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Rays sign J.P. Arencibia to minor league deal

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have signed J.P. Arencibia to a minor league deal, according to the team's twitter. The former Blue Jays catcher was in Orioles camp this year, but was released last week.

Says MLB Trade Rumors:

Arencibia, once considered one of baseball's top prospects, was the Blue Jays' regular catcher from 2011-13, averaging 21 homers per season and 28 per 162 games played. However, his OBP dropped regularly in that stretch, bottoming out at an alarming .227 in 2013. Arencibia also saw his strikeout rate climb from 27.4 percent to 29 percent to 29.8 percent over that three-year stretch. He joined the Rangers last season and saw some time at first base but did little to pick up his offensive game.

From a defensive standpoint, Arencibia has been just a tick below average in controlling the running game (26 percent caught-stealing rate) and steadily improved his pitch framing. He graded above average in that latter skill in 2013 and average in 2014.

The framing numbers could be emphasized a bit more here. Arencibia ranked right between Yan Gomes and Buster Posey at eighth on Stat Corner's listing for 2013, which is the last season he was getting full time major league reps behind the plate.

All in all, it's a nice depth signing for an organization relying on a catching tandem of two former back ups. He's got pedigree, power, a probable glove and -- the funny thing here -- Arencibia becomes the most experienced catcher in the Rays system at the major league level.

Arencibia was one of my three targets in the off-season at catcher, alongside Soto and Nieves. Here's what I wrote at the time:

Here's a name many have written off entirely, and his career has not shown well, as seen in Jason's score of 56 among active catchers. Why am I targeting him?

Arencibia is a year removed from having top ten framing numbers, as Stat Corner graded him nearly 15 runs above average in 2013, not far off from what Molina (16.9) or Rivera (18.3) provided in 2014.

He still scores positive on Baseball Prospectus as well, who awarded him 3.2 runs with the glove in 2013, and 1.3 runs in 2014 in limited playing time - just 22 games behind the dish for Texas, who were also using him at first base.

He's not what the Rays are looking for in a starter, but in a back up to Rivera it's not foregone, particularly if he can be had for something in the $1 million range.

The former first round draft pick is still riding out his rookie status, despite his free agency. So like the contract with Ernesto Frieri, the Rays could sign Arencibia for 2015 and maintain control if they'd like to keep him for 2016 at a low cost. The bat projects poorly, though, so it's possible he could be had for a minor league deal, which is all the better.

Does this signing mean anything for the Rays catching depth? Does it need to?

The Rays have Curt Casali's offense and Luke Maile's defense waiting at Triple-A Durham, and this move presumably bumps each a rung down the ladder on the depth chart, but that doesn't subtract from either player. Maybe Casali just needs more consistent playing time in Durham, and JP-eh is the stop gap.

Given how young Arencibia remains, I believe he's still optionable, like Casali and Maile. Furthermore, and someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe that if the Rays can finish 2015 with him at the major league level, they'll get a second season for free.

And if it's the bat the Rays are really looking for - which averaged more than 20 dingers per season when he was a starter - the catcher picked up experience at first base with the Rangers in 2014.

I'm pleased with the signing, he easily could have gone somewhere like Cleveland that have a current injury at catcher. Let's hope he becomes something more along the way.