Blue Jays entertaining trade talks for Navarro
Anthopoulos says veteran catcher is still an important piece to club
SAN DIEGO -- The Blue Jays have been very open about the fact that Dioner Navarro is available through trade, but Alex Anthopoulos insists he won't make a deal that weakens his team.
Toronto's general manager said "clubs have asked" about Navarro, but Anthopoulos declined to get into specifics about the nature of those talks. A trade remains preferable for all parties, but unless a suitable offer surfaces, there's a chance that Navarro could return in 2015.
The Blue Jays' stance on a possible trade hasn't really changed in recent weeks. If it can fill another area of need, while at the same time sending Navarro to a team where he can start, it's something the club intends to do.
"We'd look to do that for him, but at the same time, he's a good player, he's a valuable piece to this team," Anthopoulos said on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. "We think we can get him playing time and we feel like he makes the team better. Right now, he's a good piece for us.
"You don't know what's going to happen in Spring Training, guys get hurt and so on, but Dioner's a really good hitter and he did a good job for us behind the plate as well."
Navarro became available when the Blue Jays signed catcher Russell Martin to a five-year contract worth $82 million earlier this offseason. Martin has appeared in at least 111 games each of the last four years so that wouldn't leave a lot of playing time available for Navarro if he remained in the fold.
The other scenario would see Navarro also receive some at-bats as a designated hitter. Toronto would prefer to use Edwin Encarnacion at that position on a semi-regular basis, but if Justin Smoak fails to impress at first base that plan could change. Navarro would be a fallback option at DH while also providing some additional depth to a roster that hasn't had enough of that in recent years.
Playing time is often debated by the media, fans and even players, but as Anthopoulos pointed out, these type of situations also usually take care of themselves.
"I remember Rajai Davis would come in as the fourth outfielder every year and he'd end up getting 400 at-bats," Anthopoulos said. "You end up getting at-bats for the players and it ends up working itself out. I think you can definitely mix and match.
"The other thing too, is, you've got ways, if guys are struggling, guys have good numbers, guys get days off, you have an ability to mix and match but we're a better team with Dioner Navarro on this team. There's no doubt about it."
Despite Anthopoulos' public stance, a trade would still be the preferred option. The market for Navarro isn't really clear, but it's believed that at least four teams had initial discussions with Toronto about the veteran catcher.
One possible fit could be the Rays, who are actively seeking a replacement for Jose Molina. However, deals between teams in the American League East are understandably rare and the possibility for a move seems remote. The same issue also could be said for the Orioles and Red Sox, who are both looking for help behind the plate.
"We've been active in conversations [in regard to finding a catcher] both on the free-agent side and the trade side," said Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman. "With that position, we know we have a hole to fill and there's no timetable for it, but the sooner, the better for us given the need that's there."
The White Sox were believed to be in the market for a catcher, but that might have changed on Monday when they claimed Rob Brantly off waivers from Miami. Chicago has five catchers on its 40-man roster, but a case could be made that Navarro would be the best of that group and the White Sox are looking to contend in 2015.
Texas is another team that has been open about its desire to add another catcher. Unlike the Rays, though, it appears the Rangers' interest in Navarro would be as a backup and that's not the type of situation where the Blue Jays would get much value in return.
"I think the big thing is the opportunity to get him an everyday job, he can catch over 100 games," Anthopoulos said. "If somebody was going to use him in that role, I think they're going to value him accordingly and there's a good chance you can get a deal done.
"Clearly, if somebody has that spot for him, they're going to have a need for him, they're going to have value for him and I think we're probably going to be able to get something done where we'd be able to satisfy some needs as well."