchers job, and at the very worst, probably platoon with Rule 5 draft pick Oscar Hernandez – somebody the Diamondbacks think can be an elite defender for them.
Especially when you factor in the productive season Navarro just had, posting a .712 OPS and a 2.3 WAR in 139 games, as well as the weak free-agent catching market, you can see why the Blue Jays should be able to command a decent return in any trade involving Navarro.
So if Arizona isn’t a good fit, how about San Diego?
The Padres just traded everyday catcher Yasmani Grandal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Matt Kemp and now have a hole at catcher. Yes, the team does have top prospect Austin Hedges waiting in the wings to take over behind home plate. But with a below average bat, Hedges inept offence hinders his major league impact for this upcoming season.
With Hedges more than likely needing a season at AAA El Paso, the idea of Navarro to the Padres starts to look like a potential fit.
The Padres need a catcher. They have a bevy of arms in both their starting rotation and bullpen, and they need offence. Add in the fact that the NL West features at the least 12 left-handed starting pitchers next season, and Navarro’s .726 OPS against left-handed pitchers this past season makes him all the more attractive to the light-hitting Padres.
Of the three pitchers, Quackenbush would be the ideal choice for the Blue Jays. At 26 years old, the hard throwing right-hander has the kind of power arm that the Toronto bullpen could desperately use. Add in his experience as a closer, and it becomes obvious why Quackenbush would look good coming out of the left field bullpen at the Rogers Centre.
But at 26 years old and more than likely the Padres’ future closer, Benoit seems like a more likely option for Navarro.
Apr 19, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (56) celebrates following a win against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. The Padres won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
A native of the Dominican Republic, the 37-year-old right-hander has been one of baseball’s most reliable setup men, posting a WAR of 1.0 or more in five consecutive seasons, as well as a K/9 rate of 9.0 or more in six consecutive seasons.
Even though his age does make him a short-term option, Benoit would be an immediate upgrade to the Jays’ bullpen.
On the contrary, the team does not have to trade Navarro. After all, he is still a useful bat that is more than capable of driving in 60-70 RBIs a year.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the Blue Jays are unable to trade Navarro. They could opt to keep him and use him as a backup catcher to Martin, or as a designated hitter, particularly against lefties. Given both the injury history and “flash in the pan” style of play over Justin Smoak‘s career, the notion of him taken over as the teams everyday DH is far from a sure thing.
With a potent lineup that could feature a 2-5 of Martin, Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson, the opportunities for Navarro to create an impact at the plate will certainly be there if he were to bat sixth or seventh.
Either way, general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ precarious situation isn’t at all that bad if he can extract the right value for Navarro. If unable to, being left with a backup catcher who mashes left-handed pitching to the tune of a .726 OPS is not the worst thing in the world.
What do you think Blue Jays’ fans? Would trading Navarro to the Diamondbacks or Padres work for Toronto? Or is the team best to keep him? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.