If Toronto deals again, it could move a catcher
Blue Jays have depth with Arencibia, Buck, Wilson and prospect d'Arnaud
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have suddenly gone from a team desperate for upgrades to one that can afford to sit back and wait for the market to dictate itself.
Toronto entered the offseason with a pair of glaring holes in the rotation, while upgrades were needed in both left field and at second base.
Even though the Winter Meetings still haven't arrived, all of those needs have already been filled following the acquisitions of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and the free-agent signings of Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera.
Along the way, Toronto even managed to upgrade its shortstop position with the acquisition of Jose Reyes, who also was a part of last week's massive 12-player deal with the Marlins. It has been an eventful offseason for general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and now the organization finds itself in a position of strength.
But there is still some work left to be done. Toronto needs more depth in starting pitching and will continue to look for ways to upgrade its Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. After a 2012 campaign that was devastated by injuries, the organization doesn't want to leave anything to chance and will look for ways to better prepare this season in case similar circumstances arise.
One way the Blue Jays could fill some of their remaining needs would be dealing some of their depth behind the plate. Toronto currently has three Major League-caliber catchers -- J.P. Arencibia, John Buck and Bobby Wilson -- on its 40-man roster, with top prospect Travis d'Arnaud waiting in the wings.
There are increasing indications that the Blue Jays would prefer to start d'Arnaud in Triple-A after his 2012 season was cut short because of a knee injury. Ideally, Toronto would force d'Arnaud to prove his worth before providing him with an opportunity at the big league level.
"d'Arnaud, who we think is a wonderful prospect, is coming back off an injury, he's not had a full season at the Triple-A level at this point," Anthopoulos said last week.
"We just want to see him get back, have hopefully a good Spring Training, go down to the Minor Leagues and get his swing back. We'll worry about him hopefully when he's having a great year down there and he can make the decision hard for us."
But that doesn't mean things won't change between now and the start of Spring Training. There are several teams in the market for catching, with some organizations having already reached out to Anthopoulos and Toronto's front office.
The Rangers are one organization that is known to have interest in both Arencibia and Buck. Texas isn't prepared to move left-hander Derek Holland or right-hander Alexi Ogando to get a deal done, but the club does have some depth on the mound it could part with.
A more realistic scenario would see the likes of pitchers Martin Perez and Justin Grimm in play for the Rangers. Position players Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre, along with Minor Leaguers Luis Sardinas and Leury Garcia also could enter the mix if the Blue Jays opt to look for more depth on the field.
The Rangers are currently in need of a catcher with starter Mike Napoli a free agent and backup Geovany Soto a candidate to be non-tendered later this month. Just because the Rangers have interest doesn't mean a deal will get done, but it's just one indication that the Blue Jays are now the ones fielding calls instead of having to force the issue with requests of their own.
Other teams known to be in the market for help behind the plate include the Mets, Pirates and Cubs, with the Yankees in the mix but an unlikely match for Toronto because of their presence in the American League East.
It wasn't immediately clear whether those organizations have already reached out to the Blue Jays, but it's possible that talks will heat up at next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville.
One thing remains clear, though: The Blue Jays aren't going to easily part with Arencibia. The 26-year-old isn't even eligible for arbitration until 2014 and he has proven to be a durable commodity despite missing six weeks in '12 because of a fluke right-hand injury.
During the past two seasons, Arencibia has improved his ability to block balls in the dirt while displaying his typical power at the plate. The native of Miami has hit 41 homers since the start of 2011 while posting 134 RBIs and a .716 OPS.
Toronto's high asking price could instead result in Buck being the catcher that most teams attempt to target. Buck hit a paltry .192 with 12 homers in 106 games last year for the Marlins but could be considered by some clubs as a bounce-back candidate.
The other attractive thing about Buck is that he only has one year left on his current contract. He is set to earn $6 million, but if the Blue Jays were so inclined, they could include cash in any trade to help offset the costs and increase the talent coming in return. Toronto has that financial flexibility after receiving more than $8 million from the Marlins as part of their 12-player trade.
There are many different catching scenarios for Toronto. The club could opt to go with a tandem of Arencibia and Buck while giving d'Arnaud one extra year of seasoning in the Minor Leagues. If Buck gets dealt then Wilson likely secures his spot as a backup to Arencibia.
The final possibility would be dealing Arencibia and temporarily handing the duties over to Buck and Wilson while d'Arnaud spends the first couple of months in Buffalo to prove he is ready for the next step.
"I talked to John Buck; his position on the team would be a backup to J.P. Arencibia," Anthopoulos said. "He understands that. Bobby Wilson is somebody that we claimed, he's an arbitration-eligible player, it will be a non-guaranteed deal, someone that we've liked from a backup standpoint. We claimed him just from a flexibility standpoint, not knowing what the offseason was going to bring.
"When we have depth, we'll certainly, if we can, get better in some areas that we've touched on, some areas that we can improve on, if we have to use the surplus depth."