After starting the season with the Chicago White Sox, Dioner Navarro finished the 2016 back with familiar teammates in Toronto
The Blue Jays signed Dioner Navarro to a two-year deal to be their starting catcher back in 2014, and he delivered with a solid performance in his first year. Unfortunately, his solid work wasn’t rewarded with a starting job in 2015, as he was relegated to the bench in favour of free agent signee Russell Martin. It wasn’t for lack of performance, but then-GM Alex Anthopoulos felt that Martin could be the difference-maker in qualifying for the playoffs, with a young and talented pitching staff.
Navarro played the part of a good teammate in 2015, and then signed with the Chicago White Sox that offseason in hopes of establishing himself as a starting catcher once again. He did end up starting 85 games for the White Sox, but didn’t have the type of season he was hoping for, and was eventually traded back to the Blue Jays.
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The 32-year-old did get more playing time by going to Chicago, playing in 85 games before adding
another 16 with the Blue Jays in the regular season. He nearly doubled his games played and plate appearances from the year prior. He was also welcomed back to Toronto with open arms, as he was a positive clubhouse influence and underrated performer during his time in Toronto.
After joining the Blue Jays in an August trade, the veteran brought a morale boost to the Blue Jays. He also managed to go 2-2 in the playoffs as a pinch hitter, bringing value late in the game.
Navarro failed to run with his starting opportunity, and ended up splitting the catching duties with Alex Avila more than he would have liked. He finished the season with a .207/.265/.322 slash line with six home runs and 35 RBI’s.
The Venezuelan didn’t fare much better after arriving in Toronto, hitting only .182/.250/.182 in just 33 at bats. After the Blue Jays presumably decided R.A. Dickey would not be a part of their playoff rotation, the decision was made to upgrade at back-up catcher, keeping Josh Thole off the playoff roster as well.
Navarro enters free agency again this offseason, joining an underwhelming crop of free agent catchers. That said, outside of the likes of Matt Wieters, and possibly Wilson Ramos (recovering from a knee injury), an argument could be made for Navarro being among the most feasible starting options.
There aren’t a lot of starting catching jobs to be had, but it’s entirely possible that Navarro finds his way into a decent amount of playing time. He’ll only be 33 when the season opens, still provides reasonable production as a switch-hitter, and is a well-liked personality.
It’s possible he could be a fit back with the Blue Jays again next season, as they won’t have Josh Thole returning in 2017. The Jays could look to bring in a capable veteran in order to keep Russell Martin fresh, especially now that he enters the pricy portion of his contract, and will be 34 at the beginning of the season.