The Blue Jays on Monday agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with catcher Dioner Navarro, likely spelling the end of the J.P. Arencibia era in Toronto. Some Phillies fans clamored for Navarro before the team re-signed Carlos Ruiz. Would it have been a better move?
For Navarro to accept $4 million annually on a short-term deal, there was apparently less of a market for him than was originally believed. He hit .300/.365/.492 in 266 plate appearances for the Cubs in 2013, and was a second-tier free-agent option after Brian McCann, Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Navarro is 29 and won't turn 30 until next February. So he's significantly younger and significantly cheaper than Ruiz. But while it may be easy to look at the age and money and wonder why the Phillies went the Ruiz route, you have to consider the short-term production.
Steamer projects Ruiz for 3.1 WAR in 2014, while Navarro is at 1.6. Quite a difference there. For it, the Phillies will pay Ruiz $4.67 million more next year than the Blue Jays will pay Navarro.
Navarro also has a pretty thin track record. OK, he had 266 solid plate appearances in 2013. But in the four prior seasons he hit .215/.270/.323 with no power and defensive skills that don't even compare to Ruiz's.
Every offseason, many of the same folks who discount small sample sizes make the mistake of falling in love with a player like Navarro because of his cost-effectiveness and their own rosey projections. I, personally, made that mistake with Kevin Frandsen, who had a career year in 2012 only to revert to his previous form in 2013. Offensively, Frandsen and Navarro have had quite similar careers.
As you can likely tell from the tone, it is the opinion here that Ruiz at 3-$26MM was still worth it over Navarro for 2-$8MM. Neither was going to be the Phillies' catcher of the future, and the extra $4.67 million per year Ruiz makes over Navarro won't be the difference between the Phillies signing another player.
But it's certainly debatable if you believe in Navarro. I thought his contract would be for at least $2-4 million more total.
The Phillies' deadline to decide whether to offer 2014 contracts to John Mayberry, Kyle Kendrick, Frandsen, Ben Revere and Antonio Bastardo is midnight.
Revere and Bastardo are no-brainers, but as Jim Salisbury points out at CSN Philly, Ruben Amaro Jr. may not tender Mayberry an offer despite the GM's earlier comments.
Arbitration-eligible players that are offered contracts can sign at any time or exchange arbitration figures with their clubs on Jan. 17. If the two sides can’t negotiate a salary, a hearing will be held during the first two weeks of February.