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2012 Jays Preview: Who Will Man Second Base?

Of all of the positions the Jays will need to address for 2012, the pen and second base stand out as the most pressing of all. At this point, it’s hard to assess how the Jays will revamp their pen. However, the picture is much clearer at second base, where both internal and external options are very limited. Here are the only “viable” candidates I have taken note of, excluding Robinson Cano who is going to remain a Yankee and will have his option picked up.

Aaron Hill (30) – $8M club option for ’12 and $8M club option for ’13 – Type B FA

  • Hit .315/.386/.492 with 2 HR and 5 SB for Arizona to end the ’11 season, so he may have found a new home in the desert.
  • As much as I could see Hill return to Toronto, I absolutely believe that the change in scenery did him so much good that he’ll be reluctant to return to the same old thing. Even if it’s not for the full $16 million over 2 years, I do believe that he and the Diamondbacks will be a match and that he’ll sign there for a few years at a decent rate. After all, when you look at the 2B FA market, it’s pretty weak overall!

Kelly Johnson (30) – Type B FA

  • Hit .270/.364/.417 with 3 HR and 3 SB for Toronto to end the ’11 season.
  • Although not exactly spectacular, the experience in Toronto did seem to be very comfortable, and the organization got a very good look at KJ before having to make any kind of decision.

Brandon Phillips (31) – $12M club option with a $1M buyout – Likely to Have Option Picked Up

  • Hit .300/.353/.457 for the Reds this season. Talk about perfect timing. That line is the best of his career and the Reds are now as close to being forced as possible to pick up his option. He also knocked out 58 extra base hits and stole 14 bases.
  • As much as I’d like to see a fiery player like Phillips man 2B for the Jays in 2012, it’s not going to happen. He’s the leader of the Reds at this point and will likely play out his contract there at a minimum, with the possibility of an extension being signed this off season.
The remainder of the FA 2B market does not seem adequate for the Jays, with the top 4 being:
  • Clint Barmes (33)
  • Willie Bloomquist (34) – $1.1MM mutual option with a $150K buyout
  • Bill Hall (32) – $4MM mutual option with a $250K buyout
  • Jose Lopez (28)

If the Jays wind up with any of those as their starting 2B in 2012, I – and all Jays fans – should be irate!

There is also the possibility of a trade being made for a 2B instead of seeking one on the FA market. The problem is that the available candidates are far and few between at a very weak position. Players such as Dustin Pedroia, Howie Kendrick, Robinson Cano, Ben Zobrist, and Rickie Weeks are not going anywhere. Really, if the Jays do intend on going through the trade market, it will likely be for someone such as the Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, who is in the optimal position as a buy low candidate. Neil Walker and Martin Prado are two other players that could make some sense for the Jays at 2B, particularly the latter since he is a very versatile player.

The problem then becomes, will those organizations be willing to deal such talent, and at what cost? Kenny Williams is definitely willing to deal anyone if it makes sense and has good ties with the Jays after acquiring Zach Stewart and Jason Frasor from the organization. One has to believe that his scouting department did a very thorough job during those trade talks on the Jays talent pool and could therefore know who they’d want to target. If they believe that they’re better off dealing Beckham and signing Kelly Johnson, for instance, they could be interested. The Jays, meanwhile, would gain the sandwich pick from losing Kelly Johnson on the FA market, and would therefore be more willing to deal some high quality goods for someone like Beckham or Prado.

Why do I not think this will happen? Well, the Jays have Adeiny Hechavarria coming up who is much better defensively speaking than Beckham will ever be, and he may also be a better hitter overall. Why would the Jays tie themselves up with a player like Beckham? Instead, targeting someone like Prado, who is arbitration eligible for the 2nd time this off season (of a total of 3 eligible years), makes a lot more sense. Not only can he play multiple positions, but he is close enough to FA that the Jays could feasibly let him go after 2013 and reap the benefits with a draft pick or two.

Having said that, just because the Jays may target a player like Martin Prado, it doesn’t mean the Braves would be willing to deal him. Still, with the situation playing itself out the way it is in Atlanta, a deal of Travis Snider for Martin Prado (with more pieces possibly included) doesn’t seem entirely out of the realm of possibility (for instance). The Braves need more power and speed from their OF corners than Prado provides.

Now, as exciting as the list above is (insert sarcasm) on the FA market, and as possible as the trade market seems to be, there are few options internally for the Jays.

None aside from Mike McCoy.

