For this week’s post, I had planned on doing a piece on what spots on the roster were actually still undecided besides left field. I noticed on Twitter that an surprising number of people were posing questions to the likes of Sportsnet Radio’s Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) , and well known bloggers Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) and Drunk Jays Fans (@drunkjaysfans) regarding the chances of certain players making the opening day roster. Questions such as:
What are the chances of Anthony Gose making the team in 2012?
Why don’t the Jays put Snider in centre and Thames in left?
I don’t see why the Jays don’t just move Escobar to second and play Hechevarria at short!
Can Snider or Thames play first base?
The first two questions to anyone who follows this team closely are quite easy to answer. Colby Rasmus is the Blue Jays’ centre fielder in 2012. Gose will be spending his 2012 in Vegas. Why people think Gose is a better option in centre having never played an inning in the majors is beyond me. Yes he’s fast and a plus defender but he’s at least a year away from being ready for the Show. Barring injury, you won’t see Gose playing for the Jays this summer. He’s a prime candidate for a September call-up but the Blue Jays have no need to rush him and remember that Colby Rasmus fellow???
The second question is also an emphatic NO!!! Again, this Colby Rasmus fellow who everybody was thrilled to see the Blue Jays acquire last season is the Blue Jays’ centrefielder. Yes both Eric and Travis are having fine springs but one of them is going to start the year in Las Vegas. It’s probably going to be Travis but I discussed that in my last post so I won’t go into any further detail as to why I think this to be the case.
As for the third statement, similar to Gose, the Blue Jays have no reason to rush Adeiny Hechevarria. From all accounts, Hechevarria is already an elite defender and major league ready with his glove. However, he is very much a work and progress at the dish. He’s improving at the plate and is apparently much stronger this spring then he was at the end of the season last year but he still needs time to develop. Again, the Blue Jays have a shortstop and second baseman in place for 2012; Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson.
Again for the fourth question, the answer is ‘NO’. It’s not that Snider and Thames can’t play first base it’s just that the Blue Jays have Adam Lind slated to play first. If that fails then you’ll see Edwin Encarnacion try his hand there and if E5 turns into E3 then you’ll likely see David Cooper get a shot. There is no chance the Blue Jays would throw Snider or Thames at first in 2012. It is conceivable I suppose that the Blue Jays might consider converting one of them to a first baseman in 2013 but I find that rather unlikely.
This brings me to the main subject of this post and that is who will be the Blue Jays fans’ whipping boy in 2012? In 2011, the Vernon Wells trade presented us Juan Rivera on a silver platter. His struggles at the plate and his total lack of speed did nothing to help Mr. Rivera’s cause and mercifully, the Blue Jays dealt him to the Dodgers in June. The fan’s ire then shifted fully to the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen where Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco drew heat for a multitude of late inning meltdowns.
Given the fan’s attention in Spring, I think it’s pretty clear that the prime candidates for whipping boy 2012 are, in no particular order: Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson and Adam Lind.
I don’t get why some fans have given up on Rasmus already. My best guess is that these are Blue Jays fans that watch the Blue Jays and only the Blue Jays and see Rasmus as a player with an attitude problem who only batted .173 with 3 homeruns as a Blue Jay. They don’t see the five-tool player with a huge upside who had an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .859 and 23 homeruns in 2010 as a 24 year old. In 2011, the kid got run out of St. Louis by Tony LaRussa who then proceeded to throw him under a bus after the trade to Toronto. He got to Toronto and then dealt with a wrist injury and only got in 35 games. Hardly time to give up on a player this young and with this much upside. That being said, if Rasmus gets off to a slow start, you’ll see fans calling for the Jays to play Snider or Gose in centre.
Kelly Johnson was another player who had a really rough 2011 season and has Blue Jays questioning whether he should be the team’s second baseman. However, given that the previous everyday second baseman for the Blue Jays who the Jays traded to get Johnson was having an equally bad 2011 (and a brutal 2010 for that matter), a change of scenery could bode well for both Johnson and Hill. Johnson is only signed to a one year deal so fans won’t resent him for his contract but again may be the target of fan’s ire simply because some fans don’t want to wait for Hechevarria.
