Toronto Blue Jays and Missing the Melk Man


I’m going to leave the finer legal details of mlb’s investigation into the Biogenesis lab and the ensuing fallout to someone who knows and writes about law.  Ryan Braun made their job a bit easier by admitting his cheating and accepting the subsequent punishment.  It’s possible the evidence collected on the rest of the accused is just as detailed, but there’s also a very good chance there will be many more hurdles to jump through before any more suspensions are handed out and served.  Still, no harm speculating.

The Blue Jays are caught up in the affair as left-fielder Melky Cabrera is supposedly in the Biogenesis books.  Assuming that, if he were to receive a suspension, it would be in addition to his fifty gamer from last year.  That would leave him done for at least a hundred games, finishing him for the rest of 2013 and a significant chunk of 2014.

Jun 24, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If that were to happen, the Jays would need to look at a more permanent solution in left, rather than a short term replacement.

Before looking at possible options, I’m going to make a rather large assumption:

In signing Cabrera, Jays management wrote it into his contract that any further drug-related suspensions would void the rest of the agreement.

So, if suspended, his career as a Jay would be finished.  Who replaces him?  According to the Melk Man has put up a -0.6 WAR so far this year, so theoretically, anyone from AAA could do a similar job.  There’s always the possibility of a trade, but for now, let’s discount it and look in-house.  Would any of the below be able to break the recent Blue Jay left field incompetency streak.

The Easy Choice/Incumbent:  Rajai Davis – Rajai is quietly putting together a nice year.  Over 192 plate appearances he’s getting himself on base at a .330 clip which is his best mark since 2009 when he was with Oakland and is thirty points better than his Toronto career average.  And let’s be honest, a big part of the value Davis provides is on the base paths, his 7.0 BaseRunning runs above average value would put him second behind Jacob Ellsbury if qualified.   The 90% stolen base percentage is a career high.

Is that good enough though?   Most fielding metrics have Davis as below average and his baseball reference oWAR is 0.8.  His highest total for Toronto, granted, but enough to give him the full time job?  I still see Rajai as an ideal bench player.  Use his speed late in the game with the occasional spot start against lefties.

Outside the Box:  Colleague Kyle did an excellent piece last week on Kevin Pillar and his oft mentioned comparable Reed Johnson.  It’s well worth a read on its own, and most of what I say here will just reiterate what Kyle said.

Pillar’s triple-A numbers, considering he was promoted in-season, are staggering.  You often see guys struggle when called up.  Not Pillar.  His .955 OPS would put him second in the league if qualified.

If you want to argue the AAA sample size is too small then refer to Kyle’s piece where he states that Pillar’s .313 double-A batting average is his career worst……ever.  The kid can hit.  I don’t read much into minor league conversion projects, but, for a giggle, let’s take one example, he has an OPS over .800.  I don’t think Toronto could say no to that.

Lastly, with the season the Jays are having, and with the bulk of their minor league talent in A ball and below, with no shot of helping the big team for the foreseeable future, a home grown call-up would provide the fans something to cheer as this miserable season wades inexorably towards its conclusion.

No Chance:  Anthony Gose – I’d like to say something positive here……ummmm, he’s still only twenty-two.  Chance to develop further and become the baseball player Anthopoulos had hoped for when dealing for him?  Probably not.  He’s had 2600 plate appearances in the minor leagues and his career OBP is .337.  I suppose a regression in his repeat triple-A season was to be expected as the Jays moved from the desert air of Las Vegas to the more realistic hitting environment of Buffalo, but this much?  I don’t think anybody could have called that.

In fact, with Moises Sierra on fire upon his return from injury, it’s probably safe to assume he has jumped ahead of Gose in the outfield pecking order.

There you have it, probably a predictable choice considering fact I’ve been on the Kevin Pillar bandwagon for quite some time, but he’s done nothing to discount the faith I’ve had in him.  The way the Jays lineup is currently constructed, they don’t necessarily need a power hitting corner outfield.  A scrapper that gets on base, plays solid defense, and can actually run from home to first?  I’ll take him.