In the ridiculous blockbuster where the Miami Marlins sent the entire core of the team to the Toronto Blue Jays, one player who was a throw-in was catcher John Buck. On the roster Buck replaces Jeff Mathis, who was traded to Miami, but Buck will make 6 million dollars compared to the 1.5 million that Mathis made. Just talking about Mathis and Buck is disregarding the player who has received the most starts for the Blue Jays at catcher the last two years, J.P. Arencibia, so it looks like the Jays have too many starting catchers right now. As it turns out, the situation is exacerbated a little more by the fact both Arencibia and now Buck are really just stop-gaps for the Blue Jays’ catcher of the future, top prospect Travis d’Arnaud, and d’Arnaud could be ready at some point in 2013.
The Blue Jays have catchers. So do the Rays, but not ones that they’re confident given starts to this coming season. Trading within the division doesn’t happen too often (the Jays and Rays have made three trades, but none since 2004), but given the Rays’ need for a catcher and the Blue Jays’ surplus at the system, there has to be some possibility a trade could come together. The player the Jays would most like to trade is Buck because of his salary, and he’s a solid player, managing an 87 OPS+ for his career with decent defense, but his OPS+ was just 75 in 2012, and he’s now 32 years old. His trade value is extremely low, but if the Jays were willing to bite the bullet on a couple million dollars of his salary, they might be able to get a prospect with a little potential in return for him. The Rays could offer a player like left-hander Braulio Lara, who throws a fastball that reaches the mid-90’s but has never developed his secondary pitches and got shelled to a 5.71 ERA and just a 1.41 strikeout to walk ratio in 2012. Obviously Lara has a ton of risk, but he has good upside and the Blue Jays couldn’t expect to get all that much much more than a lottery ticket for Buck if they get a player with any potential.
Arencibia, who will turn 27 in January, has higher trade value because he won’t even be arbitration-eligible until 2013 and because he has an actual plus tool, his power. Arencibia comes with clear flaws: a lack of patience at the plate and just decent defense, being a barely-passable receiver who allows way too many passed balls and will never throw out many attempted basestealers, but he has the ability to hit 20-25 homers annually and the Rays could certainly do a lot worse than him. But they would have to give the Blue Jays a real prospect or two in return. The Blue Jays need pitching- would the Rays be willing to give it to them? The Blue Jays are loaded with high-upside pitching prospects, but none of them outside maybe their 2012 first rounder Marcus Stroman, but even Stroman is questionable to remain a starter. The Rays could offer them a pitcher like Alex Colome, who pitched at Triple-A in 2012 and has number three starter potential with a reasonable chance to get there. He’s nothing all that flashy- although there are moments when his electric stuff makes you dream of him putting it all together as a topflight starter before his command issues drive you insane, but neither is Arencibia at this point. Who has more value, Colome or Arencibia? That’s a valid question at this point as Colome has the potential to be an above-average big league starting pitcher while Arencibia is what he is at this point, a below-average all-around catcher with good power. Adding in a prospect or two on one side or another would even at the package.
Complicating a potential trade is that after the blockbuster trade and the signing of Melky Cabrera, the Blue Jays are going to try to contend in 2012. Maybe they see having both Arencibia and Buck on the roster isn’t such a bad thing as they try to manage the best possible situation at catcher before d’Arnaud is ready. They showed by taking on the long-term contracts of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle to go along with the 13.75 million dollars that Josh Johnson is making this year that they’re not afraid to spend, and 6 million dollars is not such a big deal for them to spend. At the end of the day, especially considering this would be an inter-division trade, the Rays would have to overpay to get Arencibia or Buck, and although the two teams are a fit in theory, it would be a major surprise if a trade actually came together.