So yesterday over at Getting Blanked, Parkes made the argument that it is a sound business decision to keep Brett Lawrie down in the minors until early April much like the Rays did with Evan Longoria to stretch out an extra year of arbitration. His justification was quite simple – keep him down for this time and if you eventually do sign him to a long term deal, you get to buy out one more year of arbitration rather than a year of free agency. As a result it could provide AA and Rogers perhaps upwards of $5M more to spend on the draft.
His reasoning went further that because of expanded September rosters, there is very little difference between AAA and the Majors. That in itself is quite flawed, especially for a team like the Jays. Consider that in September the Jays play 26 games, of which 22 are against playoff contending teams (you could make an exception for the Rays but its not like they are going to shut down David Price or James Shields). In those 22 games very few if any of them will be facing rosters that are not jammed full of starters trying to lock down a playoff spot. So that argument is kind of moot.
The other argument to be made is that it is far more than just 100 pa’s, its closer to 200 if you consider that the Jays could bring him up right now. Assuming he starts most games he would accumulate close to a third of a season of experience.
But here is where I think Parkes misses the real point you bring up Brett Lawrie now, and it is for the exact same reasoning he says you should keep him down – Money.
If the Jays and AA are to be believed that they hope to contend in 2012 – especially if there is an extra wildcard slot to be added, than the Jays need to field the best roster possible to compete in what will still be a crowded AL East. While many people are making the assumption that Lawrie will be the starter at third next year, they need to realize that there is a very good chance that he in fact won’t. Most prospects have growing pains adjusting to the big leagues. Brandon Belt, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Moustakas are perfect examples of guys that fall in the same category of ‘having proved their worth in AAA’ as Lawrie. But unlike the Jays, these three clubs at least have seen what their prospects are capable of so far and can balance their approach in the offseason accordingly (granted these three teams are terrible examples of that, maybe not the Giants).
AA needs to go into next season knowing that the team he puts on the field game in and game out has an excellent opportunity to compete for a playoff spot if that is in fact the goal. Not bringing up Lawrie now and seeing what he might be able to do means that the Jays should responsibly ensure that they have someone to play third on a regular basis via free agency. You simply can’t gamble that Lawrie will come up and succeed immediately if he hasn’t ever been called up. Calling him up now allows you to evaluate is talent in the majors and you can make a decision whether or not its necessary to spend money on a free agent or even whether you need pick up the option on Edwin’s contract.
Alright for those of you following along, I have had a decent amount to say about the Jays abundance of depth this season. While it seemed for a while that the Jays were barely filling the 5 through 9 slots in the lineup with above replacement talent, the Jays are now in a position to move some of that depth. While guys like Jose, Travis, Colby, Adam and Yunel are not going anywhere – one has to think that there is a good chance guys like Rajai Davis, Aaron Hill, and Edwin Encarnacion are likely to be at least placed on waivers to gauge interest from teams who may have overlooked a need at a certain position before the non-waiver deadline passed.
Now don’t assume too much from this post – it is unquestionably complete speculation. And no I don’t think any team is going to be interested in Aaron Hill for the remainder of the season, even if it only meant they would take on his remaining salary – its been said many times, but best here – that he is literally below replacement level at this point in his career.
But then comes Rajai and Edwin. Rajai is a little bit different of a case than Encarnacion. Rajai is signed until the end of next season at a very team-friendly $2.75M for 2012 and a $3M club option for 2013. Based on the latest Elias rankings from @MLBTR Rajai is quite far off obtaining Type B status, and given his role as a 4th/5th OF with the Jays right now – he isn’t going to improve that anytime soon. While some could suggest that Rajai shouldn’t go anywhere given his low cost, I can’t help but wonder if there is not value for him at this time of the year.
Like most players on non-contending teams, he will certainly be placed on waivers and likely pulled back if their isn’t enough interest. I would think that for playoff contending teams, especially a team like the Red Sox (Dave Roberts comes to mind), the value of an insanely fast pinch runner who can play adequate defence at all three OF positions has value. I would hope that AA at least kicks the tires to see if there is value for Davis – lets face it he isn’t going to play anytime soon for the Jays and logic would suggest his value will only decrease.
But then there’s Edwin.
Stoeten over at DJF suggested earlier that as a result of E5 not likely attaining Type B status this season – that it likely paves the way for prized prospect Brett Lawrie to get the remainder of starts at third this season. While I understand his logic, I think it ignores two things:
1) Edwin has seen most of his success in his recent binge as a DH and not at third. Actually his stat lines work out as follows this year:
3B – .223/.289/.678
1B – .211/.250/.671
DH – .329/.366/.876
2) And thus I don’t think Edwin the way he is swinging the bat right should fear losing playing time, since I would presume he will see the majority of his at bats for the remainder of the season at DH.
