Brett Lawrie’s Pending Arrival and Jays-Yanks Lineup Thoughts

I’ve returned from vacation and have finally sifted through the information I was looking for in this piece. I hope I’ll be able to hit on a few points that are interesting, and am glad to be writing again.

Brett Lawrie‘s Pending Arrival

As I listened to John Farrell speak on MLB Radio and how anxious he was to see Brett Lawrie in a Jays uniform, I was struck with the complexity that the Jays will soon face when trying to come up with the best options in terms of the 25-man roster. Gone are the “plug-in” additions made by the Jays this off season that gave them the time required to find their next core piece of the lineup. The list is lengthy, as it includes Corey Patterson, Jayson Nix, Juan Rivera, Dewayne Wise, Jo-Jo Reyes, Octavio Dotel, and David Purcey. Although the Jays still have Mark Teahen to deal with right now, the roster is now filled with “parts of the future” which make up the majority of the squad. The problem then becomes, how do you find space for Lawrie to make his jump? Obviously, Teahen should be on the move in some way, but the task remains daunting once that happens.

The addition of Lawrie to the Jays lineup causes some playing time issues. Both Travis Snider and Eric Thames are LHB, so they don’t make very good platoon partners in LF. Edwin Encarnacion has been hitting well as a DH since he took the role on full-time, but he remains an interesting trade possibility if he squeezes through waivers. Even though he’s playing well, Edwin could still lose ABs to either Snider or Thames. Rajai Davis is likely to fill in when needed and becomes the 4th outfielder. Jose Bautista returns to RF, and Colby Rasmus remains in CF. That OF scenario (Snider/Thames, Rasmus, Bautista, with Davis as another option) could remains as such until 2012 comes around. We also know that aside from 2B, the infield in 2012 will likely include Adam Lind (1B), Yunel Escobar (SS), and Brett Lawrie (3B). So, what does it all mean for guys like Adam Loewen, David Cooper, Michael McDade, Moises Sierra, and Anthony Gose? It means that they will likely all be manning positions in Las Vegas in 2012 or will be used as trade bait between now and then.

The Lineup with Lawrie Included, as Compared to the Yankees

The other problem with Lawrie being called upon is, where does he hit in the lineup? Assuming they start him off slowly, in the 8th or 9th spot of the lineup, it would provide the Jays with quite a potent bottom of the order and would add some overall speed to the lineup on the base-paths. If Rasmus remains in the 2-hole, a possible lineup would have it as follows:

Escobar (28) – Rasmus (24) – Bautista (30) – Lind (28) – Encarnacion (28) (Thames (24)) - Arencibia (25) – Snider (23) (Davis-Thames) – Hill (29) – Lawrie (21)

The average age of the lineup above (excluding Davis and Thames) is 26.2 years old.

The average age of the lineup above with Eric Thames in place of Edwin Encarnacion is 25.7 years old.

As of today, the Yankees are the oldest team with an average age of 30.5 years old and the Red Sox are right behind them at 30.4 years old. To make matters worse for the Yankees, their “youth” is in the pitching, as their lineup averages out at 31.2 years old if we include Arod and Andruw Jones in the lineup (instead of the older Posada at DH). If the Yankees were to keep all of their lineup intact, the average age of their lineup in 2012 would be 32.2 years old, making it a questionable lineup overall. The chances of that happening are slim, but the majority of the players who make the Yankees old are also unmovable, so they will likely be in the 30-31 years old average once again.

The point is that with players like Lawrie being added, and others to follow in the form of d’Arnaud, Cooper, Sierra, Hechavarria, McDade, and Gose, the Jays have a wealth of youth that teams like the Yankees seriously lack. In fact, aside from Jesus Montero, Austin Romine (both catchers), Corban Joseph (2b), and perhaps Zoilo Almonte (cf), the Yankees have very little to cheer about in AA or AAA in terms of lineup additions. And we haven’t even factored in the fact that most of the current strength of the Jays system lies in its most recent drafts (2010, 2011), which has most of its top prospects included in the HiA system and lower.

