There was much rejoicing and anticipation throughout the land as rumors and innuendo suggested the Jays were one of the three possible landing spots for free agent slugger Prince Fielder. Of course, these stories ended up being mostly bunk but the yearning for Prince is very, very real.

For the purposes of self-flagellation, consider Prince on the Jays for a hot minute. An everyday lineup of Escobar/Rasmus/Bautista/Fielder/Lawrie/Snider/Encarnacion/JPA/Second baseman is pretty enticing, is it not? That team will score a couple runs. But is it enough to get the Jays into the playoff picture? Not so fast.

When it comes to adding or subtracting players, using Wins Above Replacement is the easiest and most logical choice. It doesn’t account for everything but, as you can see below, it does relate very well to actual games won. The eight playoffs teams all fall in the top nine WAR finishers, with only the Red Sox failing to qualify (by a single game.)

The Orioles Nation post linked above shows the very same holds true in previous seasons, the newest iteration of WAR is simply more accurate thanks to the inclusion of baserunning runs.

The Toronto Blue Jays position players posted 21.3 WAR in 2011. The Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox all put up more than 31 WAR apiece. Based on this knowledge and Blue Jays home in the American League East, we can see the team must post at least 35 WAR as a collective on offense. Can they do it?

Look at the 2011 Blue Jays WAR breakdown, by position and main offender at each position:

Position (name) 2011 WAR 2012 WAR Guesstimation
C (J.P. Arencibia) 1.5 2
1B (Adam Lind/Prince Pujols) 0.5 6
2B (Aaron Hill/???) -0.8 3ish
3B (Brett Lawrie) 2.7 4.5
SS (Yunel Escobar) 4.3 4
LF (Thames/Snider) 1.2 3
CF (Colby Rasmus) 0 4
RF (Jose Bautista) 8.3 6.5
DH (EE/Lind) 1.5 2.5
Bench (Assorted swine) 2 2

Remember these aren’t based in much more than the most pie in the sky hope and dreams for the Blue Jays starting lineup. There are massive — MASSIVE — assumptions built in. This total gets the Jays to 37.5 WAR for the offense, placing them in the top 3 in baseball based on 2011 numbers. That is an awful lot to ask.

Can Colby Rasmus bounce back to 4 WAR form while the Jays gets nearly league-average numbers in left from one of Eric Thames & Travis Snider AND Yunel Escobar turns in a nearly identical season to 2011 AND Brett Lawrie stays hot and healthy while playing at a level near Evan Longoria’s rookie year AND the Jays pluck a 3 WAR second baseman out of the ether AND Jose Bautista settles into mere 2010 production levels AND Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind combine to hit better than Billy Butler AND all the main guys stay healthy AND the list goes on.

Impossible? No. But adding a nine-figure contract at first base isn’t enough. Not on its own.

It takes a village to raise a child. The Jays have major hurdles to even reach this fabricated level of play. Waving a wand won’t materialize a 3 WAR second baseman nor will it make Eric Thames and Travis Snider ready for their close-ups or transform Colby Rasmus back to his 4 Win form of 2009. The pitching questions — solidifying the bullpen and rotation depth — are for another day.

Adding one of these monsters gets the Jays close. But it doesn’t get them all the way there. 2012 represents a very unique opportunity. If the league opts to add the Wild Card play-in game right away, the Jays must pounce before potential Wild Card rivals in the AL West get fat on a steady diet of Astros.

The back-end of either of these deals would surely end up a nightmare but a little playoff experience in Toronto in the short term is certainly the dream. If acquiring a player of this profile via free agency gives the team the talent boost required to compete at the highest levels, the Jays front office will think long and hard about pulling the trigger to on such a deal.

Adding high-impact players of this magnitude is a difficult trick to pull off. It isn’t as if you can just trade a mere backup catcher or mid-rotation arm and end up with a franchise cornerstone, right? That just isn’t the way it works in the inequitable world of Major League Baseball.

WAR data comes courtesy of Fangraphs.

