J.P. Arencibia's release 'tough decision' for Blue Jays
GM Anthopoulos says team needs consistency at catcher position
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos wasn't determined to part ways with catcher J.P. Arencibia after the former first round pick suffered through a career-worst season in 2013.
But after reaching an agreement Monday on a two-year, $8 million US deal with former all-star Dioner Navarro, Toronto decided not to offer Arencibia a contract for 2014, making him a free agent.
"It was about the alternatives and what was out there, and if we felt there was a chance to improve the club, we were going to do it," Anthopoulos said in a conference call Tuesday. "We didn't go into the off-season with the decision of we were certainly going to make a change."
Arencibia hit 21 home runs in 2013, the second-highest total among big league catchers, but posted career-low numbers in batting average (.194), on-base percentage (.227) and slugging percentage (.365). His team-high 148 strikeouts were also the most of his career.
While Anthopoulos said the decision to non-tender Arencibia "was certainly not set in stone," he acknowledged that the Blue Jays need more consistent production from behind the plate.
We looked into everybody on the free agent market that we thought could start and this was definitely the best fit for us.- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos on new catcher Dioner Navarro
They'll hope to get that from Navarro, who hit .300 with a career high 13 home runs in 240 at bats with the Chicago Cubs in 2013.
"We looked into everybody on the free agent market that we thought could start and this was definitely the best fit for us," Anthopoulos said of Navarro, an all-star with Tampa Bay in 2008.
"It's nice to have a switch-hit bat, nice to have more of a contact bat and someone that has some on-base skills," he said.
'Not an easy decision'
Anthopoulos said cutting Arencibia loose was "not an easy decision at all," and predicted that the 27-year-old would improve in 2014.
"I do think he's going to bounce back," Anthopoulos said. "He was a little banged up, and the one thing about JP, he's a very durable guy, very tough, plays through a lot of injuries.
"He knows he's certainly capable of more. I certainly believe he's capable of more."
Anthopoulos conceded that Navarro has a poor reputation for blocking balls in the dirt, but praised his relationship with pitchers.
"Everyone really raved about his game-calling," Anthopoulos said. "Guys love throwing to him."
Navarro, who'll earn $3 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015, will get the bulk of the catching duties in Toronto, with Josh Thole backing him up. Thole is also the primary catcher for knuckleballer and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
Anthopoulos said he "wouldn't rule out" a move for another catcher, but said the Blue Jays are content with the tandem.