Alex Anthopoulos was on the Fan590 this morning with Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt (audio here), and while a lot of it was typical Anthopoulosian blather, he did admit that he overstepped when he proclaimed last year that Adeiny Hechavarria was a shortstop, end of story, and he had a few things to say that were definitely worth noting– even if we don’t necessarily believe what he’s saying. Actually, especially if we don’t.

Part Two of Three – Eric Thames (But Mostly Travis Snider)

“Travis knows that Eric is the frontrunner going in. Eric knows that he’s not being handed the job. Travis is going to have to play that much better than Eric, because the context of spring stats,” said Alex Anthopoulos, summing up the left field situation as best he could, in response to a Stephen Brunt question about the impressive start Travis Snider has had in camp.

“I knew that the competition in left field would be a story,” he lamented. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be as much of a point of emphasis, strictly because, by design it was– we told Travis this, we told Eric this– Eric is frontrunner for the job.”

That assertion is about as emphatic as Anthopoulos gets (non-responding to intellectually dishonest and/or moronic Man in White accusations division), and it caused some uproar in the comments on the Chart Attack post from yesterday, where my little, entirely-unscientific Travis Snider head edged past Thames into the lead for the position.

As I said then, the Jays most likely don’t quite view it as a horse race, the way makes the most sense to our minds. I could have added that, if they do, there’s really no value to them in saying so outwardly, toying with these guys’ minds and making it a bigger story than it already is.

If there genuinely is a competition, Snider has to have made a much bigger first impression than Thames. Anthopoulos seems to acknowledge it, downplaying it while astutely noting that “Travis has been great, Eric has played very well also, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that these are small sample sizes in Spring Training against not the greatest of competition.”

In that sense, Thames is still most likely viewed as the frontrunner– and quite rightly so, especially since Alex makes clear that part of the reason there’s even a competition involving an incumbent starter is because he “to adjust my style, from a philosophy standpoint, because I think maybe it’s not the best thing in the world to hand a kid a job.”

But the sample sizes will get larger, and as cuts are made across the various camps, the level of competition will rise.

“It’s nothing against Travis,” he says, “because I love him as a player, I love him as a human being, I love him as a prospect, but you don’t want to guarantee anything.”

Further to that, ”I really want to avoid the up and down with Travis,” Anthopoulos explains. “Hopefully the next time he’s up here, whether it’s Opening Day, or it’s some point during the season, or whether it’s next year, he’s here to stay.”

Perhaps that indicates that the team is going to be more inclined to take a cautious approach with Snider, even if he outperforms Thames thoroughly this spring. And, you know what? If they’re not ready to give him the reins on April fifth, because of a fear that he’ll once again lose his consistency and have to be sent back down, while some fans seem to want to look at that as some kind of indication that Snider’s task this spring is impossible, and that the organization is probably looking to move on, I just don’t know how they fucking figure. The Jays’ reasoning on all this sounds about right to me.

Comments (42)

  1. trade Adam Lind.

  2. hackensack bulls need a 1B I think.

  3. I don’t understand why they can’t play Thames, Snider, Lind and Encarnacion equally across the 3 spots (LF/DH/1B). That’s 120 games each. We all know the 3 starters aren’t going to play 160 games each so why not spread those 3 spots among 4 players? Snider plays 75% of the LF starts. Thames picks up the remaining 25% of LF and splits DH 50/50 with Encarnacion. Lind plays 75% of the 1B starts (including all the righties) and EE picks up the remaining 25% of 1B starts to combine with his DH duties. Everybody wins. If a couple months into the season someone is struggling badly you adjust the playing time or send someone down. There’s more than enough at bats to go around. This is also a form of preventative maintenance as all of these players minus Thames have suffered through injuries in recent years.

    • Thames has had injuries too.

      • That`s a good point. Snider & EE are injury prone . There should be enough at bats for them.

        If AA gets an offer from Snider , I think he will take it though. The Jays have messed up with Snider

    • I agree. Why not keep both Snider and Thames, keep both of their confidence up, keep a healthy competition going, platoon them accordingly, and up the trade bait value on both of them if they both perform????!

  4. This is all very logical to me.

    That said, I’m still pulling for Snider to get the job on account of his defense and upside. But as much as my heart wants me to read into these spring stats, he is essentially playing in AAA right now competition-wise, and we are all fully aware he can hit the ball there.

    • Right. So then, what’s the point of sending him there? What does he learn? Is it so that he can work on his stuff without pressure. Hasn’t he done that already?

      As someone who in the other thread said after hearing the interview I thought it was virtually impossible for him to make the team, I’ll say that I don’t understand why there’s such emphasis on the fact that Thames ended the year as the starting LF, especially when it ended so poorly for him at the plate.

      It is early, and there’s lots to be shaken out still, but if (big if) Snider maintains his approach and performance I just don’t see what good it does to send him to AAA. If he falls apart in the spring, I have no problem sending him there.

      Lots of time to go, I suppose.

      • Vegas is the taxi squad for MLB. He’ll be there as insurance reasons more than developmental reasons. If he doesn’t earn the job, that’s where he should be– and the same goes for Thames.

