We can safely presume that the Jays starting lineup is presumably built for the season. It seems the Jays are prepared to go with Jose Bautista manning 3B, and the Edwin Encarnacion/Adam Lind combination manning 1B and DH. The sole question mark remaining is whether or not the Jays are going to rely on Rajai Davis to play LF everyday, or if they’ll platoon him with another outfielder. If the latter is correct, the Jays need to add an outfielder to the bench unless they plan on promoting one of Eric Thames or Darin Mastroianni to The Show. That brings my thoughts to the Jays bench, which is in need of some help right now.
The Jays began the 2010 season with C Jose Molina and 2B/SS/3B John McDonald, and on the bench, but it was the last 2 spots that were veritable merry-go-rounds. It was mostly OF Jeremy Reed, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz and utility man Mike McCoy filled the roles for a while, but it wasn’t until Fred Lewis was eventually traded for and filled the role for the remainder of the season that either spot had a steady influence. That, in my opinion, has to be rectified so that the Jays can eek out a few more wins late in games or by playing the percentages a little more when the time is right.
The bench as it stands today can be expected to be as follows:
- One of C Jose Molina or J. P. Arencibia(who can definitely DH when required). While we know what to expect from Molina in ’11 offensively, Arencibia is a wild card that could provide a boost, or struggle throughout the year
- Utility player John McDonald (2B/SS/3B). We all know what to expect from Johnny Mac. A few pop and 100% effort, but mixed results. On the plus side for Johnny is the fact that he had an incredible .454 SLG % in 2010 – the best of his career, something that mostly went unnoticed by most Jays fans.
- Unknown – could be Utility player Mike McCoy (1B/2B/SS/3B/OF/P)
- Unknown – could be OF Darin Mastroianni or Moises Sierra – both of which are on the 40-man roster, or Eric Thames
When you look at that bench as listed above, you see where Alex Anthopolous’s focus has to be right now. It lacks experience and in the OF support category. In terms of who to bring into the fold, there are certain players who’s bats make sense – such as Manny Ramirez – but lack the ability to man a position on the field. So, it cuts down on who the Jays can bring in.
The other caveat, however, is that the Jays can still decide to bring in someone with the ability to play 3B and then send Jose Bautista back to RF, and then shift Travis Snider back to LF to platoon with Rajai Davis. I can’t see this being the real plan of action though, because the jays gave up way too much for Rajai Davis to have him sit on the bench and they need his speed in the lineup. I could be wrong, but it looks like the OF of Davis, Wells, and Snider is all but set.
Therefore, with those points in mind, who could fit the bill for the Jays and improve the bench? After some thought on the subject, here are my top 3 options for AA and the Jays:
- (1) Marcus Thames – I have read and heard from Jays fans who have been huge Thames fans as a bench addition for the Jays for some time now and have to agree that he fits the bill. He knows the AL East extremely well after years spent with the Yankees, he provides great numbers as a part time bat and can man LF, and the key for me is that he does well versus both LHP and RHP. That makes him a threat off the bench at all times. I can’t remember the last time the Jays had something of the sort on the bench. The downside is that they may have to outbid the Yankees for his services, so he could be pricey. However, if the Yankees sign another outfielder instead, the Jays could luck out as an attractive alternative.
- (2) Jerry Hairston Jr – Jerry hit 10 HRs and drove in 50 RBIs for SD last season. He can play all positions aside from C and 1B and won’t cost much and has a ton of experience to bring to the Jays. He has experience in the AL East as recently as in 2009 (part of the season) with the Yankees and held a good .237/.352/.382 line for them over 76 ABs. He’d be a very useful and experience bat off the bench and someone who does a little bit of everything.
- (3) Fred Lewis – Why not bring him back in a 4th OF role? His chances of playing full time are dwindling every day and each time another team picks up a FA, and he can play all OF positions. Lewis does well – or better than Davis – against RHP (.276/.337/.439 in ’10), while Davis is excellent vs LHP (.304/.349/.435 in ’10), and Lewis can bring some speed to the bench as well and is ok leading off in the lineup. I can’t say for certain, but it seemed to me like he enjoyed playing with the Jays in 2010 and would be comfortable returning for 2011 and the fact that he is now more familiar with AL pitching makes him an attractive returnee.
Unlike many of the other options out there, I believe that all 3 of the guys listed above would be alright with a bench role if they couldn’t find a permanent home in a team’s lineup. Sure, having a bat like Vladimir Guerrero or Manny Ramirez waiting on the bench and ready to come out swinging would be ideal, but neither player is going to settle for a part-time role and they can’t play the field. Others, like Scott Podsednik and Johnny Damon, are still looking for full time roles and time in the field to go with it, not something I believe the Jays are willing to provide. Meanwhile, guys like Jorge Cantu or Joe Crede could always be added to play 3B and to make the shift I listed above, but it seems less likely right now due to the importance of having Rajai Davis in the lineup.
I do believe that the Jays will add 1 or 2 interesting names to the OF in AAA or that they’ll try Adam Loewen and Darin Mastroianni there as a possible call ups and bench fillers. I also think that with less than 8 weeks left before spring training, the Jays will likely attempt to add at least 1 name mentioned in this post to the bench in order to provide it with more versatility. I do hope that they land Thames as he seems to be their best option, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Fred Lewis back either. Either way, I hope they address it soon, because it’s more important a spot than many people give it credit for.