Finally, Cot’s Baseball Contracts currently lists the Jays financial obligations in 2012 at $36.15 million, while the Yankees have $153.161 million in obligations. Close to $100 million of the Yankees obligations are for its aging lineup. If we assume they keep Russell Martin around and he lands more than $5 million in his 4th arbitration year, and we also assume that Brett Gardner receives about $700K in his first arbitration year, the Yankees will owe their lineup – for 7 players (all positions less DH-RF since Posada and Swisher are FAs) – approximately $98.825 million. Meanwhile, even if we assume the costliest scenario for the Jays, where they would pick up all options available to them, the Jays would still only owe approximately $40.22 million to all 9 of their core lineup players. Without Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion’s options, the Jays would only owe $28.72 million to their entire lineup.

What does that all add up to? A young, talented, cheap, and controllable lineup that allows the Jays to place the majority of its focus on two things only this off-season: starting pitching and the pen. That’s where Alex Anthopoulos will likely spend the majority of his off-season focus, and that’s where I expect to see a lot of spending (or contract money taken on) for the Jays for 2012. Well, that and Prince Fielder…if you believe most Jays fans!

Final Thoughts?

There are reasons the Yankees did nothing at the trade deadline, and it’s not just that other teams were asking for too much from their system. It’s also because they know just how potent the Jays and Rays are going to be in upcoming years, and that if they want to continue competing against them, they’ll need all of the ammunition they can get. That includes both internal (cheap) and external (expensive) options. While the Rays will forever be hamstrung by budget issues, the Jays have shown the ability to draw fans in when they win. If the arrival of Brett Lawrie can help lead the Jays down that path, he and all of his youthful partners will undoubtedly make the Jays into a perennial powerhouse in the A.L. East, even if it is with a modest $100-$125 million budget when all is said and done. The truth of it all is that with the way Alex Anthopoulos is building this club, there’s no reason for them to have to spend more then that, because the majority of their core pieces are young, cheap, and controllable.

The Jays have so much payroll flexibility heading into 2012 that they could add both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the club and still be under the $100 million mark. More feasibly, if they land either one, the Yankees and Red Sox better watch out because their days of monopolizing the A.L. East title and the wildcard could soon be coming to an end. If the Jays do land either one, with Fielder being the most feasible of the two, either Thames and Snider becomes trade bait that can help the Jays land an arm for the rotation.

Whichever way you cut, slice, or dice it, I do believe that the Rasmus addition and the pending arrival of Brett Lawrie finally give the Jays the edge in terms of the brightest future of the lineup core in the A.L. East. The Yankees certainly don’t have the young pieces to match the current Jays lineup, and the tide is definitely shifting in favor of the Jays.

These are bright times for Jays fans. As all of the Jays youth watched the first ever Jays number being retired earlier this week, it’s evident that history may in deed repeat itself. Will Brett Lawrie be the next to have his number retired by the
Jays? Time will tell, but it’s certainly fun to ponder the return of glory times for this franchise. The fans certainly deserve to experience such great times after close to two frustrating decades.

- MG

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Topics: Albert Pujols, Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames, Prince Fielder, Travis Snider

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  • chewbacca

    there is still the issue of two more starting pitchers, a closer, and some bullpen help. I agree, the money will be spent on pitching.

    Gose is still in AA, right? Triple A next year, the show in two years. Bautista might be slower in 2 years, and becomes our DH, Rasmus slides over to right, Gose goes into center. Snider has to step it up, or he may be traded if the prospects develop more in two years.

  • MattProk

    Great to you ha ve you back Mat, I say we still have question marks still in:

    -LF: Boils down to Thames/Snider; Prospects you mentioned like Loewen, Sierra also liable to break out. Loewen is an exceptional athlete.

    -CF: Rasmus has proven nothing, nor is he any sort of lock. Admit it, we’re just relieved from being saved watching the previous horror shows in CF. We’re pretty thin here if Rasmus fails, as Gose will not be ready next year. Here’s to hoping he develops nicely.

