Blue Jays’ Arencibia non-tendered, becomes FA

J.P. Arencibia was non-tendered by the Blue Jays Monday night. (AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays non-tendered J.P. Arencibia on Monday night, officially making the catcher a free agent.

Arbitration eligible players Colby Rasmus, Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers were all tendered contracts.

Earlier on Monday, the Blue Jays finalized  a two-year, $8 million contract with catcher Dioner Navarro, effectively ending Arencibia’s tenure in Toronto.

The Blue Jays explored alternatives at catcher after a difficult year for Arencibia on and off the field. The 2013 season started poorly for the 27-year-old when he had trouble catching R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball on opening day. He struggled at the plate after a productive April, battled knee bursitis throughout the year and publicly feuded with Sportsnet analysts Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst along the way. At the plate his season line fell to a career-worst .194/.227/.365.

He acknowledged to Shi Davidi in September that there’s room for progress.

“Offensively, obviously, there are adjustments I have to make, with just being able to get better knowledge of the strike zone, maybe getting in a better position to hit earlier so I can see it better,” said Arencibia. “It’s been tough for me, I haven’t felt great. I feel like I come off my legs a little bit sometimes, trying to, subconsciously maybe, protect my leg. It’s just being able to have a mature approach about things, and to look at the end of the year, ‘OK, how can I improve? What can I do to be better next year, what can I do to improve myself?’

“Because as a man, and as a person who’s very honest with himself, obviously there are adjustments I have to make and I can’t stand here and say that I shouldn’t. I have to. I can be better at plate discipline. It’s not exactly saying to draw walks, but picking better pitches to hit, which is going to turn into that stuff.”

Arencibia rose through Toronto’s minor-league system after being selected with the 21st overall pick in 2007. He hit two home runs in the first game of his career on August 7 2010, including a homer on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues.

The following season, Arencibia earned the Blue Jays’ starting catching job and hit 23 home runs while driving in 78. He posted a .282 on-base percentage in 2011, but most expected that figure to climb rather than fall. Arencibia followed up his strong 2011 season by hitting 18 home runs and posting a .710 OPS in 2012. Along the way, he became a fan favourite, emerging as one of Toronto’s most recognizable players thanks to ever-increasing media exposure. Then in 2013 his numbers fell off, calling his future in Toronto into question.

However, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said last month that Arencibia can still hit.

“Can he get better? I would say ‘yes,’” Anthopoulos said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “I don’t think he’s the player he was last year, at least from an offensive standpoint. He’s not going to walk much, he’s going to strike out, he’s going to have power.”

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