Pitching is the Blue Jays’ top priority this winter, and Toronto has already made one notable move on that front with its acquisition of Chase Anderson from the Brewers. It remains to be seen whether the Jays will look to free agency or further trades to upgrade its staff, though in regards to the latter option, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports that Toronto’s “catchers have also been drawing interest from other clubs” in preliminary trade discussions.
Danny Jansen handled the bulk of the work behind the plate for the Jays last season, hitting only .207/.279/.360 over 384 plate appearances but displaying some excellent defensive prowess in his first full MLB campaign. Both StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus cited Jansen as one of the league’s best pitch-framers, with BP also highly praising Jansen’s blocking skills. The 24-year-old held his own at throwing out baserunners, stopped 19 of 61 stolen base attempts.
It was quite a performance for a player who was more touted for his offensive skill coming up through the farm system, and if Jansen can improve to even average production with the bat, he’ll be a very valuable catcher going forward. This could also make him an interesting trade chip, though since Jansen is controlled through the 2024 season, the Jays would certainly want a solid return for his services. It could ultimately make for a tough negotiation since a rival team could rightly argue that Jansen hasn’t yet shown much hitting skill at the big league level.
Ultimately, there’s probably more evidence that the Jays still see Jansen less as a trade chip and more as their catcher of the future, so that could make Reese McGuire more expendable. An oblique injury sent Luke Maile to the injured list in July and limited him to just three games for the remainder of the season, as McGuire went on a hot streak and more or less entered into a timeshare with Jansen down the stretch.
Selected 14th overall by the Pirates in the 2013 draft, McGuire was rather surprisingly traded to Toronto in a 2016 deadline deal, packaged with fellow prospect Harold Ramirez and veteran lefty Francisco Liriano for right-hander Drew Hutchison. The trade was mostly about unloading Liriano’s $18MM in remaining salary for the Bucs, leaving the Jays to potentially reap the benefits from a catcher who has hit very well (.297/.343/.539 with seven homers in 138 PA) in his brief Major League career. McGuire also has above-average blocking and framing grades — something of the opposite of Jansen, McGuire was considered more of a glove-first catcher during his time in the minors.
This leaves Maile looking like a potential non-tender candidate unless the Jays can find a trade partner. The veteran is projected to earn only $800K in arbitration this winter, though may no longer have a spot on Toronto’s roster if Jansen and McGuire are the new regular duo. Maile turns 29 in February, and hit a respectable .248/.333/.366 over 231 PA in 2018, though that solid season was sandwiched between two very poor years at the plate in 2017 and 2019.
The Blue Jays could also look to move younger catchers from within their farm system. Gabriel Moreno (#8), Alejandro Kirk (#12), and Riley Adams (#27) are all ranked within MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 30 Jays prospects. Adams is the most developed, with 81 games at Double-A last season, while Kirk reached the advanced A-ball level and Moreno spent all of 2019 at Single-A Lansing.