A Lot Has Happened

Well since my last post last week regarding rumours that Carlos Pena was a target of the Blue Jays, a lot has happened.

First, Pena signed with the Cubs.  Again, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Pena but he would have been a big upgrade over Lyle Overbay.  However, since then the Jays signed a familiar face in Edwin Encarnacion today as a DH/1B option.  I would have definitely preferred Pena and possibly Overbay to Encarnacion but more on that later in this post.
The two big moves were Carl Crawford signing with the Red Sox and Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies. Crawford to the Red Sox was not a huge surprise on its own but when you consider the Red Sox made a splash just days earlier with the trade for Adrian Gonzalez it was a bit of one.  Either way the Red Sox look incredibly strong heading into 2011 as it stands now.  Once the Crawford move went down, everyone’s eyes turned to Cliff Lee and the New York Yankees.  Personally, I thought it was just a matter of time before we saw Lee sign with the Yankees. They would offer more years and more money just because they could and I thought Lee wouldn’t be able to turn it down.  
I also thought, like many, that if for some reason the Yankees didn’t sign Lee, it would be the Texas Rangers. The Nationals were also interested but I didn’t think they were ever considered by the Lee camp. What I did not figure on was the Phillies coming in, after dealing Lee just a year earlier to make payroll room to sign Roy Halladay, and making an offer worth $30M less than what was offered by Yankees and Lee accepting! 
I was overjoyed by this news.  Not really for the Phillies getting Lee but because the Yankees did not get Lee.  To be honest, even with Lee, I thought the Red Sox would still have an upper hand on the Yankees (barring any other moves) in 2011.  I just think their lineup is now superior to the Yankees with the Yankees having to pay big money to aging stars like Jeter and Posada and the Red Sox pitching will be improved this year with Beckett and Lackey returning to their former selves or at least bouncing back a little from 2010.  However, the Yankees are not finished and they’ll make a big splash before April or they’ll pry a front line starter from a smaller market team sometime mid-season.  
There was an interesting column in the Toronto Star this morning by Richard Griffin with regard to how teams sometimes play obstructionists in other teams dealings to prevent rivals from getting players. For instance, it was postulated that the Blue Jays were willing to deal Marcum to the Brewers to keep the Brewers from pursuing Zack Greinke from the Royals of whom the Blue Jays are also interested in.  In this same vein, it is rumoured that the Red Sox indicated to the Phillies that they are willing to take on Joe Blanton’s salary which led to the Phillies being able to sign Cliff Lee, keeping Lee away from the Yankees.  It will be interesting to see if, in the coming weeks, we see Blanton head to the Red Sox.  Given the Red Sox probably rotation of Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz and Matsusaka (and Wakefield in the pen), I don’t see where Blanton fits.  This seems a little far fetched if you ask me but that still doesn’t take away from the point Griffin makes in his column.  
From a Blue Jays perspective, Lee signing outside the division was good news but other news that the Yankees signing Russell Martin wasn’t great news.  It was rumoured that the Jays were interested in Martin as a 3B/1B/DH/C option.  However, he went to the Yankees.  
Now it was known that the Blue Jays were looking at having Adam Lind as their primary first baseman in 2011 and looking to sign a player who could DH and also play first base to either spell Lind or swap places with Lind if he is unable to adapt to the new position.  So who did this player end up being? None other than Edwin Encarnacion.  Now Encarnacion is known as “EncarCRAPcion” in some circles…well…my circle mostly as I watched him repeatedly air mail balls into the seats from third base the past two seasons.  I was happy to see the A’s claim him on waivers and thinking he was gone from my life.  However, they non-tendered him and now Jays fans will find him back in the line-up in 2011.  At least it won’t be at third base! 
Encarnacion does have some pop so he’s not a horrible solution as a DH.  He had some health problems in 2010 and fell out of favour for awhile after not running out some ground balls and of course the defensive lapses at third. He was even designated for assignment but then was called back up when it was determined that Jarred Hoffpauer was not an everyday solution.  Some friends of mine just asked why they wouldn’t just re-sign Overbay as at least Overbay was strong defensively and has a comparable bat to Encarnacion.  Well from what I hear Overbay wanted to be an everyday first baseman, which he wouldn’t have been in Toronto, and got his opportunity in Pittsburgh.  Now one can argue whether the Pirates are actually a major league team but that’s a subject for another blog post!
So with Encarnacion and barring any other moves, here is the Jays projected opening day starting lineup.
1. Davis LF
2. Escobar SS
3. Wells CF
4. Bautista 3B
5. Lind 1B
6  Encarnacion DH
7. Snider RF
8. Hill 2B
9. Arencibia C
Now to be honest, I don’t know how the order will shake out and could very well look quite different than what I listed above but those are the nine starters you would see as of now.
However, Jose Bautista has expressed his preference to play right field over third base so whether the team complies with this wish or not is the big question.  If Bautista is to play right field then two “problems” arise. One is who will play third base? The other is where will Davis play? Would he platoon with Snider or be used simply as the fourth outfielder.  I have no issue with Davis as the fourth outfielder but if he’s not in the line-up do you bat Escobar lead-off and move Hill back to second in the order? 
Who knows? I have a feeling that Mr. Anthopolous has, as he calls it, some irons in the fire still and we’ll see how it shakes out. Perhaps Snider is on his way out of town in a deal for Greinke? Perhaps an everyday third baseman will become available.  Who knows?

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