Navarro's role in question as report date approaches

Blue Jays have been shopping backup catcher since arrival of Martin

Navarro's role in question as report date approaches

TORONTO -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos fully expects Dioner Navarro to be with the Blue Jays when Spring Training opens on Feb. 22.

Toronto has been shopping Navarro since it signed Russell Martin to a five-year contract in November. A suitable deal has yet to surface, and all signs point to Navarro beginning the year as the Blue Jays' backup catcher and a secondary option to Edwin Encarnacion at designated hitter.

Navarro is set to make $5 million in 2015, and he will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season. It's at least somewhat surprising that another team has yet to step forward, but Toronto plans on moving ahead with Navarro in the fold.

"Yes, I would think barring something unforeseen, I would fully expect him in camp," Anthopoulos said prior to the Blue Jays' State of the Franchise on Thursday night.

Toronto's stance could still change if a suitable offer presents itself during spring. Injuries across the Major Leagues may impact Navarro's market value, and it's possible he'll eventually be traded for additional help in the bullpen. But for now, the 11-year veteran remains in the plans.

If Martin proves himself capable of handling knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, that could open the door for Navarro to be the primary backup catcher, with Josh Thole possibly going to the Minor Leagues.

Another scenario would see Navarro receive a significant number of at-bats in the DH spot. That would require Encarnacion to play first base and would leave Justin Smoak as Navarro's main competition for playing time. It's not immediately clear how that situation would work vs. lefties, because previously, infielder Danny Valencia was expected to platoon with Smoak.

There's a number of directions the Blue Jays could ultimately decide to go, and the decision will have an impact on the overall lineup. For now, Toronto manager John Gibbons is thinking about using Jose Reyes, Martin, Jose Bautista, Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson as his five top hitters, but everything is wide open after that.

"We'll go from there with either Navarro and how we play Smoak, if he's the guy," Gibbons said. "We'll have a better idea six weeks from now."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.