Stoeten’s analysis I think is half right though, while he certainly won’t attain type B status before season’s end, even if he continues to feast on pitching as a DH, he makes perfect sense for a waiver deal. While he likely doesn’t start for any contending team right now – he does make for an excellent handcuff for teams battling injuries. If the Ninja can convince teams that his slash line as a DH makes perfect sense for him as an excellent RH bat off the bench, or that his improved defence should give them confidence to play him in the field, then there is certainly value to be had.
The facts are pretty simple – E5 isn’t getting any younger, he isn’t getting to Type B this year, his club option is pretty pricey at $3.5M next year if he isn’t going to start at 3rd and solely DH, and this is the best he has hit arguably since he has been a Blue Jay. His career numbers suggest he is a far better player post-ASG, averaging an .816 OPS for his career in the second half.
Just to name a few teams facing injuries at 3B – Yankees, Red Sox (Youk is always hurt), Rangers and Braves – not to mention the Phillies who are currently starting Placido Polanco and the apparently contending Indians playing Hyped-but-under-performing prospect Lonnie Chisenhall.
Every year after the trade deadline in any sport, I always enjoy reading different analysts’ take on the winners and losers, the GM’s who stake their jobs to win now and those who hedge their bets on the future. Sometimes, you get a GM who understands that in fact under the right circumstances you can do both at the same time. Meet Alex Anthopoulos.
While it seems early to praise the man as much as I do, if the title of this blog doesn’t tip my cap, I am not sure what I must do. But AA or the ninja as I will refer to him for the remainder of my life, seems to understand that there are deals to be made that don’t mean you have to pillage your farm to win now and vice versa. He proved it last season when he managed to upgrade shortstops by sending an over performing veteran in Alex Gonzalez for and under performing but far better young stud who had fallen out with his former team in Yunel Escobar. But this year proves more than ever that AA is in fact a ninja. But don’t take it from me, Jonah Keri, easily one of the best baseball writers period had this to say about the Jays young GM (ranking the Jays second in the MLB in terms of winners at the deadline)
The Internet has already written hundreds of love songs in Alex Anthopoulos’ honour,2 and rightfully so. The Jays GM turned a decent prospect, an outfield utility man, two relief pitchers, and a low-upside swingman into a 24-year-old center fielder brimming with talent who’s three-plus years from free agency and needed a fresh start more than a chained-up Todd Marinovich. Unlike other trade deadline sellers, the Jays aren’t far from fielding a winning team either. Next year’s Jays team will likely include Jose Bautista in right, Rasmus in center, Travis Snider in left, top prospect Brett Lawrie at third, Adam Lind at first base or DH, power-hitting J.P. Arencibia at catcher, and the highly underrated Yunel Escobar at short, with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil fronting the rotation and plenty of cash at Alex Anthopoulos’ disposal to make further upgrades. If Major League Baseball follows through on its desire to add another wild-card team next year, do you really want to bet against the Jays playing into October? (via Grantland)
Yeah, so if that doesn’t make you slightly giddy I am not sure what does as a Jays fan. But realistically, isn’t his analysis dead on? I mean I made mention of how legit Colby was last season in my post earlier today, but seriously – at 23 last season Colby posted a .859 OPS that would have ranked second on last years Jays squad. Yep, second. So despite his struggles this year, were talking about a guy who would have been the second best hitter on the team last year. (Yeah think back to last year, when all the Jays knew how to do was slug homers, and he ranked second behind only Jose).
So here’s to AA. It’s perhaps fitting that his initials are that of a group of drunks admitting their addictions to each other, because it seems with every deal he makes it’s not hard to envision Tony Reagins, Frank Wren and John Mozeliak all sitting around in a school gymnasium in a few years reminiscing about the time AA fleeced each one of them.
So it seems fitting to start the week, well at least my week… yep a wedding provided me with an incredibly long weekend, taking a look at when the Jays may or may not call up prized hitting prospect Brett Lawrie. While Jays fans across the country are swooning at the thought of seeing the young ‘stud’ that the ninja himself acquired in the Marcum swap during the offseason, I think we might need to hold our horses a little bit.
