Making the Case for Keeping J.P. Arencibia

Image via Zimbio

Just a few years ago, J.P. Arencibia was touted as the catcher of the future for the Toronto Blue Jays. These days, he’s being deemed as a trade chip and subsequently the catcher of the future for another team.

The rumblings around the Winter Meetings in Nashville have the Blue Jays linked to starting pitching, and that invariably points to J.P. Arencibia as one of the most likely candidates to be shipped in a trade. J.P. would likely fare something of value in return, but I don’t believe now is the best time for the Blue Jays to be shopping Arencibia … and here’s why.

I recall there was a brief period in time in which the future of J.P. Arencibia as a prospect was in serious doubt. After a down year at Triple A in 2009, it was no longer a foregone conclusion that J.P. was the catcher of the future.

And just think back to how many highly-touted catchers have been through the Blue Jays system in recent years. Curtis Thigpen and Robizon Diaz (the player to be named later in the infamous Jose Bautista trade) are two names that stand out as players whose ceilings ended up being much lower than anticipated.

That’s just some food for thought as the Blue Jays top prospect in Travis d’Arnaud comes off a season in which he was sidelined with a left knee injury. There’s no saying d’Arnaud will turn out to be the next Curtis Thigpen, but there are no guarantees that he’ll be the next Buster Posey, either.

That’s why it’s imperative (at least for the immediate future) that the Blue Jays to hang onto J.P. Arencibia.

Travis d’Arnaud could very well experience a similar path to the Major Leagues as J.P. Arencibia did, with an additional year in the minor leagues to develop and hone his skills.

For his offensive shortcomings, J.P. Arencibia is still an alright everyday catcher. Receiving any offensive contributions whatsoever from their catcher is a luxury that not many teams cannot boast. Most are willing to sacrifice those offensive tools for a defensive-minded player behind the plate.

If I’m Alex Anthopoulos, I’m also probably willing to overlook J.P.’s batting average and on base percentage because he is for all intents and purposes, a catcher. The fact that he can contribute 20+ home runs at the bottom of the order is great asset. His predominant task is to handle the pitchers and protect the plate.

Many armchair GM’s are hinting towards a trade that would send J.P. Arencibia and possibly even Anthony Gose for R.A. Dickey from the Mets. While a recent Cy Young winner would be a welcome addition to any starting rotation, here’s what scares me; Dickey is essentially a one-year rental.

That would leave both R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson as two players who could possibly walk as free agents at the end of the 2013 season. That’s 40% of the starting rotation potentially out the door, regardless of how well the Blue Jays fare this coming season. If you ask me, it’s a hefty price to pay for just one year of a guy who’s coming off a career year. 

Nevertheless, I don’t think now is the time to trade J.P. Arencibia. Frankly, it’s presumptuous to assume either John Buck or Travis d’Arnaud could match his offensive output, which is why it just makes sense to keep J.P. for the time being.

Unless it gets to the point where Travis d’Arnaud is outhitting or outplaying J.P. Arencibia, it seems counterproductive to part with an everyday catcher that can be depended on to play some adequate defense and who has a power bat.

What it really boils down to is either Travis d’Arnaud has to force the hand of the team to bring him up to the Majors, or J.P. Arencibia has to suddenly become a detriment to the team. Those are the only two scenarios in which I could see the Blue Jays moving J.P.

And who’s to say that this is even the most opportune time to trade J.P. Arencibia anyway? It makes much more sense to do it at the trade deadline when the Blue Jays have at least some idea where they are in the standings, and can decide then whether they need to make a move like this to put them over the top.

If the Blue Jays were looking for a three month rental of a starting pitcher to bolster the rotation, they might not even have to part with J.P. Arencibia to get an arm in return. Plus, so many things can change between now and then that priorities may shift drastically.

Perhaps Travis d’Arnaud won’t be ready to take over the reins as the everyday catcher or his injury troubles come up again. It’s not like things have reached a boiling point and the Blue Jays need to decide on one catcher or the other right this instant; they have the luxury of waiting things out.

At this very moment, the Toronto Blue Jays are a better team with J.P. Arencibia on the roster. And until the drawbacks of hanging onto J.P. outweigh the benefits of keeping him on the roster, I don’t think he’s going anywhere any time soon.

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Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his son for the next 20 years.

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  1. andy mc

    December 5, 2012 - 5:46 pm

    Agreed. Also, I think it's too early to say that we have seen his offensive ceiling yet. Perhaps we have only seen his floor?

    1. Ian - BJH

      December 5, 2012 - 7:03 pm

      And we haven't even really seen a "full" season of J.P. yet. Who knows … maybe if he plays 135-140 games, his home run output increases even more?

  2. Emilio McIntyre

    December 5, 2012 - 7:54 pm

    JP is only 26, he also has the ability to drive in runs. We've now seen

    seasons with

    HR and

    RBI give or take. With his improvement on defensive he just needs to work on BA and OBP and he could well be a great player in his prime.. Napoli only had a better OBP from what I can tell and he just got a huge contract!

    1. Anonymous

      December 8, 2012 - 5:14 am

      Yes, Napoli has a higher OBP. He makes vastly fewer outs than JP.

  3. Emilio McIntyre

    December 5, 2012 - 7:54 pm

    JP is only 26, he also has the ability to drive in runs. We've now seen

    seasons with

    HR and

    RBI give or take. With his improvement on defensive he just needs to work on BA and OBP and he could well be a great player in his prime.. Napoli only had a better OBP from what I can tell and he just got a huge contract!

  4. Roberto

    December 6, 2012 - 3:29 pm

    I'm not sure why it's presumptuous to say Buck could match Arencibia offensively… Buck has a career OPS of 87, versus

    for JPA. And Buck had a career year the last time he was in Toronto.

    I don't think Buck would be quite as good long-term as JPA, who is younger and has room to improve… but I don't think the gap is as huge between the two players as some would make out.

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