The Blue Jays have reportedly agreed to sign catcher Dioner Navarro to a two-year deal pending a physical, according to Ken Rosenthal. He also tweets that the deal is worth $8 million. The signing should give the Blue Jays some much-needed production from behind the plate, as J.P. Arencibia and Josh Thole combined for truly wretched production for the Jays in 2013. Both hit below .200, though Arencibia did knock 21 home runs. that was not enough to make up for Toronto's combined backstops line of .194/.235/.348.
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Navarro has followed the winding, well-worn path of the wayward catcher prospect over the years. He made the All-Star team with the Rays back in 2008, but otherwise he has struggled to live up to the expectations of a top-50 prospect. He revived his career in 2012 after signing a minor-league deal with the Reds, hitting well in AAA and earning a late-season call-up. He parlayed that into a free-agent deal worth $1.75 million with the Cubs last offseason. Chicago was very good to him, as he hit .300/.365/.492 while backing up Welington Castillo.
It has been a fine winter so far for backup catchers, as the likes of Jose Molina, Brayan Pena, and now Navarro have all signed multi-year deals. With so few high-quality catchers around the league, it seems teams are beginning to see the value in guys like Navarro who can catch 80 games a year and not embarrass themselves with the bat. Just $4 million a year for a part-time catcher may sound like a bit much at first blush, but ask the Blue Jays just how hard it is to find a decent catcher these days, and it all starts to make some sense.
What this will do to the rest of the catching market is unknown -- it is just Navarro -- though it does mean one fewer potential destination for free agent Jarrod Saltalmacchia, or trade target Ryan Hanigan.