The next catching prospect gets a chance
The Toronto Blue Jays possess a deep pool of catching prospects, with Alejandro Kirk currently on the active roster followed by Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno in the minor league system. Both Adams and Moreno find themselves on the Blue Jays top prospect charts, with Adams slated to begin the season in AAA and Moreno heading to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in AA ball.
While Moreno is most likely a year or two away from being major league ready, if the Blue Jays wanted to prevent having to create a spot on the 40 man roster for Juan Graterol or Reese McGuire, Riley Adams is already on the 40-man and could be a useful short term stopgap option.
Adams is widely considered the next in line when it comes to the Blue Jays depth charts and held his own in limited action this Spring, slashing .267/.353/.667 with two home runs and four RBI in 15-bats. This move would require the organization to start his service clock when it comes to contract control long term as well as using one of his player options when Kirk returned to the roster but presents an opportunity for the catching prospect to showcase his talents on the big league stage, especially since Kirk’s counterpart Danny Jansen is struggling early this season. A few good outings during limited action against major league pitching as well as a strong start when the AAA season opens up this week could bode well for Adams if Jansen’s struggles continue too long into the campaign.
Going outside the organization
If Kirk does end up going on the injured list and the Blue Jays don’t want to utilize any of their internal options, there are a few catchers available either via trade or through free agency.
The free-agent market is a bit thin right now a month into the season, with Jonathan Lucroy the stand-alone candidate currently available at the position. Lucroy is currently in his 12th major league season and owns a career line of .274/.335/.416 with 108 home runs and 547 RBI. The caveat to signing Lucroy would be that he is currently looking for a deal that suits him, meaning he wants guaranteed playing time and a major league contract. Signing Lucroy would most likely spell the end of either Jansen or Kirk on the roster for the rest of the season, and even with Jansen’s struggles, I don’t think the Blue Jays organization is ready to demote him just yet. Other potential free-agent options include Matt Wieters and Tyler Flowers if Ross Atkins and co. would rather go that route, with the reminder that neither player has suited up once this season nor spring training.
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The Blue Jays could also choose to trade for a catcher, similar to what they did earlier this season by bringing back Juan Graterol. While I wouldn’t necessarily expect a blockbuster given the Blue Jays depth at the position as well as the season only being a month old, there also isn’t a lot of high-quality names open on the market.
Willson Contreras on the Chicago Cubs is one name that has been featured on the trade rumours front as he will become a free agent in 2023. This move would take some prospect capital to get the deal done, but Contreras would be a significant upgrade over Jansen but could push Kirk back down to the minor leagues (unless Jansen gets sent down instead, a move that could happen given his early-season struggles but doesn’t seem likely at the moment).
Jacob Nottingham on the Seattle Mariners was just designated for assignment, another potential option outside the organization. He currently owns a career 203/.306/.432 line with five home runs and 17 RBI in 74 at-bats.
Any outside acquisition would also impact the 40 man roster, as it is currently full and seems pretty set for the time being unless a player traded away for outside help was also on the roster, clearing a spot for the incumbent.
It all comes down to Kirk
In the end, none of these options really matter if Alejandro Kirk is just day-to-day and Jansen just has to catch for a few days and you consider Joe Panik as an emergency option behind the plate (barring Kirk not being able to go). The real question’s emerge if Kirk has to miss more time and has to be put on the IL, meaning the Blue Jays will have to figure something out to have another catcher on the roster.