DUNEDIN, Fla. – Left in limbo by the signing of Russell Martin and the Toronto Blue Jays’ inability to find sufficient value in trade, Dioner Navarro is aiming to make the best of an awkward situation while he keeps one foot out the door.
The 31-year-old backstop rejoined his teammates Monday as pitchers and catchers held their first official workout of the spring, handling Mark Buehrle’s side session, swapping jokes and kicking around a soccer ball with Martin and Josh Thole as if everything was normal.
Speaking about his situation with media afterwards, it’s clear everything is not. One year after putting together a productive year for the Blue Jays, Navarro finds himself in a difficult situation.
“Obviously it is,” he said. “I think I put myself in a really good position last year and I expressed throughout the whole year last year how grateful I was with the Blue Jays for giving me the opportunity, and I don’t know where or if anything did go wrong. I’m a pro, I’m going to do my job, I’m going to be ready for whatever and see what happens.”
Navarro slashed .274/.317/.395 with 12 homers and 69 RBIs in 139 games last season, but the Blue Jays still went out and signed Martin to an $82-million, five-year deal to take over behind the plate.
Immediately after the signing, Navarro said he asked Alex Anthopoulos for a trade, but the GM sought real value in return and wasn’t able to find a partner.
“Up to today (a trade) is still my goal,” said Navarro. “I’d like to go to a place where I can play every day, because I already know that I can do it. There was doubt on myself last year and I felt strong throughout the whole season, I think I did a pretty good job. I signed a two-year deal here to catch every day and unfortunately they felt they needed to make a move. I just would like to play every day somewhere.”
This isn’t the first time Martin has taken a starting job from Navarro. In 2006 with the Dodgers, he was the incumbent when a young Martin started strong out of the gate during an injury call up and didn’t relinquish the gig.
“He’s a great ballplayer, I think he’s going to make the team better,” Navarro said of Martin. “I’m just going to do my job and try to do the best.”
The Blue Jays feel they can dump Navarro’s contract, but are content to hold on to him if they can’t get something they want in return. At this point, the sides are left to see if spring training creates a need elsewhere, otherwise, Navarro will be used as the backup catcher and occasional DH.
“It’s a business, it is what it is, I see it that way,” he said. “I’ve been on the good end, I’ve been on the bad end. I’m just going to try to put myself in the best position that I can be in, work hard throughout the whole spring and hopefully an opportunity shows up.”