A former first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, catcher Reese McGuire joined the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2016 alongside Harold Ramirez and Francisco Liriano and would make his MLB debut in 2018.
Widely regarded for his defensive ability behind the plate, McGuire entered last season as a potential starting catcher, forming a righty/lefty platoon with fellow batterymate Danny Jansen, but ended the season hoping nobody would remember his 2020 campaign.
On the field, McGuire would appear in 19 games and slash .073/.073/.146 with one home run, one RBI, and a .220 OPS. His arm was impressive as he caught 50% of baserunners (4 for 8) but committed three errors behind the plate, finishing with a .978% fielding percentage. McGuire would start the season on the Blue Jays roster but would be sent to the alternate training site on September 5th, spending most of the month at there until being recalled on September 28th and being used for just one inning as a defensive replacement in the first game of the Wild Card series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Off the field, McGuire would find himself in hot water when he was arrested for exposing himself in his car while parked outside a mall during the Blue Jays spring training camp. He would eventually plead guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge later in the summer, paying $500 in fines, and being on the end of a multitude of dirty jokes all season long.
Heading into 2021, McGuire’s in a bit of a tough spot with the emergence of catching prospect Alejandro Kirk last season. This begs the question, what should the Blue Jays do with their young catcher?
Makes the Active Roster
If McGuire can have a solid spring and put 2020 behind him, the defensive-minded catcher could find himself on the roster in a back-up role behind Danny Jansen (with the platoon role still an option if the team so desires).
With McGuire making the team, this would allow catching prospect Alejandro Kirk more time to develop in the minor leagues in a full-time role (rather than backing up Jansen) and maybe give McGuire a chance to get back to the form that Blue Jays fans were hoping to see last year.
A few things in McGuire’s favour are:
- He is out of minor league options and cannot be sent down to the minors without being exposed to waivers
- Has the most MLB experience out of all the other catchers behind Jansen
- The only left-handed batting catcher in the upper tier of the Blue Jays farm system
- Great arm/defensive ability behind the plate
- On the 40-man roster
The Blue Jays may not want to risk moving him through waivers (after designating him for assignment) and could choose to keep him on the roster, letting Kirk develop and hope that McGuire can figure out his struggles and prove that he can be a catcher at the major league level, whether it be as a starter or in a back-up capacity.
Designated for Assignment
If the Blue Jays chose to keep Kirk on the roster instead of McGuire, he will have to be designated for assignment (DFA’d) as he is out of minor league options and will be exposed to outright waivers (as well as removed from the 40-man roster). While he did struggle last season, the catching market is a bit thin this year and I would bet a good chunk of money that another team in the league would take him on a flyer as he is only 26 years old.
Exposing him to outright waivers would be a risky gamble that the Blue Jays might be okay with taking considering the team does have other catching prospects behind Kirk like Gabriel Moreno and Riley Adams, if McGuire does end up being claimed. Even if he does not get picked up while DFA’d, the Blue Jays could still release McGuire if they would rather focus their energy on the other catching prospects. I feel like the Blue Jays wouldn’t release him if he does not get claimed but stranger things have happened.
If the Blue Jays want to start the year with Jansen and Kirk and don’t want to lose McGuire on waivers (when DFA’d), they could choose to trade him and get something in return for the defensive-minded catcher.
As I mentioned earlier, young catchers with MLB experience can reap huge rewards on the trade market, however, after the year McGuire had (both on and off the field), I would imagine his stock value is not very high at the moment. You can argue ‘a change of scenery may do him some good,’ but the fact he is out of minor league options makes this scenario a tough sell. A team entering a rebuild may take a flyer on the catcher, but I wouldn’t expect a significant amount of suitors calling the Blue Jays if he does become available (a player to be named later or a small amount of international bonus pool money).
When the end of March finally rolls around, the Blue Jays will have to make a tough decision when it comes to what they should do with Reese McGuire. The front office has a few different options they could go with, but at the end of the day, I don’t see a scenario where McGuire makes the opening day roster.
I believe the Blue Jays are going to choose to go with Jansen as the starter and bring along Alejandro Kirk to be the back-up catcher as well as in a designated hitter role (not full-time, but here and there), leaving McGuire to be designated for assignment. I think McGuire will get picked up and get another opportunity as a back-up catcher somewhere in the league, as teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, and Colorado Rockies lack depth at the position.
Whether or not he suits up for the Blue Jays this season, McGuire needs to have a strong spring training to put himself into a position to play for a major league team this season. At 26 years old, if McGuire can put the bat to the ball and catch behind the plate like Blue Jays fans have seen prior to 2020, the Washington native should get another shot to prove he belongs in the big leagues, whether it be on the Blue Jays or elsewhere in the league.