There are absolutely no second basemen ready to take over 2B from the minors system, and even though the Jays could hand the job over to Mike McCoy, he just seems better suited to play the super utility role since he plays ALL positions aside from catcher!

In fact, the only real internal option is to have Yunel Escobar shift over to 2B while the Jays look to bring up a player such as Adeiny Hechavarria. However, that option also means that the Jays can do the same on the FA and trade markets, not just internally. That’s something that  would allow the Jays to bring Hechavarria up slowly, as they have stated they’d like to do if possible.

Therefore, the Jays could seek a SS on the FA or trade market, but which one?

It seems extremely unlikely that the Jays will spend the hoards of money Jose Reyes will demand, and he’s not the kind of player they want to bring in anyhow. Here are the other SS on the FA market that the Jays could target:

  • Jimmy Rollins (33)
  • Yuniesky Betancourt (30) – $6M club option with a $2M buyout
  • Rafael Furcal (34) – $12M club option with a $1.3M buyout
  • Alex Gonzalez (34)
  • Edgar Renteria (35)
  • Marco Scutaro (36) – $6M club option/$3M player option with a $1.5M buyout

As you can seem from the list above, the options are still fairly limited. Rollins is unlikely to leave Philadelphia and although he could be persuaded to come to Toronto if that falls through, there will be a ton of other teams chasing him and offering more years than the Jays may be willing to offer. Betancourt seems to be very happy in Milwaukee and will likely have his option picked up. Of the bunch listed above, only Marco Scutaro would seem like a decent stop-gap player since he’d likely be open to signing a short term deal, is versatile, and knows Toronto and the AL East very well. The remainder just don’t seem to make sense due to age and durability issues.

The we come down to Adeiny Hechavarria, who will play in the AFL and could push his way into Toronto in spring training or by mid-2012 if he plays to his full potential. All-in-all, he is by far the best option for the Jays for many reasons. First, he is young and extremely talented. If there’s anything to be learned from all successful organizations, it’s that talent trumps everything else. Of all of the players listed in this post as options for the Jays, only those who are not “real” options match his talent. His defensive range and abilities are top-notch, he can do a little bit of everything – including providing above-avergae power from a middle infielder – and he seems to do better every time the Jays promote him. In my humble opinion, whether it’s out of spring training or mid-season, he and Yunel Escobar should become the dynamic Cuban duo in the middle infield of the Jays at some point in 2012. Anything that comes in the way of that is not worthwhile…well, unless Alex Anthopoulos robs another franchise of talent, of course.

After all of this, what things come down to is this: the Jays benefit from letting KJ walk with a sandwich pick, something they’ll covet, Aaron Hill seems very happy in Arizona and would seem unlikely to sign a 1 year deal, and all other FA market options seem “inadequate”. The trade market may be even tougher to get through, but if the Jays could land a player like Martin Prado, I’m all for that option due to his versatility. He, unlike others, wouldn’t result in a “block” of Hechavarria when he’s ready to be promoted. Finally, there’s the Hechavarria option, which brings the most talent to the lineup and allows him to flourish alongside a fellow Cuban born player.

In my estimate, the Jays will likely try to deal for a 2B. If that falls through, they’ll land a veteran 2B like Marco Scutaro or another and will wait for Adeiny Hachavarria to be ready. When that happens, the Jays will have their infield set for a while and will be much better off for it!

What do you think?

Who will man 2B for the Jays in 2012?

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- MG

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Topics: Aaron Hill, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brandon Phillips, Kelly Johnson

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  • chewbacca

    Hech is not ready, batting wise.If he can tear up AAA for half a season, like was done with lawrie, than he might be brought up. In that scenario, can see signing KJ to a good contract for 1 or 2 years, and he platoons with Hech in mid-season, and then Hech takes over by Sept. KJ traded for prospects in Sept to a contender looking for 2B help.

  • chewbacca

    Hech is not ready, batting wise.If he can tear up AAA for half a season, like was done with lawrie, than he might be brought up. In that scenario, can see signing KJ to a good contract for 1 or 2 years, and he platoons with Hech in mid-season, and then Hech takes over by Sept. KJ traded for prospects in Sept to a contender looking for 2B help.

  • RonB.Rown

    I’m very wary of rushing Hech. I’d rather the Jays bring him up when he is ready, not when they are. Too risky. I’d rather throw in a stop-gap to buy Hech more time to develop.

  • RonB.Rown

    I’m very wary of rushing Hech. I’d rather the Jays bring him up when he is ready, not when they are. Too risky. I’d rather throw in a stop-gap to buy Hech more time to develop.