How much value can you truly put on speed?
That is a question Alex Anthopoulos will be asking himself an awful lot as the 2012 season comes to a close and the Blue Jays front office begins to assess their strategy for the winter. Unlike some clubs, Anthopoulos can put a number to question.
That figure represents the difference between the decision to pick up the club option on outfielder Rajai Davis, valued at $3 million, and the decision to buy him out, valued at $500,000.
Davis is an interesting player to say the least. When the Jays acquired him in November 2010, they were getting a player who had just come off of two consecutive quality seasons in Oakland and Toronto was understandably looking at him as a lead-off hitter. Unfortunately, Davis has never been able to repeat those Oakland years in Toronto.
His chief asset as a player is obviously his speed, as he has averaged 40 stolen bases over the last two season. However, that weapon gets significantly weaker when you also sport a .289 OBP. Digging deeper, Davis’s wOBA of .299 is significantly weighing down his wRC+ of 86. So while his stolen bases are helping him to create runs, his inability to reach base is preventing Toronto from truly exploiting it.
What makes matters worse is that while David provides some highlight reel catches, his speed has never been a factor in making him a better outfielder. In fact, Davis has posted a negative UZR for each of the last 3 seasons, making him more of a defensive liability than anything.
So the argument comes down to whether spending the $3 million on Davis is a worthwhile investment for the Jays. Essentially, they would be committing $3 million to a utility outfielder who is undependable in the field and chief weapon is hindered by an inability to get on base consistently.
The speed factor, the only thing Davis has going for him, is easily replaced by Anthony Gose, who has stolen 49 bases between Triple-A and Toronto in 2012. Furthermore, both Gose and Moises Sierra provide defensive upgrades in the outfield and have more long-term upside for the Jays moving forward. The fact of the matter is, those at bats and repetitions would be better served going to the younger players who represent the future of the organization.
Once you do the math, $500,000 looks like a bargain for a quick improvement.