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 O.co 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?