Should The Blue Jays Trade JP Arencibia?

Let’s get right to the point, Travis d’Arnaud is our catcher of the future and he will eventually be given the reigns from incumbent J.P. Arencibia.  There is no other way around it as d’Arnaud is one of the top rated catching prospects in baseball, if not number one. 

He has been our top prospect for two straight seasons and if not for a knee injury late last season I believe he would’ve been given an extended opportunity to show off his skills in the big leagues.  With that said is this the season to hand over the ever important job of handling a pitching staff to a daisy fresh rookie?

Trade rumours have been swirling around JP Arencibia, who turns 27 this season since he was hitting homeruns in the minor leagues.  There has always been someone seemingly better or ready to push him out the door yet here he is, fresh off another campaign where he hit would have hit 20+ HRs with 400+ PAs.

Let’s glance at his past two seasons to get an idea of what he can contribute:

J.P. Arencibia PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  HR  BB%  K%  wOBA  UZR   WAR 
2011 486 .219 .282 .438 23 7.4 27.4 .311 -11.0 0.8
2012 372 .233 .275 .435 18 4.8 29.0 .304 -1.1 1.3

 While the occasional homerun is nice his plate discipline and on-base skills leave a lot to be desired.  Given the way d’Arnaud has dominated minor league pitching over the past two seasons I am not sure he couldn’t out produce Arencibia almost immediately (in the triple slash line department) besides homeruns. 

Let’s take a look at how Bill James projects his 2013 statistics:

2013 Bill James PA   AVG   OBP  SLG  2B  HR  wOBA  wRC 
J.P. Arencibia 444 .233 .275 .451 24 22 .311 49

 John Gibbons strikes me as a bit old school and I find it unlikely he would hand over a fragile pitching staff to a player with no major league experience but if the Blue Jays get an offer for JP Arencibia that would upgrade the pitching staff I think a platoon of Buck/d’Arnaud could be workable.

The most prominent trade rumours have come out of Texas where the Rangers are looking for a replacement for Mike Napoli (not that he was really a fully fledged catcher) and apparently have had eyes for the powerful bat of Arencibia. 

The stadium in Arlington would be a near perfect fit for a bombs away approach and let’s be honest I don’t see Mr. Arencibia reinventing himself as a patient hitter anytime soon.  He would be a solid addition to almost any club (without a blue chipper waiting in the wings like Toronto) and Texas in particular.

If he were dealt to the Texas Rangers what could the Blue Jays expect or want in return?  I would have to guess that the Jays would be targeting pitching and more specifically a starting pitcher.  The Rangers do have half decent depth there (is there ever enough?) with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman, Martin Perez Alexi Ogando though none of these starters are really top notch or without some risk of injury or regression.

Yu Darvish will definitely not be on the move considering the sizeable investment the Blue Jays Rangers made when they won the bidding process.  He had a pretty solid rookie season (191 IPs, 10.4 K/9, 3.52 xFIP) all things considered and I think he can be better than what he showed in 2012.

Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz are both talented hurlers however both are coming off recent Tommy John surgery and aren’t expected to pitch until late into the upcoming 2013 season. 

I have liked Derek Holland in the past and feel he still has potential to develop into a top of the rotation (#2-3) starting pitcher.  However the Rangers may value him higher than his actual worth and his stats have never seemed to catch up with his perceived ‘stuff’.  Martin Perez is a highly touted prospect who has disappointed over the past couple of seasons. 

Alexi Ogando is a very talented relief pitcher and has had one pretty decent season as a starting pitcher in 2011 however he is not without durability concerns and certainly not a guy I would trade a 500+ PA catcher for.

I guess that leaves Matt Harrison. 

Harrison is coming off another solid season in the Rangers rotation and is a serviceable guy sort of in the Ricky Romero mould.  He won’t dominant or overwhelm opposing batters but he does a nice job keeping the ball in the yard and is a pretty decent southpaw to plug into a rotation.

Let’s look at his past two seasons:

Matt Harrison IP ERA  K/9  BB/9  HR/9  BABIP  xFIP  GB%  WAR 
2011 185.2 3.39 6.1 2.7 0.63 .290 3.85 47.5 4.4
2012 213.1 3.29 5.6 2.5 0.93 .284 4.13 49.0 3.8

 Given their own issues with the starting rotation the Rangers might be hesitant to move anyone who can possibly give meaningful innings, especially one who is relatively consistent like Harrison.  There is currently talk the Rangers are looking to extend Matt Harrison so whether that is posturing or not remains to be seen. 

If this offer were on the table would you accept it if you were Alex Anthopoulos?  I’d have to say yes but again I am not so sure the Texas Rangers can afford to lose a pitcher who has put up over 8 WAR in the past two years.

Would it perhaps be prudent to deal Travis d’Arnaud instead?  It is not likely his value will ever be much higher than after two years atop most top prospect lists.  Considering the hyper-inflated value of young, cost controlled assets this could be a great time to add a really good young arm (i.e. not Matt Harrison).

The thought process behind this is that JPA is basically ‘good enough’ behind the dish for the foreseeable future, has experience handling a staff and the return d’Arnaud would bring back would definitely be higher than what Arencibia would return.

Considering that I am writing this you know there is virtually no chance of this trade coming to fruition.  Has any blogger ever predicted an Alex Anthopoulos transaction?    

What do you guys think?  Will we trade JPA?  Should we trade JPA?  Any (realistic) trade ideas or targets?


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  14. 14 Idiot Fan November 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Perfect time to move on, if John Buck produces near his career levels he can essentially replace JPA. See what type of arm JPA and a mid prospect can return. I’d take Matt Harrison.

    We have to keep d’Arnaud unless we are getting a younger version of Matt Cain type of pitcher.

