Grading Blue Jays' Moves so Far This Offseason
It has been a quiet offseason for the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2013 season finished well short of expectations, but highlighted a number of needed upgrades in order to compete in the AL East. An everyday second baseman and one or two consistent starters would go a long way in changing a decent lineup into a great one.
The Blue Jays have seen a few players leave via free agency, including starting pitcher Josh Johnson, catcher J.P. Arencibia and outfielder Rajai Davis. Meanwhile, the team has signed Arencibia’s successor, Dioner Navarro, and two players to minor league contracts: Tomo Ohka and Jared Goedert.
The moves have been minor and, except for Navarro, will likely have very little impact on the Major League team this season. Here, I have graded each of the Blue Jays’ moves. Each move has been awarded a letter grade based on the impact the move may have on the team and the cost at which it was completed.
The grades that are awarded are irrespective of whether or not the team should have done more or less to sign a different player. For example, the grade awarded to the Navarro signing is not impacted by my opinion on whether or not I believe the team should have done more to sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but rather how the move impacts the organization.
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Dioner Navarro and J.P. Arencibia
The Blue Jays signed Dioner Navarro on December 2, while J.P. Arencibia was still under contract. Arencibia had fallen out of favour with many fans and the Blue Jays management after a disappointing season.
Navarro presents a modest upgrade at the position and also brings a veteran presence to the position, where A.J. Jimenez will likely be the team’s catcher starting in 2015. Navarro hit .300/.365/.492 last season, and after a few tumultuous seasons, he was able to put some good numbers last season.
Navarro’s two-year contract is the perfect length to fill the gap between now and Jimenez’s arrival. At a reasonable $8 million over two years, the price was right for the Blue Jays to upgrade at catcher and pave the way for their catcher of the future.
After the team signed Navarro, a secondary move was the decision to non-tender J.P. Arencibia, which allowed him to become a free agent. He quickly agreed to a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers for $1.8 million.
After hitting .194/.227/.365 last season, Arencibia was a prime candidate to either be traded or leave via free agency. Once Navarro was signed, there was little reason to spend money re-signing Arencibia. Thus, it was a good decision to let him leave.
The Blue Jays have made two minor league signings, and the acquisition of Tomo Ohka is one of them. The 37-year-old last played in the major leagues in 2009 and has resurrected his career in Japan as a knuckleball pitcher.
The reasoning behind the signing was likely twofold. On the off chance that Ohka has truly recreated himself as a knuckleball pitcher and is good enough to pitch in the MLB, then the team may have hit gold. The knuckleball has a reputation of being an easy pitch on the elbow, which allows pitchers to learn and master it late in their career with relatively little wear and tear on their arm. The Blue Jays can look no further than R.A. Dickey for a prime example.
Dickey himself may inspire the second reason. By adding another knuckleball pitcher to the organization, the Blue Jays can expose their catchers at both the major and minor league levels to the knuckleball to prepare them for the challenges of catching R.A. Dickey.
It is unlikely Ohka will make an impact in the MLB again, but at the very least, his presence will prepare young catchers like A.J. Jimenez to handle the knuckleball.
The Blue Jays' most recent signing was 28-year-old infielder Jared Goedert. He last played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in AAA, where he hit .241/.316/.390.
The move adds some organizational depth, and the team will likely give Goedert some playing time at second base during spring training. Whether or not Goedert will make the team remains to be seen, but the signing puts pressure on Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins and will create a battle for the starter’s job.
When comparing Goins’ AAA statistics to Goedert’s, it is easy to think the Blue Jays would be better off with Goedert in the lineup. Goins had an average .016 points higher than Goedert but hit 16 fewer extra-base hits, five less home runs, and 16 fewer RBI. At the very least, Goedert will make a push for some MLB playing time this season if the Blue Jays do not make any other changes at the position.