In the wake of signing backup catcher Jeff Mathis to a contract extension through 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays are in a bind for 2013 over whether to start J.P. Arencibia or prospect Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate.
Although that might be the initial reaction of fans and foes alike, that isn't the problem at hand.
According to the National Post's John Lott, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos insists that Toronto can fit both Arencibia and d'Arnaud "into the everyday lineup."
From a hitting standpoint, this makes perfect sense. Arencibia's .242/.279/.466 slash line merits some credit. It's also a major step in the right direction from his .219/.282/.438 numbers in 2011.
Prior to his injury, Travis d'Arnaud was tearing it up in Triple-A, disseminating Pacific Coast League pitching with a .333/.380/.595 line. If it weren't for his ailment, d'Arnaud would definitely be in the Blue Jays' lineup today.
So again, from a hitting standpoint it makes sense to have them both in the lineup, but what about defensively?
By extending Mathis' contract, he is a sure-fit backup for years to come. So that means either Arencibia or d'Arnaud will catch for the big club, but they won't back each other up.
“Both of their bats are good enough, and big enough, that they’re everyday players,” Anthopoulos said. “If Travis doesn’t get as many reps behind the plate, that’s fine. His bat is just a unique bat. He has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order impact bat.”
We've already established that they can both hit, but to say that d'Arnaud not getting his reps behind the plate is "fine" doesn't seem fine to me at all.
There's a way to nurture a 23-year-old behind the plate, and sticking him with the job of designated hitter doesn't make any sense.
Then there's the domino effect.
If both men can fit into the lineup as DH and catcher respectively on different nights, where does someone like Adam Lind fit into the puzzle?
Since the breakout of Edwin Encarnacion in 2012, Toronto has welcomed him with open arms, signing him to a lucrative deal keeping him with the club until at least 2015. From once being booed by the home crowd in 2011, Encarnacion has silenced his critics this season with a .996 fielding percentage at first base, committing only 2 errors in 539 chances.
So surely Adam Lind won't be playing first base, and reverting back to the outfield is also out of the question with up and coming prospects Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra headlining the list of young watchmen out there.
But back to the dish.
J.P. Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud are both great catchers—good enough to start for most any ball club in the MLB. It's true that you can't have enough good players, but where they play can factor the outcome of their progression.
In a report by sportsnet.ca's MLB Insider Shi Davidi, Arencibia is slated to be the everyday catcher next season. So does that mean d'Arnaud will be stuck with part-time duties behind the plate and full-time duties at DH? Maybe. But if that's the case, a possible trade might be in order this coming offseason.
The stock for Adam Lind isn't very high right now, but it surely is for J.P. and Travis, and don't for a second think other GM's haven't noticed the golden predicament that Toronto has itself in right now.
It would appear that only one thing is concrete for next season: Jeff Mathis will be the backup catcher.
But until then, the likelihood of trading Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia, Travis d'Arnaud or anyone else is still up in the air.
“Who knows what the offseason’s going to bring?" Anthopoulos concluded. "It’s amazing how quickly things can change.”
Things can change very quickly indeed, but if they don't play their cards right, Toronto might miss out on an opportunity that could come back to haunt them in the very near future—and everyone is waiting to see what happens next.
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