|The Star. Image credit, but also subject.|
AA has said multiple times now that moving Navarro isn't exactly a priority, since he believes that Dio (a) did a great job in 2014, and that (b) there are probably DH at-bats out there, and you can always let Martin have a day off here and there. That's not a really great thing for Navarro, from a career or financial standpoint. Not catching everyday is probably going to make it tough once he's asked to catch everyday again.
I guess it's possible that he stays around, but again, that probably kills his next contract pretty badly. Martin could end up getting hurt, for example, and then the Jays are glad they kept, but obviously you can't just hold a guy ransom just in case an injury comes up, especially when you're paying him $5MM in a walk year. Simply, the best thing for Navarro is to be behind the plate, playing practically everyday.
I suppose, then, that it's probably more likely that Navarro gets moved, and he probably moves to a team that needs a catcher, or at least needs one more badly than the Jays do. The Jays do have a few clear spots that need to be patched up, so obviously a club that can help with a 2B/3B, a LF, or a reliever would make more sense than others. Having said that, there's not a whole bunch of extra value there with Dio-- he was a 2-ish WAR player this past year, and is scheduled to make $5MM in his last year before free agency. Steamer forecasts him to be worth just 0.6 WAR, but they also only suggest that he'll play 63 games*. His projections suggest that he'll improve offensively, defensively and on the basepaths, but that his playing time will be way down. I assume that this is because his 139 games played in 2014 was a career high, and that he hadn't broken 100 games played since 2009.
*- I'm pretty sure this projection was released before the Martin signing, and the numbers shouldn't really reflect the Martin acquisition, or any positional dicking around. He'll likely see more DH plate appearances if he stays in Toronto, which changes an awful lot as far as a WAR projection is concerned with regards to the positional replacement value, but his projection shows low playing time because of his 2010-2013 playing time.
Navarro showed this past year, though, that he can be passable behind the plate and provide reasonable offence at it, especially for a catcher. It's hard to play catcher. Catchers get hurt a lot, or start to suck at a moments notice. Catchers have a lot of work to do beyond catching a ball or hitting a ball. Catchers are good to have. So who wants a catcher? And for that matter, what other catchers are out there?
I'm going to use Fangraphs' positional depth charts to check this one out. The first thing I see there is probably the most interesting piece of info I've got; all free agent catchers are garbage right now. This is something that we already knew, or at least know now, now that Russell Martin is off the market. In fact, we were told that today by AA at the presser, when he said something like "It's not that we wanted an upgrade at catcher, we wanted Russell Martin. There was no other catcher out there that we wanted." He also pointed out that he wanted to put all of his eggs in the Russell Martin basket because there weren't other catchers out there, so his market wasn't going to take a while to create itself and develop steam.
That list of available catchers is headed by Geovany Soto, and includes another 7 or 8 guys who aren't projected to get on base 30% of the time. Doumit, Hundley, Buck, Arencibia, Ross... not really a stunning list. Sure, you can take a flyer on a guy there, and maybe hit something with Hundley, or get it through JPA's head that he doesn't have to swing at everything. But Dioner Navarro, albeit more expensive and owned by someone else at the moment, is better than all of those names.
There are a bunch of teams out there that don't really have a whole lot to worry about as far as catching is concerned, whether that be because they have elite guys (i.e. Posey, Lucroy), guys with bigger contracts (McCann, Suzuki), or young guys (d'Arnaud, Ramos) who already man the position. There are definitely teams out there, though, who could look to upgrade, or at least find a guy to split time.
(By the way, it isn't lost on me that I'm using Steamer's projected WAR totals to try and find a team that could use an upgrade at catcher, while Navarro is only projected to be worth 0.6 himself.)
Current Catchers: Chris Stewart (0.8 projected WAR), Tony Sanchez (0.7 projected WAR), Francisco Cervelli (0.3 projected WAR).
I'd say this is a bit of a dark horse candidate, despite the fact that they just lost their starting catcher. Stewart and Cervelli are both pretty good pitch framers, which kind of fits a pattern, given Russell Martin (they also just traded for Cervelli, if that's worth anything) and pitch-framing isn't counted in catcher WAR, so this doesn't really tell the whole story. I expect Pittsburgh values their current crop more than Steamer does. Still, none of these guys really seem like an everyday catcher to me, but we'll see. Pittsburgh ranks 29th in projected catcher WAR, for whatever that's worth.
Current Catchers: Christian Bethancourt (1.2), Evan Gattis (0.6)
Bethancourt is 23, and is good defensively, so I'd guess that they're looking to have him play everyday, and see if the bat develops, but that bat doesn't look like it's going to develop. There have been rumors of an Evan Gattis trade recently too, so Atlanta may need a hand there. If they move Gattis, they'll need another catcher, unless I'm missing something.
Current Catchers: AJ Ellis (2.2), Drew Butera (0), Tim Federowicz (0.2)
AJ Ellis 2.2 WAR!?!? Steamer might be broken. Ellis hit .191/.323/..254 this past season, but my God that walkrate. A bit of babip help and yeah, he's a serviceable catcher, but it doesn't seem like an LA Dodgers kind of thing to rely on Ellis to bounce back from a rough year. They were in on Martin, it would appear, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers were in on Navarro.
Current Catchers: Miguel Montero (3.2), Tuffy Gosewich (0), Jordan Pacheco (0)
This one is kind of contingent on the DBacks trading Miguel Montero, whose name has come up in a few rumors. Otherwise, there's not much of a fit.
- The White Sox rank 28th in projected catcher WAR, but they have a couple of younger guys on their chart at the moment, so they may want to let Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley play. If they decide to make a couple moves and try to contend this year, Navarro might make a bit more sense.
- Tampa could probably use a hand behind the plate, but same-division trades don't really seem too likely. We can say the same about Baltimore, depending on Matt Weiters' health.
- The Tigers had kicked around the idea of non-tendering or possibly trading Alex Avila. If the latter happens, Navarro could make sense.
- Mike Zunino's stat page is completely absurd. Looks a lot like a young JP Arencibia one, actually. He hit .199/.254/.404 with 22 HR's, a 3% walkrate, and a 32% k-rate. He's still young, but the Mariners would like to win (they lead the division in projected WAR, by the way), and could maybe use some help from Navarro for a year.
It's hard to say that Navarro poses as a true upgrade over any of the above mentioned guys. Navarro is pretty bad defensively relative to his peers, and that's without taking framing in to account, which would kill Navarro's value a bit more. His bat is an upgrade over most catchers out there, though, and that's something that might end up working in the favor of the Jays.
AA said today at his presser that he's looking for deals, but that nothing is close to being done. Frankly, I believe him-- there's nobody who badly needs a league-average-or-so catcher. Most good teams out there have someone, and most bad teams aren't going to give anything up to get a $5MM catcher for one year just to bring them up a win or two.