According to a series of tweets from MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the Blue Jays opening day lineup will see Jose Bautista start in right field and Edwin Encarnacion play third base, likely meaning that Juan Rivera will be counted on as the team’s regular designated hitter to start the season.

When Encarnacion was signed this offseason to his one year guaranteed $2.5 million contract, it was announced that he would be counted on to replace Adam Lind at first base from time to time and act as the team’s DH.  Despite a reputation for awful defense, E5, as he’s not so lovingly known, has always appeared to me to be at least an average fielder, but with absolutely terrible arm accuracy.  The National Post’s John Lott tweets that the decision to give Encarnacion a shot at redemption was reached because the player came to camp in great shape and showed improvement in his defense throughout Spring Training.

Prior to signing his five year $65 million contract, Jose Bautista, backed by manager John Farrell, made mention on multiple occasions of his preference for playing right field instead of third base.  After the deal finally went through, he was a little less candid with his desires.

Bautista’s defensive rankings seem to vary quite a lot depending on what metric you’re using, but according to his aggregate defensive rating which takes a weighted average of all the most respected metrics, he was minus six runs above average in 982 innings in right field last season.  In 393 innings at third base, Bautista also cost his team defensively, scoring a minus one run above average.

Comparatively, Encarnacion showed marked improvement between 2009 and 2010, going from minus eight in 726 innings at third base to a minus one in 841 innings last year.  Juan Rivera played only 173 innings of right field last season and broke even in defensive runs above average.  He has never had a plus season in right field over his career.

Looking at Encaracion’s improvement, the only real surprise to me is that he was ever considered not to be the everyday third baseman on this team.  It’s somewhat humourous that Bautista carries a better reputation in right field than he likely deserves because of his powerful throwing arm while Encarnacion carries a worse reputation at third base than he deserves because of his terrible throws.

According to Bautista: “I don’t always play great defense, but when I do, I prefer right field.”  He is the most interesting baseball player in the world.

And of course, every chance I get:

Comments (43)

  1. this is a good move!

  2. Except the arm counts.

    I can’t believe for a second that the downgrade at third is balanced by an equal upgrade in right.
    This doesn’t make sense.

    I would be happy with Bautista in right if it was because Rivera had been traded and Lawrie was mannign third.

  3. Like I said over at GROF, it’s not the change itself that’s crazy, it’s the fact that it obviously wasn’t planned for – and if it was, then why wasn’t Bautista working out in the outfield at all this Spring?

  4. Edwin really needs to make that is walk-up music.

  5. @Ty agreed. And why wouldn’t EE be working all of ST on this throwing accuracy. My spidey senses are tingling. There’s something up.

  6. I honestly don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference. Rivera in RF, Bautista at 3B and EE at DH isn’t much different in my eyes than Bautisa in RF, EE at 3B and Rivera at DH. It feels like a zero-sum move and if Bautista prefers to play RF, why not?

  7. I like the move, Bautista did not look great at third this spring and I for one don’t want his bat to suffer because he feels like he is not contributing in the field. But the thought of Lind digging throws out of the dirt from E5 is a little scary…

  8. Also, Rivera has played 1B in his career and has actually been pretty decent there. It’s probably not a stretch to think that he COULD see some time there especially if Lind struggles.

  9. Travis: I agree, but the thing that still confuses me is why they didn’t do this earlier then. Like I said, Bautista hasn’t played the outfield all Spring, and EE has barely been at 3B.

  10. @ Travis Yes, in the end it all evens out. But why wait till 3 days before opening day to make this change. I wonder if coaching staff saw something in JoBau playing 3rd they didn’t like or in Rivera in the OF they didn’t like.

  11. Keep in mind: they had the entire Grapefruit League season to try this out, and they waited until the very last game to go with their opening day defensive alignment for the first time ever.

    That’s weird.

  12. @Travis: Yeah the first thing that came into mind was the back-up 1B situation. I guess that’s gonna be Rivera then.

  13. I wonder if there’s a possible trade setup within the next week or two that will make this announcement more clearer.

  14. From what I’ve seen, like half a dozen games, Rivera has made some great throws in right field this Spring.

    I think using Encarnacion at third makes him more valuable and putting Bautista where he wants to play and would’ve likely played in the future anyway, is a sound move. It’s not likely to single handedly win or cost many games as Travis says, but hey, why not?

  15. Perhaps the potential impending trade that everyone seems to be reading into this isn’t for Rivera, it’s for Encarnation, provided that they can show that he’s not as much of a liability in the field anymore. Admittedly, it’s not all that likely, but it’s possible.

  16. I can see this being very bad for the Blue Jays. Bautista is obviously better in RF than 3B, however EE is terrible, I am sure he will play catch with JB a few times while turning the 5-4-3 this spring. I say let EE DH bring up Lawrie and let him play 3B, it can’t hurt.

  17. Two players who are likely with the Jays long-term – Lawrie and Bautista. They both can’t play 3rd. Let Bautista be the RF and E5 hold 3B until next year when Lawrie is ready. Rivera will hit at DH.

  18. I do agree that the timing is weird.

  19. EE isn’t as bad at 3B as most people make him out to be. He was a lot better in 2010 than he had been in the past, and Farrell has seemed impressed with him in his limited time there this Spring. He shouldn’t be much worse than Bautista would have been… this really shouldn’t affect the team defensively. It’s just bizarre timing to make the change.

