Phillies Add Catcher J.P. Arencibia


The Philadelphia Phillies have signed free agent catcher J.P. Arencibia to a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training.

The Miami, Florida native will turn 30 years old in early January. He was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as their 1st round pick at 21st overall in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Tennessee.

Arencibia developed more quickly than many catchers at the pro level, and made his big league debut in August of 2010 with Toronto. By the following season he was the Jays’ starting backstop.

Over the 2011-13 seasons in Toronto as the starter, Arencibia caught in 347 total games, serving as the Designated Hitter in another 11 games. He banged out 23 homers and had 78 RBI as a rookie in 2011, and in his three starting seasons produced 62 homers and 189 RBI for the Jays.

In December of 2013, Arencibia signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers, where he ended up as the backup to Robinson Chirinos. In just 222 plate appearances, he again showed his pop by banging 10 home runs.

Arencibia then signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles for 2015, but was released before appearing with the team. A week after his release, the Tampa Bay Rays signed him and sent him to their minors.

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In 99 games with the Durham Bulls in the Toronto system, Arencibia showed his power again, banging 22 homers and 17 doubles. He was called up to Tampa in late August, and appeared in 24 games with the Rays, hitting six home runs in the month of September.

Despite that late season success, Arencibia was released by Tampa after the season. As reported by Marc Topkin with the Tampa Bay Times, Arencibia was surprised that the Rays let him go, and feels he is ready to again hold a regular MLB job.

“I’m thankful for the chance they gave me and thought I did enough to have a chance to be a part of 2016. Never know how things work out in this game. I know I’m back as an established major-league player.”

There is no doubt about Arencibia’s ability to produce power from the catching position. He has 80 career home runs in 1,687 career plate appearances in Major League Baseball. That comes out to 20-25 homers per year in a full season, which is what he was producing in Toronto when their starter.

At spring training in Clearwater, Arencibia will compete with incumbents Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp. “Chooch” is owed $8.5 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2016, with the team’s $4.5 million buyout for 2017 a sure thing.

Ruiz and Ryan Howard are the last men standing from the glory days of last decade, and both will be making their career final appearances in red pinstripes, assuming they reach the regular season with the club.

The 27-year old Rupp is likely considered the front-runner for the starting nod at this point. He took over as the starter during the 2015 season beginning in June, after pretty much splitting the role with Ruiz over the first couple of months.

At this stage of his career, though he is being paid like one, Ruiz is no longer a starting everyday catcher. But with his popularity, still solid defensive abilities, his leadership and experience, and frankly his contract, the old vet might have one more season in him as a backup. That might make for a seriously interesting battle between Arencibia and Rupp for the starting job.