Jays' 2010 catching situation up in air
Barajas a free agent; prospects have suffered setbacks
TORONTO -- One of the Blue Jays' top priorities this coming offseason is to sort out their situation behind the plate. Toronto catcher Rod Barajas is eligible for free agency and a pair of the organization's top prospects have recently suffered setbacks.
"We're going to need a catcher," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said matter-of-factly.
The Blue Jays had hoped that Minor League catchers J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman would be poised to make the jump to the big league stage by 2010. They still might at some point, but it appears more likely that they will open next year back in the Minors for more seasoning.
Ricciardi noted that Arencibia underwent a kidney operation earlier this month and should be recovered in time for Spring Training. The Jays' general manager added that Jeroloman is scheduled to have surgery on his hip this offseason. As a result, neither catcher will be able to participate in the Arizona Fall League as hoped.
Arencibia, 23, was selected by the Blue Jays in the first round (21st overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and spent all of this season with Triple-A Las Vegas. In 116 games, he hit just .236, but finished with 21 home runs and 75 RBIs. Ricciardi was not sure how much Arencibia's kidney issue affected his performance.
"It was something that was detected in Spring Training," Ricciardi said. "It's not anything life-threatening or anything like that. He had the surgery. He's doing really well, so he'll be back by Spring Training and be ready to go."
The 24-year-old Jeroloman -- a sixth-round pick in the 2006 Draft -- spent this season with Double-A New Hampshire, batting .217 with six home runs and 32 RBIs over 108 games. Ricciardi said the Jays are currently discussing if they will be able to send a different catcher to the AFL to replace Jeroloman or Arnecibia.
Looking ahead to next season, Ricciardi said the Blue Jays will "definitely" talk to Barajas about possibly re-signing. This year, the 34-year-old veteran has hit .231 with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs in 117 games. As things currently stand, Barajas is due to be a Type B free agent, meaning Toronto would receive a compensatory pick in next June's Draft if he signs with another team.
"Rod's had a great year for us," Ricciardi said. "He's done a really good job and we'll see at the end of the year. He's going to be a free agent, so I'm sure he's going to want to test the water anyway."
Ricciardi added that catcher Kyle Phillips -- promoted to the Jays earlier this month -- could be in the mix for a role with the big-league club next year, along with backup Raul Chavez. Phillips, 25, split his time between Double-A and Triple-A this year, hitting .284 with nine homers and 30 RBis in 88 games before joining the Jays.
"I think Phillips can catch up here, definitely," Ricciardi said. "We think Phillips can play in the big leagues. We think Phillips could be an adequate platoon guy or a backup guy. Every organization has a Phillips, it's just giving them the opportunity to play."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.