How The Toronto-Miami Trade Affects Texas


Yesterday afternoon, news unleashed suddenly and unremittingly on Twitter that the Marlins and Blue Jays were in the process of a blockbuster trade. Amidst a couple hours worth of speculation to determine who was, in fact, involved in the deal, reports manifest that the Marlins had dished out virtually all of its essential cast of expensive contributors. Jose Reyes, Mark Beuhrle, Josh Johnson — gone. Also included were role-playing types like John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio.

Via Toronto, the Marlins received shortstop Yunel Escobar, right-handed starter Henderson Alvarez, catcher Jeff Mathis, and a bevy of minor league prospects.

Purely from a talent standpoint, it’s obvious that Toronto came away with quite an impressive haul. From the business end, Miami shed an abundance of payroll which the Blue Jays will now absorb. The trade signals a clear and omnipresent message to the meager (and perhaps dwindling) Miami fan base: Do not expect a winner in 2013.

You could probably rule out 2014 as well.

Prior to the Marlins 2012 season, a year of promise, of hope, and of a redefined commitment to its fan base — here we are less than 12 months later, and the castle has been destroyed by the same foundation that attempted to resurrect it.

Since mid-July when the Marlins first showed they were conceding their season, along with their collective of marquee talent, the franchise has parted ways with Hanley Ramirez (to the Dodgers), Heath Bell (to Arizona), and have now ultimately capped off their fire sale by relinquishing north of $150M in guaranteed capital to the only team left north of the border, the Blue Jays. If it wasn’t for  Giancarlo Stanton, it might be best to just keep the lights off in South Beach next year.

But I’ll spare you the hyperbole.

Due to the team I’m a fan of, the franchise I write about, only one real question needs to be answered: How does this mammoth deal affect the Rangers?

/Associated Press

Mixed between the lines of all the talent that traded hands was the swapping of two catchers. Certainly I’m not trying to imply that the true trade yesterday was actually the light-hitting Jeff Mathis for the light-fielding John Buck. That would be bonkers. However, we’ve heard all offseason that the Rangers need a backstop. The Blue Jays, for all they are accomplishing on the macro scale by acquiring Jose Reyes and two reasonably impressive pitchers, are still Texas’s gatekeepers on a micro level due to the surplus of catching they possess.

The Rangers have been linked to J.P. Arencibia with the promise that he probably wouldn’t cost a whole lot, and some fans still hold out some (probably futile) hope that there is some major package out there to get the Jays’ top prospect, Travis d’Arnand. Toronto also possesses ex-Angels backup Bobby Wilson, and the aforementioned John Buck whom they just acquired.

At the very minimum, that’s four serviceable big league catchers with only two spots to fill. Since most teams prefer a catcher of each ilk — that being both offensive and defensive (with the bigger bat generally getting the majority of the playing time) — we can assume they will be moving either John Buck or J.P. Arencibia (or both), and that Bobby Wilson has the least amount of value out of the bunch. Travis d’Arnand seems to be the only one who’s untouchable.

With the fair assumption that Mike Napoli is leaving, and with reports surfacing that the Rangers will not retain Geovany Soto, Texas will be in need of two catchers. If we cede the idea that Bobby Wilson probably isn’t that guy, and that Travis d’Arnand is off-limits, who between J.P. Arencibia and John Buck will be of greater interest to the Rangers?

For starters, 2013 will mark Arencibia’s age-27 season; Buck will turn 33 in July. Contractually, since Arencibia will be in his 3rd season, he will only command league-minimum money before he hits his first year of arbitration following the 2013 season; Buck is signed for $6M in 2013 before reaching free agency after the year.

Offensively, Arencibia produced a 2012 triple slash line of .233/.275/.435, with a wOBA of .304 and wRC+ of 89. To put it simply, although he banged out 18 home runs in only 372 plate appearances, he’s clearly not the kind of guy who takes walks.

Buck, on the other hand, found himself in the middle of a very down offensive year in 2012, putting together a gruesome .192/.297/.347 in nearly 400 PA’s. If you bank on Buck rebounding a little in 2013, along with the added kick he’d likely receive playing half his games in Arlington, there’s enough there (particularly with respect to his walk rate) to believe he might do well on a one-year deal.

(And in case you were wondering, despite Buck’s batting average being 41 points lower than Arencibia’s in 2012, his on-base percentage was actually 22 points higher.)

It’s really a matter of what you’re more interested in. If you want to invest a spot on the roster in Arencibia over the next 4 years in hopes he improves his plate discipline, he’s probably the one with a bit higher ceiling. But if you figure that neither of these two players are part of the Rangers longterm plans, Buck would be the better way to go being that you’re only obligated to one season of him. If you ask me, I’d lean towards the latter, if for nothing else that Arencibia’s free-swinging nature wouldn’t mesh as well in our lineup as John Buck would.

After all, the Rangers already have over $16M invested in a designated hitter who also has a rough time getting on base. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

It’s so early in the process that Jon Daniels can still go down any number of avenues before reaching his destination of finding a true #1 catcher, of which there are a finite amount spread out across baseball. Taking that into consideration, it’s fair to say that neither Arencibia or Buck is that guy, and their role would likely be as a backup.

Still, catching depth has become a weakness in Arlington, which makes it such a high priority amongst the many priorities the Rangers carry with them in the offseason.