Blue Jays Roster Questions: Catcher


The Blue Jays roster is entering the 2015 season with some questions that have not been answered despite being issues all winter. The bullpen is just as unclear as it was back at the beginning of November. The second base scenarios still very well could go in several directions. But, one position that didn’t seem like an area of concern has now become one of several questions. What are the Blue Jays going to do with their catchers?

With Pitchers and catchers due to report in 2 days, there will be at least 3 guys vying for a spot on the big league roster. And, as Ken Fidlin at the Toronto Sun points out, this could have trickle down effects on the rest of the roster.

Russell Martin has signed a 5yr/$82M guarantee that he’ll have one of those spots come opening day. And, after being tabbed the 5th best catcher in MLB, there really isn’t much doubt about the security of his job. And, yet the certainty for the other candidates hinges on Martin’s ability to catch the knuckleball from R.A. Dickey. Martin is going to get every opportunity this spring to learn and work with the “capricious animal” in order to show that he can handle it.

Martin, known for his ability to receive pitches may just be in a better position than the failed J.P. Arencibia project of a couple years ago. Martin has an approach to catching that could serve him well. I’ve said this before, but he waits on the ball and lets the pitch work its magic and then snatches it at the last minute. That is exactly the approach needed when attempting to wrangle the knuckler. That, and a bigger glove. The video below shows what I’m talking about.

Yes, I’ve shown this before. It is important to remember that this shows Martin’s ability to receive the pitch, which is relevant to this discussion. It wasn’t a knuckleball from Volquez that Martin was catching, but it shows the approach of going with the pitch that could serve Martin well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

And, what if it does serve him well? What does that mean for the remaining catchers? Well, given that Josh Thole seems to only have one purpose (to catch the knuckleball) his future would be in AAA. And, many Blue Jays fans would be OK with that. Carrying a catcher who put up a line of .248/.320/.278 is enough to make fans cringe. And, the argument that Dickey commands that Thole be his catcher seems to make matters worse. Yet, Dickey has refuted this idea:

"“I don’t mind going on the record with this,” Dickey said. “I, in no way, have any impact or influence who gets chosen or who doesn’t get chosen. I don’t want it and I’ve never had it. I think the misconception is that I have chosen to have my guy — and I love Josh — but I don’t want that responsibility. He knows that. I will always tell the truth to people who ask me about it. But I don’t say: ‘I want to break camp with this guy, no matter what.’ People assume that’s the way it is and it’s not the way it is.”"

So, if we take that at face value, Thole’s future seems even more in question.

That is of course, depending on what happens to Dioner Navarro. Ever since the Blue Jays brought in Martin, they’ve been trying to look for a trade partner that could use a full time catcher. Those likely suitors have dwindled now. Whether it is because the Blue Jays were asking too much in return, or they found other solutions is unclear. Regardless, Navarro seems destined to be the #2 catcher/ DH for the 2015 Blue Jays. Trade talks are “dormant” according to GM, Alex Anthopoulos.

Well, then. That means that Navarro will see most of his time at DH. His bat was a pleasant surprise for  the Blue Jays last season. And, before we start suggesting that Navarro is not a prototypical DH who will mash 30 HR, etc, etc. we have to remember that he doesn’t need to. He’s a switch hitter who produced last season. He hit lefties (.280) and righties (.272) nearly equally, he had a strong second half of 2014 AND was a beast in “high leverage” situations, hitting .426!*

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

As well, it is important to note that Martin’s workload may dictate that Navarro pick up 30+ games as the backstop. Martin caught just 111 games last season. If the Blue Jays are going to maximize his impact, they may very well look to provide him with more rest, which means more time for Navarro.

So, while there seem to be other, more concerning questions to be answered, the back stop may fall into the “good problem to have” category. And, while it may not be a traditional “battle” situation, it is certainly one where a lot hinges on how it plays out.

Can Russell Martin handle the knuckleball? Will the Blue Jays accept a certain level of failure on his part with that pitch to keep a better offense on the field? Will they find a trade partner for Dioner Navarro? What happens to the 1B/DH situation with all of this? Will Navarro catch more or less? If he catches, will Edwin Encarnacion DH or play 1B. If he DH’s, who gets the reps at 1B? Will Danny Valencia be enough to fill those games? Or, will Justin Smoak be called upon as a more full time option.

So, while the catching position appeared to be settled, we may actually see that it is far from a sure bet and may actually have bigger implications for the upcoming season.

*stats from

Next: Did the Blue Jays Already Have a Michael Saunders?