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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Tags: Albert Pujols Brett Lawrie Eric Thames Prince Fielder Travis Snider

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