Blue Jays potential offseason catching targets


The Toronto Blue Jays have a history of weak backup catchers, and this past season was, unfortunately, no exception.

It’s no secret that the Jays struggled at catcher this season, with Russell Martin disappointing, and backups not picking up the slack. Because Martin is getting older, and can’t catch as many games, as Brendan Panikkar has pointed out, the backup catcher is an off-season priority. Because Brendan got into the why’s of this situation, I’ll get more into the targets, and what they’d bring to the Jays. Below is a list of three free agents, and three trade targets the Jays should look at for the 2018 season.

Free Agent Targets:

Alex Avila, 2017 Team: Detroit Tigers/Chicago Cubs

Avila is one of the top free agent catching options on the market this year. He had one of the best seasons of any free agent catcher and has loads of experience. He played well with Detroit, amassing 11 home runs, 32 RBIs, and a .274 batting average, in 77 games. But after his trade to the Cubs, he leveled off a bit hitting just .239 with three home runs and 17 RBIs the rest of the way.

While his second-half numbers weren’t great, he still provides veteran leadership, having played 9 seasons in the majors. But despite having played for that long, he’s younger than Martin. Avila will be 31 by the time next season rolls around.

One of the best things about Avila is that his defence this past season was great. He committed just three errors in 569 chances. He was great at getting base stealers out, as he had a 31 percent rate, better than the league average of 27 percent. If he trends closer to his first-half offensive numbers and adds in that defence, he would be a great all-around backup, something you don’t see often.

The problem with Avila is that he may want to turn his strong first half into a starting role. He may not think he’s a backup at this stage in his career and may want to find starting opportunities first.

Rene Rivera, 2017 Team: New York Mets/Chicago Cubs 

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Rivera is the second player on this list who played half the season with the Cubs. He’s not the best player on the market but may be one of the most attainable for the Jays. He batted .252, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs this season, split between the Mets and Cubs.

His defence was good, as he only had one error in 604 chances for a .998 fielding percentage. His caught stealing percentage, however, was amazing, as he threw out 37 percent of base stealers.

Rivera is unlikely to be seeking a starting job, so the Jays should be seriously be considering him for their backup role.

Ryan Hanigan, 2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Hanigan fits the mold of a typical backup catcher. He catches around 30-40 games a season and is adequate offensively and defensively. Last season with Colorado, Hanigan had a .996 fielding percentage, however, the knock on him is that he had a horrible caught stealing percentage, at only 23 percent.

Hanigan isn’t the first guy the Jays should go for, but he can play and would add a veteran presence to the lineup. He shouldn’t be seriously considered, as the Jays already have a ton of backups who only bring defence, and they need one who can contribute offensively.

Trade Targets

Sandy Leon, 2017 Team, Boston

Boston has three catchers who they can use as a starter or backup, which should mean they’d be willing to listen on one of them. Leon seems like the middle of the three. Christian Vazquez is the starter, and Blake Swihart is the young guy they want to develop into a starter. Of the three, Leon probably has the least value to the team, as he probably tops out as a backup.

Last season, Leon had a .225 batting average, seven home runs, and 39 RBIs. This is just about where a backup should be in terms of offensive production. He has some power, not a good batting average, but can get some guys in. The problem with this is that this production was in 85 games, meaning he is only barely doing ok.

His defence is average, as he had a .993 feeling percentage. He also threw out 37 percent of potential base stealers.

Leon is unlikely to be a Jay because of the division they’re in. The Red Sox are fine with having three capable catchers and don’t want to help out a division rival.

Dustin Garneau, 2017 Team, Oakland

Garneau is closer to being a prospect than a starter with an MLB team and has already been traded. But that youth would help the Jays. They need someone to one day take the starting role from Martin, and if they get Garneau, he’d go right into that conversation.Getting him as a backup catcher would help get him used to an MLB team as a solid contributor.

This may be more of a dream, as the Jays are unlikely to give the backup job to someone more suited to be catching in Buffalo than Toronto. Despite this, Garneau has had some bright spots, like throwing out 40 percent of base stealers. This is very unlikely to happen, but if the Jays feel like taking a risk on a young guy with potential, this could be a fit.

Tyler Flowers, 2017 Team, Atlanta

Flowers would be a starter for sure, if not for Kurt Suzuki. They split starting duties for Atlanta, and both did great. Suzuki signed for next season, which is why I put Flowers here. Flowers had 12 home runs, 49 RBIs, and a .281 batting average this season.

He also played in 99 games, which makes him perfect for Toronto. Martin is getting older, at a position that wears you down quicker than any other. If the Jays want Martin to stay fresh throughout the season, they need a catcher who can play in a good amount of games, to help Martin stay healthy and on top of his game.

Next: Blue Jays shake up minor league coaching staffs

So who do you think the Jays should go after for backup catcher? Let us know in the comments.