Initially drafted by the Brewers as a catcher, Brett Lawrie played only second base in the Brewers’ Minor League system.
The Blue Jays seem to be hoping Lawrie will learn third base and become a Major League third baseman given the hole they currently have there.
The only apparent knock on Lawrie is that his arm range isn’t the best at second base and, in that department, third base would definitely be more difficult.
Lawrie as a second baseman could work for the Jays considering current second baseman Aaron Hill is only under contract for next season.
Then the Jays have decisions to make on Hill’s 2012-2013 options for $8M and 2014 option for $10M, with the clincher being that the Jays must decide on his 2014 option before Opening Day 2011.
Assuming the Jays decline that 2014 option (which they likely will), they can decide how long they will want to keep Aaron Hill for. The issue here for the Jays is that it is impossible for them to know what version of Aaron Hill they will get in 2011.
Will the Jays get the Silver Slugger winning, 2009 version of Aaron Hill who raked a .286/.330/.499 line along with 36 HR and 108 RBI, or the dismal 2010 version of Aaron Hill that, while he did hit 26 HR and 68 RBI, managed just a .205/.271/.394 line?
Hill will be 29-years-old by Opening Day next year, and seeing a lot of pitches isn’t exactly a strength of his. He has put the ball in play on the first pitch of an at-bat more than any other count in his career, and the most walks he has ever had in a season is 42.
Having newly-acquired Brett Lawrie continue his development as a second baseman for most, if not all, of 2011 at the Triple-A level would not only allow the Jays to see what he can do at an improved Minor League level, but it would also buy them time to wait and see what version of Hill comes to the plate in 2011 before making a decision on Hill’s future.
There’s no denying that Aaron Hill is a great teammate and an above-average defender, but if there is a 21-year-old prospect knocking on the door to play at second base in 2012 (or earlier), are the Jays really going to block him with the then-30-year-old Hill?
The Jays would then have to likely shift Aaron Hill to 3B, assuming they haven’t found another option at third base by that time. Contract-wise, the Jays could either exercise Hill’s 2012 option at $8M, negotiate a short term contract that makes more sense financially, or explore possible trades.
The Jays could always have Lawrie start out the year at Triple-A and start learning third base instead, given the Jays have no real prospects close enough to the majors to play third base.
One option was Brad Emaus, but he was claimed in yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Jays’ previous, but not glamorous, possible options, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Luis Figueroa, are now with the Padres and Angels, respectively.
Whether Lawrie gets slotted in at second or third base, it seems as though he would benefit from some extra time in the Minors, likely a long stint at Triple-A Las Vegas, right?
According to Lawrie himself, not exactly.
In an interview with Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press on Wednesday, Lawrie had some confident words to share in regards to his future with the Blue Jays and whether he’s ready to play in the majors:
“Nah, I’m ready, my goals are what they’ve always been — I’m looking for major-league baseball, I’m not looking for minor-league baseball.”
“I figure I’m good, I’m done, I’m pretty good at minor-league baseball so I think it’s time to (take) a shot at major-league baseball. So my goal is to try and break with the team out of spring training and see what I can do.”
“Anywhere they need me to play I’ll play, I can do pretty much whatever they need. Whatever gets me to the big-leagues the quickest is what I want to do.”
It will be interesting to see what position Lawrie will play when he reports to 2011 spring training, and whether or not he has enough success to persuade the Jays to avoid sending him back to the minor leagues and allow him to crack the big-league squad right away.
Regardless of the results, Lawrie’s confidence and swagger is what I would call a welcome addition to the Blue Jays and their Minor League system.
His confidence, bordering on cockiness, seems to be in the right areas as well, as shown in more of his comments in his interview with Davidi by saying:
“I’m there for my teammates, and more than anything, I’m there to win.”
“I’m a ferocious player, I’m explosive, play the game hard, play the game the right way, never miss a beat, laying out for balls, just a grinder player. I get after it and in between the lines, I get ready to rock every single day.”
We’ll have to wait until the spring to see if Lawrie will “get ready to rock every single day” at Triple-A or in the Majors, but to Blue Jays fans it seems that spring training can’t come soon enough.