Hot Stove 2014: Blue Jays Looking At Angels Catchers

September 18, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels catcher Hank Conger (16) flies out against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning at Coliseum. The Angels defeated the Athletics 5-4 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With the World Series just two days away from beginning, the league’s self-imposed radio silence will begin as well, preventing teams from announcing any deals until the completion of the series. However, that won’t stop the pundits and fans alike from speculating.

The latest tidbit of speculation about the Toronto Blue Jays comes courtesy of Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliot, who noted that the Blue Jays may be planting some seeds in the catching market. In particular, Elliot notes that the Blue Jays are setting their sites on a pair of Angels catchers; Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger.

The 30-year-old Iannetta is in the second year of a 3-year, $15.55 million contract with the Angels, meaning that he would represent a more expensive option that Toronto’s current catcher, J.P. Arencibia. While Iannetta would represent an offensive upgrade at the position, coming off of a season where he hit .225 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI, and a .731 OPS, his receiving skills are not so well regarded. While he grades out slightly above average according to dWAR (0.1), he threw out just 19% of would-be base-stealers in 2013 and ranked 15th among qualifying catchers with a -7 DRS according to FanGraphs.

The 25-year-old Conger is five years younger and is not eligible for arbitration for the first time until after the 2015 season, making him a more affordable option. That said, he has struggled in limited action in the Major Leagues, hitting just .225 with a .663 OPS over 508 career plate appearances over parts of 4 seasons. Like Iannetta, he also grades out slightly above average in dWAR (0.6), but also struggles with throwing out baserunners, nabbing just 24%. He also rated at -0.7 in RPP (catcher blocked pitched in runs above average).

However, Conger does have a solid track record in the minor leagues, having posted a career .297 average and a .826 OPS in 2108 career minor league plate appearances. That said, a lot of those numbers were generated in the Texas League and the Pacific Coast League, so take them as you will.

Of course, Toronto’s need for a catcher may have them swing a chance on a untapped player with potential like Conger. J.P. Arencibia’s continued slide, capped by a inhumanly ugly .194 average, .227 OBP, and 18/148 BB/K ratio has left the team in a position where they no longer have faith in their three-year backstop.

So Blue Jays fans, do either of these catchers get it done for you or do you want the Blue Jays to keep looking?

Topics: Toronto Blue Jays

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  • Andrew van Laar

    I’m not feeling it for either guy. We already have a young guy who can’t hit and a guy who can’t play a half decent defensive game. I don’t want a Yadier Molina (well I do but I don’t think that is realistic) but I would settle for a catcher who you can expect to hit .240 with an OBP of .310 – .320 and 8-10HR and play a defensive game that would put him at least above leauge average in most defensive categories. Does this man exist? I am sure. I don’t have time to have look but that is ideally what I would be looking at.

  • RyanMueller

    I know that JPA had a season for the record books, but the way I see it is that 2013 might be the worse it gets. If he walked twice as much, K’ed less, and a few extra hits here and there then JPA would be alright. I think making a trade for a catcher would be a misuse of assets and GM attention.

    • Michael Wray

      I have to agree with you Ryan. Whether he can better is a tough argument to back up but it would be nearly impossible for him to be worse. I am disheartened by the fact his plate discipline continues to get worse year after year but he must be close to bottoming out. He might not be much better than .230/.270/.430 but for a catcher under 30 I would take that.

    • pete

      lets not forget that JP is a terrible defensive catcher. Jays need a change at this position if for no other reason than the defensive liability JP is.

      • Justin Jay

        Pete, JPA is bad, but the 2 guys mentioned in this article aren’t exactly better. JPA actually threw out a higher percentage of baserunners.

      • RyanMueller

        JPA is never going to win a gold glove I would admit. I still think that JPA just had a very bad year and will rebound from it. To trade assets away for a guy that may hit 230 with 10 HRS and maybe half the passes balls might be a mismanagement of assets at this time.

        • pete

          im not crazy about either of these guys myself. But, if some kind of deal could be worked out which included Kendrick then it would be something I would pursue.

  • thestever

    is aj jiminez an option this season???

    • Michael Wray

      It’s unclear. He had a setback at the end of 2013 to the same elbow that he had Tommy John surgery on in 2012. He would most likely be an upgrade defensively and has a very strong, accurate arm (or at least did…) but won’t bring much production to the plate. Josh Thole was a similar hitter numbers-wise to Jimenez at about the same age.

      • Andrew van Laar

        I really wish Thloe never got concussed… he could have been a really integral piece to the Dickey trade. If he could be back to pre-2012 form, how fantastic would that be?

        • RyanMueller

          Andrew, Thole was once a highly regarded catching prospect with the Mets organization. I really think that if the Jays management has decided to part ways with JPA then I am sure that there are many other catchers that could be had without giving up prospects. I think Thole is one of those catchers and we wouldn’t have to give anything up.

          • Andrew van Laar

            Agreed Ryan. I would be fine with the Jays if they cannot land a catcher via free agency for a good price, to go with Thloe and JP. I honestly think JP thinks he is entitled. I am wondering if Gibbons gives the nod to Thloe as starter and JP as backup, it will light a fire in JP’s pants and smarten him up. Its not like the guy can’t hit. He was an absolute stud in the minors!

        • Michael Wray

          I see a few promising trends when it comes to Thole. Despite severely regressing the past two years I like some of his peripherals. It was disappointing to see the increased strikeout rate but you can attribute some of that to playing so infrequently. However he hit far fewer balls on the ground this year (43.6%) compared to last year (57.7%) so maybe his bat speed is coming around. It’s tough to judge a player when he only gets 120 PAs in 4 months and some have tried to tell me differently but I’m holding on to hope that Thole might at least challenge for a starting catching position. He’s had a rocky couple of seasons since the concussion though… sad.

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  • Justin Jay

    The Toronto Blue Jays are paging Dioneer Navarro. Could Dioneer Navarro and his .300 BA .365 OBP 13 HRs 36 K in 240 ABs, .989 FD% and 26% CS please contact the Toronto Blue Jays as soon as possible. Thank you

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