Just a few years back, the Toronto Blue Jays had their hands on a relatively inexpensive utility infielder that seemed to fit a few different needs of the club, including providing an offensive and defensive upgrade at second base over incumbent Kelly Johnson.
Unfortunately, before they were able to see what they had in Mike Aviles, he was shipped out of town. Acquired on October 21, 2012 in exchange for the Blue Jays freeing then manager John Farrell to take the same role with the Boston Red Sox, Aviles was subsequently packaged along with catcher Yan Gomes in an ill-fated deal to acquire reliever Esmil Rogers from the Cleveland Indians.
To this day, the Blue Jays second base situation has been a revolving door of ineptitude.
However, fate may once again smile on the Blue Jays, especially if they are paying attention to the outside forces surrounding the Cleveland Indians. Notably, the fact that Aviles may again find himself available to teams this winter.
As noted by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, the Indians may find themselves in an interesting position this winter. The rise of top prospect Francisco Lindor may prompt a change at shortstop this season, depending on whether the team feels that the 21-year-old defensive wizard will be ready to handle Major League pitching in 2015. That could leave current shortstop, Jose Ramirez (no defensive slouch himself), looking for a new position or playing the role of super-utility man next season.
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So where does that leave Mike Aviles, who has served that role over the course of the past two seasons?
The Indians hold a relatively inexpensive $3.5 million option on Aviles. However, as Bastian speculates, that may be a bit rich for what will essentially be extra depth for the small budget Indians. That said, the Indians could opt to decline said option, saving the $3.5 million, or they could look exercise the option, and try to get a usable piece back in return for Aviles.
This is where the Toronto Blue Jays come into play. For a team looking for an upgrade at the keystone, especially one that could be a relative bargain, they could do worse than Mike Aviles.
Since Alex Anthopoulos missed the boat on Mike Aviles two years ago (we won’t even talk about Yan Gomes), the utility-man has posted a respectful .250/.277/.356 slash with a combined 14 home runs, 85 RBI, 92 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases.
The 2013 Blue Jays regime of Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Goins, and Mark DeRosa was absolutely dreadful on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 27th with a .216/.258/.297 batting line with 7 home runs and 47 RBI. Meanwhile in 2014, the group of Munenori Kawasaki, Steve Tolleson, Ryan Goins, Chris Getz, and Maicer Izturis were a minor upgrade and collectively placed 17th in baseball with a .247/.295/.340 slash-line and managed a very similar 7 home runs and 48 RBI.
That all said the production of this year’s group was very similar in regards to what Aviles put forth in his limited utility role. However, it should be noted that it took a steady platoon arrangement and a near revolving door to get that production out of the Blue Jays group. Having a consistent player in that role in 2014 may be beneficial all around, not to mention in the team’s ability to better utilize those other roster spots.
Aviles also represents a player that doesn’t have a ton of split between sides. Unlike Tolleson, who mashes lefties, Aviles slashes .265/.290/.380 against righties over the course of his career, while touching opposite-hand pitching to the tune of .277/.316/.418.
In a market that doesn’t include a ton of viable options, perhaps Mike Aviles becomes the silver lining the Blue Jays should aim for, allowing the team to think bigger elsewhere. And isn’t that what we as fans want to see from the Blue Jays this winter, thinking bigger?