Comments (35)

  1. Though the thought of Fielder being a Jay makes a lot of us happy, the Jays need to focus on a Closer first, blowing as many games as they did last year really hurt our chances of a push towards the playoffs. Fielder and Joey Bats would makes a solid 3-4, and it would actually help get more fans to the ball park for week day games, but Fielder like all other great players who want a ring, will most likely go to a team like Texas who has a weaker division and will pretty much clinch a playoff spot will before September.

    • Do not feed the trolls!

    • Regarding your closer comments, please read the following from an earlier posts by Dustin Parkes:

      “By looking at the 25 blown saves, we further learn that even with the addition of a mythical closing saviour, 25 blown saves doesn’t equal 25 more victories or 25 less losses.

      First of all, of the 25 blown saves that Blue Jays relievers committed last season, three times two blown saves occurred in the same game. Of the 23 games in which a blown save occurred, seven of those games still resulted in a Toronto Blue Jays victory. Of the sixteen losses resulting from a blown save, only half of the blown saves occurred in the ninth inning or later, when a “proven closer” type would be more likely to have been used. Of the eight saves blown in the ninth inning or later, two were blown by non-closers who were only pitching because the closer wasn’t available. This leaves us with six losses in which the team’s closer blew a save or was taken out of the game in the ninth inning and the replacement reliever blew a save.

      Six times this happened all season. Let’s pretend that the Blue Jays closers were perfect last season. It would add a whopping total of six wins and take away six losses. Let’s extend this fantasy even further and say that Toronto’s closers were perfect and every other teams’ closers were their regular selves. The Toronto Blue Jays would have an 87-75 record, still ten games back of the division winners, and four games back of the Wild Card.”

    • Shake your head. We need a 9 million dollar “Closer” like we need a hole in the head.

  2. I’d rather see the 9 million a year for a Heath Bell, or the 13.5 a year for a Papelbon go towards somebody that plays more than 70 innings a year.

    Closer is the least of the Blue Jays worries, especially if we get Frankie back, who was clutch all through the second half last year.

  3. fielder would be a great fit for the jays, adding him would make Lind a good trade option as their are quite a few teams looking for first baseman. like hes only 27, so its not like you’d be giving out a 6 year 120 million dollar offer to a 35 year old, i predicted on here a week ago that the jeff mathis would be a great fit for the jays, and boom, two days later they traded for him…lets hope i’m right twice

  4. I don’t want to seem homerish, but the crowd-sourcing at Fangraphs presently has Lawrie at 6.2 WAR with no baserunning in 2012. I think that’s high, but I would also take the over on 4.5 WAR. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t put up 5-6 in a full season.

    • I get the feeling a shit-tonne of Jays fans are regulars at Fangraphs. Count me as one, I voted for 11 WAR!

    • I’d take 4.5 for Lawrie in a second. He’s going to have a longer season and a tougher road. Still that would be an awesome year.

  5. That is a pretty serious projection. He’s 21 years old! He’s very frequently hurt!

    I think he’s a great player bu I don’t think being conservative t in his first full season is out of bounds.

    • Very frequently hurt?

      Where do you get that from? 2009 he played 118 out of what appears to be a possible 139 games. 2010 135 of 140 games. So basically missed next to nothing in 2010, missed some in 2009 but played the 2nd most of anyone on his A ball team so more likely was a case of getting days off.

      Last year he did miss games … with a broken bone from a pitch. That doesn’t make you injury prone, it makes you unlucky. Cal Ripken could have had it happen and all we’d talk about is how he was a great SS on some bad Baltimore teams.

    • I should also add that I agree the projection is quite high, and I would definitely take 4.5 next year, I just felt I had to point out the injury thing doesn’t have backing. Its a projection based on his big build and all out style, but there’s no history that shows he is “very frequenly hurt”

    • In fairness, he’ll be 22 next year!

      But, and again I’m not arguing that 4.5 wouldn’t be a great season from a 22 year old, but the rate stat inputs in the crowd sourcing don’t scream “far off”. .285/.350/.510 with 20 HRs isn’t a crazy stretch.

  6. The problem I have with this is: Is the only acceptable circumstance that the Jays should sign a big-ticket FA one in which they are automatically projected into the World Series with no other subsequent additions?

