Anthopoulos talks catching

The Blue Jays announced a two-year contract extension for veteran Jeff Mathis on Tuesday afternoon. That would appear to force Toronto’s hand this offseason to pick either J.P. Arencibia or top prospect Travis d’Arnaud but that wasn’t the way general manager Alex Anthopoulos explained things during a scrum with reporters.

Anthopoulos believes there’s room for all three catchers on the roster at one time because d’Arnaud could see some time at designated hitter depending on what happens with Adam Lind during the offseason. That might work for a little while but at some point the club will need to make a final decision because both Arencibia and d’Arnaud possess the type of skill set that should enable them to be everyday catchers and if either one is forced to switch positions it would impact their overall value.

Of course Anthopoulos isn’t going to say a lot of that publicly. He would never go into an offseason while stating one of the two catchers has to be traded because it would have a negative impact on what the Blue Jays could net in return. So, for now Toronto will move forward with three potential Major League catchers in the fold plus a temporary replacement in Yorvit Torrealba.

Here’s what Anthopoulos had to say about the entire situation:

On signing Mathis…

“If we didn’t have him, we were going to look for someone like him either way. Obviously J.P.’s the starter and prior to this year, he’s a guy that can handle the load and catch a lot of games. Jeff’s a great complement to him. We know he’s a great defender, he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a great teammate and I think he accepts the role and he understands the role and he’s still a competitor. If we don’t have him we’re looking for that guy.

“Even last offseason, you look at the free agent market, and for a guy that’s going to be in the back-up role, you’re looking for a combination of things. Teammate, clubhouse presence, athleticism, defense at that position, all of those things and someone that accepts the role, all of those things are important.”

On signing Torrealba…

“It’s an established big league player that has had some success. Jeff’s been handling the bulk of the role right now, him and Torrealba will split the job. He’ll go down to New Hampshire for four games and he’ll join the team in Detroit. So, he’ll be activated on Tuesday assuming no health issues or things like that. Him and Jeff with share the role to start and from there we’ll see how things go but Jeff knows about it and I even called J.P. about it as well so no one’s confused. This is a chance to get a quality big league player and at this stage it was a no-brainer for us.”

On appearing to have too many catchers now with d’Arnaud and Arencibia…

“I don’t think you ever have too many but I understand the question. Obviously with Travis having a great year in Las Vegas and unfortunately he got hurt and was banged up. I think we’ve brought this up before, obviously Travis is a tremendous prospect and he’s that right now, J.P.’s the starter, Jeff is the backup. There has been a lot of flux with respect to not necessarily first base because obviously Edwin’s really taken to that position but there could be potential at-bats at DH depending on how things go with Adam.

“Travis could find some ABs there. Who knows what the offseason is going to bring, it’s amazing how quickly things can change. I’d rather have too many players than too few. There’s always a way to work those things out.”

d’Arnaud would be a candidate for DH and 1B?

“I don’t know about first, we had him take some balls at first base in Las Vegas but right now I think Edwin has pretty much established himself as the guy getting the bulk of the reps at first. I think Travis, at the end of the day, can certainly force his way up here. We’ll find at-bats for him if that was to end up being the case.”

On how d’Arnaud’s injury impacted his timeline…

“He would have been up now, the way he was playing in Las Vegas. When J.P. got hurt, Travis certainly would have gotten the opportunity to come up and play the same way when John Buck was hurt a few years ago, J.P. was having a great year down there and got the opportunity. There’s no question he was definitely performing well enough and worthy of a call-up like some of the other guys have gotten but unfortunately he got hurt.

“Long-term he’s going to be fine, we still think he’s going to be a tremendous player and a tremendous prospect. This really doesn’t change anything. When players are good you find room for them.”

d’Arnaud going to the Arizona Fall League?

“Right now, there’s thought of doing that but it’s going to depend on how he recovers, what the doctors says and so on. If we can get him more at-bats because he has lost some at-bats we’ll definitely look to do that.”

d’Arnaud to start next year in Triple-A?

“I don’t want to say that. I want to see how the offseason plays out. I don’t want to sit here and rule out that he couldn’t come into Spring Training and compete for a spot on this team. That’s my hope, without promising or anything, I would hope there would be a scenario where he could come in and compete for a spot on this team.”

If d’Arnaud’s a candidate to DH is Arencibia a candidate as well?

“Yeah, but J.P.’s been the everyday guy here for two years, knows the staff, works well with them, has made tremendous strides. It’s just like anything else, when we ask about some of these other prospects, I don’t necessarily believe in displacing guys that are established and have proven themselves up here. J.P. apart from the injury was having a better year than he was last year, he’s gotten better. He’s our everyday guy behind the plate.”

Would there be enough catching opportunities for d’Arnaud if both Arencibia and Mathis were on the roster?

“I think there is always ways to find, you can always give guys a blow and a rest. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on it and it’s just because things happen quickly, guys get hurt, I think it’s more about getting guys bats in the lineup. I don’t want to speak for what could be in Spring Training but there was really no downside to doing this one way or the other because I wouldn’t want a scenario where Travis is here playing twice a week like Jeff is. That’s not good for his development, the same way when Buck was here we didn’t want J.P. playing twice a week.

“Both of their bats are good enough and big enough that they’re everyday players. If Travis doesn’t get as many reps behind the plate, that’s fine, his bat is just a unique bat, it has a chance to be a middle of the order impact bat and J.P. as well. From that standpoint, I wouldn’t be overly concerned but things always seem to work themselves out.”

Wouldn’t that devalue d’Arnaud’s defense if he’s not getting regular time behind the plate?

“It doesn’t devalue it. He’s still a good defender but he’s also a great hitter as well. This is a guy that has won the MVP Award down in New Hampshire and was probably on his way to winning another MVP in Las Vegas. At the end of the day, you can never have too many good players, you can never have too much flexibility and there is just no downside to having good players. I think the important thing would be getting their bats in the lineup.”

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