On the Blue Jays' Catcher Surplus
The Blue Jays have a lot of catchers. In fact, the Blue Jays have too many catchers. They currently have Reese McGuire as the primary starter, with rookie backstop Riley Adams getting some playing time as well. They also have Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, although both are injured at the moment. Finally, in AA, they have Gabriel Moreno, one of the team's most highly rated prospects. Usually teams carry two catchers on the major league squad at once, so something will have to be sorted out when either Jansen or Kirk recovers, or when Moreno forces his way to the Majors. With the trade deadline coming up, now seems as good a time as any to weigh the options.
Reese McGuire is currently getting the most playing time, and he deserves it. In 29 games this year, he is slashing .324/.367/.459/.826 with one home run. He has also saved 2.6 defensive runs above average. Clearly, Reese McGuire has been producing at a high level. He is their oldest catcher, but, at only 26, this is not really relevant. He is certain to get more and more playing time the longer that Jansen is on the IL, and hopefully he will continue to make the most of his opportunities.
Riley Adams is McGuire’s backup right now and, unfortunately, he has not looked nearly as good. He has only had 26 plate appearances in his MLB career, but unless either McGuire or Jansen are traded, it seems inevitable that he will be sent down to AAA. He is slashing a dreadful .080/.115/.120/.235, and has been worth -1.1 defensive runs above average. Adams is young and has plenty of time to improve, but he is not looking like a realistic option for the Jays right now.
Danny Jansen has had the most major league experience out of any of the catchers, but he has never torn the cover off the ball, to put it kindly. Before getting placed on the 10-day IL this year, he was slashing just .157/.248/.278/.526. He does have a decent glove, with 2.1 defensive runs saved above average, but this is still lower than McGuire, who has played fewer games. Jansen could be used as a trade piece this trade deadline, but I do not see him bringing back much in return.
Alejandro Kirk is on the 60-day IL right now, and it is unknown when he will return. However, in his 26 career games, he has looked pretty good, at least offensively. In 17 games this season, he was slashing .225/.326/.475/.801. Obviously you would like to see the average go up, but the OBP and SLG are perfectly fine. His defense, however, leaves something to be desired. He produced -0.9 defensive runs above average before getting hurt, and was below average last year as well. Kirk will most likely never become an above-average fielder, but, with a plus bat, he may be able to play some DH with the occasional game in the field.
Finally, there is Gabriel Moreno. He is only in AA right now and is only 21, but he is destroying his competition. He is currently slashing .385/.450/.672/1.122 through 31 games. On Sunday, Moreno played third base, which could be beneficial for the Blue Jays. Marcus Semien is only on a one-year contract with Toronto, and if he leaves the Blue Jays could use a third baseman. Cavan Biggio plays some third right now, but might slide over to second base, where he played last year, leaving Santiago Espinal and Joe Panik as the primary third base options. If Moreno continues playing as he is, this would give the Blue Jays the ability to decide whether to play him at catcher or third base depending on how his teammates are playing, which would be ideal.
The Blue Jays are soon going to have some tough decisions to make regarding their catchers, but only because there is a lot of skill and not a lot of playing time to go around. McGuire and Kirk, in their limited MLB experience, have looked like good players, and if Moreno continues to rake, he is another very talented player that the Jays could utilize. If Danny Jansen is able to figure out his bat a little bit, he could be a decent backup, or he could be used as a trade piece soon. Finally, there is Riley Adams, who has not shown much in the majors, but was a solid hitter all throughout the minors. Hopefully he is able to figure it out, and force the Blue Jays into another tough decision. It will be difficult for the team to figure out which catchers to keep and which to move, but it is a good problem to have.