And here I was getting set to write a big post about how nothing particularly interesting came out of the Jays’ State of the Franchise event.
I’ll share a bunch of thoughts on AJ Burnett, defensive shifts (yes to both), and the like tomorrow, but tonight Shi Davidi dropped something of a bombshell on us, and it’s one requires some more (relatively) immediate examination. According to his latest for Sportsnet, he reported that, in addition to the one for Brett Anderson we’d already heard about, the Jays had a deal fall apart that would have landed them Ian Kinsler, who was then with the Texas Rangers, but has since been moved to Detroit.
Or… “fall apart” isn’t quite the right terminology. He writes:
“A potential deal was scuttled by the three-time all-star’s no-trade clause, leaving the Rangers to look elsewhere, and the Blue Jays to anoint rookie Ryan Goins as the front-runner at second base.”
Fair enough on Kinsler’s part. It’s his right, and it’s hard to begrudge him that. Potentially this relates back to something that actually came up earlier today, when Sports Illustrated mistakenly called Toronto a “loathed city” when passing on a CBS Sports report that actually said it’s “a place some others are loathe [sic] to play.” There is definitely a sense out there that Toronto isn’t the place where a lot of guys want to come — at least not until they’ve played here — and we’ve all heard the issues before. Of course, we have no idea if Kinsler wouldn’t drop the no-trade clause for anything to do with any of that, or if he was simply hoping to avoid the turf, or to stay in Texas.
Whatever the reasoning, avoiding getting a player who doesn’t want to be here isn’t the only thing to feel good about here (which is especially good since that’s kind of a dumb way to look at it anyway). Actually, there are sort of a lot of things to like.
For starters, look at what the Rangers ultimately ended up getting for Kinsler: a big power bat in Prince Fielder. He’s lefty one, but I’m not so sure they would have been dead set on just that when clearing up the log jam in their middle infield, especially since it was to offset the loss of Nelson Cruz and a hole at DH. Plus, this was happening before they signed Shin-Soo Choo. Yes, they had obvious interest in J.P. Arencibia around that time, and the Anderson deal would have seen Sergio Santos land in Texas as well, so maybe Alex could have formed a significant enough package to land Kinsler without including the kind of player the Rangers ultimately landed for him, but there’s one name that jumps immediately to mind when you think about what they ended up getting, and that’s Jose Bautista.
I have no idea if that’s really what the deal was, obviously, but the needs match up, it’s not like the rumours about Bautista haven’t been out there, and the money matches up, too — better, even, than it would have with Detroit, who ended up having to send the Rangers a tonne of cash to offset the cost of Fielder. Jose makes $14-million for each of the next two years, with a $14-million option for 2016, while Kinsler’s next four years are guaranteed at an average of $14.25-million, with a $10-million option at the end of the deal (and a $5-million buyout).
If these two really were the key to the idea — and we’ve certainly heard about the Rangers sniffing around Bautista and Encarnacion before — I’m pretty tremendously glad it didn’t materialize.
Not that Bautista isn’t in a noticeable decline either, but over the last two seasons Kinsler has seen his value trend in the wrong directions on the basepaths, while dropping off significantly from his 7.3 fWAR 2011 season both in the field, and at the plate. The baserunning component of his fWAR has gone from 9.5 runs above average in 2011, to 4.6, to -0.5 last year, as his stolen base totals dropped from 30 to 20 to 15. His defence, by UZR, has slumped over the same period from 16.0 (a large outlier, it should be noted), to -0.3, to -1.0, though DRS liked his defence in 2013 (+11) almost as much as in 2011 (+18), and much more than the year in between (+1). At the plate, since two well above average years in 2010 and 2011, where his wRC+ hit 114 and 123 respectively, he’s been just about a league average hitter — 100 wRC+ in 2012 and 105 in 2013.
Add it up and, among the 33 second basemen with 350 or more plate appearances, he ranked just 14th by wRC+ and 15th by fWAR (though at 4.9 for 2013, the version of the metric at Baseball Reference likes him nearly twice as much as FanGraphs does (2.5)). The year before those rankings were 14th and 10th.
So… he’s not bad, and certainly a giant improvement. He just hasn’t been quite as good as the reputation that precedes him. He was on the DL for the first time since 2010 this year, too, missing games with a rib cage stress fracture, though he was also bothered by a sore lower back on multiple occasions the year prior. Of course, Bautista has injury issues of his own, obviously, but he’s been worth nearly two full wins more over the last two seasons, despite playing 83 fewer games (though by rWAR, Jose has only been a half win better), and his contract is much more favourable.
If it was some other kind of package that was discussed — as it just as easily could have been, just as it could have involved more than just Bautista and Kinsler alone — then sure, it hurts a bit more. But there’s still positive to be taken from all this, I think. It almost certainly means that the Jays were willing to take on money, for one. Plus, it shows that the club understands better than they lead on that their second base situation is kind of terrible, which is tremendous as well.
Granted, the timing of this leaked bit of information may be a little bit curious, at least to the cynic in me — I mean, thanks to the State of the Franchise, the club is going to be a little more visible in the next news cycle in this country, and this sure ought to make fans feel a little better about the off-season, sad as that is, than clips of Beeston and Anthpoulos trotting out their well-worn platitudes — but that’s still not enough for me to not see all the positive in it, even if I suspect a lot of fans are going to think differently.