Prior to his knee injury on June 25, top Toronto Blue Jays prospect Travis d'Arnaud had played 55 games at catcher, two at first base and 10 at designated hitter for AAA Las Vegas this season.
So, given that the heralded 23-year-old hasn't been used exclusively behind the plate, the suggestion by general manager Alex Anthopoulos that both d'Arnaud and J.P. Arencibia could crack the club's big-league roster in 2013 doesn't seem all that far-fetched.
After inking backup Jeff Mathis to a two-year, $3-million US extension on Aug. 14, Anthopoulos was asked how the deal would impact plans for d'Arnaud and Arencibia, both of whom are expected to receive regular playing time in 2013.
The charismatic executive responded that the most important thing was to incorporate d'Arnaud's bat into the lineup and to do that the Jays may use him as a DH if he makes the club out of spring training. And given d'Arnaud's injury history, this might be the best way to keep him healthy.
Before his season-ending knee injury in June, d'Arnaud also experienced back woes in 2010, a concussion in April 2011 and a torn ligament in his left thumb at the World Cup following the 2011 campaign. So if d'Arnaud's bat is his biggest asset, the Jays should consider splitting his playing time between catcher, first and DH.
After the Mathis extension was announced, speculation began again about Arencibia's future in Toronto. With Mathis entrenched as the backup and d'Arnaud seemingly ready for the big leagues, how would the Jays find playing time for Arencibia in 2013?
Better all-around catcher
Sidelined with a broken right hand since July 25, the 26-year-old Arencibia had developed into a better all-around catcher this season.
"J.P.'s been the everyday guy here for two years, [he] knows the staff, works well with them, [and] has made tremendous strides," Anthopoulos told reporters after the Mathis extension. "J.P., apart from the injury, was having a better year this year than he did last year. He's our everyday guy behind the plate."
Some baseball pundits were quick to dismiss this as Anthopoulos simply talking up Arencibia's trade value, because in the same exchange, the 35-year-old executive indicated d'Arnaud could force his way into the Jays lineup next spring. And with the team desperate for starting pitching, many believe that Arencibia and d'Arnaud represent two of the club's best trade chips.
But let's dismiss the idea that Anthopoulos would trade d'Arnaud. Dealing the club's No. 1 prospect would be shockingly out of character for the meticulous GM, even if d'Arnaud might fetch the top-of-the-rotation starter the club desperately needs.
Thirteen games under .500 following Wednesday's 8-5 win over the New York Yankees, the Jays are more than one elite pitcher away from a 2013 playoff spot and parting with his No. 1 prospect would be a dramatic departure from Anthopoulos's penchant for stockpiling young, controllable core players.
And though he has improved offensively and defensively over the past two campaigns, d'Arnaud is recovering from his fourth injury in three seasons. So even if the Jays did consider dealing him, his trade value may not be at its peak. Teams will want to see him play to ensure he's healthy before they ante up the king's ransom the Jays would surely demand.
It's more likely the Jays would trade Arencibia, but even that seems improbable. Like d'Arnaud, Arencibia is recovering from an injury and he won't return to the lineup until mid-September. He, too, will have to show that he's healthy before he'll garner much interest from other teams.
Chronically low OBP
With his chronically low on-base percentage and high number of strikeouts, Arencibia would net the Jays less than d'Arnaud. But it should not be lost that despite playing in only 81 games this season, Arencibia still possesses the fourth-best slugging percentage (.466) and fourth-most home runs (16) amongst American League catchers.
Defensively, Arencibia knows the staff and has thrown out 35 per cent of runners attempting to steal against him this campaign, up from 24 per cent in 2011. He's also a leader in the clubhouse and despite his injury this season, he has proven to be more durable than d'Arnaud. It should also be noted that Arencibia played some first base and DH during his college career, so he also offers some versatility.
Moises Sierra, who has made the best offensive impression of any Jays rookie this season, could also be a desirable piece in a package for a pitcher. And Anthopoulos has collected enough young arms that he could part with a prospect like Anthony DeSclafani, Sean Nolin or Sam Dyson with little harm to the organization's pitching depth.
The injuries to d'Arnaud and Arencibia will hurt their marketability this off-season, but when healthy, they're both significantly more valuable than Lind or Cooper.
In my view, the Jays will be a better team in 2013 with Arencibia as their starting catcher, Mathis as his primary backup and the injury prone d'Arnaud rotating through the catcher, first base and DH positions.
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