It seems that most fans are starting to wonder why Lawrie isn’t up with the big club yet, as if the Jays don’t believe his out of the world numbers are for real in the PCL. Well for starters, yes… I think that does have something to do with it. Not that I think AA and Co. are unsatisfied with his MVP like numbers in AAA this season, but with playing in the Pacific Coast League comes the fact that fans and GM’s alike have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. If Willy Mo Pena can post a .300 avg in the PCL, anyone can.
But believe me, I don’t think for a second that is what is holding him down. And my hypothesis of firm belief shouldn’t come as a surprise to you either. The reason he is down with the baby jays still is that there simply isn’t a spot for him in the bigs to get regular playing time right now. Sure, in reality there is, but it at what cost to the rest of the players does it come at?
While disillusioned Jays fans everywhere are positive that he can simply play second and take painful at bats away from Aaron Hill, the fact is that if every scout and analyst in the league says he can’t handle it defensively, he can’t handle it defensively. So that leaves us with only a few options to get him up, have him play third, have him play one of the corner outfield slots, or have him DH. But therein lies the problem.
Prior to the Colby Rasmus deal last week, it seemed as if the grooming of Travis Snider for CF was a precursor to bringing Lawrie up to play third, have Thames play left, and slot Jose back in right. But along came a streetcar named Colby, and a wrench was thrown in the plans. The Jays have to be committed to giving Rasmus (who posted a .859 OPS last season, which had he been a Jay last season would have been second on the team behind only Bautista) a chance to play everyday to reestablish himself. The Jays have also been quite certain that they will give Snider every opportunity to play – and despite only garnering one walk since his callup, his .287 average in July suggests that perhaps consistent playing time is all he needs to emerge as the player we all hope he can be. Then comes Eric Thames, perhaps the proverbial thorn in AA’s side – while his numbers haven’t been all that impressive (sorry guys the slipping average has to do entirely with a .347 babip) the way he has carried himself in his second go round with the Jays seems to please fans, and his knack for some timely hitting seems to make fans think he is the real deal.
The logical move would be bring Lawrie up and have him play third, slot Jose back in right, leave Colby in CF permanently with Snider getting the majority of starts in left with Thames getting his chance here and there between Left and DH. Problem solved right? Well sure if we are only thinking long term, but unfortunately Edwin Encarnacion has decided that he would like to audition as Brooks Robinson for a remake of Field of Dreams.
Since the All-Star break, Edwin has posted a .339/.451/1.061 slash line and has played above average defence at both third and first. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a) those numbers are unbelievable (and also prolonged – he has posted a .800+ OPS since June) and b) even in our wildest dreams Brett Lawrie likely won’t put up numbers like that right away. So DH seems like Edwin’s for the rest of the season.
So back to the original question, it is not a matter of when Lawrie will play for the Jays, it seems more and more a question of where can they fit him in the lineup to get regular playing time? CF and DH one would think are locked with Rasmus and Edwin for the time being. One would assume so is LF with Snider. Then there is as always has been the plan of playing him at third, but that seems ever so contingent on Thames struggling to allow Jose to move back to right.
Oh but that one thing that I didn’t mention yet… if the scouts and coaches are to be believed at all – there is a fear that he can’t even handle third defensively in the bigs… and that crowded outfield just became ever more crowded.
…absolutely everything, unless you don’t understand how it works.
The more I have read up on WAR for pitchers today I have made some very interesting discoveries. WAR is a very tricky stat to use for relief pitchers because while it does in fact factor in innings pitched, one has to consider that so does WAR for starting pitchers or at bats for position players. For example the more innings pitched or at bats you have the more opportunity you have to add value. For a relief pitcher your stats are constrained to how few innings you pitch, and thus your WAR is relative.
Take for example last year. Carlos Marmol led all relievers with 3.1 WAR. Cliff Lee led all starters last season with 7.1 WAR. Yet Cliff Lee logged 212 innings pitched versus Marmol’s 77 innings pitched. If you were to extrapolate out Marmol’s number of innings pitched to that of Lee’s, his WAR would come in somewhere around 9.
Now here is the tricky part. Relievers have an inherent advantage over starters in posting Value because they face far fewer batters in a game and thus have the ability to utilize their arm in a way a starter simply can’t. Starters are inherently more valuable than relief pitchers because while they may provide lower quality innings, they provide them in a far higher quantity.
So when looking at the value of relief pitchers versus starter, while we can use WAR as a very useful stat to compare the two, or even the value between a starter and a relief pitcher, one must consider what the value of a player is relevant to his position. Where 0 WAR is replacement level for position players, starters and relievers, the league average for both position players and starters is 2 wins above replacement, whereas the league average for relievers is a paltry 0.3 wins above replacement. When assessing the value of a player you must consider it relative.
