As reported in earlier threads, it's been a busy day for the Jays organization. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has signed five players today: catcher John Buck (Kansas City), outfielder Joey Gathright (Boston/Chicago NL), as well as three players that suited up for the Jays in '09 in catcher Raul Chavez, IF/OF Jose Bautista and the injured right-hander Dustin McGowan.
McGowan is a great low-risk, high-ish reward signing. Unlike former GM J.P. Ricciardi's decision with Chris Carpenter, the Jays will spend some money ($500,000, plus medical bills) in the hopes that the former supplemental-first-round pick can contribute at some point in 2010.
Bautista proved himself to be a capable utility player in '09 and he received a modest raise to $2.4 million for 2010. Bautista does not hit for a high average (.235, in part due to chronically-low BABIPs) but he gets on base (14.3 BB%) and he has some pop (.173 ISO). He will provide solid back-up in the outfield (8.4 UZR/150), as well as at third base (6.6 UZR/150). According to WAR, Bautista provided $8.4 million in value in '09, so his contract looks reasonable.
Gathright is another low-risk signing, as he inked a minor-league deal. He spent the majority of last season in three organizations. The 28-year-old outfielder appeared in 37 big-league games in '09 and had just 32 plate appearances. As a left-handed hitter, he's actually done equally as "well" against both right-handers (.631 OPS) and left-handers (.626). He's of value simply for his speed (He has a career ground-ball rate of a crazy 68.4%), and his defense (career UZR/150s of 17.8 in LF, 8.5 in CF, and 13.6 in RF).
Now on to the catching situation. Chavez was a godsend last year, after Michael Barrett was lost to injury. The 36-year-old Chavez appeared in 51 games (the second most of his big-league career) and hit .258/.285/.346. He's another solid defensive player, who calls a good game and provides solid leadership.
Buck, 29, was a smart signing on a one-year deal. He doesn't hit for average (.235 career) or walk (6.5 BB%) but he has some pop (.237 ISO). Contact is also an issue for Buck, who had a contact rate of 69% in '09 (80.5% is league-average). If you toss in his defensive contributions, though, he provided $4.2 million in value last year, according to WAR, so his $2.0 million contract should be reasonable (and he was one of the best catching options on the free market). Most importantly, Buck provides another year for top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia to develop (and could actually represent a worst-case scenario for Arencibia's future MLB ceiling).