Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays and the search for a franchise catcher

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 13: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits the ball for a single against the Kansas City Royals during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 13: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits the ball for a single against the Kansas City Royals during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /
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Danny Jansen made his MLB debut on Monday night and immediately impressed in his first game. He could be the franchise catcher the Blue Jays have been waiting for.

When the Blue Jays went out and signed Russell Martin prior to the 2015 season, most of the fan base was understandably excited. Getting an All-Star level catcher, and a Canadian to boot, was a big win for the Blue Jays at a position that had long been surrounded with question marks. Martin solidified the team at backstop and helped carry the Blue Jays to two straight playoff appearances.

However, there was another section of the fan base that looked at his five year, 82 million dollar contract and wondered why that much money had to be spent on a catcher, especially one who was already on the wrong side of 30. The answer is simple: good catchers don’t grow on trees, and the Blue Jays filled a tremendous need on their roster with the signing.

If the Blue Jays had been able to develop their own franchise catcher over the last decade or two, they may not have had to spend that kind of money on Martin as their most recent solution. However, the organization has struggled to bring a catcher through their minor league system and have him stick at the highest level. Their most recent call-up, Danny Jansen, might be their best bet in a very long time.

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I thought the Blue Jays finally had a solution a few years back. They employed three catchers, mostly in their minor league system, that looked like they could be the “catcher of the future”. Of course there was J.P. Arencibia, a personal favourite player of mine during his short career, but an unfortunate disappointment in terms of his development, especially on the defensive side. There were also Travis d’Arnaud and Yan Gomes, but both prospects were traded in separate trades with Cleveland and the Mets.

Had any of those three grabbed the job in Toronto a few years ago, things could be completely different by now. However, with Martin playing out the last of his five year contract in 2019, the Blue Jays will turn to the future soon, if they haven’t already. In fact, we could be seeing Danny Jansen get the majority of the starts behind the dish for the remainder of the season, for a couple of reasons.

Obviously the biggest reason would be Jansen’s development, and also to give the organization an opportunity to see what he can do at the highest level. He starred throughout the minor league system, moving up from High-A at the beginning of the 2017 season, all the way to the big leagues in less than two seasons. He was slashing .275/.390/.473 in Buffalo this year, contributing 12 home runs, 21 doubles, and 58 RBI in 88 games played. His defence has been more than adequate as well, leading to his promotion.

That chance may not have come for him, at least not yet, if not for a smattering of injuries to the Blue Jays infield depth. Brandon Drury discovered that he arrived in Toronto with an injury that would require a DL stint (thanks, Yankees), and now Yangervis Solarte has hit the disabled list as well. Russell Martin has been a bit of a utility player for the Blue Jays this season, for better or for worse, and he’ll see plenty of time at third base in the immediate future, opening the door for Jansen to get regular playing time.

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While it’s not easy for someone like Martin to step aside, both he and the organization know that it represents the best plan for the team moving forward. Martin will likely return in 2019 on the last year of his deal, and I’m sure he’ll see plenty of time behind the plate as well. However, I would expect that we’ll also see a lot of him in the infield, which will allow Jansen to take the reigns and hopefully become the homegrown franchise catcher the Blue Jays and their fans have been waiting for.

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