Jays sign Chavez to Minor League deal

Jays sign Chavez to Minor League deal

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' reasoning behind not offering a contract to catcher Raul Chavez on Saturday night became clearer one day later. On Sunday, the club announced that Chavez had agreed to sign a Minor League deal that includes an invitation to Spring Training.

Outfielder Joey Gathright also signed a Minor League contract with the Blue Jays, who will bring him to Spring Training with a chance to compete for a job with the big league club. Beyond Chavez and Gathright, Toronto avoided arbitration with utility man Jose Bautista and right-hander Dustin McGowan on Sunday.

Bautista returns for 2010 on a one-year, $2.4 million contract -- the same salary he earned with the Blue Jays last season. McGowan, who has been sidelined with a right shoulder injury since July of 2008, signed a contract worth $500,000 for the upcoming campaign.

Chavez, 36, appeared in 51 games as the Blue Jays' primary backup catcher last season, finishing with a .258 average, two home runs and 15 RBIs. Chavez -- best known for his defense -- ranked third among American League catchers (minimum 50 games played) with a 35.6 caught-stealing percentage.

Prior to Saturday's 11:59 p.m. ET tender deadline, Toronto did not offer a Major League contract to Chavez, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster. Beyond possibly looking to add another backup option, the Blue Jays are searching for a starting catcher for 2010. Rod Barajas -- Toronto's No. 1 catcher last year -- is currently a free agent and is not expected to re-sign with the club.

Shortly after the Blue Jays' moves on Sunday, an industry source confirmed an online report indicating that the club had reached an agreement on a one-year, $2 million contract with free-agent catcher John Buck -- non-tendered by the Royals on Saturday. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos declined comment.

On the trade front, the Blue Jays have contacted the Pirates about the availability of catcher Ryan Doumit, and Toronto is also believed to have interest in Angels catcher Mike Napoli. The Angels are considered one of the leading contenders to possibly land Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay in a trade this offseason.

Gathright, 28, had stops with the Cubs, Orioles and Red Sox organizations in 2009, hitting .267 with nine runs scored in 37 games between big league stints with Chicago and Boston. The speedy outfielder was traded twice during the season and spent the majority of the year in the Minor Leagues.

After Chicago dealt Gathright to Baltimore in May, the left-handed-hitting outfielder batted .325 with 11 doubles, 20 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and 50 runs scored over 83 games between tours with Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore) and Triple-A Pawtucket (Boston). The Red Sox traded for Gathright in August, and he hit .313 with a .353 on-base percentage in 17 big league games.

In parts of six Major League seasons over his career, including stops with the Rays and Royals, Gathright has hit .263 with a .327 on-base percentage. The Blue Jays currently have a vacancy in the leadoff spot -- a role Gathright might compete for this spring. Shortstop Marco Scutaro served as the Jays' leadoff man last year, but he signed with the Red Sox earlier this winter.

The 29-year-old Bautista -- acquired from the Pirates in a trade during 2008 -- hit .235 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs last season in a part-time role for the Jays. After right fielder Alex Rios was claimed off waivers by the White Sox in August, Bautista took advantage of seeing regular time in the field for Toronto. Over the final 30 games, he hit .257 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.