The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t quite come out and say it, but that didn’t make the message any less clear: J.P. Arencibia‘s role as a no. 1 catcher is no longer as certain as it used to be.
Now, considering that the threat they’ve put behind him is Josh Thole — he of a .664 career OPS — you can’t say it’s exactly an immediate threat to the throne (unlike when Travis d’Arnaud was still around), but the fact that the team has finally decided it was time to part ways with Henry Blanco (.525 OPS) indicates that there’s something brewing behind the plate in Toronto.
And to be fair, Arencibia is giving them a pretty good reason for it, too.
Yes, as long as he was hitting homers, you could probably make a case that the rest of the package the catcher offers could at least be serviceable to the team; after all, a home run is the very best possible outcome of any given at-bat, and it’s not easily found in catchers. When he’s not doing that at a very high rate, however … well, that’s a different story.
Through a mix of natural decline of unsustainable numbers (ie. 25 percent HR/FB rate) and misuse in the lineup (he has no business batting anywhere higher than sixth really), Arencibia’s long ball totals have dropped from eight in the April to four in May.
He has yet to homer in five games in June, and enters play on Saturday in an eight-game homer-less drought, his second longest stretch of games without hitting the ball out of the park in 2013.
Not only is he not hitting home runs, though — he’s just not hitting anything at all.
In that same homer-less stretch, Arencibia has managed all but a single hit, dropping his numbers down to an almost disproportionately dismal .219/.240/.443 on the year headed into Saturday. Being a streaky hitter, these kinds of struggles have not been unique to him since he entered the league, but you can see why the Blue Jays have put Thole behind him to provide some gentle motivation as R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher.
Oddly enough, Arencibia has also drawn three walks over his last 10 games, which is eye-opening in the fact that he’d went through a stretch of 27 whole games without a free pass at one point, and only has five on the year. So … maybe some baby steps are being taken to curb his hack-tastic ways now that he’s stopped hitting missiles out of the park?
In any case, that’s not to say that his job is in jeopardy yet, but there are at least some signs that the Blue Jays are no longer necessarily willing to play the status quo game with their backstop for the rest of the year.
Your move, J.P.