The Blue Jays Can’t Come to a Consensus on Their Catching Situation

Depending on who you ask, the Toronto Blue Jays might have a bit of a catching conundrum.

As Spring Training is coming to a close and with the final roster decisions looming, there are still three backstops on the roster. Very soon, the club will need to decide whether they want to carry two or three catchers on the Opening Day roster.

Russell Martin will be the everyday starting catcher; that goes without saying. Unless a trade suddenly materializes, Dioner Navarro will be the backup catcher and part-time DH. However, great debate lies in the fate of Josh Thole.


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The past week, the catching situation has seemingly been a point of contention for not only those outside the Blue Jays organization, but also those within the organization. They can’t really come to a consensus on the whole situation.

Jeff Blair reported Alex Anthopoulos is “dead set against bringing Thole north with the team”. Meanwhile, John Gibbons is rumoured to be in favour of bringing Josh Thole along to give Russell Martin every fifth day off (although Gibbons recently denied those claims).

This may be an attempt by the team to have one cohesive stance on the Josh Thole issue, but regardless of where the general manager and the manager stand, which decision will benefit the Blue Jays more – running with only two catchers, or letting Josh Thole tag along?

At the beginning of the offseason, I thought the three catcher system might actually work for the Blue Jays. It looked like a good prospect to have Russell Martin catch four out of five games, Dioner Navarro predominantly as a DH, and Josh Thole to catch R.A. Dickey.

But of course the best laid plans often go awry. As the weeks passed and the injuries have mounted, the Blue Jays now need those coveted roster spots more than ever; one which could be potentially taken up by Josh Thole.

If the Blue Jays opt to go with an eight man bullpen (which they really should with two rookies in the back end of the rotation) and decide to carry three catchers, that would leave John Gibbons with merely two bench spots on the roster and concurrently very little roster flexibility.

Another one of Gibbons’ reasons for carrying Thole was that Russell Martin wouldn’t really add much in the way of pitch framing to R.A. Dickey anyway, so that logic dictates Dickey should stick with the catcher that knows him best, and that’s Josh Thole.

Clearly, the Blue Jays should find a way to squeeze Russell Martin into the starting lineup as often as possible (even as the occasional DH), but that plan may be hampered if that DH spot is occupied by Edwin Encarnacion, for example.

To me, it just feels like any surplus the Blue Jays might get from having Josh Thole catch R.A. Dickey is immediately lost when it potentially forces Russell Martin out of the starting lineup.


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So long as Martin can handle the knuckleball better than J.P. Arencibia did, then the Blue Jays at least have to give Martin the benefit of the doubt that he can catch Dickey … at least for the first little while.

I really don’t think it’s so much about who’s doing to catch R.A. Dickey as it is about keeping a one trick pony like Josh Thole on the roster. Considering how much in flux certain positions are on the Blue Jays roster, they simply can’t have Thole squatting on a valuable roster spot.

This is still a team that hasn’t made their final decision on plenty of key positions, and they still might not make a decision until well into the season. So the Blue Jays need as many reinforcements as they can get who can either hold down a starting spot or play multiple positions, a la Steve Tolleson or Ryan Goins.

The thing about constructing the Opening Day roster is it often feels like these 25 guys are set in stone, when in fact they aren’t. Even if the Blue Jays go with two catchers on Opening Day, there’s nothing preventing them from bringing in a third catcher down the road (and vice versa).

But to me, carrying three catchers isn’t a viable solution for a team that’s hoping to win a lot of games; it’s a solution for a team that’s merely trying to keep their heads above water. If all goes to plan, that should not be the Toronto Blue Jays.

Two years ago when R.A. Dickey was entering his first season with the Blue Jays, it’s easy to see why the Blue Jays catered to him by not only signing Henry Blanco, but also having Josh Thole as a secondary battery mate. But by all indications, Russell Martin is a very good defensive catcher and welcomes the challenge of handling a knuckleballer.


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Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, if the Blue Jays do indeed decide to bring Josh Thole along for the ride, is it really all that bad if he plays every fifth game?

Not per se … it’s just that a starting lineup with Josh Thole and Justin Smoak occupying two spots in the lineup looks much more feeble compared to a lineup with Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion.

Image via AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

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 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

2 thoughts on “The Blue Jays Can’t Come to a Consensus on Their Catching Situation

  • March 28, 2015 at 2:00 am
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    You can't carry 3 catchers especially when Thole has an option left. Send him down and hope you can swing a deal for Navaro and is Isturis- saving you 9M in the process. You then call up Thole to catch Dickey and rest Martin.

    Reply
    • March 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm
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      Hope is key for that. It doesn't appear that the potential trade partners are ready to trade for Navarro….yet.
      As for Izturis, unfortunately it looks like the Jays are stuck with him..

      Reply

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