The White Sox and Blue Jays Swap Backup Catchers by Ben Clemens April 4, 2022 Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports If I told you that two contending teams swapped major leaguers, you’d probably have an idea of what that looks like. Maybe a reliever and a fourth outfielder changed hands, or something like that. The Blue Jays and the White Sox didn’t do that, though; they swapped catchers, as Jeff Passan first reported: The Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are in agreement on a trade that will send catcher Zack Collins to the Blue Jays in exchange for catcher Reese McGuire, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 3, 2022 But even though both Reese McGuire and Zack Collins play catcher, they do so in very different ways. Amusingly, as we at FanGraphs work through our Positional Power Rankings, Collins is essentially positionless power. His home run totals in the minors and batted ball metrics in the majors tell a consistent story; if he can figure out a way to limit his strikeouts, he’ll be a fearsome hitter. In a previous era, that might have secured him a starting catching role. But our newfound understanding of the value of receiving has exposed Collins as one of the worst defenders at the position — one who was worth a ghastly 14 runs below average in only 506 innings of catching last year. It’s not an easy skill to show with a GIF or two, and that sounds like a ton of runs to surrender in such a short time. But that matches up with the eye test, and the Blue Jays will likely use Collins mainly as a first baseman and DH. Importantly, Collins also has an option remaining, which means the Jays can demote him to Triple-A without exposing him to the waiver wire. That’s a key consideration for them, because they have precious little room for catchers at the major league level. Danny Jansen starts for them, and he looks like a double threat: he’s a solid receiver who adds value with his bat. Injuries have intermittently slowed him, but he looks like a reasonable first-division starter. Alejandro Kirk isn’t a great defender, but he’s far better than Collins defensively and a fearsome hitter. He’s an excellent backup catcher, because he can also DH when he’s not needed in the field. The combination of Jansen and Kirk means Toronto has a full dance card at the major league level, and top prospect Gabriel Moreno might be ready as soon as this year, which will further muddy the waters. Those three solid catchers squeezed McGuire out of the picture. Unlike Collins, he was out of options, which meant the Jays would lose him as soon as they didn’t have space for him on the major league roster. Why? He looks like a perfectly reasonable backup catcher, and half the teams in baseball could use an upgrade at that position. He’s reverse Collins, more or less: an excellent receiver and decent blocker at the plate, but one whose offensive value is limited by a complete lack of pop. Having all of Jansen, Kirk, and McGuire on the Blue Jays clearly didn’t make sense, particularly with Moreno’s imminent arrival. If you had to choose one of the three as a starter, it would be Jansen, who best combines defense and offense. If you had to choose one as a backup, it would be Kirk; the extra value he provides as a DH is huge, and even at catcher, his combination of good hitting and acceptable defense might make him a better option than McGuire. That leaves McGuire to get jerked around between Triple-A and the majors as needed, except that he was out of options. As soon as the Jays needed roster space, they’d lose him for nothing. I’m not sure what Toronto has planned for Collins. He’s not likely to play much catcher in the majors anytime soon; he’s simply too blocked by the rest of the depth chart. There’s no space at first base either; ever heard of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? Maybe the team thinks he could play the outfield — I don’t — but he’s not an obvious fit by any means. Most likely, I think the Blue Jays are simply buying time. Plenty of teams could use Collins somewhere on their major league roster, either because they think they can work with him on his receiving or because they have a hole at first or DH. He hasn’t hit much in the majors, but that’s only 351 plate appearances, and he had a decorated minor league career before that. With a whole year to find a fit for Collins, I assume Toronto will find a move that gets the team something it can use in exchange for him, and it might need him for a few emergency games before then. If not, so what? The Jays were going to lose McGuire anyway. For Chicago, this trade is a no-brainer. The team was forced into playing Collins extensively at catcher last year, and yeah, did you see those receiving numbers I mentioned earlier? Replacing those innings with McGuire’s glove should make the pitching look meaningfully better. I’ll take McGuire over Seby Zavala, too. The latter is also out of options and might be lost on waivers at some point this year, but with McGuire in hand, that’s completely acceptable. This makes the White Sox a win better this year in my estimation, and they didn’t sacrifice future value to do it. Heck, Collins and McGuire are the same age. So there you have it: a trade of backup catchers that makes sense for both teams. A lot of specific circumstances have to be in place for this kind of deal to work, and they all are in this case. McGuire could use a change of scenery. The Blue Jays had no leverage. The White Sox had a “catcher” they could move who Toronto can likely get *something* out of. The stars aligned, and that’s how you get a strange-looking trade that feels like a win for both teams.