I mentioned in Tuesday’s Afternoon Snack that, back on Friday, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star had given us five things the Jays ought to do in August, and amazingly, by the end of the weekend the club had pretty much already nailed his whole list of suggestions– save for the one we couldn’t possibly know about: quietly beginning the process of courting the Buffalo Bisons as the club’s new Triple-A franchise.
Well, I thought, if the club is seemingly so damn eager for suggestions, why the hell not throw a few more ideas at the wall and see if they stick? And why not make them a touch more severe than the stuff Griff floated?
So, in that spirit, here are Five Radical-ish Things the Jays Ought to Do With What’s Left of 2012…
Release Omar Vizquel and bench Kelly Johnson for Adeiny Hechavarria
Not a particularly outlandish move in the world of cold realists who wonder what the hell he’s doing on the roster in the first place, but releasing Vizquel might be difficult for the Jays, both for the way they built up his credentials as a clubhouse leader and as a guy many believe deserves to be Cooperstown-bound. It has been novel to get to see Vizquel up close the way we have this season, and he’s still got the odd spark left in his bat, and some magic in his glove, but it’s simply not enough to be more than just barely passable as the 25th man on the roster.
A commenter on Tuesday’s post about Dustin McGowan’s latest surgery insisted that anger over the pitcher’s contract would be better served aimed in the direction of Vizquel’s continuing presence on the roster, because it’s made it difficult, as the Jays have scratched and clawed to keep their heads above water, to give days off to Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar– two Jays whose performances, I personally suspect, have been impacted the most by various ailments over the course of the year. I don’t think we have to choose one thing or the other to be upset about, but I can’t say that the commenter is wrong about Vizquel– all the more so now, with Hechavarria here and not looking entirely out of place.
Speaking of Johnson, though I’ve been a supporter of his since he arrived from Arizona a year ago, and can almost make myself believe that the hamstring injury he suffered in the first half could be at least somewhat to blame for his putrid last two-and-a-half months, I certainly wouldn’t have been so soft if Adam Lind or Eric Thames had seen their season whither so spectacularly on the vine, so it’s time for him to take a seat too, so that we can see the youngster Hechavarria continue to get at-bats at this level, allowing the club to judge his fitness for the Majors on more than this brief cameo while Brett Lawrie is on the shelf.
What’s vaguely radical about that aspect of it, of course, is that it would very likely cement the fact that Johnson will leave for nothing, killing whatever minimal August trade value he may have had left– not to mention whatever goodwill was supposedly earned when the club let Cito keep pointlessly putting free-agent-to-be John Buck in the lineup at the end of 2010.
Of course, John Farrell doesn’t have a legacy to pad at the expense of the club’s long term vision, so I’d reckon that last bit is of no concern.
Send Anthony Gose back to Las Vegas
We’ve been harsh on Anthony Gose and his preparedness for the Majors in this little corner of the internet, but my suggestion here isn’t about that. And it isn’t so much about worrying that he’ll be “Snider’d” if he should continue to be rushed so hard in his ascent towards becoming a Major League regular– and let’s be clear, there were whole other dimensions beyond age to how Snider was rushed, primarily the fact that he went up four levels in 2008 and the total instability of the experiment as a whole.
No, I actually think Gose has it in him to be a much better hitter than he’s shown, and that he could very possibly handle it to take his lumps at the Major League level if that’s what they really wanted to. But to do it as a left fielder? Or by displacing Colby Rasmus from centre?
You could get away with it for these last two months of the season, but neither option makes any sense going forward– especially if you’re looking to Adeiny Hechavarria as a regular in the lineup. Or, y’know, if you’re ever going to have to face a left-hander.
Gose can certainly use more time to refine his approach in the minors, and it’s a waste to have him here out of position, losing opportunities to face left-handers, neutralizing his two best tools, or turning an above average CF into a below average LF by moving Colby Rasmus there. Sure, the skills are tantalizing, but there’s just no reason for this call-up to be permanent, so don’t complicate it. Send him back to Las Vegas to finish the PCL season, and start him there again next spring.
Get Prepared to Walk Away from JA Happ
I phrase in this way because I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere close to enough yet of JA Happ to say whether or not he ought to be on his way out the door after the season is over, but the Jays need to start watching closely and to start thinking about it.
Happ is heading into arbitration for the second time, meaning that he’ll be getting some kind of a raise on the $2.35-million he makes this year. Sure, there were reasons to view him as an upside play when the Jays acquired him last month– an uptick in velocity, and increasingly better walk and strikeout rates– but it’s hard not to wonder if maybe he’s more yesterday’s man than tomorrow’s– the kind of guy they could have used earlier this year, more than a guy they’ll want to rely on next season.
Yes, his kind of depth arm has some value– as indicated by the fact that the Jays paid a non-zero price to acquire him, and because in recent years they’ve gone out of their way to use first round draft picks on “safe” arms of a similar mould, like Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins– but enough to justify a $3-million price tag? That, one suspects, will depend on how he fares in the next two months, and what the Jays plans are with other arms.