    -3B: Yes, i believe in Brett Lawrie. No, i’m no talent scout. But everything statistical and written about him makes me believe he’s going to be an elite 3B; his defense will actually be a bright spot too. If he does fail, we do have our MVP Joey Bats ready to step into 3B, allowing one of our other bright young prospects to man what would be a very green outfield.

    -2B: Past Aaron hill, internally it will be one of Escobar or Hechavarria. There are no other internal options, so this position is primed for free agency or trade. AA loves the middle of the diamond, so i believe this will be his last great position player acquisition. Maybe Jose Reyes? Hanley Ramirez?

    -Starting Pitching: Not good. Past Ricky Romero, there’s no sure thing. And that’s bad. Like Lawrie, Morrow seems like a guy who will pan out. Or at the very least be our Ted Lilly. I think he will be our #3-4 on our playoff team. Brett Cecil, spent time in AAA this season after velocity (not really)/location (yes) issues. He’s pitched the AL East well before, so i would slot him into the #4-5. Acquiring Ubaldo Jiminez would have allowed us a decent one-two punch, although i do wish we: had acquired Greinke; or will acquire a STUD pitcher, ala Halladay/Lee/Sabathia.

    -Relief Pitching: Obviously. Only a closer is needed. Emphasis added. Shouldn’t be too hard to find. With money and our bevy of young pitching, our bullpen isn’t a sore spot really. Finally, our playoff line-up next year should look something like:

    1. Reyes (2B)

    2. Escobar (SS)

    3. Lind (1B)

    4. Bautista (RF)

    5. Rasmus (CF)

    6. Snider (DH)

    7. Lawrie (3B)

    8. Arencibia (C)

    9. Thames (LF)

    Rotation:

    1. Ricky Romero

    2. Brandon Webb

    3. Brendan Morrow

    4. Brett Cecil

    5. Kyle Drabek Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (thank you John Farrel)

  • JaysJournal

    @MattProk Thanks for the comment Matt. I’m not sure Brandon Webb will ever be effective again and would rather see the Jays add someone like Chris Carpenter instead. As you said, though, it’s more likely that AA will use some of his assets this off-season to acquire a better option. Personally, I’d love to see him hook up with the Braves again and nab 1 of their top guys. Also, if the Brewers don’t win it this year and lose Fielder in FA, guys like Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke, and Shaun Marcum will likely become “more available”.

    We’ll see, but for now, I actually like Romero and Morrow at the top. I also love Henderson Alvarez and his potential to be a very strong #3. Add in those that you mention above, and you’ve got a fairly good amount of rotation options. The biggest question mark for me right now is whether or not Joel Carreno will remain a starting option, or a closing option. It’s a question because with Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, and likely Deck McGuire vying for the #4-5 spots in 2012, the Jays will need to make some tough decisions.

    I’d love to see Reyes signed at a reasonable rate, but truthfully, if you take away his legs – which happens as players age – he simply isn’t going to be worth what he’ll get paid this off-season. He may be worth it for 1-2 years, but not thereafter. A more likely scenario has Yunel shifting to 2B and Hechavarria (and his top 3 SS defensive abilities) playing SS while hitting 9th. That will likely happen mid-2012 or in 2013, so whatever AA does between now and then will be interesting to see. He may keep Hill around just in case….

  • DerekNakluski

    Making the playoffs and winning in the playoffs comes down to starting pitching and I think we have 3 guys right now that can get us there Ricky is a true Ace if you watched the Jays the last week it’s the Starters that have shined. Morrow is coming to form after a not great first half and Cecil looks like the 15 game winner from last year with a few great starts.

  • Mylegacy

    @JaysJournal@MattProk

    Mat – welcome back.

    I have the feeling that AA has more patience than we fans do. He’s looking at our “near ready” STARTING pitching depth and seeing: Hutchison (quickly becoming the top pitching prospect), Alvarez (a near ready elite prospect), Molina (a WOW prospect being lengthened out to be a starter), McGuire (a better than solid, near elite stud), Carreno (gets TONS of SO’s and gives up very few hits) – AND – the lower levels with at least 5 to 10 more truly spectacular starting prospects.

