Let me start by saying, I love Brett Lawrie. Period. But, his injuries are piling up. So too is the number of games he has missed. Which leads me to ask the following question: Will there ever come a time when the Toronto Blue Jays have to make a decision and move on without the Canadian Kid? Is Brett Lawrie in danger of becoming the next Eric Hinske?
If we go back a few (12) years we might recall a stocky kid named Eric Hinske who made his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays at 3rd base.
Hinkse was part of the deal that sent relieverBilly Koch
to Oakland. He would go on to rake. He finished with 24 home runs, 84 RBI and a line of .279/.365/.481/ to take home the Rookie of the Year award in 2002. His brilliant season prompted then GM J.P. Ricciardi to ink him to a 5 yr, $14.75M deal. It would have been a steal if he were able to maintain his numbers. However, his mediocre defense (he had a league high 22 errors in 2002) combined with declining offensive numbers caused by a hand injury prompted the Blue Jays to make moves to compensate.
In 2004, the Blue Jays went and got Corey Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand to shore up the hot corner. That pushed Hinkse to first base. Then the club went and made another move the following season that left no room for the former star. When Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus were brought in, the team once again moved Hinske. This time, he was to play in the outfield. He would make a few appearances at the infield corners, but it was clear that the team was all but moving on. In August of 2006, Hinkse was moved yet again…this time out of town. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox for cash and a player to be named later.
Eric Hinske would go on to play a few more years playing vital roles in playoff pushes for several teams. He won a World Series with the Red Sox. He was the final out in the 2008 World Series as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. He played in the post season with the New York Yankees in 2009, his third straight World Series. He also helped the Atlanta Braves to the post season in 2010. Hinske played his final game as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. He is now a coach with the Chicago Cubs.*
One could argue that leaving Toronto was a really good thing for Eric Hinske. He certainly wouldn’t have won a World Series ring, let alone make the playoffs once; never mind 4 times. But, I can’t help but feel bad for the guy who basically fell from grace after an injury and then was moved around the field and then eventually out of town. Hmmmm…………sound like this could happen to someone else?
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The all out, pedal to the metal, ball of energy that is Brett Lawrie has been injured so much, Blue Jays fans have no idea what he can do over the length of a full season. Since he’s been called up to the big league club in 2011, he’s only managed to play 43, 125, 107 and 70 games. That’s an average of 86.25 games, or just over half a season. Despite his rugged physique (I might have a bit of a man-crush on Brett Lawrie) and apparent dedication to being in shape, he is starting to develop a reputation on par with Brandon Morrow. Both are seemingly quite breakable.
As such, the Blue Jays are starting to consider other options. John Gibbons has apparently become enamored with Danny Valencia at 3rd. Kyle Franzoni told us that Gibby’s love for Valencia could push Lawrie to 2nd in 2015. Granted, this move may have more to do with having few options at 2nd, but it appears that the Blue Jays are starting to see Lawrie as movable. Now, they can spin it however they want, ‘Lawrie’s athleticism plays well here or there or everywhere’, but as was the case with Hinske, it may not be a good sign when your club doesn’t see you as a fixture in a position. What move would be next? What happens if the club picks up a 3rd baseman via trade? Lawrie may move to 2nd, sure. But for how long?
Being that he is only making $516K this year and will not be a free agent until 2018, the Blue Jays have lots of control over Lawrie. And, unlike Hinske, they do not seem to be in any rush to lock him up for longer. No, Lawrie plays in a different era. His injury history dictates contractual caution. Where it may have been smart to lock up Hinske early, the same cannot be said for Lawrie. Will he break and be a liability? So, the Blue Jays will keep his contract as cheap as possible and pay him the minimum possible. Which makes him more desirable in a trade. See where I’m going with this? Could Lawrie be moved again? This time out of Toronto?
None of this is meant to say that Brett Lawrie is being shopped; no more than anyone else, anyway. Nope, I’m just drawing comparisons to two players who were BOTH Blue Jay 3rd basemen, were BOTH highly thought of, who BOTH had decent numbers, who BOTH had a level of disappointment, and were BOTH moved around. Interesting, no? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.
*Thanks to our friends at Wikipedia some info regarding Hinske’s career.