TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays bolstered their bench Friday, acquiring switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league left-hander Colton Turner.
The 32-year-old Navarro played for the Blue Jays in 2014 and ’15, batting .267/.390/.704 with 17 homers across 193 games. He left this past off-season in search of more playing time and signed a one-year, $4-million deal with the White Sox.
So far this season, Navarro is hitting .210/.267/.339 for Chicago. He played sporadically during the first half of the season before taking over as the White Sox everyday catcher in July.
Although Navarro hasn’t hit very well this season, he’ll provide the Blue Jays with a more proven offensive commodity at backup catcher than the knuckleball specialist Josh Thole currently does. Navarro was also a clubhouse favourite during his time with the Blue Jays, and will no doubt fit seamlessly back in with his old teammates.
“We just felt like any way we can get incrementally better, we’ll look to do so. The added experience and time he has with this team was a benefit. He’ll fit right in with the clubhouse,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “When we made the staff aware that he would be joining us, they were extremely excited about not just what he means as a catcher but as an overall teammate.”
Atkins said the Blue Jays are hopeful Navarro will perform better offensively with a return to a familiar team currently in the thick of the post-season race. Atkins called Navarro shortly after the trade was completed, and said the catcher was excited to be coming back to Toronto and that he “could see the smile through the phone.”
“Obviously, Chicago was a very good environment at the start of the season. But this should be a boost of energy for him coming into a contender,” Atkins said. “He can even make contributions to an overall offensive team as a catcher. He’s someone who studies pitchers; studies the way he’s attacked and others are attacked. He’s always made contributions that way.”
The Blue Jays are currently planning to activate Navarro on Monday for the start of the club’s three-game set in Baltimore against the Orioles. That will give Navarro some time to take care of personal matters in Chicago and delays the subsequent move the Blue Jays will have to make to add Navarro to their roster.
Major league rosters don’t expand to 40 until Thursday, meaning the Blue Jays will likely have to carry three catchers through the Orioles series. The only way around that scenario would be if the team asked Thole — who’s scheduled to catch R.A. Dickey on Sunday — to accept a minor-league assignment until rosters expand.
The 29-year-old is out of options (although it’s highly unlikely another team would claim him on waivers) and has the right to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues and instead become a free agent because he has more than five years of MLB service time.
But the path of least resistance for the Blue Jays will likely involve carrying all three catchers through Baltimore and then replenishing a shortened bench or bullpen on Sept. 1. Atkins said the Blue Jays have a good idea which players they’ll be adding to the major league roster in September, and that the total will likely be less than 10.
“I think the way we’re going to frame it is guys that can make contributions; guys that are going to play,” Atkins said. “We don’t want to add guys that we don’t’ think will have the chance to make an impact.”
Navarro is eligible to play for the Blue Jays in the post-season, and would likely be the favourite over Thole to earn the backup catcher spot on Toronto’s roster if Dickey is not in the October starting rotation. Of course, a lot can change between now and then. For the Blue Jays, this move was about making the team better today.
Arden Zwelling via Sports Net | Photo: cdn.fansided.com
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