I don’t want to get too Colby-centric today, but there has been some discussion on the post about his father’s entirely innocuous comments regarding not whether or not the Jays will trade or extend Rasmus, but whether or not they should. So let’s have a few more quick thoughts on the subject, and jump right into it with this [slightly altered] comment from yours truly:
Similar to Johnson last spring, not a lot of sense in paying for the previous season without seeing if it all works again this year. Yes, they went for it with Bautista based on not a lot of data (which we didn’t agree with around here at the time, though obviously that’s worked out swimmingly), but they obviously believed in the mechanical change. Maybe they think the same with Colby, but I have my doubts. His two best seasons are driven by some pretty big BABIP outliers, and it’s probably not a good idea paying him for BABIP unless he’s doing something different they think will make it sustainable. And while he did make mechanical changes last year — as he’s done almost constantly since he’s been here, seemingly — that’s a little hard to buy. Especially when they don’t have to, or when they can trade him to a team that maybe does, or when they can feel pretty good about either letting him play his way off the team or them getting a pick for him when he walks.
I mean, right now the difference between him and Gose is worth the difference between their salaries, I think, but when Gose is still making league minimum-ish, with a floor of something on the order of 1 WAR thanks to defence alone (maybe higher), and keeping Rasmus means investing $75-million that can’t be invested elsewhere, you’ve got to be really, really certain of him to pull that trigger.
A couple things here:
First, maybe they do believe in the mechanical changes, and I might be able to even give them the benefit of the doubt if they did. In his years in the wilderness his ground ball rate spiked to about 3.0 to 5.5 percentage points above where it was in his excellent seasons of 2010 and 2013. In 2011 that spike came at the expense of his line drive rate, while in 2012 it came at the expense of his fly ball rate. It’s hard to carve a great narrative out of such a mess, except to maybe suggest that what we’re seeing is the result of the tinkering that Rasmus was constantly doing before he landed on the sell-out-for-power, fewer swings/less contact approach that worked so well in 2013, and could conceivably have helped drive his BABIP through better contact — though that can hardly be said to be definitively the case. I don’t want to turn this into a research project, so I’ll just say that, personally, I’d want to see a whole lot more success with the approach. However, if the Jays really believed, and were really as afraid of Gose as some are, there’s a case to be made for getting ahead of the market and getting him locked up.
I wouldn’t, even though I can’t deny that the second thing to reconsider about my comment is the fact that I might be overstating Gose’s floor. The Oliver projection system has him at exactly replacement level, based on 600 plate appearances in 2014, though it’s certainly possible that’s in part due to a misreading of his defence — he ranks 71st in defensive value among the centre fielders projected, slightly behind Rasmus. Offensively, it’s somehow even uglier, and while projections are hardly even the be-all end-all, I can conceded that in absolute terms, you probably have to set the floor a little lower than even just one win above replacement.
That, I suppose, is what really makes this a sticky, nutty, chewy, chocolatey – put it away, boy! — situation, but it’s also probably all the more reason to keep waiting. If you think can you get anything positive from Gose in the coming years, isn’t that plus the Upton- or Ellsbury-sized pile of money you don’t have to spend to keep Rasmus more valuable to the team than Rasmus alone?
Not necessarily — it’s still just genuinely that dodgy to be relying on Gose, I think — but in addition to still having Gose, plus the massive difference between contracts, consider that continuing to wait on Rasmus also allows you: a) the opportunity to still sign Colby at a later date, b) to trade him for a potentially decent return if you’re out of it on July 31st (or if you’re ready to turn the position over to Gose anyway), c) to get a high-end draft pick if you make him the qualifying offer and he still walks, and d) a total lack of any attachment to him if the BABIP doesn’t hold and his value goes in the tank.
The club might save some money if they try to strike a favourable deal with him now — and they certainly would save money if they did so and he showed that his BABIP-driven 2013 is still kind of new normal — but it would still require a massive commitment, and with all the positive aspects of simply waiting, the urgency to do so just isn’t there. Besides, they showed in 2012 with Edwin Encarnacion that they’re willing to enter a season with a key player possibly on the verge of free agency, and willing to make a deal with him mid-year if it makes sense. I suspect they entered 2013 with the same mentality regarding Josh Johnson (which actually worked out well considering the kind of contract some fans were pushing him to sign a year ago), and that they’ll do so again this year with Rasmus– as they should.
True, they could also deal him now, and many of the same positives would still apply, but that would require a belief in Gose that, right now, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a team trying to convince itself and its fan base that they’re contenders. It might not make sense to go with Gose in a year, or in six months, either, but at least by waiting, the club will preserve the flexibility to make that call, rather than hemming themselves in with one or the other before they really had to. And if they can improve the club before Opening Day with just dollars, as they damn well should, there’s no reason they shouldn’t want to preserve that luxury.