Fallen Foe Furthers Rays Agenda

No injury is good new whether it happens to one of your own or one of them. Nobody wants to see a guy get hurt, but after sending swingman J.A. Happ to Seattle for Saunders you have to think the Jays are now down a piece that they were hoping to rely upon.

It’s not difficult to see why the Jays wanted to bring in Saunders. He’s coming off of a season in which he was 26% better than average with the stick while proving over his career to be a very good defender in RF that can cover short stretches in CF. Where he really shines is against righties, but he’s not some huge split Joyce clone that will kill your will to live against lefties. He’s a nice player, but it’s also not difficult to see why the Mariners were happy to move on from the player as his injury list is as long as a Josh Hamilton bar tab.

Euphemistic people that try to make you feel better when your dog dies or you get dumped by some huge slut try to tell you that when a door closes you should open the window. Well, the Rays just happen to have a guy that screams “break glass in emergency.” David DeJesus is coming off of a season where he was around 20% better with the stick than his peers. He can play around average in the corner, better in LF to hide his arm, and can fill in at CF in a pinch without sending you running for the hills. He hits righties. He does not hit lefties. He makes an interesting replicant for Michael Saunders and is on a contract that pays him around what he’s worth. It’s almost too obvious.

The Rays have quietly been trying to do their best to capitalize on this useful, yet redundant, asset. In the Rays outfield DeJesus is probably the fifth best defender. That relegates him to DH duty where the Rays already have John Jaso who looks like a tremendous fit for the role. The downside with Jaso is that he used to catch. Now he doesn’t catch. Too many shots to the head will make anyone punchy so that time is over for him. Fortunately, the Jays have a guy that is very similar to DeJesus.

The Jays brought Dioner Navarro in last year to be their catcher. He hit well enough for the position at just a touch behind league average, but was pretty miserable defensively. He had a pretty lousy year framing the ball and continued to slide throwing out would be base pilferers. He’s ok blocking, but not good, let alone great. He’s the kind of guy that you don’t want to rely on to be your main catcher 100+ games a year. So the Jays signed all-world defender and sometime hitter Russell Martin to catch a ton and they’re still going to have Josh Thole as a battery option due to R.A. Dickey’s presence. Navarro hasn’t been this squeezed since trying to get through the door this past Thanksgiving.

That does not mean that he is without merit. As a backup that gets into 60 or so games you can probably swallow hard and put up with the defensive downgrade. I mean Curt Casali caught a ton of games last year and because he didn’t show much the Rays are now in the position where they need a guy. Probably short term with what’s in the pipeline, but that’s a story for another day. The other thing he gives you is the ability to sit Jaso against lefties with Navarro taking those DH appearances.

For a switch hitter Navarro has shown a pretty large split throughout his career. He’s been around 7% better than the league against lefties, but around 22% worse against righties. Being able to pair him with a guy like Jaso could lead to the best DH output for the Rays since the days of Jose or Jonny or Johnny. You’re talking around 200 PA or so and you can probably get him another 200-250 in the games that he starts so for Navarro in the last year of a two-year contract he should see more opportunity to get that next deal. More than he would have in Toronto, at least, where he is clamoring to be sent packing.

So we have a pretty obvious chance at a need-for-need swap where both teams get a guy that fits better than the one they would be casting aside. So once we’ve identified where wants and needs intersect then we hand it over to the lawyers whom tell us that DeJesus is on either a 2/$10M or a 1/$6.5M. Reasonable in either case and it matches up nicely with one year, $5M deal that Navarro is set to receive. The money is a wash, essentially. The playing time is there. The only question is if the Rays will get greedy and ask for a complementary piece, because in their world when you pull over to help someone change a tire you’re well within your right to send them a bill.

Hopefully the Rays move quickly before the Jays decide to go get total substitute David Murphy from the Indians or say screw the lefty need and throw peanuts at Carlos Quentin. The supply of guys in the doghouse exceeds the demand. I just hope the Rays realize that, because this is their last good chance to get a guy that fits nearly perfectly.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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