I'm stating the obvious here, but the Rays have put themselves in an enviable position. They've stocked piled themselves with enough pieces to be able to move, or sometimes lose, a key player and not feel a significant negative impact on the field. Think about it. The Rays have a capable replacement at basically every position. Players like Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Willy Aybar and Desmond Jennings could step in and start for any number of players on this team. That's not even counting Hank Blalock, or Ben Zobrist for that matter. Another player who fits this mold, and has stepped in and done exactly what I've stated above, is John Jaso.
The early season success of the young catcher has undoubtedly put a smile on the faces of Joe Maddon and the Rays' front office, while simultaniousely putting a frown on the mug of Dioner Navarro. Or whatever is more powerful than a frown. A Grimace. Yeah, a painful grimace.
No one expects Jaso to keep up his torrid start. After all, he's currently in possession of a .513 OBP and a .571 SLG percentage. Barry Bondsian numbers that cannot be sustained. But to stick around with the Rays he doesn't have to be the second coming of Johnny Bench, or even Todd Hundley, he just has to be better than Navarro. Which isn't asking a whole lot. We all know about Navarro's struggles last season. His .258 Weighted On Base Average(wOBA) was the worst of anyone in baseball last season with300+ ABs. You literally almost have to try and be that bad. The 2010 season hasn't been much better for Navarro. According to the ZiPS rest of season projections on FanGraphs, Navarro's batting line is going to look something like this: .239/.295/.352 for a .288 wOBA. Compare that with Jaso's .268/.345/.360 and .320 wOBA. Which catcher seems like the better bet to receive playing time?
Once Kelly Shoppach returns from injury the Rays will have three catchers, with only room to keep two. Having signed a two year $5.5 million dollar contract it would look as though Shoppach's position on the team is safe. However, Navarro is only signed through this season while making $2.1 million dollars. As we said on this week's podcast, we're surprised a financially strapped team like this is carrying two catchers on the roster making $2 million +. John Jaso makes far less than $1 million this season, and will continue to do so. If he keeps hitting, and there's no reason to indicate he won't, then I don't see a scenario where Dioner Navarro is on this team come August. A Shoppach/Jaso platoon behind the plate would work out quite nicely.
I'm sure Andrew Friedman and Co. have been testing the trading waters for a few weeks now. I'm not exactly sure who would want to give up anything of value for Navarro considering his current state. But if we've learned one thing from this front office over the years its to expect the unexpected. Friedman has worked his magic several times before. I don't expect that to change this time around.