Sep 10, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro (30) singles in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
When Miguel Montero was traded to the Cubs, it left Arizona in an interesting situation, to say the least. Arizona’s depth at catcher is more of a kiddy pool than a diving pool, as Peter O’Brien and Tuffy Gosewisch are now the only legitimate options behind the dish.
O’Brien came over from The Yankees as part of the Martin Prado trade last season, and has yet to see any major league time. There is nearly zero disagreement among baseball scouts that O’Brien’s bat is as alive as they come, but his defense is questionable at best, and it has been said his game calling needs work as well.
A popular opinion amongst Diamondbacks fans is that Miguel Montero has the same qualities (and holes in his game) that O’Brien currently has, so rushing O’Brien to “The Big Club” makes little to no sense.
Tuffy Gosewisch appears to be a very good defensive catcher, albeit over a very small sample size. In 42 games started between 2013 and 2014, Tuffy has posted a very good .996 fielding percentage, and seems to call a decent game as well. That leaves one huge question – is Arizona willing to base their 2015 season at catcher around a guy with a total of 390 innings behind the plate? For comparison, Miguel Montero caught nearly three times that many innings in 2014 alone – 1,152.
If Arizona doesn’t make the call to Peter O’Brien, and I don’t think they should quite yet, then to whom do they turn? It seems a trade is the only really viable option here. Geovany Soto is roaming around on the free agent market, but Dave Stewart has said he has no interest there, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
The most interesting option is Dioner Navarro, who is currently under contract with the Toronto Blue Jays through the 2015 season. Navarro is a sturdy, reliable option at catcher, but has never started more than 113 games, and that was back in 2008. Last year with Toronto, Dioner started only 102 games, catching 907.1 innings, with an outstanding .996 fielding percentage. He holds a career .990 fielding percentage, and it would actually be higher, believe it or not, if not for his first six years in the league, where he was not a very good fielder – for example, in 2007 he recorded 14 errors behind the plate resulting in an awful .984 fielding percentage.
While Navarro is not known for his ability to frame pitches, he’s a big guy, and is able to get in the way of many pitches – although he did allow 5 passed balls in 2013, while with the Cubs. His decent offensive ability makes up for any weaknesses he has behind the dish, while he posted a .274/.317/.395 slash line in 2014, and holds a career mark of .255/.313/.375. He’s no Russell Martin, but he also comes much cheaper and could fill the hole Arizona has behind the dish for 2015, while Peter O’Brien spends the year developing. Navarro is owed $5MM in 2015, and is a free agent thereafter.
To properly discuss this, I need to evaluate Toronto’s depth chart at second base. Ryan Goins, Maicer Izturis, and Steve Tolleson fill the 2nd base void in Toronto. Chances are pretty good you just asked yourself “Who? Izturis still plays? And who?” just as I did when researching Toronto’s depth chart.
Ryan Goins has played in only 101 MLB games, and posted a slash line of .213/.231/.300 in 300 career ABs. In those 300 at bats, he’s struck out a whopping 70 times, and driven in only 23. While he does post a respectable .994 fielding percentage, that number has to be taken with the proverbial ‘grain of salt’ as 101 career games is simply not enough to accurately define a player on either side of the baseball.
Behind Goins on the depth chart is journeyman extraordinaire Maicer Izturis. Izturis has been in the league since 2004, spending most of his time with the Anaheim Angels. He’s posted a career slash line of .269/.331/.372 and a career WAR .2. The most games Izturis has ever played in any one season is 122, with Anaheim in 2011. In 2014 Izturis was injured and was able to play only 11 games, so for the purpose of this piece, we’ll ignore that season altogether. In 2013, he posted a .236/.288/.310 slash line, 32RBI, 5HR, and a WAR of -2.2, and a fielding percentage of .988 at 2B. In other words, he didn’t do a whole lot for the Jays except fill a spot on the 40-man roster.
Toronto’s third and final option at second base is a young man named Steve Tolleson, who is a career minor leaguer, and has bounced around with the Twins, A’s, Orioles, Padres, White Sox and Blue Jays, all since 2006. Tolleson’s 2014 in Toronto shows a .253/.308/.371 slash line, with a WAR of .2. Defensively, there isn’t much to show as he played RF, LF, 3B, SS, and 2B in 2014, with a horrific career fielding percentage of .955.
So what’s the point in me telling you all about Toronto’s second base situation? Well, it just so happens that Arizona has a surplus of infielders in their farm system, and a defensively reliable second baseman with the big club, who seems (to me anyway) like he could be expendable if the return is right. His name? Aaron Hill.
Because of down 2013 and 2014 seasons, Hill has fallen out of favor with the Arizona fans, although he still puts up solid defensive numbers, and even with the down year last year, he posted a .988 fielding percentage. Hill’s career slash line is .270/.325/.427, which is very respectable … and that doesn’t account for his propensity to drive people in, not really something the league is accustomed to seeing out of second baseman not named Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, or Chase Utley. Last year, Hill drove in drove in 60 with 10 homers, and a slash line of .244/.287/.367, all while missing 29 games due to a dislocated finger late in the season.
Aaron Hill is a solid second baseman who began his career wearing Toronto blue. He’s owed $12MM in 2015, and is under team control through 2016, with another $12MM on the hook that year as well. Hill is due for a bounce-back year in ’15, and his career has followed a pattern of such – a few years of excellence, a few years of mediocrity, then back to excellence. Perhaps a change of scenery (back to Toronto) would be good for Hill, and the Diamondbacks could get one year of team control out of Dioner Navarro – which is really just enough time for O’Brien to finish being polished into a major league catcher.
Now that Toronto has Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro has become expendable, and what better team to ship him off to than Arizona? Put Navarro in Sedona Red, and Hill in Toronto Blue – it’s a no-brainer win/win for both sides.
Do you have any Arizona Diamondback questions you’d like answered? E-mail me at DBacksCJack@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter @DbackCJack