The Toronto Blue Jays have a problem that not many teams in the league have – they have too many catchers for the major league roster.
Danny Jansen has been the Blue Jays go-to guy over the past three seasons but has struggled at the plate for most of his major league career, slashing .176/.259/.336 on the season and .202/.290/.364 for his career with 27 strikeouts, 81 RBI, and a .654 OPS. With Jansen, his defensive abilities are what critics rave about, as he calls a pretty good game behind the plate and was Hyun Jin Ryu‘s go-to guy at the catching position. This season, Jansen sports a .995 fielding percentage and has caught 3 of 21 stolen base runners (14.2%), a drop in his usual stats behind the plate compared to his previous seasons.
Also on the Blue Jays catching depth charts is Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire, both of whom occupy the roster spots at the moment and have arguably been playing better than Jansen as of right now. Kirk returned from the injured list and has started to put the ball in play, hitting to a .364 through his last 22 at-bats and owning a .274/.352/.484 slash line with a .836 OPS on the season.
McGuire has been a bit of a surprise for the team, as he was designated for assignment earlier this season and returned to the club when Kirk and Jansen were both on the IL earlier this year. The lefty-batter has been playing well all season for the Jays, slashing .284/.329/.392 with eight RBI and a .721 OPS.
Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen may become the odd man out from the roster once he is able to return from the injured list with the success of Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire behind the plate right now.
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Right now, the Blue Jays are able to tandem Kirk and McGuire as they have the lefty/righty matchup depending on what side the pitcher is throwing from. McGuire is the better defensive player while Kirk has the offensive upside, with the former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect sporting a clean 1.000 fielding percentage from behind the plate. The lefty batter also has a 33.3% success rate on throwing out base runners when compared to Kirk and his 16.7%.
With Jansen once again on the injured list and nearing a potential return over the next week or two, it will be interesting to see what the Blue Jays are going to do with their three catchers on the major league roster. It doesn’t make sense to have all of them on the Blue Jays roster even though Kirk could be the designated hitter as all three are dedicated to the position without any real experience elsewhere on the diamond.
It is a question that has been debated and written about for most of the season given Jansen’s stats this year, as there was a possibility that he could have been replaced by Kirk as the go-to guy until the righty-slugger went on the 60-day IL early into the campaign.
The Blue Jays have also been very hesitant on demoting Jansen to the minor leagues even when his average was below .100, with his defensive qualities and ability to handle the veteran pitchers behind the plate his saving grace on the roster. Jansen does handle the pitchers well by calling a good game and is most likely a positive influence/ locker room type of guy but can the Blue Jays afford to keep him on the roster this season?
This idea made a lot more sense when the Blue Jays ace had a few poor outings earlier this season when Jansen was on his first IL stint but since he has now found a groove pitching to McGuire, the reasoning for Jansen to be on the roster for Ryu is kind of out the window. Both Kirk and McGuire have offensive upside over the Illinois product and are now arguably at the same level defensively this season when looking at the stats (although Kirk is the weakest defender of the group in my opinion).
With Jansen nearing a return to the roster after he becomes healthy and most likely goes through a quick rehab stint in the minors, the Blue Jays will have to decide on who they should carry with on the roster when it comes to behind the plate.
I personally think that with how the Blue Jays are playing right now (6-1 since July 30th) and how they have significant momentum heading into this weekend series against the Red Sox, that Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire should be on the roster over Danny Jansen. Manager Charlie Montoyo needs to ride the hot hands and right now, and Jansen is being outplayed by the other two catchers.
Factor in that McGuire is out of minor league options, they would either have to DFA him off the roster or option Kirk back to AAA if the Blue Jays choose to bring Jansen back to the roster.
It is time for the Blue Jays to make the tough decisions and ride with the better players behind the plate to finish the season if they want to contend for the postseason this year, even if it means sending the former starting catcher back to AAA to finish the campaign.