Blue Jays explain decision to cut Arencibia

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos wasn’t determined to

part ways with catcher J.P. Arencibia after the former first round

pick suffered through a career-worst season in 2013.

But after reaching an agreement Monday on a two-year, $8 million

deal with former All-Star Dioner Navarro, Toronto decided not to

offer Arencibia a contract for 2014, making him a free agent.

”It was about the alternatives and what was out there, and if

we felt there was a chance to improve the club, we were going to do

it,” Anthopoulos said in a conference call Tuesday. ”We didn’t go

into the offseason with the decision of we were certainly going to

make a change.”

Arencibia hit 21 home runs in 2013, the second-highest total

among big league catchers, but posted career-low numbers in batting

average (.194), on-base percentage (.227) and slugging percentage

(.365). His team-high 148 strikeouts were also the most of his

career.

While Anthopoulos said the decision to non-tender Arencibia

”was certainly not set in stone,” he acknowledged that the Blue

Jays need more consistent production from behind the plate.

They’ll hope to get that from Navarro, who hit .300 with a

career high 13 home runs in 240 at bats with the Chicago Cubs in

2013.

”We looked into everybody on the free agent market that we

thought could start and this was definitely the best fit for us,”

Anthopoulos said of Navarro, an All-Star with Tampa Bay in

2008.

”It’s nice to have a switch-hit bat, nice to have more of a

contact bat and someone that has some on-base skills,” he

said.

Anthopoulos said cutting Arencibia loose was ”not an easy

decision at all,” and predicted that the 27-year-old would improve

in 2014.

”I do think he’s going to bounce back,” Anthopoulos said. ”He

was a little banged up, and the one thing about JP, he’s a very

durable guy, very tough, plays through a lot of injuries.

”He knows he’s certainly capable of more. I certainly believe

he’s capable of more.”

Anthopoulos conceded that Navarro has a poor reputation for

blocking balls in the dirt, but praised his relationship with

pitchers.

”Everyone really raved about his game-calling,” Anthopoulos

said. ”Guys love throwing to him.”

Navarro, who’ll earn $3 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015,

will get the bulk of the catching duties in Toronto, with Josh

Thole backing him up. Thole is also the primary catcher for

knuckleballer and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

Anthopoulos said he ”wouldn’t rule out” a move for another

catcher, but said the Blue Jays are content with the tandem.