When the Blue Jays acquired Josh Thole from the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal last month, the expectation was that he would catch the majority of the knuckleballer’s starts in 2013. However, that won’t be the case if all goes according to plan.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated to Mike Cormack of Sportsnet.ca yesterday that ideally Thole will begin the season with Triple-A Buffalo while Henry Blanco, who was recently signed to a non-guaranteed, one-year deal, will serve as J.P. Arencibia’s backup.
“Blanco has not been guaranteed the job at all,” Anthopoulos explained. “That’s why he’s on a non-guaranteed contract. But again, if it works out that Blanco’s the backup and Thole ends up being optioned down here, organizationally that means things are going well. Blanco was good enough to be the backup and now we’ve got tremendous depth.”
Blanco caught seven of Dickey’s starts in 2010 when they were teammates with the Mets, so the 41-year-old is a viable alternative as a backup. If Arencibia suffers an injury, Thole would be at the ready to handle the majority of the starts behind the plate.
The Blue Jays and Thole avoided arbitration yesterday by agreeing to a two-year, $2.5 million contract with a club option for 2015. The 26-year-old backstop is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted just .234/.294/.290 and missed nearly a month with a concussion.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.