Toronto Blue Jays Extension Candidate: Brett Lawrie


Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a recent trend around the league to sign young talent to long-term deals. Teams are showing a willingness to overpay during arbitration years and buying out a year or two of free agency. These deals aren’t breaking the bank, they actually seem to be team friendly and make good economical sense. However, signing these guys to team friendly deals isn’t the only reason to approach your young talent with long-term deals. Something has to be said for avoiding the arbitration process, which can permanently damage the relationship between a player and team management.

According to Buster Olney the San Diego Padres have extended Jedd Gyorko, their 25-year-old second baseman.

And I really like the look of this tweet so I had to include this one.

The above tweet does a really good job of showing what Jedd Gyorko has done in his short career and why the Padres were so keen on signing him long term. Jedd will get $2 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $13 million in 2019 (first free agent year) and is in line to get an additional $13 million if the Padres pick up the option year in 2020.

There are a couple of players on the Toronto Blue Jays roster that could potentially receive long-term extensions similar to the one the San Diego Padres offered Jedd Gyorko. The Blue Jay that best resembles Jedd Gyorko is Brett Lawrie.

When Lawrie got called up in 2011 he hit 9 HR in 44 games and excited fans with future potential of having Lawrie at third base for a full season. Over the next 2 year Lawrie would hit 22 HR in 232 games and showed that durability might become a recurring  issue.

Should the Toronto Blue Jays extend Lawrie to a similar contract that Jedd Gyorko got? What would be the pros and what would be the cons?

After two and half seasons Lawrie’s offensive upside remains a mystery. He hasn’t been able to consistent get the barrel of the bat on the ball, he always seems to be behind on pitches, he still doesn’t walk enough. For his career Lawrie has a 6.8% BB rate and a 16.2 % K rate, which is just average according to Fangraphs. If this aspect of Lawrie’s game doesn’t improve than he will be nothing more than a complimentary player or become a utility/bench player. There is also the possibility of Lawrie’s ‘Balls to the Wall’ approach to the game catching up to him and resulting in career altering or ending injury. These factors make very difficult to commit long-term at this stage in his career.

To that end, the adjustments Lawrie made to his swing in 2013 seem to have carried over to 2014. He has eliminated much of the ‘Lawrie Waggle’ (which can still be seen in MLB The Show 14…just sayin) and has been able to quiet his hands. I don’t know if it is maturity or Kevin Seitzer or the influence that Mark DeRosa  had on him, Lawrie seems to be harnessing his energy better in 2014. In the first month of 2014 he has shown a willingness to look at more pitches and continues to exhibit less movement at the plate. He has struggled to make consistent contact as his OPS, OBP, and SLG have not made the trip north from spring training, but he has hit 2 HR in his last 5 games.

Lawrie has proven the ability to provide gold glove caliber defense every time he steps on the diamond, which was sorely missed at the beginning of last season when Brett start the season on the DL. Furthermore, he has not allowed his offensive woes to effect his defense (as Buck and Tabler have pointed out every time Lawrie comes to the plate).

It is always a gamble to sign a player with minimal major league experience to a long-term deal, especially one that hasn’t been consistent from one year to the next. However,  Lawrie’s quick hands at the plate, blazing speed out of the box, and 100 km/hr approach to even the routine plays make it impossible not think that it is just a matter of time before everything clicks and becomes the perennial All-Star we all hope he will become. Alex Anthopoulos should definitely approach Brett Lawrie about signing him to one of AA’s signature team friendly contracts that have a gazillion team options.

Have your say, tell us what you would do. What would be a good contract? Check back regularly for more Blue Jays that I think are candidates for receiving long-term extensions.

Check out these Brett Lawrie highlights