With a crazy off-season, not much are sure bets. One thing for the Toronto Blue Jays is for sure: Brett Lawrie’s durability will have a lot to do with any decisions for the future.
After starting the 2014 season with circus-like defensive plays and improvement at the plate, Lawrie suffered multiple injuries, which kept him frequently out of the lineup. The Toronto Star published Brendan Kennedy’s article on the third baseman’s misfortunes in September:
"Lawrie spent six weeks on the disabled list from late June until early August with a broken finger and returned Aug. 5 only to suffer the oblique strain after just three innings. He has suffered a variation of the same injury in each of the last three seasons. By the end of this season the Langley, B.C.-native will have missed 184 games over the last three seasons due to a variety of injuries. (Kennedy)"
There has also been speculation from Lawrie’s physique, admitted workout habits, and hyperactive behaviour that his training may be the cause of this string of injury bugs. It has been well-documented how much Red Bull energy drinks Lawrie consumes in a day. Combine that with the notion of how Lawrie trains and plays the game, jumping into camera wells and other situations with reckless abandon, and Blue Jays fans do not need to make a huge leap to say that Brett ‘the Bull’ may want to take a page out of Aaron Rodger’s playbook: R-E-L-A-X.
That’s not to say that all of Lawrie’s injuries are his own fault. Be assured that Lawrie likely did not want that pitch to hit him in the hand when he first came back. However, the sheer number of injuries is making it easier for any of his detractors to say that he is prone to it. The dreaded title no player of any sport wants as a label.
Whatever the truth of the situation, Lawrie’s health dictates moves the Blue Jays brass will make in this off-season. The jittery, 23-year-old from Langley, B.C. ironically provides a calm defensively in the infield. Without him, you might as well press play to the Benny Hill music, with Juan Francisco playing third base. Francisco made eleven errors in only 105 games to take second place on the team. Even with only three errors, Danny Valencia is a decent backup player defensively, but he is not even close to Lawrie at the plate.
That’s right. You read that correctly. Even with the looping swing, the constant movement of the bat over the shoulder, the annoying way his body continues to load to hit the ball, Lawrie is approaching the plate better than Valencia. Lawrie batted .247 with a .301 on-base percentage and is easily more of a threat with a .421 slugging percentage, compared to .240/.273/.364 for Valencia.
Let’s even forget the numbers for a minute. Lawrie’s approach to the plate this year was much more patient and more flexible than in previous seasons. He would take pitches that he swung and missed last season, especially with runners in scoring position. He rode low pitches that were away into right field, when Lawrie would have tried to pull it and end up in a double play the year before. In 70 games this year, Lawrie hit 38 RBIs, while hitting only 46 RBIs in 107 games in 2013. Patience is paying off in runs.
Sounds good? Maybe. Maybe not.
If we were talking about a player who was not consistently getting injured each season, Jays faithful would have a reason to look forward to the third base position in 2015. The problem is that we are not. Lawrie represents potential that is ready to burst open if he could stay healthy, which makes him more valuable than ever this off-season. He may never be this valuable again, if he continues the injury trend. Next season, other teams may not want a faulty commodity which may or may not work out for them. As much as many Canadians would love to see Lawrie on the country’s only MLB team, the Blue Jays may need to discuss the idea of moving their native son.
Lawrie may not be able to pull a huge name to Toronto in a one-for-one deal, but he could be an All-Star for a team who could keep him healthy. The Blue Jays have given no assurances or evidence that they can keep their players healthy, especially a high-octane personality like Lawrie. Without a full-time solution to the outfield and second base, Toronto cannot afford yet another problem at third. The newly-acquired Devon Travis might help their decision; but since he has only been promised a chance at winning the job in Spring Training over Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis, a man who hurt himself for the season running up steps, let’s not hold our collective breaths just yet.
If you were Alex Anthopoulos, would you trade him? Lawrie is one of the faces to Canadian baseball and a huge icon for the Rogers ownership to market in their baseball advertising campaigns. He is also eligible for arbitration in 2015. Is he worth more money? He will not be a free agent until 2018. However, will Lawrie physically even make it to 2015 without falling over a chair? An interesting dilemma nonetheless.