Damon And Podsednik On Jays Radar

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that despite the Blue Jays signing Rajai Davis to a two year $5.75 million contract to avoid arbitration, Toronto remains interested in adding a top of the order type batter before the 2011 season starts.

The two names mentioned in connection with the Jays are Johnny Damon and Scott Podsednik.

Both Podsednik and Damon also hit from the left side; Snider and Lind currently are the only left-handed hitters on the Jays roster.

Podsednik, who turns 35 on March 18, has a .347 OBP and 65 stolen bases in 93 attempts over the past two seasons.

Damon, 37, had a .355 OBP with the Tigers last season, matching his career mark. But he no longer is much of a base-stealing threat, and his defense in left is below average.

Despite having a limited number of left handed batters in their lineup, the Jays showed last season that they had no difficulty in getting to right handed pitching.  In fact, no other team in the league had a wider platoon split last season in weighted on base average.

Even though either veteran’s on base percentage last season would’ve led the Blue Jays, a major difference emerges in their splits that Toronto would do well to take note of.

Johnny Damon
Career wOBA vs. LHP: .340
2010 wOBA vs. LHP: .334

Scott Podsednik
Career wOBA vs. LHP: .304
2010 wOBA vs. LHP: .289

Despite a better fielding reputation, Podsednik, who declined his $2 million mutual option with the Dodgers earlier this offseason, offers about the same level of defense as Damon would in a corner outfield position.  He hits for far less power and has been far more inconsistent over the last three seasons at the plate than Damon as well.

For his part, Damon saw a drastic drop off in his home run total with the Tigers last season (only 8 in 581 plate appearances) compared to his total for the 2009 Yankees (24).  Over the last three seasons, Damon’s OBP and total WAR have been declining.

A myth also exists that Damon rakes at the Rogers Centre, but his career .706 OPS at Rogers Centre begs to differ.

If either of these two players are being considered merely for their ability to get on base, something that the Blue Jays were unquestionably terrible at last season, and act as little more than a leadoff hitter, Toronto would probably do better to consider a slightly less conventional option that has a career OBP of .411, got on base more than 40% of the time last year and has a career weighted on base average of .424.

I’m talking about Manny Ramirez.  Sure, even though Damon and Podsednik’s aged wheels have slowed down, they’re still probably faster than Ramirez, but is there a better team in baseball right now to optimize Manny’s worth?  As his power numbers continue to decrease, his ability to get on base refuses to decline. In other words, he’s lacking where the rest of the Jays team succeeds, and succeeds where the rest of the Jays team is lacking.

The only issue is that while Damon and Podsednik’s defense isn’t close to what it used to be, either player’s glove is probably better than putting Ramriez in the outfield.  Manny would have to be the team’s DH, and that would either mean making Davis an everyday player in right field or using Edwin Encarnacion at third base.  The idea of Encarnacion throwing to Adam Lind at first base is more frightening than Davis batting against right handed pitching, but neither option is as terrifying as Scott Podsednik patrolling left field and batting in the lineup against southpaws.