It’s difficult to quantify just how much leadership helps to create a winning team. Teammates hail David Ortiz as being a great example of veteran leadership. In game four of this year’s World Series, “Big Papi” held a huddle, and the Red Sox would go on to rally and win. So maybe it does count for something.
The Jays have certainly tried to have someone with veteran leadership over the past years with Omar Vizquel and Mark DeRosa—now both retired. Ideally the Jays want not only a leader in the clubhouse, but someone like Vizquel or DeRosa who can exemplify leadership with strong play on the field as well.
Here’s a look at some experienced free agents over the age of 35, and what they may offer in terms of leadership.
Beltran’s leadership took the Cardinals to the World Series where he sacrificed his body to rob David Ortiz of a homerun in game one of the series. This year his contributions on and off the field won him the Roberto Clemente award. This past season he lost a bit of power, but made up for it with a slash line of .296/.339/.491. Turning 37 in April, Beltran is looking to sign a three or four year deal, which may be too big of a contract for the Jays. With his age, moving into a DH role in the AL makes a lot of sense. Recent reports indicate that the Red Sox are in talks to land him.
At 37 years old Pierzynski still has terrific durability to get behind the plate as a catcher. Last season he hit .272 with 17 homeruns. While this would fill a need for the Jays, there has been plenty chatter about Pierzynski being unlikable. His former manager, Ozzie Guillen, said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.” While his drive may be admirable, he may not be what the Jays need in terms of veteran leadership.
42-year old Ibañez only hit for .242 this year, and has consistently hit in the .240s for his past three seasons. But last year he also hit 29 homeruns over 124 games. If he’d be willing to be a role player on a team, the Jays may have some interest.
“You can make an argument that Raul Ibañez is as good as anybody in the game in regard to performing and playing. That’s why you sign him, to be a baseball player. But beyond that, there are the intangibles he brings as a guy who has been part of championship clubs and really done everything in the game.”
At this point the Yankees—who had him in 2012—are again interested in signing him to a deal.
When the Jays signed Molina for the 2010 season, Alex Anthopoulos praised his leadership and game-calling ability, and he took note of his ability to bring along young players and help pitchers. With a couple years with the Rays he only has more experience to bring.
Signing Molina again may help to platoon with someone else at catcher, but it would be with a definite sacrifice of offense. And although his defense is often praised as being solid, some statistics show otherwise. Still, aspects like game-calling and pitch-framing are more difficult to measure.
When reports came out in 2011 about the Rangers looking to deal Michael Young, Josh Hamilton was very critical, praising Young’s leadership and durability. Last season Young hit for .279 with 8 home runs, playing for both the Phillies and Dodgers.
We will need to wait and see whether or not the Jays look to replace DeRosa.
Are there any veteran free agents you would like to see the Jays sign this off-season?