Entering Spring Training, the Toronto Blue Jays had a few questions regarding how the team was going to shape up when it came to who was going to make Opening Day at the catching position.
McGuire made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2020, with an arrest and a terrible performance at the plate (.073/.073/.146 through 19 games and 41 at-bats) making way for Kirk to be called up late in the season, who was dynamite in his brief call-up with the club through nine games, slashing .375/.400/.583 with one home run and a .983 OPS through 25 plate appearances.
Kirk would eventually get the roster spot while McGuire would be designated for assignment, making room on the 40-man roster for another player and eventually passing through the waiver wire and slated to start the season in AAA.
Fast forward to late August, and the picture is anything but clear as to how the Blue Jays catching situation shapes up as the club marches towards September.
It is a topic I touched on a few weeks ago but surprisingly enough, the Blue Jays find themselves in the same situation again within a short period of time.
With Danny Jansen currently in a AAA rehab assignment, the Blue Jays will have to decide which catchers will remain on the roster to finish the season between Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Reese McGuire.
Both Kirk and Jansen have missed time on the IL this season, making way for McGuire to rejoin the active roster and put together a pretty good season from the left side of the plate. Kirk missed a good chunk of May to July dealing with a hip pointer while Jansen has been plagued with multiple hamstring injuries and is currently in AAA on a rehab assignment. Even former prospect Riley Adams got a shot at the major league level before being demoted and then traded to the Washington Nationals.
As Jansen gets near to becoming healthy and most likely returning to the major leagues, the club finds itself in a predicament that not many teams have: there are one too many catchers on the roster and one has to get sent and stay in minors (potentially).
McGuire: 67 games; 189 PA; .267/.330/.372; .702 OPS; 1 HRl 9 RBI / 1.000% FLD; 38% CS
Jansen: 49 games; 140 PA; .176/.259/.336; .595 OPS; 5 HR; 10 RBI / .995% FLD; 14% CS
Kirk: 36 games; 106 PA; .277/.340/.447; .786 OPS; 3 HR; 15 RBI / .996% FLD; 13% CS
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As you can see, Jansen is picking up the rear in terms of offensive value compared to his counterparts. He has struggled with the bat for most of his major league career and while he can flash the long ball power, he has issues staying consistent and can go on hot/cold streaks for most of the season. He has also taken a step back this year behind the plate, something not usually seen from the former Gold Glove finalist.
McGuire does have the added advantage of being a lefty batter, something you can never have too much of in the major leagues. Throw in the fact that his bat is producing at a consistent rate and the Washington product is making a strong case to stay on the roster even with the average to below-average power. He is also showcasing his arm this year, throwing out 38% of runners trying to steal.
Kirk is known for the bat in his hands and does struggle defensively on occasion, missing the slider down when catching Robbie Ray last week that scored the tieing run on what would have been a clean eight-inning outing for the southpaw. You’ll most likely see Buck Martinez harp on his ‘one knee down’ catching stance every time he steps behind home plate but the reason Kirk is on the roster is that he can hit the ball, and he does it with authority (like his go-ahead RBI last night).
So, who stays and who goes when Jansen’s rehab stint is over?
While the Illinois product does sport the worst slash line of the trio, it seems unlikely that the Blue Jays brass will want to keep him down in the minor leagues. They don’t seem to want to give up on the righty batter at this time and given the rapport he has with ace Hyun Jin Ryu, it might not be a bad idea to have him on the roster to close out the campaign.
The issue arises in that both Kirk and McGuire are playing well enough that neither is really deserving a demotion and with McGuire out of MiLB options, he would have to be designated for assignment and have to pass through the waiver wire again. With how well he is playing, I highly doubt he passes through again without being claimed but could sneak through if the team does choose to DFA him.
Kirk may get sent down as a victim of the numbers game in that he has MiLB options but it would be a tough call to send down a strong bat like his to the minors when the club is trying to reach the postseason.
One way to keep everyone on the roster is to call up Jansen when the rosters expand on September 1st from 26 to 28 players, however, it would be a bit ridiculous to keep three catchers on the active roster considering none of these guys play a secondary position. With the imminent return of George Springer and multiple options in the DH role, there really would not be an opportunity for Kirk to DH given the other options.
Some tough questions will have to be answered in the upcoming week(s) when Jansen is fully ready to go and who the club will choose to keep for the rest of the season. I could see an argument for each player to be sent down to AAA but lean more towards Kirk or McGuire over Jansen, as I said earlier, the front office does not seem willing to let him play in the minors.
Who should the Jays keep on the roster to finish the campaign?