The Toronto Blue Jays acquired catcher Reese McGuire from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Francisco Liriano deal
Former Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro has lived with a batting average just over .200 and an on-base percentage grasping for .300 the last three years. This week, the 29-year-old signed a three-year contract worth $24.5 million with the Minnesota Twins, and that’s good news for Blue Jays’ prospect Reese McGuire.
McGuire, the 14th overall pick in 2013, came to Toronto with Francisco Liriano and outfield prospect Harold Ramirez in exchange for Drew Hutchison at the deadline. Despite his light hitting tool, the 21-year-old has ranked just inside of the MLB’s top-100 prospects since being drafted due to the immense value of his defence.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
In 92 games between double-A Altoona and New Hampshire last season, McGuire hit .254 with a .335 on-base percentage. Fine numbers themselves, but with just one home run in the past two seasons and and a weakness against left-handed pitching (McGuire is a lefty bat), his offensive value remains fairly flat.
McGuire’s glove was MLB-ready yesterday, however, and like Castro, it’s entirely conceivable that he carves out a long career based on that one tool alone. If his bat makes strides through his mid-20s, all the better, but chances are he won’t sink without it.
As Castro’s deal shows, the ability to call games, manage a staff, snuff out the running game, and frame pitches can give catchers a healthy paycheque in the modern, analytics-driven game.
Given the three years remaining on Russell Martin’s deal and McGuire’s youth, there is no need to push the issue. Plenty of time remains to start McGuire at double-A or triple-A and season him properly, but as early as 2018, he could emerge as a solid backup option.
As a backup, anything McGuire produces with the bat would be a bonus. Very few teams are fortunate enough to get offensive value from their second catcher. Frankly, Josh Thole’s batting line in his time with Toronto was not abnormal for a backup.
One scout I spoke with during the 2016 season believed that McGuire still has some modest power hidden in his swing. Even if McGuire is able to find four or five home runs per season — enough to change a game or two — that’s more than enough.
In rising to the MLB level as a reserve, McGuire would give the Blue Jays’ a bit of a safety net behind Martin for the final year or two of his deal. Perhaps it’s not the homer-hitting, awe-inspiring safety net that fans are dying to see, but it’s the right kind of safety net.
If Martin were to go down and the Blue Jays turned to a bat-first backup, the impact of their entire pitching staff can take a hit. With McGuire’s defensive game, that stays afloat.
McGuire is a classic example of a catcher who’s roster value may not be properly measured by his stat line alone. The same goes for Castro… At least the Twins think so.