At this point in the season, general managers often field questions about the future of their rosters and their management situation. For teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, i.e. eliminated from the postseason, those questions often come hard and heavy from the local media as they try to find answers to the failures of the present.
Well, in terms of the Blue Jays, the managerial questions have already been answers, and the coaching staff will be addressed in the offseason without much fanfare. That leaves the roster, and its many holes, that have fans and the media alike looking for answers.
One of those holes, a big one at that, is the catching situation and the future of J.P. Arencibia on the roster.
When asked about about the upcoming changes for the roster in 2014, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Toronto media Wednesday that there were many holes to be filled and that the entire roster would be evaluated accordingly. When pressed further about Arencibia in particular, A.A. had this to add.
“Offensively has probably been the one area that I’m surprised by. One thing you felt confident was J.P. would be a .700 to .720 OPS guy with some upside to do better than that. He’s always had the ability, he’s got power to the opposite field. He’s shown the ability to use all fields and you felt that was probably going to be what the floor was for him. Didn’t expect it to go the other way.” (h/t Bruce MacArthur, TSN.ca)
Going the other way, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment, albeit a bit of an understatement. In fact, Arencibia is on pace for a season that is horrible to historic proportions. How bad? Well according to Baseball-Reference, Arencibia is on pace to have the 17th lowest Batting Average (.194) of any player in the history of the game with 450 or more plate appearances. His .229 On-Base Percentage? Well that would rank in at the 3rd lowest in the AL Era.
Those are some difficult numbers to achieve, and they were indicative of the production that the Blue Jays received in general from the catching position. The team ranks dead last in Batting Average (.195) and On-Base Percentage (.237), 29th in fWAR (-1.1), 28th in wRC+, 27th in K% from the catching position. Granted, that group includes Josh Thole and Henry Blanco, two men that will never be accused of being magicians with a baseball bat, but Arencibia received the bulk of the duties and hence, the bulk of the weight on those numbers.
“I would say this: one thing you’ll never see me do is criticize players openly other than stating the obvious when they’re on the roster. I think I can say this for the entire team, we’re going to look to improve anywhere we can.” (h/t Mike Rutsey, Toronto Sun)
Now, I can applaud Anthopoulos for not calling out players publicly and labeling anyone in any capacity, but in reality the cat has to be out of the bag here. Yes, the Blue Jays have more pressing needs in their rotation and that is where the team’s focus will be, but catching needs to place a cool second on the pecking order. To think that replacing Arencibia is not an option on the plate would be shortsighted on anyone’s part. So short of giving in to the media and admitting that the team will make a change, Anthopoulos said what he could say in respect for the player in question.
He doesn’t want to be having this conversation next season, and neither do we.