        • See I don’t disagree there – if he doesn’t earn it, he doesn’t earn it.

          I suppose it’s just that I’m not a huge believer in Thames. I’ll wait to pass judgement on the whole situation until the end of spring, and to see where everything lies. It’s pretty hard to gauge exactly what they whole brain trust is thinking at this point.

          • D’Arnaud, a catcher in a less friendly hitting league OPS’ed higher than Snider did in Vegas last season.

            People need to stop saying “There is NO room for improvement”

  5. It’s a a 100 m dash. It’s just that they spotted Thames 30 m.

    If both perform similarly, Thames will keep his job. Snider will need to bloew him out of the the water to win it.

    If it ended today, you’d probably have to give it to Snider. But I would bet that by the end of Spring, they’ll be even enough for Thames to keep the job.

    • If, y’know, you believe them that they’re not just paying lip service to Thames by indicating that it’s his job to lose when they’re really pulling for Snider. I wouldn’t put it past them.

  6. Snider has always destroyed AAA. Are we going to be playing musical chairs again? It just seems like Snider is always getting the shaft.

  7. Its probably better to keep thames up and snider down

    if thames struggles you eventually can make the decision to make him a 4th OF because thats all hes going to be. If snider struggles and get sets down it will be too tough of a situation.

  8. Is it beneficial to have them both make the roster? Would being a bench player, travelling with the team and getting some ABs in left and centre be more of a confidence booster for either of them compared to killing it in the PCL?

  9. My thought is that AA wants to trade Thames and keep Snider. Since he likes to ‘sell high’ the best way to accomplish this is to play Thames and hope that he has a strong enough season so that he can ‘Alex Gonzalez’ him later in the year. Then he can bring Snider up and let him play without worrying about every 0 for 4 and strike out.

    There is also the chance that Thames or even Bautista will get injured at some point so keeping Snider in Vegas adds some insurance. Still… to me the player that starts the season will most likely be the one that AA wants to showcase as a trade chip.

    • If Thames plays and is good, with years of cheap team control left, why is he being traded again? Not like the Gonzalez situation at all.

      • How good are we talking about, though, when it comes to Thames? The conspiracy theorist in me – the part that believes AA’s POV is close enough to my own – figures that one possible reason for building up Thames is to sell high on him at the end of spring training.

        True, we don’t know if Thames is as good as he’s going to get, but we don’t know that about Nestor Molina either. We just assume that since AA traded him he didn’t believe he had a strong chance of being an impact player.

        If Alex’s MO is all about having impact players because they are the hardest to find, does it not make sense to sink or swim with Snider instead of seeing if Thames can be a passable ML regular?

        Remember, AA also mentioned a year or two ago that Zack Stewart was “right there” with Drabek in terms of being a quality prospect. And I don’t think this was a slight at Drabek, but rather praise for Stewart.

        Who knows what the fuck is actually going on…how many moving pieces there are etc.

      • If Travis is tearing up the PCL again, why not trade Thames in that situation? Sure, it would mean more uncertainty for the Jays- but the Jays, given their division and other limitations, should always choose the higher-risk, higher-reward option (which is Snider).

        The fact that Thames is under team control for 5 more years is not just a benefit for the Jays, but also makes him valuable on the trade market and will be reflected in the return we could get for him.

        • Even if Snider does fail and Thames isn’t there to back him up because of a trade, it’s not like it’s that hard to find a LF. Heck, Gose & Sierra will also be in AAA. Maybe David Cooper DHs and EE plays LF.

          Whether it be Brett Wallace, Nestor Molina or Zach Stewart, AA has shown he doesn’t have an issue trading a good but not great prospect (though it can be argued Wallace was a better than good prospect at the time even if AA didn’t necessarily share that view).

          I don’t see why it should be any different with Thames, unless Alex believes Thames can be an above average regular or more, which may very well be the case.

      • If you actually have to ask that question than you better take another look at the team’s depth chart of OF’s. You really think it’s a great idea, if Thames performs better than has always been expected, to keep him on the team long-term? What happens if he has a down year next year? What do we then do with Snider if Rasmus is also playing well? Do we keep Snider in the minors? What do we do when the next batch of OF’s – Gose and Marisnick – is ready? Trade them away instead of seeing them reach their full potential – which all scouts believe to be higher remember – at the major league level. What if Thames plays poorly next year? Do we just trade him for no value or send him to the minors, never to be heard from again? I bet you’d feel pretty foolish that you weren’t able to trade him for full value when he was playing well.
        No, that is an extremely short-sighted view. You need to build up the value of these players before the next young OF arrives so you can get value in return for them. If you think the Jays best option is to put their players in scenarios where their value can’t be built then you have a lot to learn about how a roster should be managed. IF, all goes right with the system, the players with the highest upside – both on offense and defense – in the OF in a few years would hopefully be Gose, Marisnick and Rasmus. Again, take a look at the depth chart and look at the names that don’t fit. This probably means a shift to 1B for Bautista and trades – if they are able and afforded the opportunity to build their value – of Thames, Snider and some of the other young guys that can hopefully prove themselves like Anderson or Knecht.
        Obviously if any of the aforementioned players aren’t signed to new contracts or do not perform to their potential then you can shift around where a few of those names go – but if you’re focusing on that than you’re really not paying attention to the point of this post are you.

