Blue Jays: What to do with the talented catching crop in Toronto

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 27: Ken Giles #51 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates the win with Reese McGuire #10 at the end of the ninth inning during a MLB game against the Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre on August 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 27: Ken Giles #51 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates the win with Reese McGuire #10 at the end of the ninth inning during a MLB game against the Atlanta Braves at Rogers Centre on August 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

While there can be a temptation to trade from a position of strong depth, the Blue Jays should hang on to their talented catching duo of Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.

The Blue Jays have a growing problem on their hands, but thankfully it’s the good kind.

The front office decided to trade Russell Martin to the L.A. Dodgers last offseason in order to open up the starting catching duties for Danny Jansen, who impressed during a shorter stint late last season. He’s done an admirable job throughout the year, looking more than capable as a defender, and having flashes of great offensive potential between a few prolonged slumps.

Even if his slash line of .206/.279/.358 leaves a lot to be desired, his rookie season should still be considered relatively successful, and his MLB future fairly bright. He’s added 12 home runs and a dozen more doubles, picking up 42 RBI in 330 at-bats, all good for 1.0 bWAR. That WAR stat puts him 22nd in the big leagues among catchers, just ahead of All-Stars like Yadier Molina (0.9) and Buster Posey (0.8). He’s not yet elite, but it’s not hard to see him jumping up the list during his second full season.

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That is, if he doesn’t his job to a talented teammate first.

As impressive as Jansen has been overall this season, Reese McGuire is doing his best to overshadow his teammate, and he’s doing a great job of it lately. McGuire has now jumped up to 0.9 bWAR himself, hitting .303/.338/.553 with five home runs in 76 at-bats, and flashing some of the best defence we’ve seen behind the plate in a long time. The sample size is still pretty small, but McGuire has definitely caught the attention of the Blue Jays and the rest of the league with his stellar play.

As I said above, it’s a good problem to have for Charlie Montoyo and the Blue Jays, and they should be well set at the catching position for 2020 and going forward. Add in other talented catching prospects like Alejandro Kirk and Riley Adams among their top 30, and the Blue Jays may even have enough depth to start thinking about using it as a trade asset. That said, I sincerely hope they hold off for at least another year, especially when it comes to Jansen and McGuire.

At this stage of their careers, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a job share for next season, and I expect that’s exactly how things will be set up, at least until one significantly stands out. However, patience could be a big virtue here, and there’s a recent example with the Blue Jays when it comes to trading away catching depth, and it didn’t work out very well in Toronto’s favour.

There was a time when J.P. Arencibia looked like a cornerstone for the Blue Jays, especially after a strong rookie season. At the same time, the Blue Jays also had both Travis d’Arnaud and Yan Gomes in their minor league, and ultimately decided that they were both expendable because they had chosen “their guy”. Unfortunately, Arencibia never did put things together like so many of us expected (myself included), and he was out of the big leagues by 2015 at the age of 29.

For those of you who don’t remember, d’Arnaud was part of the infamous trade with the New York Mets that brought back R.A. Dickey (you know, the one when the Blue Jays traded Noah Syndergaard), and he had mixed results while in New York, mostly because of a bunch of different injuries. Now that he’s healthy and in Tampa Bay, he’s finally making good on the promise he had as a minor league prospect.

As for Gomes, the Blue Jays sent him along with Mike Aviles to the Cleveland Indians in order to get Esmil Rogers, a hard-throwing righty with the potential to turn into a plus-starting pitcher. That trade didn’t work out so well for the Blue Jays either, as Rogers never fulfilled the promise that they saw in him, and Yan Gomes has been an All-Star and a Silver Slugger award winner.

I’m not suggesting that you hang on to every prospect in your system, or overvalue your own guys. However, I do think the Blue Jays would be foolish to trade Jansen or McGuire now, unless the return is just too good to pass up on. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM’s from around the league called Ross Atkins’ office this winter to ask about the availability of their young receivers, but I hope the asking price is sky high, even if the temptation to use the depth is strong.

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Personally, I think both Jansen and McGuire are going to make solid MLB starting catchers, and I think there will come a time when you will have to split them up. That said, I don’t think that time will come this offseason, and something tells me the front office will agree with me. At least, that’s what I’m hoping anyway. Regardless, it’s a good problem to have.