Toronto Star

Blue Jays have valuable trade commodity in veteran Navarro

- Richard Griffin

It’s rare for Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulo­s to talk frankly to the media about players he is interested in or that have been the topic of trade discussion­s with other clubs.

So when he does, you have to believe there is something in the works, a trigger about to be pulled. On Friday when the sixth-year GM spoke openly of his interest in freeagent reliever Rafael Soriano, and that catcher Dioner Navarro is depth from which to make a trade, it indicated something is close to happening.

“Stating the obvious here, but behind the plate with Navarro, that’s an area of depth,” Anthopoulo­s said.

“We’re not hiding anything there. He could be an everyday guy for somebody. We like him on the team. He’s valuable. We’re glad he’s on this team, but if there’s that opportunit­y we improve the club and it gets him an everyday playing spot, we would do that and I’ve said that to him as well. He understand­s that. That’s probably the area of depth that jumps out the most.”

The Jays, by most accounts, are spending about $12 million less on 2015 payroll than they did in 2014. Anthopoulo­s indicated that any extra money he is allowed to spend right now would go towards the bullpen.

He also confirmed he had spoken sometime in the past few weeks with Diamondbac­ks GM Dave Stewart about Navarro, and that he had been seeking another outfielder. That outfielder search will continue with Navarro as bait, plus the willingnes­s to eat some of his $5 million (U.S.) salary.

In Saturday’s 7-2 victory over the Astros, Navarro made his second start behind the plate in four games since his return to the majors. Showcase? Russell Martin has made just two starts at catcher in the past five games. At this time of the season, just a third of the way into the schedule, that smacks of showing off Navarro for other teams’ pro scouts. Likely nothing will be done on either the Soriano or Navarro front until the conclusion of the June draft, which wraps up this coming Wednesday.

As for Navarro, he knows about the behind-the-scenes negotiatio­ns but prefers to leave the details to his agent and Anthopoulo­s. Nothing has changed since the spring.

“I really try to stay away from all that,” Navarro emphasized prior to Saturday’s victory. “The season started, this is my team and I want to do whatever. I’ll do anything for my team. Whatever they need me to do, I will do. But like I said at the beginning of spring training, I just wanted to play every day. I didn’t put up a tantrum, I just said my piece.”

And even though the 31-year-old Venezuelan’s next contract will rely heavily on the continuati­on of being an everyday catcher in the majors, or at least the perception of such, Navarro seems unconcerne­d about the remainder of this season, which is the final year of a two-year contract. He started for the Jays in Year One and believes his situation will sort itself out.

“It’s so hard for me to think ahead of time,” he said. “I’m a today guy. I’m going to live today. I’m going to do my thing today and whatever happens after that, it happens. Everything will take care of itself. Everything happens for a reason.

“I’m a huge spiritual guy. I believe (God) knows what He’s doing. Sometimes you’ll be asking yourself, ‘What the hell?’ but I’m really happy being here and I just try to do my thing. I think I’m capable of helping my team, whether it’s defensivel­y or offensivel­y or just being around giving energy.”

The Jays have now won all four games since Navarro’s return from an injury-rehab assignment in Triple-A Buffalo, including behind the plate for Mark Buehrle’s shutout in Washington and Drew Hutchison’s fifth win, with relief help, over the Astros on Saturday.

It remains important for Navarro’s next contract that teams see him as a viable, 100-game catcher. He needs games. His catcher’s ERA now stands at 3.50 in 36 innings, lower even than Martin’s. But there’s more to selling Navarro; it’s been a down season so far for MLB catchers in general.

Consider there are currently 10 catchers on disabled lists around the majors. Teams that could use an upgrade in catching include the D’backs, Braves, Red Sox, White Sox, Reds, Marlins, Mariners and Rays. Of 65 players listed as catchers that have appeared in MLB games, 43 have averages under .210 and 40 have an OPS under .600.

There clearly is a need for healthy catchers that can hit.

Anthopoulo­s will attempt to accommodat­e Navarro while negotiatin­g for a veteran outfielder who can at least platoon and is a true outfielder instead of an out-of-position infielder.

But if the move does not help his big-league Jays, Anthopoulo­s won’t make it.

That’s the plan.

 ??  ?? Don’t be surprised when the Jays trade catcher Dioner Navarro for some outfield help.
Don’t be surprised when the Jays trade catcher Dioner Navarro for some outfield help.
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