Hours after the Blue Jays signed free agent catcher Dioner Navarro, it was announced that their starting catcher for the past three seasons, J.P. Arencibia, was not tendered a contract and is now a free agent. They have tendered contracts to Brett Cecil, Esmil Rogers, and Colby Rasmus.
The non-tendering of Arencibia suspected after Navarro was signed, even though there were some discussion that the Blue Jays would be better off keeping him and evaluating him into spring training. General manager Alex Anthopoulos was reportedly trying to trade Arencibia even after news of the Navarro signing leaked out, but when rumours about Arencibia's non-tendering started circulating, a trade would have been much harder to pull off.
Arencibia, who will be 28 by spring training, was the Blue Jays' first-round draft pick in 2007, selected in the same round as Kevin Ahrens, Travis d'Arnaud, Brett Cecil, Justin Jackson, and Trystan Magnuson. Arencibia reached triple-A in his third professional year at age 23 and played two seasons with the Las Vegas 51s. He won the MVP award for the Pacific Coast League in 2010 hitting .301/.359/.626 with 32 homers and 85 RBI. After that breakout season, he was awarded with a call-up to the majors and had a very memorable major league debut. On August 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Arencibia hit a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the major leagues, and ended up going 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, and three RBI. Blue Jays fans were understandably excited after that game, and were disappointed when then-manager Cito Gaston chose to play free agent-to-be John Buck ahead of Arencibia.
In 2011, Arencibia finally got his chance to start full-time, and set a franchise record for home runs by a catcher with 23 dingers after hitting two on Opening Day. Despite his power, which is rare for a backstop, he struggled with a .219/.282/.438 slash line in 2011, and followed it up with a .233/.275/.435 line in 2012 after another great opening day. Arencibia took a big step back in 2013, struggling tremendously in the second-half, limping to a .194/.227/.365 slash line, and was just a handful of plate appearances for qualifying for the second-worst on-base percentage in baseball history. His plate discipline was also considered to be poor, striking out 148 times and walking just 18.
Once a fan favourite for his personality, good looks, and self-deprecating tweets, J.P. Arencibia succumbed to increasing pressure and his own personal struggles on the field in 2013, taking to social media and the local sports radio station to lash out at the Blue Jays' television analysts for criticizing his poor play at and behind the plate. Despite all that, Arencibia still worked closely with the Toronto community and did a lot of charity work. He was the Blue Jays' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award this season.
It's too bad that things didn't work out between the Blue Jays and Arencibia. All the best to him in his future endeavours. I wouldn't worry about his not finding employment--there will be multiple teams who would be enticed by his ability to hit home runs.
~Memories of J.P.A.~
Major league debut was called by Sam Cosentino and Pat Tabler (omen)
Arencibia's impression of Tim Kurkjian
Arencibia's game-winning home run in the top of the 16th inning on Opening Day 2012
A great dugout catch
Matt Harvey (@halladayfan32) invited to attend the Home Opener by J.P. Arencibia
Arencibia catching the ceremonial first-pitch from friend and cancer survivour Jessica Dunn
Arencibia with caught stealing to end a game.
J.P. Arencibia's last home run as a Blue Jay