Dioner Navarro: Toronto Blue Jays 2014 Year in Review

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The Toronto Blue Jays entered the 2014 MLB offseason with several question marks on their roster, the least of which was the Catcher’s position.  With Dioner Navarro coming off a strong season and signed through 2015 for $5M, few predicted that such a drastic change would take place.

With the signing of Russell Martin to a 5-year, $82M contract, Dioner Navarro has clearly lost his role as the starting Catcher of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Now, Alex Anthopoulos faces a tough decision with on what he will do next with the veteran backstop.

Trading Dioner Navaro has become the most discussed scenario for the Blue Jays, and rightfully so.  Navarro is a bargain at $5M for one season, and could provide Toronto with a greater value through his return in a trade than he could in limited playing time.  With several teams still searching for a Catcher, the Toronto Blue Jays could look to package Navarro with someone like J.A. Happ to plug a hole at 2B, LF or the bullpen. 

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Having Navarro on the roster through 2015 is far from detrimental, however.  He could offer DH at-bats, preferably against left-handed pitching, and be one of the top backup Catchers in all of baseball.  To help make sense of what 2015 could hold for Navarro and the Blue Jays, let’s first take a look back at the 2014 season that brought them to this point.

The Good

Navarro put together a strong offensive season, with a slash line of .274 / .317 / .395 over 520 plate appearances.  Often hitting in the five or six spot in the order, he also provided a valuable secondary source of run production, with 12 home runs and 69 RBI.

As a switch hitter, Dioner Navarro helped keep the Blue Jays afloat in the absence of Edwin Encarnacion, and did put forth a strong effort in hit DH at-bats.  As the Designated Hitter, Navarro hit .301 / .354 / .387.

What impressed me most of all about Navarro’s season as a whole was his ability to successfully manage such a diverse pitching staff.  From the steady-as-she-goes Mark Buehrle to the fiery Marcus Stroman, Navarro was great in handling each individual style and personality on the Toronto Blue Jays staff.

The Bad

I feel it is only fair to discuss the negatives of Navarro’s season in comparison with Russell Martin, as that is at the heart of this conversation.  Martin will bring a much stronger defensive game to the Toronto Blue Jays, highlighted by his all-world ability to frame pitches and steal strikes.

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Where he now sits on the Blue Jays roster, Navarro would be the default leader for the DH role, but surely Toronto would like to add a more impacting bat to that position.  Assuming that Dioner Navarro does not take a drastic step forwards from his career production, another season of 10-15 home runs with 45-65 RBI is not enough for a DH in a lineup with such potential.

Navarro seems to be a 20-dollar bill who is now worth $10.00 to the Toronto Blue Jays.  I would have had little issue with Navarro entering 2015 as the starter once again, but the Toronto Blue Jays have made an upgrade.  A big one.

The Future

If a deal presents itself, Navarro is very likely to be dealt.  This could take longer than some expect, however, as several teams will be patient with the Free Agent and trade markets developing.

Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly told Navarro that he will try to accommodate him with a move to a team that can offer him a starting role.  Dioner Navarro fully deserves this, but given his professional nature, he would not be a distraction in a limited role if the Blue Jays are unable to move him.

What makes the Navarro situation exciting is the possibility of him being part of a larger package, especially as Alex Anthopoulos tries to put an increased payroll to work.  As the Hot Stove season unfolds, this is one of the most fluid situations for Blue Jays’s fans to track.