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Inbox: Who catches for Toronto in 2020?

Beat reporter Keegan Matheson answers questions from fans
@KeeganMatheson
November 21, 2019

TORONTO -- With 40-man rosters filling up to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 Draft and the Winter Meetings approaching on Dec. 9 in San Diego, the offseason buzz will soon pick up for the Blue Jays and teams across the league. Here are your questions for this week’s

TORONTO -- With 40-man rosters filling up to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 Draft and the Winter Meetings approaching on Dec. 9 in San Diego, the offseason buzz will soon pick up for the Blue Jays and teams across the league.

Here are your questions for this week’s Inbox:

If the Blue Jays were to sign a free agent catcher, which of [Danny] Jansen or [Reese] McGuire do you think they should keep? Would a Yan Gomes reunion be worthwhile for the Blue Jays?
-- James. T, Mitchell, Ontario

The Blue Jays are living a life of luxury at catcher right now with two young, big league options and a couple of talented prospects on the way. The club will have the option to turn one of those pieces into value elsewhere on the diamond -- and they’re open to that conversation -- but there are so many variables involved here.

Danny Jansen earned a Gold Glove Award nod in his rookie season and is a better hitter than his .207 average and .640 OPS from last season suggest. Reese McGuire is strong defensively, and while his .882 OPS over 44 games in the Majors isn’t likely to stick, he’s shown that he can handle the bat at the highest level.

Jansen still looks like the ‘1A’ of the duo in what would likely open 2020 as a 60-40 split behind the plate. That might make McGuire easier to deal, but the interest and offers from other teams would dictate which way that tips. Yasmani Grandal to Toronto won't happen now that the White Sox signed him to a four-year, $73 million contract, but someone in the Gomes range would make sense to re-solidify the position if a young option is moved.

Keep an eye on Gabriel Moreno, Toronto's No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, who should open with Class A Advanced Dunedin this season, and No. 12 prospect Alejandro Kirk, who is 5-foot-9, 220 pounds and gets a bat on everything.

Beyond the numbers and awards, Rolen has not had the benefit of narrative. Even as an elite player in his era with sustained success and a great peak (1997-2004), Rolen seemed to exist a few steps shy of being a superstar. A star, sure, but allow me to fulfill my contractual duty as a sportswriter by making a Derek Jeter comparison. How often do you hear a brilliant play at third base described as “Rolen-esque?"

Working in Rolen’s favor is that voters have naturally become more analytically minded. Rolen’s WAR of 69.9 (FanGraphs) rivals Jeter’s (73) despite Rolen playing in 709 fewer games. Having a comparable WAR to Jeter while playing over 700 fewer games matters, but enough about Larry Walker. Yes, Rolen would be on my ballot.

Do any of the [Blue Jays'] similar outfielders (low on base/some power) have any trade value to acquire pitching -- either a reliever or a marginal starter?
-- Bruce P., Jefferson, GA

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. would be Toronto’s strongest trade chip from the outfield. Even with the injuries, he’s shown that his bat plays in the Majors and he looked good in left field last season. Given his contract, there would be interest, and the Blue Jays could, in theory, target controllable starting pitching.

Elsewhere in the outfield, Randal Grichuk's contract will keep him in Toronto while other organizations mostly have their own versions of Teoscar Hernández, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis and the list goes on. They still have some level of value, of course, but it would make more sense for the Blue Jays to find low-cost relievers in free agency.

Thomas Hatch and Santiago Espinal: Who will we see in 2020? Will we see either? Is there anyone else that the Jays might lose in the Rule 5 Draft?
-- Cam R.

This is a close call and you could see both, assuming the both open 2020 with Triple-A Buffalo. Espinal might have the slight edge to see the Majors first, given his defensive versatility. He’s an underrated piece of depth who could have some value soon. Hatch, on the other hand, will need to conquer Triple-A first, but he’s 25 years old and fits the type of starter the Blue Jays like, with a fastball that spins at a very high rate.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.