Last November, it seemed like a fairly innocuous trade that sent catcher infielder Mike Aviles to the Cleveland Indians for reliever Esmil Rogers. At the time, many fans were stumped as to why we would move infield depth like Aviles, who himself was just acquired days earlier in exchange for manager John Farrell, for yet another bullpen piece, but it fit into Anthopoulos’ model. A few weeks later, when the mega-deal with the Marlins netted Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, the loss of Aviles stung a little less.
Rogers would go on to play a pretty important part in the Blue Jays season, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, and doing a, well, serviceable job of filling in while injuries mounted. However, it was a throw-in on that deal that would later come back to haunt the Blue Jays.
Included in the deal, was Yan Gomes a 25-year-old backstop that was seemingly stuck behind both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud on the depth charts, and without a natural secondary position to fall back on. Sending him to Cleveland made sense at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20.
The rest is history. d’Arnaud would be included in the second large deal of the winter, the one that brought ace R.A. Dickey to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s stud catching prospect and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. Arencibia would “enjoy” a historically awful season as the Jays’ starting catcher and would later be non-tendered so that the Blue Jays could pursue other options this winter. That option would turn into Dioner Navarro, a 29-year-old journey-man that had turned a career season (as a back-up) into a 2-year, $8 million deal to become Toronto’s new starter behind the dish.
Meanwhile, Gomes was rewarded. Splitting time behind the plate with Carlos Santana, his first decent exposure to the majors, Gomes thrived. He appeared in 88 games and received 322 plate appearances, hitting a solid .294 with 11 home runs, an .846 OPS, and a wRC+ of 131. Additionally, he was worth 3.7 wins above replacement (FanGraphs) and the fielding bible scored Gomes with an 11 Defensive Runs Saved.
Needless to say, the Blue Jays would love to have that one back. Having received that production last season, even in back-up of Arencibia, would have been tremendous. Instead, they sent it to Cleveland, and now Gomes looks to be the Indians starting catcher in 2014, with Carlos Santana likely moving to third base, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Of course, Gomes’ success is still a small sample size. Given the burden of carrying the load over an entire season may change his production, as could a year of scouts getting the book on him as well. However, Cleveland feel confident enough to hand him the reins and let him run with them.
Now, for the Blue Jays, in a winter filled with talk about budgets and constraints, the deal with Navarro wasn’t a bank breaker. However, having two more seasons of pre-arbitration with a younger catcher with upside rather than $4 million a year on a journey-man with question marks, would have panned out a bit nicer.
But again, as we said above, hindsight is 20/20, and you can’t ever get back a trade you regret. You can just hope to learn from it and pray that history doesn’t repeat itself.