Will the Toronto Blue Jays regret trading Adam Lind?
Longtime Toronto Blue Jays 1B/DH Adam Lind became a lame duck through the latter stages of a disappointing 2014 season. His $7.5M salary for next year was an easy place to begin shedding salary in an offseason full of needs to address, and on November 1st he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for swingman Marco Estrada. While the move didn’t seem terribly consequential at the time, is this a trade that the Toronto Blue Jays could come to regret making?
At the time of the deal, many justified the move as being part of the bigger picture. Alex Anthopoulos suggested that the move was made with the purpose of roster flexibility and a financial eye on future moves, saying that it “allows us to reallocate some dollars to some other areas of need.”
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This came very early in the offseason, so keep in mind that the pursuit of Melky Cabrera was still alive, perhaps along with the Blue Jays’ preliminary interest in Russell Martin. It would be over two weeks until the Jays eventually signed Martin, and nearly a month until they added the financially-appealing Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders through trades with Oakland and Seattle.
Standing closer to the end of the offseason now and looking back, the only justification I see for the Lind deal is if the Blue Jays are/were very tight to the ceiling of their payroll. Otherwise, the 1B/DH position, which Lind could have played a significant role in, is no better off than when he left. Yes, Paul Beeston has said again that there is room to move the payroll up, but I’ve heard the company line enough for one lifetime.
Marco Estrada is due to make $3.9M, but I will add Justin Smoak‘s $1M to that total as well. If Lind stays, I doubt that Justin Smoak and his salary are in Toronto. This brings us to a $2.6M difference between their cumulative salary and Adam Lind’s $7.5M. Does that $2.6M difference do enough to make the Blue Jays better off with Estrada than they would be with Lind? I’m not so sure.
Adam Lind is a half-player in every sense of the word. His defense and base running resemble “man during an earthquake” more than they resemble ballet, but his offense is very much alive. He represents a LH bat that can mash RH pitching, something I feel the Blue Jays still lack. Lind also represents the perfect platoon partner with Danny Valencia.
Valencia, the lefty-masher, holds a career slash line of .327 / .368 / .502 against LHP. Against right-handed pitching, Lind has posted career totals of .293 / .349 / .510. Put those two half-players together, and you have one fine 1B/DH. If their defense could pass at 1B (which is an “if”), that would allow Edwin Encarnacion to slide into his preferred role as the full-time DH.
I find that situation to be a much more appealing option than Encarnacion, Dioner Navarro, Justin Smoak and Danny Valencia forming a super-platoon at the two positions. If the $2.6M was truly impossible for Rogers to swallow, the Lind-Valencia platoon would have provided greater stability at DH and made Dioner Navarro and his $5M salary somewhat more expendable, although I do like having him on the roster.
In return for all of this, we have Marco Estrada. Despite it being a spike from his career average, he allowed the most home runs in all of Major League Baseball last season with 29. Is that really the best fit for the Rogers Centre? For $3.9M, could Alex Anthopoulos have found equal or better value on the free agent market? While Lind’s value league-wide may be quite low, the way in which he could still fit into this roster would make him more valuable to Toronto, and the return package is a bit underwhelming when that is considered.
In the same breath, I fully realize that much of this offseason has focused on improving the clubhouse. Calling his work ethic poor would, at times, be a compliment to Lind, who often exuded the attitude of “Ugh, why am I here?”. Whether this would have changed in a stronger locker room or on a winning team, we’ll never know, but strictly speaking baseball, I might prefer it if this deal were reversed. While Martin and Donaldson certainly represent “something larger” in Toronto, I haven’t seen a justifiable impact on the bigger picture that can be traced directly back to moving Adam Lind.