Everybody! It's happening!
At some point in the last few hours or days or something, Alex Anthopoulous admitted to reporters that he's not an idiot! I mean, not in so many words or anything, but he let us know that it's okay at least.
Scott McArthur of TSN wrote this morning that AA told reporters that there was going to be a need for more production from behind the plate:
"Offensively has probably been the one area that I'm surprised by," said Anthopoulos. "One thing you felt confident was J.P. would be a .700 to .720 OPS guy with some upside to do better than that. He's always had the ability, he's got power to the opposite field. He's shown the ability to use all fields and you felt that was probably going to be what the floor was for him. Didn't expect it to go the other way."So yeah. Sounds like we're going to have a new catcher to watch next year, or at least Josh Thole will be freed a little more than he has been of late. More likely, I think, is that AA will be looking outside the organization for catching help, and, frankly, I kind of feel like JP wouldn't have been thrown under the bus like this if he were coming back next year. I'm probably getting ahead of myself here, in that he's probably not going to be non-tendered or released, given what's out there for catching right now, and he's at the absolute nadir of value right now (given that he's made headlines lately for having the worst OBP for someone getting a full season worth of PA's in history, or something? Only person with 20 HR's and an OPS below .600 in a season, or something? Yeah.), so I doubt he gets traded either.
Buffalo, I guess? Even if he's out of options, there's not a huge issue in getting him signed and then DFA'ing him afterwards to open up a roster spot. If that's how it works. I mean, B-Ref has him at around replacement level, even with his 57 wRC+ batting contribution. If you want to upgrade behind the plate, though, there's no room for JP. The bat doesn't play elsewhere, and Josh Thole is there for R.A. Dickey-related purposes.
So where do we go from here?
I touched, lightly, mind you, on this a few weeks ago, but I don't see a reason not to rehash. My choices for targets, in no particular order:
Brian McCann is going to be the most expensive, as far as free agents go, coming in at somewhere in the range of 5 years and $80MM, give or take. It's costly, especially for someone who plays a position with a huge attrition rate, and he doesn't exactly have a sterling health record, but he's pretty good at hitting, and can certainly DH at times (making Adam Lind expendable? Please?) McCann is just fair against lefty pitching, and may eventually need to come out from behind the plate full-time. I doubt the bat plays at 1B/DH under the same contract. With the dearth of teams looking for catching upgrades, I really don't see McCann's price coming down at all, so he won't even be a bargain.
The Astros are still a couple years away from contending, so I wonder if Jason Castro could be pried away. Castro is just 26, still have 5 years of team control remaining, and has hit .276/.350/.485 over 491 plate appearances in 2013, good for 4.2 WAR. He'd probably be pretty expensive, as far as the prospect haul or whatever that goes the other way, and I think the Jays will be more comfortable moving prospects to acquire pitching, given the reduction in top prospects after this past offseason, and the performance of the rotation this season. Still, Castro is young, has upside, can play both offensively and defensively, and is under team control (i.e. cheap) for a few years. The Astros are going nowhere for at least another year, and probably more than that, so they could make a move with Castro. They have Carlos Perez, Max Stassi and Carlos Corporan in their organization at the moment as replacement depth.
If the Brewers wanted to tear everything down and try again, Jonathan Lucroy could be a nice piece. He is under contract through 2016 (with an option for '17), is beyond competent offensively, and is excellent defensively, being classified as one of the better pitch-framers in the game. Again, this would cost a lot in terms of (probably) prospects or (less likely) big-league players, but hey, if you're going to do it, do it right.
I think I already pointed this out before, but there's not a whole lot out there in terms of quality catchers, so it's more likely that we'll see a fairly cheap free agent signing, or a minor trade, I suppose, involving a Kurt Suzuki-type guy who, while technically is an upgrade over JP, is still relatively crappy when compared to all catchers.
Not that that's all that much of a bad thing. Anything is an improvement over the worst thing ever.