Toronto in a Position of Power With d’Arnaud

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The Toronto Blue Jays are in an interesting, yet equitable position holding two of the better young catchers in baseball. We saw the emergence of J.P. Arencibia last season who, while playing slightly below average defense, provided some pop and drove in some much needed runs for the Jays. Arencibia on his own would be a great commodity for any GM to have, let alone having another talented player at the catcher position eagerly awaiting his turn to show what he can do at the big league level.

Meet Travis d’Arnaud, the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect. D’Arnaud had a fantastic 2011 that boosted his profile quite a bit. Along with this increase in stock we saw initial discussions of what exactly Alex Anthopoulos plans to do with both Arencibia and d’Arnaud, who are ages 25 and 23. After some reflection about the moves Anthopoulos has made since he took over the reigns inToronto, I would be pretty certain that it’s a matter of time before Arencibia is moved in favor of d’Arnaud and here’s why:

When I first began writing this column, the Jays announced the signing of Francisco Corderoto a 1-year $4.5MM deal. Although they’re not immediately in contention in 2012, and it’s pretty likely that Alex A. is already licking his chops at what poor GM will send over some prospects at the deadline for Cordero to “put them over the top”, but this move shows the Jays are willing to spend money and keep their chances of a shocking playoff spot alive. It keeps the Toronto fan base interested and puts butts in the seats for a team that may need this revenue to gear up for what I think is the beginning of their culmination. The final push to top either the Red Sox or Yankees may lie in their surplus at catcher.

The Jays have a catcher in the minors named Travis d’Arnaud that is the dream prospect to have if you’re a team who can’t spend $100MM on a guy like Brian McCann. He can hit, he shows patience at the plate, he’s a good athlete and he’s under control for years at low salary. The only issue is the guy has had an issue staying on the field, which leaves some talent evaluators concerned about his longevity at the position. If he can shake this problem moving forward, it’s almost a certainty that Arencibia will be moved. I’ve read a lot about the notion that Toronto will keep both players and switch them in and out between DH and behind the plate. In my opinion that is non-sense and a waste of a valuable commodity that another team would pay dearly for.

Just how good is d’Arnaud? Well.. really good. He gets on base, hits for average and power and although he saw his K-rate jump a bit in 2011 there’s not much alarming about that due to his change in approach and advancement in levels. Arencibia however is essentially the catching equivalent to Mark Trumbo. A lot was made about Arencibia’s power, which is totally legit and well above average for the position. But is he worth THAT much that you want to keep him and let his potential value slip away as the years progress and his body takes more of a beating behind the plate? Not if I were in the GM seat, especially when you have a guy in d’Arnaud who posted a .914 OPS over 466 AB’s in AA.

The free agent class of 2012/’13 looks pretty darn good and very deep in pitching. It’s pretty likely that several of those names will drop off the list before we get to that point next year, but the Jays are in a position to field a very competitive team in 2013 if they move Arencibia for a left fielder and nab a starter or two. I can’t help but think how good Zack Greinke would look at the top of that Jays rotation with one of the best offenses in the game scoring runs for him. But that’s too simple of an answer, and you can bet Anthopoulos is looking at all options as the Jays move closer and closer to being the new beast of the east.

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