A massive issue for the Jays this winter is finding something tolerable to part with that may be enticing enough to make teams actually want to offer them anybody of value in return. That’s the prime reason why Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus have heard their names in a lot of chatter over the last few months, even if there’s no actual evidence that they’re being shopped. The idea of Bautista being dealt, as warm and fuzzy as it makes the dolts who somehow think they can divine through their TV a bunch of bullshit about Jose’s leadership abilities, is pretty nutty, as it would blow a gigantic hole in the club’s ability to score runs. Common sense, then, points to Rasmus as being one of the clubs most easily-shopped commodities, mostly because has a ready-made replacement in Gose, waiting in Buffalo– while still, also, uh, kinda waiting to learn how to hit.
About that, though.
Jays fans, for good reason, tend to believe that Gose simply isn’t ready for prime time. This year, in his brief turn in the big leagues, even the defensive metrics have turned against him! But here’s something interesting: in Buffalo this season Gose posted a line of .239/.316/.336, which was “good” for an 85 wRC+. This year Cleveland centre fielder Michael Bourn, in his second-worst defensive season as a full time player by UZR (2.5), had posted, as of Thursday (9/19), a startlingly similar line– .259/.312/.349, for a wRC+ of 86.
What’s interesting about that is that by both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, to that point Bourn had been worth 1.8 wins above replacement in 2013.
Now… much like last year when I made this comparison (in a now-hilarious post where I stated I wouldn’t deal Gose and Arencibia for R.A. Dickey), I’m not trying to say Gose is necessarily going to be Bourn. It’s just, they profile pretty similarly, don’t they? Excellent defensive centre fielders who’ll strike out a lot, take a few walks, give you some speed on the bases and little power. In his career Bourn has never posted a wRC+ above 104, and yet he’s produced 21.5 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. Since his 2009 breakout with the bat (in his age 26 season, it should be noted– which Gose won’t hit until 2017), among position players he’s been the 26th most valuable player in the big leagues by that metric, tied with Prince Fielder.
The defensive component of WAR fluctuates enough and provides so much of Bourn’s value, that I’m not going to take such a ranking as gospel, but Bourn is good– so good that, heading into his age 30 season, despite being a guy whose legs are his bread and butter, he landed a four-year, $48-million contract.
Another interesting note of comparison is the fact, previously noted, that Bourn’s offensive breakout came at age 26. At that point he’d amassed just over 2,000 plate appearances as a pro. Gose, on the other hand, just crossed the 3,000 mark in his pro career. That may be dispiriting… until you realize that Bourn was drafted out of college, and made his pro debut at age-20. Gose’s was at 17, and he amassed 1,200 of his pro plate appearances before his age-20 season.
That doesn’t mean Gose is necessarily going to break out in a big way at the exact same numer of plate appearances Bourn did, of course. And, unstated in all this, is the fact that putting this comparison on him means expecting a whole hell of a lot out of not just his defence, but his baserunning as well. In fact, in the BsR component used by FanGraphs’ WAR (which adds weighted stolen base runs and Ultimate Base Running rating) Bourn was top ten in baseball each year from 2009 to 2012, topping the metric by wide margins in two of those seasons. It’s a tall, tall order to be as good as he’s been, but those aren’t the aspects of Gose’s game that anybody has ever worried about.
In other words, if Gose can just translate his paltry age-22 line at Triple-A to the big leagues, he stands to be very valuable, and very much a bargain in terms of dollars-per-WAR– that is, if you think that the two competing versions of the composite of do a reasonable enough job of incorporating defensive metrics to trust that they’re close to the truth.
The question then becomes, how much do you believe any of this? How convinced are you, dreaming on the Bourn-like future potential of Gose, that you could part with Rasmus just as we start to get a taste of the hitter he could be? Conversely, how persuaded by these sorts of arguments might you think a rival GM might be? To the point where Gose, with his contract status and high-end potential, might even be more valuable than Colby? Or should the Jays maybe be thinking that too???
The sample is much to small, and too polluted by September at-bats, but Gose is currently at a 95 wRC+ in the big leagues this year.
Using the wOBA calculator at Crashburn Alley, if you combine Gose’s totals from his recall in September of last year, as well as his time in the big leagues this year (i.e. if you take away the awful time he had in his initial call-up), he’s posted a .318 wOBA as a big leaguer.
Obviously you can’t do that, and there are a whole lot of September plate appearances in a still very small sample (213 PA), but still!
Just don’t look at his splits against lefties!
The other big question is, what do you get for either of these guys? Is it better than Drew Hutchison or Marcus Stroman, or even Todd Redmond? Better than just throwing a little bit of money at someone like Scott Feldman or Ricky Nolasco?
I mean, it’s not like the White Sox are going to go nuts and be willing to deal Chris Sale for some package built around Gose– and that would be true even if they didn’t already have the same guy in Alejandro de Aza (.264/.321/.405 with a -4.0 defensive WAR component, and worth 2.0 wins). That speaks to another tricky dimension of this winter’s task, which almost makes me think that, on the pitching front, the Jays might even stand pat: unless they’re dealing Aaron Sanchez– which, FYI, would make a whole lot of people shit bricks, especially whichever GM has to come in and clean up the post-Anthopoulos mess– how are they going to be able to put together a package to not only meet the needs of a club that’s going to give them this otherworldly pitcher we’re dreaming on, but to beat out rival offers as well?
Gose and Sanchez, I think, give them their best shot, but… man. I could deal with giving up the former, even considering all the good stuff about him this post has reminded me of. Both, though? Like… can we maybe just spend some of Rogers’ money, please? Because as much as it was a thing to say that they’d gone “all in” on R.A. Dickey, um… trading for pitching in some probably-futile attempt to make a big push in 2014 really would do that, and just seems kind of dreadfully risky. Maybe not even worth doing. Shit.