Is Happ’s contract a better allocation resources than paying about the same amount to retain Carlos Villanueva? Than paying Aaron Laffey much less? Or how about Jenkins, who ought to be given an extended look these last two months as well?
It’s not necessarily an either-or proposition, of course, but if Happ’s performance warrants him sliding down the depth chart, non-tendering him has to be viewed as an option.
To me it’s especially a radical-ish suggestion because, while I’m less concerned about the prospect capital Alex Anthopoulos used up in acquiring him (and David Carpenter, and to get the Astros to flip Brandon Lyon for Francisco Cordero), the GM certainly used up some of his ever-dissipating goodwill among the fan base to do so.
But saving face can’t be a concern if Happ simply doesn’t appear like he’ll be worth the money he’ll command through arbitration– little as it may be. Anthopoulos may have to bite the bullet on this one, and he needs to start contemplating as much, and ensuring he sees enough of Happ, Jenkins, and whoever else he needs to in order to decide.
Eat Whatever Salary You Have To In Dealing Adam Lind
My views on Adam Lind have been well represented around here (hint: they’re negative), so this probably won’t come as a surprise, but the time has long come to cut bait on the 1B/DH who is now mired in his third straight wasted season. Sure, injury has partly been a culprit in derailing his season (again), and he hit relatively well (.850 OPS in 24 games) after returning from a demotion to Triple-A, but it has to be– has to be– too little too late. The Jays can’t go into 2013 with Adam Lind as a regular player, following three abysmal years in which he has been a half win below replacement, per FanGraphs, with a .292 OBP, .718 OPS, .310 wOBA and 91 wRC+ over nearly 1400 plate appearances.
Lind is currently on the shelf, but if he’s able to come back and show he’s healthy before the end of the month, maybe there’s a taker to be found– especially (read: only) if the Jays are willing to eat some of his remaining salary. And damn it, they should be.
We’re finally reaching the point where it can be argued that walking away from Lind’s deal isn’t too expensive a proposition to consider. By my calculation, he’s owed about $1.4-million for the rest of this season, then there’s $5-million for next year, and $3.5-million more in buyouts of his club options for 2014, ’15, and ’16.
The $5.5-million they walked away from when releasing Mark Teahen it is not, nor would it be quite the same to walk away from a player they signed to a much-praised potentially seven-years-long deal just two years ago, but $9.9-million isn’t a crazy amount in baseball terms, either. If you move him, any amount you don’t have to eat is pure savings, and more importantly, this question gets finally, mercifully, put away forever.
Sure, Lind could be a useful bench bat and insurance for Edwin Encarnacion and whatever the club decides to do at DH, but I’d much rather the club rid themselves of the temptation and show us that they’re not so insane as to believe that a month in Vegas woke the sleeping “real” Lind from his 1300 plate appearance-long nap. As with Aaron Hill last year, we’re long beyond the point where it would hurt in the slightest to see him go turn his career around in new environs. And after seeing what passed as “opportunity” for Travis Snider, I just cannot fathom how Lind’s rope isn’t at its end.
Bring Up an Injured Travis d’Arnaud
By the time the rosters expand in September, Las Vegas catcher Travis d’Arnaud still won’t be healthy enough to see any game action, as he continues to recover from the knee ligament tear he suffered in late June. He won’t play again until the Arizona Fall League, but that doesn’t mean he ought to sit at home in Septemebr while teammates who he out-wOBA’d by 50 points experience life in “the show.”
The Jays should activate d’Arnaud from the 51s’ DL in time to bring him to the Majors and get a taste of the pitching staff he’ll be working with next year (or, better still, just bring him up to Toronto without putting him on the roster and starting his service clock)– because, let’s be clear, he is far and away the right choice to break camp as the Jays’ number one catcher.
Yes, JP Arencibia is well-liked by the fans and seems to have a good relationship with the pitching staff, but he did nothing in his second turn with the Jays to dispel the major questions surrounding his bat. Yes, he again demonstrated the power to knock twenty- maybe thirty-odd mistakes out of the park over the course of a season, but his on-base percentage was slightly down on the disgusting .292 he put up last year, plus he didn’t walk as often, and his strikeout rate was slightly up. In other words, this wasn’t the quantum leap forward in year two that many fans, who saw a big step forward in his repeat year at Triple-A, were hoping for.
Both Arencibia and d’Arnaud played at New Hampshire at age 22 and Vegas at 23, and the numbers aren’t even close: d’Arnaud had a .402 and .413 wOBA in those years, compared to Arencibia’s .348 and .316. Even when a year older and repeating the level, Arencibia (.412 wOBA) was slightly behind d’Arnaud– and that’s while factoring in d’Arnaud’s slow start, wherein he OPS’d a low-for-Vegas .778 in this season’s first month.
d’Arnaud is a more well-rounded hitter with a better defensive pedigree– he was named best defensive catcher for 2011 in a poll of Eastern League managers. The job will be his, so why wait in letting him get acclimated to it, even if he won’t be able to participate in any game action just yet?
Image via Newsgrist/NYMag.
* Alternate caption: “They’re probably all dead!”