  10. the more snider does this offseason the more they downplay the competition & the more they talk about how its thames to lose. The talk before the offseason was its a competition with thames in a slight lead cause he held the job last year, but the more snider performs the more they talk about how much of a lead thames has.

    this tells me thames is either going to have to flop or snider is going to have to play out of his mind to win this job. very unfortunate

  11. The argument would be that Snider has a higher ceiling so why not, if he outplays Thames for the entirety of Spring, give him another shot to prove himself? If Snider is inconsistent for a month or two will that be what costs the Jays the playoffs?

  12. my comment in the last thames Snider comparision Andrew, isn’t simply to be a dick, its trying to attack the fanboy side that goes, snider was number 7 in Baseball America he is the next coming. Lets face it what Snider has shown the potential to be great when he is hot, but then next month fall of a cliff. Snider is the antithesis of Edwin Encarnacion, who last season started cold then got hot. Snider starts hot they dive bombs. If you look at the comments about Snider in 2010 and 2011 from the coaches and AA its not about his potential but about his lack of ability to take instruction. It is funny because he parallels Rasmus alot, but after 1/4 season with the jays where he was injured most Jays fans were willing to give up on Rasmus, but kept the faith on snider. For Snider to continue to do well he needs to be able to adjust to plitchers adjusting to him and b after a month not fall back in to old habbits like he did nin 2009 and 2010. Being sent down does not mean the jays have given up on him. Dont forget when Halladay was 23 and was sent down to A ball and received instruction from Mel Queen even though, 2 years earliar he threw a 9 inning 1 hitter at the age of 21. Sometimes a player needs a swift kick in the ass to lose the sense of entitlement. And in reality I think that is what the Jays have been trying with Snider, remove his sense, of I deserve starting left field in the majors to having to try to earn his place on the team.

  13. It would make a lot more sense to have the competition be between EE, Snider and Thames for LF and DH. Encarnacion could move around and play 1B/DH vs LHP and if somebody struggles you have a good back up option.

    Edwin was awesome in the second half, but let’s not pretend that a DH who posts a 787 OPS (eerily identical in 2011/2010) is deserving of a guaranteed role. Especially one who is such a defensive liability like EE.

    Especially makes more sense having Snider in LF to improve the OF D, and give both players who have a legitimate future with the Jays a starting role. Assuming they both earn it.

  14. I don’t understand the strong support for Snider over Thames? Is Thames a sure thing? No. However it appears to me that the organization feels that Thames is the better option at this point for numerous reasons.

    Snider has almost 900 plate appearances in the major leagues and has shown the team that he strikes out at an alarming rate, has poor strike zone judgement (236 strike outs to 66 walks), doesn’t take instruction well and isn’t willing to make adjustments. Yes he is still young and things could change, but now it’s time to see what they have in Thames.

    If it’s true that the team was going hard after Carlos Beltran, my guess is that the team isn’t all that confident in either of these guys.

  15. Let’s just see how Thames does batting in the bottom 1/3 of the lineup. Being an unkown last season AND batting in front of Bautista got him alot of fastballs over the plate that he was able to smack for doubles. I don’t think pitchers will be so willing to pitch to him in the 8 hole where he’s likely to bat.

    As for Snider, I get the logic of him being on the team as well as Thames because I can’t stand EE and perhaps Snider could be the DH but then why sacrifice his above average defence. EE is an injury plagued player who can’t perform when it counts and really only shines when the pressure is off like he showed in the last two months when we were out of the race….I guess the bright side is we didn’t sign him to a $126 million contract like VDub.

    • We’ll know early on I think – if he adjusts well to fewer fastballs his walk rate will rise towards the league average (last year he walked 20-25% less than average). If he goes out hacking, his babip will collapse and he will quickly wind up in LV.

  16. Also, when did Travis Snider become a good defensive outfielder?

    • he’s always shown decent range, though he has had troubles when he first came up. And he has a gun for an arm. Might not be the strongest in the league but it is accruate as he’s shown this spring.

  17. I would take Snider over Lind at this point. Teach Snider to play first base, it aint that hard, tell em Ron.
    Truth is though, both Lind and Snider suck balls and need to be traded. I hope they have great springs so their value goes up a bit.

    • That makes no sense IMO, Snider is the dominate fielder in left by a long shot (at least 10 runs/season). It should be Thames moving positions if your moving anybody.

      I agree with Andrew though, the clubs decision making process makes sense.

  18. I’m thinking it will come down to OBP and Strike out rate between Snider and Thames. Johnson and Aaron Cibia will strike out a ton.

  19. [...] Snider has played better in Spring Training, but Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has maintained that Thames is the favorite. But the best option may be to roster both, at the expense of [...]

  20. [...] Training it has seemed that publicly the Blue Jays favour Eric Thames, with Anthopoulos having said that “Eric [was] the frontrunner going in” and on multiple occasions having referenced [...]

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