He qualifies it by noting that “Alex Anthopoulos has a reputation for thoroughness, which means interest can sometimes be a matter of due diligence,” but in his latest for Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith suggests that the Jays have shown some interest in free agent infielder Jamey Carroll, shown above in jack-o’-lantern form.
Or… wait. That’s really him??!? Uh… OK then…
Carroll is an interesting, if unsexy, option– in the baseball sense, of course. He turns 40 in February, though, and is coming off the worst season of his career by WAR, and… well… by everything, pretty much. And since I’ve tended to worry this off-season– overly so, perhaps– about guys on the wrong side of thirty taking steps backwards, my immediate thought is that Carroll maybe isn’t necessarily the best idea here.
Then again, he’s a cheap bounce-back candidate who posted more than two wins per season, in full time duty, for each of the three prior to the last one.
Yes, the on-base is pretty hollow, and the bulk of the value comes from defence, and he’s about half as fun as Munenori Kawasaki, who is essentially the same player, but there’s actually one key difference that might tip the balance in his favour with regard to Kawasaki: Carroll hits from the right side.
Even in the overall his 6.3 fWAR and a .313 wOBA, 97 wRC+, and .359 OBP over the three seasons prior to his 2013 disaster is nothing to sneeze at. And, somewhat surprisingly, he hit ahead of the pitcher in less than a quarter of his plate appearances over that time– just six of his 150 walks during that span were intentional– so it’s not like the on-base there is even that inflated.
Add that he’s a plus defender and he’s certainly not a bad option for a team whose GM still, somehow, insists he’s comfortable going into the season with Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins, and that could absolutely use more depth up the middle after the losses of Kawasaki and Mark DeRosa this winter.
Better still, though, is the fact that he’s been a strong hitter against left-handed pitching in his career. Even in his abysmal 2013, he was very nearly OK. Not really, of course– a .290 wOBA and 79 wRC+ is pretty black hole-ish– but, again, in the three years prior he was more than a grade above that: .347 wOBA and 120 wRC+ in 409 plate appearances.
Ryan Goins is a left-handed hitter, and while I’m extremely uncomfortable with his bat, at least having a caddy for him in the form of a guy like Carroll would mitigate a whole bunch of the value he’d squander against same-sided pitching on account of his being fucking terrible against them. Goins– who some people want to be the starting second baseman for this club– posted a .214/.243/.310 line this season against Triple-A left-handers, and didn’t exactly blow the doors of the fucking barn against them in Double-A the year before, putting up a .265/.326/.381 line.
Goins, as Shi Davidi noted earlier today at Sportsnet, is currently getting some extra work in with new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, which is great, but I have absolutely no confidence that he’s going to show up a transformed hitter compared to the one who started his big league career with eight game hitting streak and still managed to sink to just a .267 wOBA and 62 wRC+ in 34 games.
Meanwhile, Maicer Izturis is thoroughly confounding in this regard. Certainly not a plus defender at second last year (he said making the fucking understatement of the year), Izturis also has alternated through his career in terms of his success as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching. From 2009 to 2011 his .357 wOBA and 125 wRC+ over 297 PA was downright impressive, but his last 206 plate appearances against them have been fairly dogshit: .252 wOBA, 55 wRC+.
So… uh… Jamey Carroll, then? I say, “Why the fuck not?”
Sure, it would be kind of terrifying if it turned out that he sucked, but it’s maybe not the worst gamble. The only thing is, while I know that our mantra at the end of the season was that this team really needed only to improve its worst areas from godawful to passable enough, man… that sure is a lot easier to say than it is to be seen put into action, isn’t it? However, if “just a couple wins better than Arencibia is all we need” was fine when it came to the catching position– which I think was true, and I think Alex Anthopoulos has already accomplished reasonably well– there’s not much of an argument why “just a couple wins better than Izturis and Bonifacio” shouldn’t be a very solid, very easy improvement for the club to make at second, as well.
Goins alone wouldn’t, I don’t think, but this would do it. Mark Ellis would be even better, I believe– and in Davidi’s piece he noted both Ellis and Carroll as names to watch for the Jays to be in on– but either way, we sure aren’t talking about the kind of fun, splashy upgrade so many fans have been a little bit overly hopeful for, are we? And while I know in the back of my mind that’s probably for best, it really is hard to get over the utter unsexiness of it all sometimes. In the baseball sense, of course.
Or, sure, as noted in the comments, Omar Infante would be even better still– at least on the front end of whatever contract he signs.
So… there’s that.