Then there is Mr. Adam Lind. Lind had a great 2009 season. A breakout year for Mr. Lind. Then came 2010 where as the team’s DH, he struggled mightily with an OBP of a mere .287. Some writers pointed to the fact that he was a DH at such a young age and had to dwell all game over his failures at the plate as a reason for such a drop-off from 2010. The 2011 season was supposed to be a comeback season for Adam given that he was back to a full-time defensive player. Despite a promising start to the year, he again put up horrific numbers batting .251 and an on-base percentage of .295. He did put up 26 homeruns and 87 RBIs but given first base is generally a power position, these numbers don’t hold water. This kind of production is also not acceptable for a team’s #4 hitter who is supposed to provide protection to one of baseball’s premier power hitters in Jose Bautista. There is a reason why Bautista led the majors in walks last season. If you want to really put how bad Adam Lind’s numbers were in 2011, just look at his Wins Above Replacement of 0.7 and compare that with those players that played 50% of their games at 1B last season and had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. He ranks 18 out of 20. To me, this is the guy who is going to be your whipping boy for 2012 Blue Jays fans. He’s had two consecutive bad seasons, he’s the player who is supposed to be providing protection for the Jays’ best hitter and he’s the guy who was quoted this spring as saying that he’s ‘not much of a workout guy’ and still doesn’t like it but now knows he has to work out and is willing to put in the twenty minutes a day he believes is necessary. Maybe he’ll return to his 2009 form but all signs are pointing to another rough season. I just hope that if he does struggle, John Farrell has enough sense to take him out of the lineup or at least move him down in the order.
The news broke last night that the Blue Jays had reached agreement on a five-year, $65M contract with Jose Bautista. Although, it hasn’t been formally announced yet, given that multiple sources are reporting this, it’s likely a done deal. It is expected to be announced sometime today (Thursday).
I’m not sure what to think about this deal. It’s risky that is for sure. I was hoping the Blue Jays would aim for a 3 to 4 year deal for about $10 to $12M per year but five years. The $13M per year is on the higher end of the spectrum but it’s not Jason Werth money thank goodness. It’s in the neighbourhood of Dan Uggla’s deal with the Braves and that appeared to be the benchmark that both sides were working from. Uggla, of course, has a larger body of work to judge his value from than Mr. Bautista but is definitely not paid for his glove. Jose Bautista is a fine defender with a plus arm who can play several positions well.
As I mentioned in a previous post, if Bautista hits near the mid-point between his previous career high of 16 homeruns or his 2010 total of 54 homeruns (about 35HRs) and drive in 100+ RBI’s a year, this deal will turn out to be a relative bargain for the Blue Jays. He’s not getting Vernon Wells money and he is certainly nowhere close to getting Jason Werth money ($126M over seven years).
It’s a risky deal but it’s not going to break the bank for the Blue Jays. Not only did Bautista have a break out year in 2010, he emerged as a clubhouse and on-field leader and was superb defensively. I personally think he’s better in right field than third base but given the Jays’ depth in the outfield, and lack thereof at third until Mr. Lawrie is ready for the show, he is best positioned to help the team in 2011 at third.
My biggest fear is that Jose tries too hard to live up to the contract and pushes too hard and ends up struggling at the dish. That will bring out all of the negative Nancys and boo-birds at the Rogers Centre and stir up more talk about PEDs. The PED talk is nonsense if you ask me. One, he’s not a big guy and his appearance didn’t change from one year to the next. Second, if he was able to use PEDs last season and not get caught, then why would he not continue to do so in 2011 and put up the same numbers?
Regardless it will be an interesting 2011. The Jays’ lineup has the potential to be a very potent one if Adam Lind and Aaron Hill bounce back from a rough 2010, Bautista produces and Travis Snider is able to have a breakout season. J.P. Arencibia will be interesting to watch. He has the potential to put up numbers in the neighbourhood of John Buck’s last year but as a rookie, he may also struggle while he faces major league pitching and tries to manage a young pitching staff.
Okay a little late on the mark here but I wanted to give my two cents on the Jays’ interest in Dan Uggla. I must say I wasn’t against the Jays making a play for Uggla but I wasn’t overly thrilled about it either.
On the positive side, the Jays wouldn’t have had to give up much for a player who has hit 25+ homeruns the past five seasons and over 30 the past four. He would have played second base allowing Aaron Hill to plug the vacant position at third base with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion. Also they could have moved Uggla at the trade deadline for picks/prospects if they weren’t able to or didn’t wish to sign him to a contract extension.
On the negative side, Uggla would have to adjust to American League pitching which may or may not be difficult for him and he’s not the best defender. Given the Jays may have to use Adam Lind at first base this year this would have led to a very weak right side defence if Uggla was patrolling second base.
Anyways, this is a moot point given Uggla was dealt to the Braves last week.