“it ain’t you all, its yall”
I want to start this off by making this quite clear – growing up Roberto Alomar was may favourite Blue Jay. My dad used to go on and on about how no one had ever played defence like him in the history of the game – I now know he was probably right. Robby was my idol – I wanted to be just like him, I even had those beauty blue and green Cooper batting gloves he is showing off above.
But today when I was driving to work listening to the Fan590, I was slightly surprised and shocked to hear that the Jays would retire his number 12 jersey on July 31 as part of his hall of fame induction ceremony at the Rogers Centre. Don’t get me wrong, as a lifelong fan of Robby, knowing his number will never be disgraced by little league caliber defence courtesy of Edwin Encarnacion is a dream come true. But I couldn’t help but wonder whether he of all the Jays in our short but glorious history deserved to have his number retired.
The first place I started was the Jays whose names are currently featured in the Level of Excellence at the Dome. Alomar is joined by other position players George Bell, Joe Carter and Tony Fernandez, as well as pitcher Dave Stieb. Among these 5 Players, Alomar has the 4th lowest career WAR with the Jays at 22.2 Wins. Only Joe Carter ranks below him. Dave Stieb ranks the highest with a 49.2 career WAR, Tony Fernandez at 38.4 WAR, and George Bell at 23.5 WAR.
Ok so before you start tearing my argument apart, I am clearly ignoring the one major difference between Alomar and his 4 comrades in the LoE – games played as a Blue Jay. As a Blue Jay Alomar played the fewest games among the position players listed above. So sure, my argument ends there – no he wasn’t the most valuable, “but look what he did in such a short time span.”
That’s what I have always thought too. But unlike a Jays radio broadcast featuring two Grandparents hypothesizing about stats – I have the means to test my theory. Thanks to the wonderful fellas at fangraphs.com, I now know that Devon White posted 1 more career win than Robby did in 50 fewer games, while Fred McGriff posted 1 fewer career win than Robby did in 140 fewer games. Both White and McGriff produced more Wins over their careers as Blue Jays per game than Alomar did.
So there goes that theory I had – which brings me back to my issue with retiring Alomar’s number. Again, let me reiterate that I love him as a player – but I can’t help but think we are retiring a guy’s number simply because he is being inducted into the hall of fame wearing our cap; despite the fact he accumulated over 2/3 of his career WAR playing elsewhere.
That’s right – Alomar finished his career with 68 WAR, yet accumulated only 22 of those wins here in Toronto. Sure he was part of the two world series titles, but his contribution to the team only ranks 10th all-time among Blue Jays position players in WAR. In 1992 he only posted 0.2 more wins than Devon White and in 1993 his 6.1 WAR doesn’t come remotely close to the 8.4 Wins posted by John Olerud.
As far as my research can show me, I have come to these two conclusions. Roberto Alomar was the most valuable player to ever don a Blue Jays uniform. Roberto Alomar was not the most valuable player to ever don a Blue Jays uniform based on his play with the Jays – actually nowhere remotely close. Based on that, I think the right thing to do was to place his name in the LoE like the club did and honour the fact he was inducted into the HoF like they plan to. But to make his #12 the first number ever to be retired by the TBJ is a slap in the face to 15 players who contributed more (and sometimes far more) value to the Jays than he ever did.
If you really had any doubts to this point that the all star game was a meaningless joke to the players, Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs has put the icing on the cake. After he was asked to join the NL roster to replace the injured Jose Reyes, Ramirez when asked gave reporters this gem of a quote…
“I don’t care; I’d rather take the three days off,” said Ramirez, who planned to head home to the Dominican Republic and spend time with his family.
While he later clarified with reporters that he may have been inclined to go had he been asked or selected earlier in the week, Ramirez’s initial reaction seems pretty absolute.
Ramirez would have been heading to his third all star game of his career, a pretty sizable accomplishment considering the injury woes he has battled over the past few seasons. When you combine that with the fact that he would have been joining teammate Starlin Castro as the only other Cub selected, the snub certainly holds some value.
The MLB needs to look long and hard at the all star game and figure out what it is to the game. If it means something than the AL and NL managers should have complete control over the players the select. If it doesn’t mean anything and is solely for fan entertainment, than the MLB needs to do a better job regulating who is allowed to skip the game after they have claimed an injury. You should require to be on the 7 or 15 day DL to be excused for medical reasons.