Every year we see the Blue Jays stock on players in minor league free agency to provide depth for the major league club and to stock the highest levels of the minor leagues. In the past several years, the Buffalo Bisons have been a repository for these veteran players but for 2017, the Blue Jays chose to refrain from building the whole Bisons’ roster this way and chose to go shopping on the market primarily for catchers.
This offseason, the Blue jays signed a plethora of receivers including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Alex Monsalve, Raffy Lopez, Mike Ohlman and claimed Juan Graterol off of waivers. In-house options included Reese McGuire, Mike Reeves, Danny Jansen, Max Pentecost, Ryan Hissey and Michael De La Cruz, at least at the full-season level.
When the season started, it was Saltalamacchia who grabbed himself the backup role to Russell Martin on the Blue Jays while Monsalve, Graterol and Ohlman were assigned to Buffalo, Lopez and McGuire to New Hampshire, Jansen, Reeves and Pentecost to Dunedin and Hissey and De La Cruz to Lansing.
After a series of roster moves that have trickled down to Class-A, the complexion of the catching corps has changed significantly. First Jarrod Saltalamacchia washed out and was released by the Blue Jays. Before that happened, however, Luke Maile was claimed on waivers and Juan Graterol was designated for assignment and traded to the Angels. Once Saltalamacchia was released, Maile was called up to Toronto with Alex Monsalve coming off the DL, leaving the Bisons with Mike Ohlman and Monsalve.
Then, Reese McGuire went on the DL and Mike Reeves got promoted from Dunedin to New Hampshire. With Russell Martin getting injured at the big league level, Mike Ohlman was called up to the Blue Jays and Raffy Lopez moved up to Buffalo. Currently, the Bisons only have one catcher active with Monsalve back on the DL.
The Jays picked up Patrick Cantwell from the Rangers for cash and assigned him to New Hampshire only to see him get injured yesterday. Ryan Hissey was called up to New Hampshire from Lansing, leaving Reeves and Hissey catching for the Fisher Cats (with the Buffalo situation still unresolved as of this writing).
Since Reeves’s promotion to New Hampshire, the Dunedin catching situation remains unchanged with Jansen and Pentecost sharing duties although one or the other will DH when the other catches. Fortunately Juan Kelly is available to catch in an emergency.
Finally, with the promotion of Ryan Hissey to New Hampshire, the Lugnuts will lean on Michael De La Cruz and newly activated Andres Sotillo who just arrived from extended spring training. Nash Knight had been catching in spring training and could fill in in a pinch.
I would argue that things aren’t completely settled just yet. With one catcher in Buffalo, we might see Jake Elmore or Shane Opitz get behind the plate in an emergency, but we could also see some movement if one of the injured players gets healthy (like Reese McGuire) or if the Jays find another way to pick up a catcher to play in Triple-A.
Either way, we still have chairs left in the game of musical chairs and there could be new players on the way soon!
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