November is over with, December is here and today marks the first day of MLB’s official Winter Meetings in Nashville. Going into these meetings, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has already addressed most of the club’s off season needs of a manager, starting pitching depth and a quality left fielder. There’s little left that the Jays need at this moment, so the team can address acquiring niceties that will sweeten their already splendid roster. Looking at the Blue Jays depth chart, the only semi-glaring hole is that at the corner infield positions. At the moment, Adam Lind is at DH backed up by current first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who in turn is backed up at first base by Lind himself. It’s been talked about that Adam Lind needs a platoon mate, so now might be the time to make a move that will help make Lind more efficient.
Why does Adam Lind need another player to split time with at DH? First off, Adam Lind isn’t the man he used to be. After putting up 35 HR’s and maintaining a sweet .305/.370/.562 line throughout the 2009 season, it’s been all downhill from there. As a left handed bat he has an even worse time against left handed pitching, as he has a career .836 OPS against righties and a .607 OPS against lefties. Plus, John Gibbons utilized platoon situations well during his previous stint managing the Blue Jays, so there is a safe chance that he’ll know how to manage the division of time between Adam Lind and whoever he would share DH time with.
Which leaves us with the even bigger question; who would be the best player to fit in that platoon role with Adam Lind? Essentially, the best player to fit the Jays roster would be a right handed bat who has experience with playing at least first base, possibly another (corner) infield position, who could possibly hit for more power than a traditional bench player and would be a (at least) fair candidate to take over if Adam Lind were to be injured/succumb to being terrible. The strongest candidate available on the free agent market right now seems to be Mark Reynolds. A notoriously terrible defender, his UZR/150 at third base was a disastrous -30.3 in 2011. That kind of defense will drive down a player’s value, however as a DH he can focus on his offensive strengths only. For example, Reynolds’ career slash line against lefties is .240/.367/.490 and a .857 OPS, a great improvement over Adam Lind’s .220/.264/.343 and .607 OPS against lefties. Additionally Reynolds has averaged 31 HR’s a year over the last 3 years, will be only 29 on Opening Day, can play first and third base and has been relatively healthy throughout his entire career. The only downsides is that he might want too much money than Anthopoulos would give him, and the fact that he has a crazy high strikeout rate. This is most likely a dream scenario.
If Reynolds doesn’t work out for the Jays to platoon with Adam Lind, Ty Wigginton would be another great guy to acquire. Defense has hurt this player as well, driving his fWAR to sub-1 levels over the last four years. However, in this special role he would be more subject to left handed pitching, from which he greatly benefits from. Career wise, he’s hitting .270/.354/.456 and a .810 OPS off lefties, with a bonus high walk rate of 11.1%. His power years are behind him, but he definitely would be an affordable option. The Phillies decided to decline a $4M option on his final year of his contract in October, meaning he might be able to sign at an AAV (Average Annual Value) at that amount or less. His time at third base is also another bonus, and has spent time at almost everywhere but RF, Catcher and pitcher. Hopefully he would spend most time away from those fringe positions, but the emergency flexibility would be more than appreciated for the Blue Jays. Ty Wigginton could be a very realistic option to platoon with Adam Lind.
My final two answers are outlier options used to show the financial extremes that could be explored. The low end option would be Juan Rivera as a partial supplement that would see Adam Lind play more time. While never being a true power hitter, Rivera’s defense has been quite average throughout his career, which means he could be used more as a strong utility player than a strict DH player. He sports a .268/.333/.489 line and a .821 OPS career against lefties, and a very low 9% strikeout rate. The main issue is that he’s spent limited time at first base and would provide more outfield depth than anything, however he’s a cheap option that bats better against lefties than Lind. The other financial extreme would be the patriotic move that removes Lind from the situation altogether by bringing in Justin Morneau through trade. Morneau is the more expensive option at $14M in his final year of his contract, but he has a longer track history of a great baseball performance. Ever since his collision into John McDonald playing against the Blue Jays in 2010, he hasn’t been all that healthy and hasn’t reached his former value. It would, however, be a great PR move that could turn out very well if Morneau stays healthy. More Canadians on Canada’s team brings in better marketing opportunities, which may offset any potential losses. The biggest problem in this deal is getting a one year player via trade will require giving up Adam Lind and more assets, thence making the trade a near impossibility.
No matter what Anthopoulos does, the 2013 Blue Jays on paper are already better than the 2012 Blue Jays. Even if Adam Lind will DH by himself next year and AA doesn’t make any major moves during the next three days, the team is already a potential AL East contender. Rogers has finally answered the calls to spend money on their team; anything else they do now is a plus. What is the most refreshing part of being a Blue Jays fan now is that we can finally start saying, “we should get this player”, without it sounding empty. The Winter Meetings have begun; let’s all sit back and enjoy the festivities!