The 2013 Blue Jays are having trouble getting to first base as well, but this isn’t about the general woeful state of the team, but instead a look at the team’s inability to find a long term solution at the keystone. Watching the comedy of errors that was Emilio Bonifacio at second base and now seeing Mark DeRosa as the clubs current solution at the position, it begs the question. Wha’ Happened??
At the start of 2008 it seemed they had found the long term solution in Aaron Hill. Hill had finished the 2007 season with a .792 OPS, clubbed 47 doubles, was solid defensively and appeared to be an up and coming talent at the position. He was then signed to a club friendly six year deal designed by then Assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos with a handful of team options. While there was a scare in 2008 as Hill was limited to 55 games due to a concussion, he returned with authority in 2009 knocking in 36 home runs, making the all-star team, and winning both the Silver Slugger and Comeback Player of the year award, things looked good at second base for the Jays for the foreseeable future.
But the glimmer of hope on the horizon was extinguished when Hill suffered through a dismal 2010 that saw his OPS drop 164 points to .665 buoyed by his 26 home runs. When the 2011 campaign got underway the club declined to pick up the three year option on Hill’s contract, and when 2011 appeared to be more of the same of 2010 the club cut bait and swapped Hill for fellow underachieving second basemen Kelly Johnson then of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and while the dessert air seemed to be the perfect tonic for the struggling Hill, Johnson didn’t have quite the same magical rebirth coming north of the border.
Although Johnson didn’t have quite the renaissance that Aaron Hill experienced, he was one of the teams most consistent performers at the dish in the seasons early going. Through the first half of the season Johnson had a .721 OPS and hit 10 home runs. He suffered a hamstring injury near the end of May, and the lingering effects of that injury could explain his drop off in the second half where he hit only 6 homers and saw his OPS tumble down to .617. While Johnson’s season looked ugly, especially with his 27.4 percent strike out rate, a closer look at the numbers show he wasn’t all that bad, Johnson ranked fourth amongst the club’s regulars with an OBP of .314, he was behind only Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, and that’s despite his huge K rate.
The Jays had decided they had enough of Johnson though and he walked in free agency to sign with the rival Tampa Bay Rays. These days if your club lets a player go, and that player is then signed by the Rays you usually are safe to facepalm, as their recent reclamation projects of Kyle Farnsworth, Fernando Rodney and others has shown that even if a player appears to have nothing left to offer the Rays have found a way to inject new life into them. And while Johnson now has five home runs and an .839 OPS to start 2013 and seems set for a solid season, the Jays have tried three different players at second, Mark DeRosa seems to have turned back time somewhat mustering an .816 OPS which seems quite Pujolsian when compared to Izturis’ meager .568 OPS and a woeful .481 OPS by Emilio.
I avoided looking too closely at Aaron Hill’s success in Arizona where he essentially bounced back to his 2008 levels of production. If I’d gone in depth on that it would make me think about how the Jay’s traded him away for essentially nothing, because they somehow didn’t have the coaching skills or general wherewithal to fix him here in Toronto, and when I think about that I become quite prone to banging my head off of my desk (repeatedly). Unless Mark DeRosa somehow maintains his glimmering start to the season, making the second base situation far less dire, Jay’s fans are going to start wondering who has made more errors at second base Alex Anthopoulos or Emilio Bonifacio?