December 2010; a young, outgoing and Canadian athlete was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Toronto Blue Jays. By August 2011, this youngster had worked his way up through the minor league system and was playing at the Major League level as a Blue Jay.
In the spring of 2012, this youngster, Brett Lawrie, along with two other teammates, starting pitcher Ricky Romero and back catcher J.P. Arencibia were touted as the “faces” of the Jays. Unfortunately, this tripod of athleticism and hype quickly broke and fell flat. Romero was plagued by injuries and the Jays released him in April 2015, swallowing up the remainder of his contract. J.P. Arencibia didn’t fare much better; he was released by the Jays after his disastrous 2013 season when he finished with a discouraging .194 AVG.
Out of these three, Lawrie has found the most success in the MLB. Unfortunately, he has also been plagued by injuries and has seen himself traded to two teams in the past three years, the latter being the Chicago White Sox. Even though Lawrie put up decent numbers with them last season (.248 AVG with 12 HR), he hasn’t played a game in the majors since July 2016 because of an injury. The Sox decided to cut their losses this month and release him from their team.
The question that many Blue Jays fans have been wondering is should Lawrie be re-signed as a Blue Jay? One would hope that Jays President, Mark Shapiro and Jays General Manager, Ross Atkins are asking themselves this question. Lawrie can play more than one position, is a relatively cheap sign (under $5 M), has speed and a decent bat.
The Blue Jays currently don’t know if second baseman Devon Travis will be ready by Opening Day coming up in a few weeks. If he doesn’t, there’s Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins, and Steve Pearce. But what happens if (or when depending on if you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person) others get injured – Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson namely? The daily grind of baseball can wreak havoc on one’s body and the Jays are definitely no exception.
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One also needs to remember who’s on first, Justin Smoak, whom by all accounts has been a complete disaster for the Jays in 2016 and so far in this spring training (4 H/27 AB/.148 AVG). The Jays need to start looking for another first baseman – Steve Pearce? Sure! Then what happens when injuries come around? Start calling up AAA players like Rowdy Tellez before he’s ready? Remember what happened with Dalton Pompey two seasons ago?
Should they ask Jose Bautista to start playing every day at first? Lawrie has played as a catcher, third baseman and most recently, a second baseman. This alone shows his range and ability to be utilized as an everyday infielder.
What about the cons for bringing him back? Fans will remember his attitude, cockiness, and frequent outbursts from his days of playing at the Rogers Centre; his four-game suspension that came from throwing his helmet near the home plate umpire, Bill Miller, over a called third strike.
His anger towards his teammates when they didn’t do a play he believed they should have. His arrogance in trying to steal home in the 2012 season against the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and home run hitter Jose Bautista at the plate (he was thrown out and the Jays ended up losing that game).
One cannot negate the fact that the duo of Atkins & Shapiro have a pattern of bringing back previous Blue Jays. In their first year with the Jays, they signed Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to come play north of the border once again. Chavez was traded within five months on arriving whereas Happ has been a bright light since re-joining his former team.
Hoping Lawrie might bring some of that same magic as Happ, the higher-ups at Rogers, the Jays front office, and manager John Gibbons would be wise to logically think of him back as a potential Blue Jay.
The Jays need to think about worst case scenarios for the 2017 season which are injuries. The long season of baseball has shown that most teams, including the Jays, are plagued by injuries even more so as the dog days of summer start to approach.
Last season alone, the Jays saw Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Marco Estrada, Gavin Floyd, Kevin Pillar, Joaquin Benoit, Josh Donaldson and Devon Travis among others head to the DL, sometimes even more than once. If history repeats itself, the only issue then is figuring out what the Jays will do when this happens. Have Atkins and Shapiro thought of this scenario?
Putting personal opinions aside and just looking at the facts of what he can bring to the team, it would seem logical and quite reasonable for the Jays to re-sign Lawrie and have him once again play as a Blue Jay.