Though it hasn’t always been Alex Anthopoulos‘ style, there is something to be said about known quantities in team-building.
And after years of stockpiling high-upside players before finally pulling the trigger and opening up a window to compete, it’s what that Toronto Blue Jays are able to get out of their positions now which should be on primary concern for the GM. So while rumors have suggested that the team is interested in one of the Los Angeles Angels‘ duo of catchers in Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta, it’d probably benefit them not spend too much time looking at the former.
But what does Iannetta give the Blue Jays that makes him the ideal target of the two?
Well, it’s precisely that the team would know what they’re going to get. Make no mistake about Conger: despite having shown relatively little to be excited about over his stints in the bigs, he does have the pedigree and the minor league track record for being a very good bat with pop; and at 25-years old, there’s a decent enough chance that he’ll be a much better catcher than Iannetta in the long run.
However, because he hasn’t shown it at this level, that potential means relatively little to the Blue Jays’ hopes of competing for a postseason spot as soon as 2014.
Iannetta, on the other hand, has an established skill set that’s not likely to change at 30-years old. He too has some pop (20 HRs in 652 PA over last two seasons, .152 ISO), isn’t a particularly great hitter (.231 BA), but draws enough walks at 14.9 percent that he makes up for it to be above average offensively (110 wRC+).
That’s something that distinguishes the veteran from the more powerful Conger and Blue Jays incumbent J.P. Arencibia, who has a 70 wRC+ over the last two seasons and isn’t the greatest at drawing base-on balls.
So even if it is not particularly exciting, the Blue Jays would be getting an offensive upgrade in Iannetta that should provide few surprises, as he’s been a 2.0-plus fWAR player in each season where he’s played at least 100 games. There is a good reason why Anthopoulos would be interested in Conger’s tools, but the fact is that he hasn’t caught over 100 games in a season in the bigs yet; and should he regress even a little from the .249/.310/.403 slash he put up in a 1.0 fWAR 2013, the team would essentially be back to square one.
Not only would Iannetta be a known quantity in an embattled position on the Blue Jays for 2014, he also gives the team some cost certainty in that his contract will expire at the end of the 2015 season, meaning the team can buy themselves some time to find a more permanent long-term solution like trading or developing a catching prospect within that time frame.
As the team isn’t looking to rebuild so much as reload in 2014, complimenting the existing core with players with reasonable floors should give them more short-term value and peace of mind; and after the staggering disappointment that was 2013, the team and its fan base could probably use a bit of the latter — especially when it comes to the backstop.