Blue Jays have two-year deal with Navarro
Ten-year veteran catcher hit 13 home runs in 89 games for Cubs this year
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their first significant move of the offseason on Monday by signing veteran free-agent catcher Dioner Navarro to a two-year contract worth $8 million.
News of the deal first surfaced on Monday morning, though it wasn't officially announced until hours later. Navarro is set to earn $3 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015, and as part of the contract will make a donation to the Jays Care Foundation.
Navarro becomes the everyday catcher with J.P. Arencibia appearing to be on his way out after a frustrating 2013 campaign that included some well-documented struggles with the bat and behind the plate.
The 29-year-old Navarro spent the 2013 season playing for the Cubs, hitting .300 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in 240 at-bats. He also had an impressive .365 on-base percentage, with 20 extra-base hits.
Navarro certainly isn't perfect, though, and he does come with an element of risk. He hasn't played more than 89 games in a season since 2009 and has dealt with oblique and ankle injuries during the past three years. The last time he was an undisputed No. 1 catcher was 2007-09, with Tampa Bay.
Despite the risk, there also appears to a lot of upside. Navarro is a career .251 hitter with a .313 on-base percentage in 10 years at the big league level and strikes out far less than Arencibia. Navarro is also a switch-hitter and should provide more depth and versatility to a Blue Jays offense that underperformed in 2013.
Toronto's search for an upgrade behind the plate has been well documented over the past couple of months. The club was linked to free agent Carlos Ruiz before he re-signed with the Phillies, and various reports had the Blue Jays reaching out to several teams regarding trades, including the Reds, for Ryan Hanigan, and Angels, for Chris Iannetta.
Navarro's signing all but guarantees that Arencibia won't return in 2014. There has been a line of thinking within the organization that Arencibia would be ill suited for a backup role and that if an upgrade was found that it would be best for both sides to seek a fresh start.
Arencibia likely would have a rather difficult time handing the reins to Navarro after spending three seasons as the Blue Jays' No. 1 catcher. He's also projected to earn upwards of $2.7 million through arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors, and that's likely too expensive for a backup role.
Toronto also has veteran backup catcher Josh Thole under contract for the 2014 season at $1.5 million. Thole's role likely remains unchanged following the club's latest signing, and he appears set to continue working as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey's personal catcher.