    When he sees that Top Five – all who could at least challenge for a look-see in the Bigs in 2012 – I think he’s not too inclined to go nuts and jump into the free agent or trade starter market with both feet. I suspect he can live with the fact that the position players are coming together a year before the pitchers do. Can we be as patient? Can AA afford for our impatience to turn to anger if it’s clear we’re just a pitcher or two from SERIOUS contention? OR Will he sign one of the two big FA Bats and trade a couple of the TOP FIVE and a few of the lower levels guys for two pitching horses ready for prime time in 2012?

    I suspect most fans would prefer the latter. I suspect AA REALLY wants to build this “perennial contender” the right way (as he sees the right way) and he sees we are literally only a few months of baseball away from at least Alvarez and McGuire being ready to at least get a sniff of the Bigs by – say – June(ish) 2012.

    When I hired AA (OK – I admit I allowed others to act as my proxy in that hiring) I was – AM – willing to have the patience to see HIS dream unfold. I still am. I think however – I’m in the minority.

    Pity.

  • ryanwjsmyth

    The Jays haven’t even given Teahen a chance. He once was the cleanup hitter for the Royals and is only 29 years old. I think before anything, you need to give Teahen, a Canadien citizen at the very least a chance to get a few at bats to see what he can do.

  • JaysJournal

    @ryanwjsmyth I do agree that Teahen deserves a shot somewhere….but, if it comes at the cost of playing time for Snider, Thames, or Lawrie (who he would block), I wouldn’t be a fan of it. If the Jays trade Edwin and want to give Teahen a shot as the DH part time, sure, why not?

    Interesting thought about Teahen: he can play 1B, 3B, and LF…does that give him a shot at a utility role? It’s possible, as he could be used to spell Lind and Lawrie while also getting ABs off-the-bench. Teahen is not a horrible player by any means, he just isn’t a starter, so that may be the best role for him while with the Jays.

  • emerys2677

    AA has done a great job, stocking the farm with outstanding talent, next year these guys are going to be a blast to watch. For the rest of this year, once Lawrie is up i see the line up a little bit differently then you do, Escobar (28) – Rasmus (24) – Bautista (30) – Lind (28) – Themes (24) – Snider (23) – Hill (29) – Lawrie (21) – Arencibia (25) unfortunately for Edwin he does not fit long term, and the AB’s need to go to the kids so we can figure out what we are doing with them. Ultimately i see Lawrie hitting 6th between snider and themes. And with the way JP is hitting out of the 9 hole i say leave him in there. For next year, pick up a veteran DH and a 2-3 veteran pitcher, and give Joel Carreno a shot at the closer role.

  • He’s Done it Again!

    @JaysJournal Totally agree about Yunel and Hechavarria manning the middle of the diamond. I have seen/heard laughable cries for Jose to man 2nd base. Even thoughts of Lawrie manning 2nd are a bit out there. What do you think is the best scenario for Toronto going forward at 2nd base. I personally would flirt with signing Hill to a much more reasonable deal, perhaps 1 or 2 years. He is a great club house guy, above average D…. what do you foresee happening at that position in the next 1.5 seasons?

  • jsmith2011

    why so harsh on snider??? i don’t get it. hill is allowed to suck for 2 straight years…and twice sent down this year…he is ok vs. righties. just sit him vs. lefties for now and let him work it out in MLB he’s too important. and he came up hitting lights out. so he hit another snag….don’t start yo-yoing this guy pleeeeeaaaaasssee

  • jsmith2011

    Seriously, can i get some help understanding why Travis is back down? I simply do not understand. I would rather see him play everyday..or at least vs. righties than EE…he and thames can take turns in LF and DH. Travis has a much brighter future than EE and the time to get these guys playing together is now in my opinion. Anyone have other thoughts?

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