Blue Jays: Arencibia won’t return as backup

Former Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (Paul Sancya/AP)

If J.P. Arencibia returns as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, he’ll be the team’s starter. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos joined Prime Time Sports Tuesday, explaining that he doesn’t plan to bring Arencibia back in a reserve role.

“I don’t think we’ve ever looked at a scenario where J.P. would be a backup for us,” Anthopoulos told hosts Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt. “We’ve never talked about that as an option. It’s all about alternatives; it’s all about who else is out there.”

Anthopoulos acknowledged that the Blue Jays have spoken to free agent catchers including Carlos Ruiz in their efforts to upgrade wherever possible. Though Arencibia hit 21 home runs in 2013, he hit just .194 with a .227 on-base percentage and had a tense relationship with fans and media at times. It sounds as though the Blue Jays will pitch the 27-year-old to other teams as an offensively capable player coming off of a difficult season.

“Can he get better? I would say ‘yes,’” Anthopoulos said. “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.”

The Blue Jays haven’t made an off-season addition yet, but they’re targeting a small group of players in free agency and trades. Anthopoulos hinted that some of the team’s preferred options remain unknown to the public.

“From our standpoint it’s a very focused group and a very focused list,” he said. “Some — actually a lot of them — are not out there in the media, not out there on the internet.”

The Blue Jays aren’t about to break team policy and commit to a player for more than five seasons, but they’re not limited to short-term commitments. They could splurge for the right free agent. Anthopoulos indicated that the Blue Jays wouldn’t be afraid to commit to certain players with four- or five-year contracts.

So far this winter the Blue Jays haven’t felt compelled to pursue minor league free agents to provide rotation depth at triple-A. They have more depth now than they did in the past, even if they continue to seek frontline options.

A year ago this time the Blue Jays traded prospects to the Miami Marlins to obtain Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, among others. While the Blue Jays would prefer to keep their top young players this winter, parting with prospects could help the team improve in 2014.

“In a perfect world you’d like to keep your young players and your young assets, but we definitely haven’t ruled it out in the right scenario,” the GM said.

Here are some other notes from Anthopoulos’s discussion with McCown and Brunt:

On the Blue Jays’ interest in Carlos Ruiz:

“We had dialogue with his agent and we liked the player but that’s probably as far as I would go as far as characterizing our talk”

On the Jose Bautista rumour that surfaced during the GM Meetings:

“It was just so ridiculous and so off base.”

On why the free agent market has taken shape slowly:

“It definitely feels slower on all levels. I think it’s just going to take a little more time to develop.”

On the impact of free agency on trade talks:

“I was having a conversation with a team last night. They have some interest in our players, but they said the interest was predicated on whether they lose out on some free agents and those free agents are going to take a little bit of time.”

On Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka:

“I think everyone would acknowledge that he’s talented and he can help a lot of teams”

On why Robinson Cano has a free agent market unto himself:

“I think he’s an outlier. When you look at some of these players [and] who can you compare him to in the last few years — a free agent second baseman with those type of numbers.”

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