On Friday, the Blue Jays announced that they had re-acquired a familiar face from the Chicago White Sox in Dioner Navarro
The Blue Jays front office continues to impress in their first season in Toronto, adding another piece to the roster as the team enters the season’s final month. Ross Atkins and Mark Shaprio said they would continue to try and improve the club in August after the non-waiver deadline, and they were able to do that in the form of a familiar face.
Navarro returns to the club after spending the 2014-15 seasons in Toronto, and then leaving last offseason by signing a 1 year, 4 million dollar free agent contract with the White Sox. Navarro performed above expectations as the starter in 2014, but was relegated to part-time duty after the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin, prior to the 2015 season.
So far in 2016, the 32 year old has a .210/.267/.339 slash line with 6 home runs and 32 RBI in 271 at bats. Navarro started the season sharing time with Tyler Flowers in Chicago, but has been the primary starter in recents months.
Immediately after the trade chatter began on social media, it was apparent that all parties involved were pleased with the deal.
And it sounds like Navarro was pleased to be joining some old buddies in first place, just in time for another playoff run.
The acquisition of a back-up catcher is not normally a big deal, but in the case of Navarro’s reunion with the Blue Jays, there is plenty to like. The switch-hitting catcher is joining a team he is familiar with, a clubhouse he’s liked in, and a club that is currently in first place.
He adds to a positive clubhouse vibe
Momentum and team continuity are extremely important at this point in the MLB season, and it’s a heavily weighed factor before teams add players. Navarro didn’t leave the Blue Jays on bad terms after the 2015, but simply chose to look for an opportunity where he could start more frequently, and the White Sox gave him that.
The majority of the team has played with Navarro before as well, so they know exactly what they’re adding to the clubhouse culture. It’s also possible, if not likely, that the team will reunite Navarro with Marco Estrada as well when spelling Martin. The Estrada/Navarro combination proved to be one of the best batteries in baseball in 2015.
He provides needed catching insurance, and depth
Russell Martin is playing some of the best baseball of his career right now, but he can’t do that 7 days a week, nor do the Blue Jays want him to prior to another playoff run. Adding Navarro will give Martin the chance to get more rest during the stretch run, keeping him a little more fresh for the playoffs, assuming the Blue Jays get there.
The two backstops are familiar with each other, having worked with the pitching staff together in 2015, and Navarro is reportedly an asset in the scouting department.
Also, it’s been something we’ve all tried not to think about, but if Martin were to suffer any kind of significant injury, the Blue Jays are far better off with Navarro taking over starting duties than with anyone else they’ve got. Josh Thole doesn’t deserve the criticism he gets, but he’s far from an ideal starting catcher candidate.
The acquisition cost wasn’t significant
The Blue Jays had to send over minor league LHP Colton Turner. Turner was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 21st round of the 2012 amateur draft, and was pitching between single A and double A this season.
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He reached double A for the first time as a 25 year old this year, and has been touched up a bit with a 5.23 ERA through his first nine appearances, but had performed well prior to his promotion. He may eventually get a look in a major league bullpen, but losing him in favour of adding Navarro is a very worthwhile move for the Blue Jays.
Upgrade for the playoffs
The Jays will have to get creative with the roster to add Navarro, at least until the rosters expand on September 1st. Navarro is reportedly set to join the Blue Jays on Monday, so the club has a few days to decide how to shuffle the deck to bring him aboard.
It could come at the expense of Josh Thole being sent to Triple A for a few days, although he is out of options and could potentially be claimed, even if it’s unlikely. He also has the right to refuse a minor league assignment if he chooses.
The interesting piece to the equation is how/if it affects R.A. Dickey‘s potential role with the club come playoff time. Dickey may or may not be included in the playoff rotation anyway, and the addition of Navarro gives the Jays an upgrade over Thole at backup catcher. If Dickey isn’t included in the playoff rotation, the Jays won’t be adding Thole to the playoff roster either. Adding Navarro gives the team an upgrade at backup, and also adds a plus, switch-hitting bat for the bench, something the club could use.
The trade may not be bringing an everyday player to the Blue Jays, but the re-acquisiton of Navarro brings a lot of positives with it. Even if all he brings is a couple days off for Martin in September and a few smiles in the clubhouse, it’s a trade well worth making, and another smart move by the new front office.