    Shouldn’t the idea of adding a 5-6ish WAR player be incentive enough?

    What if the Jays add Fielder, have a good season – just miss the playoffs and add another solid piece (pitching or 2B maybe) which ultimately pushes them over the top for 2013?

    Is the Fielder signing worth less because it wasn’t the Home Run signing that built the World Series winning roster?

    All indications are that the Jays will have some internal pitchers who could be producing more WAR than at present. Romero only produced 2.9. He’s capable of better. Heck – Alvarez was on pace for a 3 WAR season at 30 starts. The Jays could easily be in range by adding Fielder and simply getting solid performances from young pitchers. By 2014 they could have some of the crew in the Minors making MLB contributions. If even 1 of those pans out the Jays would be right in the neighbourhood of needing a guy like Fielder. The risk they run in NOT signing him – is that there is no real solution to be found when they are ready.

    • Why is there no “like” button?

    • Totally agree with you! This is what I don’t understand about the argument against Fielder, that the jays are not ready yet. But they do have 6 six years under Fielder, and another 4 from Bautista to get to that stage. Signing Fielder now does not mean we are going full steam for 2012, it means we are going for it 2012-2017. Even if we narrowly miss out next year, with the kind of pitching expected to come out of the minors in 2013, we should have a good pitching staff. The problem is, there won’t be a Fielder to sign next year, or the year after, and having a 27 year old FA with those kind of numbers is extremely rare.

  7. Just because it isn’t enough by itself doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

    • Exactly. There’s no reason to think the Jays would stop with Fielder if they happened to sign him.

      The team needs another big bat, an above-average starter, and a half-decent 2B to contend, and all of those things are possible to acquire this offseason.

  8. This is a dumb article, did anyone proof read this? You’re saying that the Jays need 31 WAR to match the Yankees, Sox, and Rays, yet for some reason need 35 WAR to make the playoffs? Which they won’t if they sign Fielder because by your estimation they could only get to 37 WAR? Huh?

    Also, the thesis seems to be that the Jays shouldn’t sign a player that could get them that close to making the playoffs because they can’t guarantee it will put them over the top the next season. That is also a dumb comment. You have to collect talent when it becomes available. If the Jays grow internally the next few seasons and are ready to compete by 2013, Fielder will no longer be available and the Jays will still need a first baseman.

    It is far riskier to hold out hope for LInd to bounce back (with no internal options as a back up plan) than to sign Fielder.

  9. you sign fielder for 6 years 120 mill, with two options years, sign ortiz to DH 2 year 12 million plus incentives , trade Lind, plus prospect to the cubs for garza, and trade for orlando hudson to play second. hudson would be a great defensive second baseman, plus a good leader, and he would hold the fort down untill the other kid in AAA is ready. call me crazy, but these are realistic options your 3,4,5 would be bautista, fielder,ortiz, best in baseball maybe??

  10. trade Lind, plus prospect to the cubs for garza


    • How sarcastic of you Drew.

      Jays sign Fielder. Trade Lind, Marisnick and Nestor Molina to Cubs for Matt Garza and Sean Marshall.

      Who says no? (though this is in my wet dream where I still think the Jays are going for it next year)

      Not sure where the Garza on the block rumours are coming from, but wouldn’t the above be close? Epstein rebuilding on the fly. Perhaps Epstein wants to switch Marshall with Marmol.

  11. they need a first baseman and have no prospects in the system, so lind and a couple of propects would get it done,

    • Where is the first baseman in that exchange? And what are prospects? Minor league players or actual top prospects who might, one day, contribute in the big leagues? Nobody wants David Cooper or any of the other quad-A shitbags you’re willing to part with on the Jays behalf.

  12. ……well lind would be the first baseman, and maybe guys like a.j jimenz and chad jenkins and Marcus Knecht? or are these just quad A shitbags

  13. Keep in mind that the redsox and yankees could have players with a lower war.
    Joacoby could ge thurt to many factors to say that’s not enough do I think it is no.
    But with a second starter and a decent cheap closer. I think we could say we’ll pass the rays with Fielder and a # 2 starter

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