  20. There’s also the possibility that they’re moving Bautista to RF now to save from converting him when/if Lawrie is called up this season. I don’t think he will be until at least September, but if the Jays are thinking he could be ready by mid-season, it’s easier to make that move now rather than then.

  21. More likely they were showcasing Rivera in right field and couldn’t get rid of him.

  22. Why has it been so difficult for the Angels and now the Jays to trade Rivera? His contract this year (being his last) doesn’t seem way overpaid at $5M. And his numbers seem to say he’s an average player but not detrimental.

  23. I think we have a lot of overreacting commenters. One of the great things about this Jays team is their defensive flexibility, almost everyone can play more than one position. If the Blue Jays wanted to use Spring Training getting players accustomed to playing positions they don’t play as often in order to take advantage of this flexibility.

    So if someone other than Yunel Escobar or Aaron Hill gets injured, you can now move everyone over to a position they are accustomed playing, and slot Corey Patterson in centre field. And spring training gives them that extra experience playing those positions.

  24. On The Fan, Wilner reported that Lawrie was with the team in the clubhouse yesterday, and said that he thought it was strange at the time. Now I have no idea how far the AAA complex is away from the park, or if there could be another reason for him to be there (he wasn’t in the line-up, though the game was delayed), but it’s just another interesting piece of information around this move.

  25. The big thing now is what happens with the DH spot. Does Rivera get AB’s there every day? Or do they find other players – either internally or elsewhere – to share the spot?

  26. From all accounts, EE’s defense at first has been outstanding. Starting him a third gives the team the option of shifting him to first as a late inning defensive replacement without losing the DH. McDonald would probably play third in that scenario which would give the Jays an outstanding defensive alignment when they are trying to protect a lead. With Farrell at the helm, the Jays will probably be a lot more proactive with defensive replacements this year.

  27. Hypothetical: how about picking up Chris Davis to DH vs RHP and spell Lind/EE at the infield corners?

  28. Maybe this tweet from Lawrie is more meaningful:

    ” You know , I’ve finally figured out the best part about high school, once you graduate you don’t have to come back” #Zack-Morris

  29. I am wondering if moving Rivera to the DH spot will improve his perceived value? If the Jays want to showcase Rivera between now and July 31st, wouldn’t his ability to play RF (as limited as it is) add some tangible value? In other words, he’s not just a guy with a bat but also a glove? Perhaps Bautista wasn’t happy at 3B and the Jays felt the need to move him to his desired position now as opposed to later.

    You would think that this move makes Lawrie a happy camper as it is unlikely that the Jays will want a full season of EE at 3B.

    On the whole, this move may make the Jays a better defensive unit as Rivera didn’t seem to possess an above average range in RF. He did make some nice throws from RF in spring training but I feel more comfortable having Bautista in RF (despite his negative defensive metric numbers as alluded to above).

  30. Encarnacion’s defensive metrics from last year are skewed by the fact that Overbay turned a TON of likely E5s into assists/putouts, no?

    This move will seriously test Lind as he transitions to 1B.

  31. That is the exact lineup I’ve been rolling in The Show.

  32. I want to propose another possible reason for the move. It is all intended to make Lind a better first baseman. If you have somebody like E5 throwing to you several times a game you have to be prepared for anything :)

  33. According to a friend, the plan is to let E5 get a ton of at bats and hope he breaks out with big power. Then, they would let him walk for a 1rst round compensatory pick and bring up Lawrie.

  34. I don’t know what it all means, or whether perhaps there’s more to the story, or more to come, but I’m giving this management group a lot of rope.
    Plus, it potentially gives us lots more chances to listen to Buck mangle E5′s last name.

  35. @Malcolm

    Your friend doesn’t know shit. Jays have an option on EE for 2012.

  36. Flash: EE has responded to the news of his move to 3B by delivering 3 GIDPs in 3 ABs today against the Orioles. But no errant throws to 1B so far.

  37. @The Other Scott Even if Yunel or Hill get injured then they can just slot McDonald in and actually improve their defense. Their defensive versatility is really kinda awesome.

  38. Good move, this is what I was calling for when they originally signed E5. There was no reason to move him off third after the improvements he made last year.

    One thing, though. Can somebody please tell me why this team didn’t sign Manny Ramirez (or one of the many other quality DH’s available)?

  39. @Otto Good point regarding EE’s improved numbers last year. Overbay is much better defensive 1B than Lind.

  40. The Jays started with EE at DH because they had little confidence he could be a more consistent hitter and fielder. They must have seen some improvements. I think reality will set in soon enough and they will be looking for plan B (or plan L).

  41. @Vincent, Otto The ability of a 1B to scoop throws is greatly exaggerated — i.e. a couple runs over the course of a full season, maximum. I generally have no problem with this, since E5/3/idon’tevenknowanymore has his value maximized by playing third (where he is, actually, better than Bautista), and they need to figure out whether or not Lind is The Answer at first or not, going forward.

    Besides, if it doesn’t work, the Jays lose, what, a win or two in a pointless season? Development of Lind as a first baseman, and potentially even E5 as a third baseman is much more significant than a few errors here or there.

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