  15. 15 budyzer13 November 27, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Prognostication on AA’s moves is a fools game but mathematics does dictate that the jays are carrying too many catchers. If I were in AA’s shoes I would dump buck freeing up salary but his salary more then likely reduces his trade value. Leaving JPA and TdA. The chances are D’arnaud’s trade value may never be as high as it is as a prospect lottery ticket but your guarunteed arencibia is at his trade maximum. He is not going to find a magical OBP wand or stop striking out on balls he doesn’t hit out of the park and he is never going to be the defensive catcher everyone seems to wish him to be. I trade JPA only because he has hit his ceiling not that it’s a bad ceiling but Travis D’arnaud’s ceiling is ten times higher and could be twice the defensive catcher JPA is today.

    • 16 Wes Kepstro November 27, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Buck can be dealt with the $$ the Jays received to cover his salary, so as to ‘sweeten the deal’. That said, he’s the perfect stop-gap until Td’A is ready: he’s free (the Marlins paid the Jays to take him), experienced, and appreciates TOR. They also have Wilson behind him.

      Alternately, I think it’s an ideal time to deal JPA. There’s a little space left before he hits his ceiling, imo. His peak is likely as a slightly-above-average defensive C (UZR value of +1, +2, +3…?), who’ll hit 30 HR (with15 BB and 122 Ks). There’s nothing wrong with those figures from a C. As long as someone needs a C, AA doesn’t need to be a snake oil salesman to convince them that it’s valuable: they’ll already know it. TEX, NYM, SEA, and PIT are all looking for help at C (SEA wants someone to platoon with Jaso, which would lower JPAs overall value).

      The key point is your first sentence: AA’s impossible to predict and the Jays have a surplus at C. It’ll be interesting to see how the conundrum is resolved. Riddle me this, AA… 🙂

  16. 17 GordieDougie November 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Nothing to do with our catching situation, but how has no one noticed Freddy Sanchez’s .342 career BA vs. LHP as a platoon partner for Adam Lind?

  17. 19 Wes Kepstro November 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I like JPA’s defensive improvement. Unfortunately, first impressions are often lasting impressions so he’ll always be thought of as the C who allows too many passed balls, wild pitches, etc. But there it is in black ‘n’ white: -11.0 UZR in ’11, -1.1 in ’12. Then there’s the notable WAR improvement…

    I think TEX needs help right now, so that probably removes Td’A from the discussion. Besides, if they dealt Td’A I’d want Profar to be coming this way. Sort of a ‘your best prospect for our best prospect’ challenge trade.

    That means if TEX is the trade partner, then it’s likely for JPA or there’s an outside chance it’s for Buck. I think either JPA’s or Buck’s games play really well at the Ballpark, but Buck’s more polished defensively. I could definitely see a return to his TOR form in Arlington. The return would be lower, though. I think the Jays deal JPA and keep Buck/Wilson as the catching duo until mid-season or so when Td’A’s ready to be re-called.

    I like Ian Kinsler but he’s 31 in June, his defense might be declining, and I just can’t for the life of me figure out a good deal involving both JPA and Kinsler. Kinsler’s expensive and older but he’s a spark plug coming off a down year.

  18. 21 Steve November 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    One point that is omitted to this, is the talk about how TdA is raking in the minor leagues, well Arencibia was absolutely killing AAA pitching when he was called up, and it seemed the hype was similar (if not the same). TdA is seen as an obvious upgrade on the defensive side but I feel that people are optimistic in their preditctions of TdA automatically outplaying JPA offensively.

    • 22 @ALEastbound November 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      I agree d’Arnaud has been hyped however I don’t think I’m being too optimistic that he could outhit JPA almost immediately (wOBA wise).

      JPA was definitely a decent prospect coming up but he was more of a top 5-7 guy than a pure number one catching prosepct in the bigs.

      d’Arnaud slashed 311/371/542 and 333/380/595 in his last two MILB seasons.

      Arencibia slashed 236/284/444 and 301/459/626 (heavily aided by BABIP).

      I just think offensively d’Arnaud has a chance to be a major impact bat (AVG/OBP) where JPA is almost strictly dependent on BABIP and HR/FB to produce.

      But I definitely get your point. d’Arnaud isn’t likely to drop 25 bombs in his rookie season.

      • 23 Steve November 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

        I appreciate the response to the comment, also coupled with the use of stats to support your opinion (ofc one could argue those stats either way if they really inclined). In respect to the article, if they can get a stud impact pitcher they should make it in a heartbeat, I’m just not sure if I’m AA I would move him in a package (no way he goes 1-1) for Harrison. To me, the one drawback of trading JPA is the rise in playing time John Buck receives. As a rookie with no ML experience there is no way that TdA would get initially the amount of AB’s and defensive starts that JPA is currently slotted to.
        I expect a 2012 John Buck and not a Blue Jays 2.0 version of the guy.
        For me I don’t think the return on JP is high enough to gamble on and put out a rookie C on a team that looks deadly on paper. I
        I think JP offer more value in the lineup currently than traded and I hope TdA makes a lot of noise where a month or two in we have an awkward decision.

        Again I’m not against trading him, I just believe he won’t get his value returned in a trade.

        -one note is in recent years there have been many disappointing prospects with breakout years around age 27.

      • 24 @ALEastbound November 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        I agree Steve, there is no saying JPA couldn’t have a bust out season if he stays healthy and get 550+ PAs. He could hit 30 HRs in that scenerio if things go his way. I am definitely not opposed to just keeping him and letting d’Arnaud come along slowly.

        Or even possibly trading d’Arnaud, he could fetch a very good young hurler (Latos type) that this team could definitely still use until our top arms in the minors (Norris, Sanchez, Syndergaard, Smoral) are ready.

        Having these options and depth at C is a huge plus…

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