With the acquisition of Russell Martin this past off-season, The Toronto Blue Jays have stated publicly that they intend to trade now backup catcher Dioner Navarro. While many assume this will happen sooner than later, don’t be so sure.
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, has gained a reputation for never being shy to pull the trigger on a trade, if he feels the move will improve his ball club. However, it has also become well known how extensively Anthopoulus works, to ensure he always gets what he feels is full value, for any asset. This means that even though Dioner Navarro is no longer a starter in Toronto, Anthopoulos will expect compensation that is equal to that of a starting catcher. Bottom line is that Dinoner Navarro could still very well be with the team on opening day, if Toronto’s GM feels that waiting could bring a better return later into the season.
The Dioner Navarro Trickle-Down Effect
How then do you rate Navarro’s value? Better yet, how do you rank the Fantasy value of his teammates as a result of him remaining a Blue Jay? This is where the trickle-down effect begins.
1. Josh Thole has Been R.A. Dickey’s Personal Catcher for the Past Four Seasons
This includes his time with both the Jays and the New York Mets. And while John Thole’s OBP (On Base Percentage) last year was a respectable .320 as the backup, the Blue Jays didn’t sign Russell Martin to a 5 year, $80M contract, to have Thole remain as Dickey’s exclusive catcher in 2015. However, if Martin does not demonstrate that he is capable of catching Dickey’s knuckleball with any consistency in Spring Training, the Jays will be forced to keep three catchers on their active roster, until they are able to trade Navarro.
2. Martin’s Value as a Top-End Fantasy Catcher Could Suffer
If Dioner Navarro stays, he will need to have games behind the plate to retain his trade value. Martin may go from playing 120-130 games down to 110 games, if Thole is also eating up starts when Dickey pitches.
3. Justin’s Value Could Also Go Up in … Smoak
This trickle-down theory however, extends beyond the catcher position. One of Toronto’s other off-season acquisitions was Justin Smoak from Seattle, to help fill the need at DH with the departure of Adam Lind to Milwaukee. The Jays hope that with Justin Smoak now hitting in the more hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, that he is capable of putting up 25+ home runs, if he can get 500+ at-bats. He had 19 and 20 home runs in 2012 and 2013 respectively, in Seattle. But once again, if the Jays are still trying to showcase Navarro in April, and perhaps even May, Navarro will also gobble up at-bats at the DH position, to ensure he gets sufficient playing time.
Who Else In Toronto is at Risk of Reduced Playing If Navarro Sticks Around?
Now this may be more of a stretch, but what happens if Smoak excels in April? It is not inconceivable that he hits 5-7 home runs in April. Does Blue Jays manager John Gibbons give Edwin Encarnacion a few extra days off at 1st base in favor of Smoak, to keep his new hot bat in the line-up? The Jays often give everyday position players like Jose Reyes the chance to DH, to give their body a rest from the turf at the Rogers Centre. Could regulars like Jose Reyes be kept out of the lineup entirely on occasion in favor of Dioner Navarro, to allow him to be showcased? Perhaps.
So while you may have little interest in drafting Navarro, make sure you are aware of his status come draft time. It could help guide your selection when looking at other Toronto players.
Other Blue Jays Spring Training News & Notes
Competition in the Outfield
With the announcement this week that Michael Saunders will miss time with an MCL tear, it may take a few weeks to determine who will break camp as the Jays other two starting outfielders. (Jose Bautista obviously being a lock).
While Dalton Pompey has been the sexy choice coming into camp to grab a starting role, Kevin Pillar now looks to have a much better opportunity to grab the third and final outfield position. He has over-achieved throughout his entire minor league career and could be a solid late round fantasy pick. Especially in AL only leagues. He has deceiving speed and double digit steal potential with any kind of regular playing time.
The Blue Jays also announced the signing of former Chicago White Sox outfielder, Dayan Viciedo to a minor league contract. Ironically, the 25 year old Cuban was cut lose by the White Sox after they inked former Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera. Dayan Viciedo has always had great numbers at the Rogers Centre, so if Kevin Pillar fails to impress at camp, Viciedo could be worth a gamble with his home run power.
Steve Delabar Candidate to be the Blue Jays’ Closer
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Since the end of 2014, a lot has been made about if Aaron Sanchez will close for the Blue Jays in 2015, with the departure of Casey Jansen. What I believe a lot of people are forgetting is that in 2013, Steve Delabar was an All-Star for the Blue Jays as their 8th-inning setup man. At the trade deadline, he was rumored to be sought after by a number of teams looking for late inning help.
After losing his way in the 2nd half of last year, and spending the final few months with Toronto’s AAA affiliate in Buffalo, Delabar comes to camp with the opportunity to compete for the closer role. While everyone knows Sanchez has the stuff to be a closer, the Jays would prefer to harness his 98 MPH fastball in their rotation and leave Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil as lefty specialists. Like Kevin Pillar and Dayan Viciedo, keep Delabar on your radar as roles become more defined in the coming weeks.
Dioner Navarro Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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