With the Toronto Blue Jays looking to build a competitive core over the next season, or two, we have to wonder what is in store for Luke Maile
It was an under the radar type of move by the Jays. April 6, 2017, two days in to the regular season, Toronto claimed catcher Luke Maile off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Jays needed MLB ready catching depth behind Russell Martin. The other catchers they had used in 2016, Josh Thole and Dioner Navarro were gone from the organization. They started the season hoping that 32 year old veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia could resurrect his career. 26 year old rookie Mike Ohlman was next on the depth chart.
Neither proved to be the solution, and on April 28, the Jays recalled Maile from AAA Buffalo. He would serve as back up to Martin. One thing teams definitely want from their back up catcher is to be solid defensively, and Maile has always fit that bill. He has 20 DRS for his major league career, certainly respectable for someone who has played in 213 MLB games over 5 seasons.
Maile’s offence has been another matter. His OPS in 15 MLB games in 2015 was .429. It was significantly better in 2016 at .613 but still nothing to turn cartwheels over. Maile’s hitting stats in 2017 weren’t good at .146/.176/.231 but looking closer his was really a tale of two seasons. In the first half he slashed a woeful .121/.154/.202; but on July 4, 2017 he went on the DL with a knee injury. When he was activated on September 1, he looked like a different hitter. While a slash line of .226/.250/.323 wouldn’t have earned him any all star selections, an OPS over 200 points higher than his pre-DL OPS is certainly worth noting.
His OPS of .700 in 2018 is by far Maile’s career best. By 2018, rookie catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire had each made their MLB debut with the Jays. Jansen’s OPS of .884 over three MiLB levels in 2017 had many in the organization looking at him as the catcher of the future; whereas left hand hitting McGuire has been known through much of his professional career as a glove first catcher.
January 11, 2019, the Jays traded veteran Russell Martin to the Dodgers. Jansen took over as the Jays number one catcher, with 91 games caught to date. Maile served as backup catching 41 games before going on the IL on July 27 with an oblique strain.
Jansen struggled at the plate early in 2019 but he has made adjustments which have paid off. His OPS for the season to date is .656 but in July it was .776 and so far in August .853, to go with 10 defensive runs saved. McGuire was recalled to take Maile’s roster spot and has posted a .738 OPS in 12 games. The Jays appear to be in good hands behind the plate with this young duo for the foreseeable future.
The Blue Jays claimed 29 catcher Beau Taylor off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. On the “due back” section of the Blue Jays injury report, Maile is listed as “TBD”. Assuming the Jays would like to carry three catchers once rosters expand on September 1st, was Taylor claimed to fill that spot? Does the front office believe that Maile isn’t close to returning from the IL?
Considering all of the above, Jays fans have to wonder how much longer Maile will be with the organization.
The 28 year old Maile might have already achieved his ceiling as an MLB player. He is arbitration eligible in 2020. In the offseason, the Jays might decide to put him on waivers or non-tender him. The money saved could be used to upgrade the pitching staff and the 40 man roster spot given to a prospect rather than risking losing him in the Rule 5 draft.
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