JFtC Blue Jays Hot Stove

Do the Blue Jays truly need Realmuto?

With the Toronto Blue Jays being connected to many offseason rumours, one that may be confusing is that of JT Realmuto


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In a winter where the Blue Jays are tied to many (if not all) major Free Agent and Trade acquisitions, it can be consuming to know which moves would directly improve a team and which may not be as effective. Self evaluation can be quite an effective tool organizationally. It can be effective to determine and measure a current baseline, to know if improvements are needed or not necessarily required. The J.T. Realmuto rumours related to the Blue Jays have triggered my curiosity. Do the Blue Jays need Realmuto? To help answer this question, what can we observe from other teams behind the plate? Specifically, what can we observe from contending teams?

 

Insert textbook disclaimer of “correlation does not imply causation”. Obviously, I’m not trying to extrapolate that if a team has ‘X’ production from a single position out of eight, it can be concluded they’ll be a lock for a playoff position. What I’m merely trying to look at, is a baseline. Where do the Blue Jays stand compared with teams who are of the same contention level? Is there an opportunity to gain an advantage over their peers?

 

Looking at the other contenders

 

A few things to take note of:

  • The Blue Jays were quite poor in fWAR production by Catcher
  • The Blue Jays were well below the average Catcher production by contending teams
  • Of the 16 contending teams, only 6 ranked within the league top 10 of Catcher fWAR
    • so it would seem many contending teams find position player production from the other positions
  • The White Sox, Dodgers, & Braves blew away most of the other contenders in this category

 

The three contending leaders in Catcher fWAR have been annual contenders for some time (in the case of the White Sox, they appear to be serious contenders going forward). In the case of the Dodgers, they can be viewed as a standard by which other franchises model after. For this reason, I’ll look closer at how these teams achieved such high Catcher production. Specifically, how the players were acquired and their relative cost/ salary.

 

Chicago White Sox

 

What can we observe from Chicago? The White Sox went the route of premium Free Agency to achieve their production.  However, as a result, this feat wasn’t cheap as both of their main Catchers had a pretty hefty price tag. When building a team, cost at Catcher isn’t necessarily an issue, but obviously it can limit spending in other areas. Going forward, with James McCann departing as a free agent and Yasmani Grandal potentially experiencing some age-related decline, some questions of sustainability come to mind. In the future it could be a stretch to maintain this production, or to be a leader in the league going forward.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

What about the Dodgers? Through drafting, trading, and developing – the Dodgers found quite substantial production behind the plate in 2020. Will Smith (drafted in the 1st round 2016), and Austin Barnes (Dee Gordon trade with Marlins in 2014) are both under control for several more seasons, potentially making this production repeatable going forward. The Dodgers front office seems to be a powerhouse for recognizing talent, as a result they benefit from the financial affordability of these ‘Home Grown’ players.

 

Atlanta Braves

 

What can we observe from the Braves? They also found their impressive catching production through the Free Agent market. Unlike the White Sox, they didn’t shop at the high end of the market. Instead, they took a gamble on less certain targets like a Travis d’Arnaud. It has the potential to be repeatable, to a degree. Although, Flowers is a departing Free Agent and d’Arnaud could begin to see some age related decline at 32.

 

What does the Future look like?

 

The Blue Jays Catchers produced an awful -0.1 fWAR in 2020. Is that likely to repeat going forward? That depends. Do you believe these Catchers can continue to grow and develop? If you take their 4.2 Steamer fWAR projection for 2021, and convert it to a 60 game equivalent – that translates to 1.5 fWAR. In 2020, that 1.5 fWAR would have put them top 10 in the league, and top 6 in contending team’s Catcher fWAR.

 

Like the Dodger’s Catchers, these three players have cost certainty and future control. Unlike the White Sox and Braves, none of these three are a proven commodity.

 

Is premium home grown talent ideal? Of course, but that is still uncertain at this time. For further break down of these three Blue Jays Catchers (and all 5 on the 40 man roster), check out Karen’s previous article.

 

Conclusion

 

Ultimately, what we saw in 2020 is that the Blue Jays do need an improvement in production from behind the plate. Do they need Realmuto? That depends if you believe in the projections of Jansen/ Kirk/ et al, and believe in their ability to deliver on their potential. Is it too early to cut bait and not give the in-house candidates opportunity to realize their potential? Perhaps.

 

With most of the league having limited production behind the plate, if the Blue Jays were to increase their fWAR, this could be a clear advantage over most of their competitors. For that reason, I say it’s time for the Blue Jays to gain on their competition, take a step forward in the development of this team, and sign a proven well-rounded Catcher in Realmuto.  Regardless of what I think – whether in house or external, the Blue Jays do need to see improvement in production behind the plate.

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Pete McCombie

Pete is an avid baseball fan - primarily focusing on the Toronto Blue Jays. Once a timid fan in his adolescence, a 54 home run season won his heart over. He could be heard screaming triumphantly one October evening after an infamous bat flip. Approximately 12 months later, he reacted similarly to the Donaldson Dash. He eagerly awaits the next chapter of October jubilation for his team.