The Jays claimed utility man Matt Tuiasosopo from the Diamondbacks late Thursday afternoon, releasing hard-throwing left-hander Luis Perez in the process. It’s a… it’s a move. I don’t know if it’s a curious one, or even an interesting one, but it’s a move. Tuiasosopo is out of options, and will report to big league camp in Dunedin as soon as he arrives — which may not be for a while, since Bluebird Banter notes that he’s currently in Sydney with the Diamondbacks contingent getting set for the season-opening series against the Dodgers.
I’m not sure that he’s anything, but… maybe? You’ll see a lot of people lazily citing a reverse split in a tiny sample of big league at bats, which might encourage you to question the move, especially if it’s with a view to replacing Moises Sierra as the default right-handed bat off the bench, but a closer look shows it’s probably quite a bit smarter than that.
In 2013, Tuiasosopo put up an impressive 114 wRC+ and a wOBA of .342, but did the vast majority of his damage against same-sided pitching (158 wRC+/.389 wRC+), despite getting the bulk of his plate appearances against left-handers. Against lefties he was basically an average hitter, posting a 99 wRC+, a .320 wOBA, but how he got there was interesting: his walk rate was a robust 15.3% — nearly double what it was against right-handers – and his power was slightly above average, as he posted an ISO of .155, but his BABIP was a bit low at .274, leading to an unimpressive-minus-the-walks slash line of .216/.336/.371 in the split.
Thing is, he was getting all those plate appearances for a reason: against left-handed pitching for Buffalo (when it was a Mets affiliate) in 2012, Tuiasosopo slashed .304/.395/.461 against left-handers, which was over 200 points of OPS better than his split against righties. The year before for the PCL’s Tacoma Rainiers it was .241/.366/.482.
Granted, those numbers only cover just over 250 plate appearances in total, but they’re impressive enough. Especially since the Jays are currently looking at handing the job of Lind’s platoon-mate — when they’re not making dumb-as-shit pronouncements about letting Lind and his wRC+ of 37 in the split actually hit against the occasional lefty… like intentionally — to Moises Sierra, who has never had a strong platoon split, and certainly didn’t in 2013, putting up an ugly .222/.301/.370 against left-handers in time split between Buffalo and a nifty big league cameo.
Sierra’s typically below-average walk rate spiked to 11.5% when moved up to the majors last year. He cut down on his strikeouts, increased his power, and basically forced his name back into the conversation, despite having a pedestrian year in Buffalo that had made him something of an afterthought — and probably for good reason. The 25-year old isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in camp, but he’s also out of options, and has certainly looked better so far than Tuiasosopo, who has just four hits and four walks in 39 plate appearances.
One could pretty easily think — despite some chatter on Twitter that some sort of a deal might be in the works that would make one of these two players less redundant — that we simply now have some healthy competition for the role, and that the team figured it cost them nothing given they quite possibly would have lost Luis Perez anyway, had they tried to slip him through waivers. However, there are some legitimate reasons to think that Tuiasosopo might be the favourite: in addition to the better production in the split at the minor league level, he’s more versatile — in 2012 at Buffalo he played every position but pitcher or catcher — and his numbers in the big leagues in 2013 may have looked even more impressive had it not been for a ribcage injury that sent him to the DL in mid-June.
He returned to action on July 8th, a week before the All-Star break. Granted, that’s quite a long time, in baseball terms, before he went 0-for-September in 22 plate appearances, but perhaps the effects of the injury lingered. It’s a stretch, but the difference between his first half (195 wRC+) and his second half (20 wRC+) are extraordinarily stark.
The fact that the ability hasn’t returned yet this spring is a concern, but perhaps that will give the club a better chance to sneak Tuiasosopo through waivers to Buffalo and keep both of their options open.
Or perhaps this is the signal of something coming on the pitching front involving an outfielder. There are obvious doubts to be had on that, given that the outfielders the Jays would conceivably be giving up — i.e. none of their three starters — would be minor pieces to any deal, but that doesn’t mean pitching isn’t still the talk of the rumour mill…
The Latest Trade Pitch
Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago wrote on Thursday that the Jays had three scouts watching Jeff Samardzija’s latest outing for the Cubs, “including their director of professional scouting, top scout and former Cubs general manager Ed Lynch.”
It’s not like the Jays are the only team interested, though, as Levine says that as many as 25 scouts were in attendance for the performance, likely because, as he tells us, “the Cubs and Samardzija are no closer to a deal on a long-term contract now than they were the last time they had substantive talks in December.” He adds that “the sides seem to have differences that could amount to $15 million-$20 million over the life of a long-term deal.”
However, those scouts may soon need to switch locations, as Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson may be a trade candidate, now that we’ve learned, via a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, that extension talks between the two sides have broken off, and free agency at the end of the season seems a likely option. And get this: all Masterson was asking for was a three-year deal around, but under the same average annual value of Homer Bailey’s six-year extension with the Reds ($17.5-million). That’s… uh… that’s pretty doable-sounding to me. So go do it already, Anthop– oh… fuck it, who are we kidding?
Of course, if they knew what was good for them the Jays may not even need an extra starter. That’s a stretch, I know, and also irrelevant because they clearly don’t know what’s good for them, but Dustin McGowan pitched really well again today. Like he did all of last year.
He wants to start. He’s getting built up. He could pitch the home opener on April fourth having made two more spring starts on regular rest to keep pushing his arm to get beyond the 45 pitches he was at today (though one start would have to be against minor leaguers in Dunedin). When healthy he’s a clear, obvious cut above Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond. Most importantly, if he gets hurt — which, naturally, is the fear — they’re really only losing their fourth-best right-handed reliever.
The thing about his getting built up, though, is that it’s not really what it looks like — or so say the Jays for now.
“We just kind of figured [the bullpen] was where I was going to be, just because I hadn’t built up enough innings to even really compete for the [starting] job,” he told reporters today, including John Lott of the National Post. “But I think they wanted to get me out there and see if I can even go three or four innings, just to see how I would bounce back. Who knows, in the ’pen, you might have those days when a guy needs to go three or four.”
Those are valuable innings, sure, but not as valuable as ones in the rotation. More valuable, I guess, than ones that he can’t pitch because he’s overextended himself and ended up hurt, though. And maybe I’m being a bit too romantic about the notion that this should be a serious consideration, but if not now, when? This is the last guaranteed year of a deal that includes a $4-million club option for 2015, which is no slam dunk to be picked up. He wants to do it. He’s got them weighted balls! He’s going to be thirty-two damn years old next week. Take off the fucking Water Wings already and let’s see if he sinks or swims.
Ahh, but this is the Jays we’re talking about, so even though they’re stretching McGowan out, they’re not really stretching him out. Dr. Gibby’s orders.
Ugh. Hey, but maybe this is just a hilarious dose of classic bullshit from the club and they really are thinking of doing it. That would be… good? I don’t even know anymore.