It’s kind of ironic in hindsight that the Jays last GM, Alex Anthopolous, was often given the sobriquet “the Ninja” by the media, given how our current regime acts just as, or more, quickly and unexpectedly as Anthopolous did.
Let’s be clear: this is not a disparagement whatsoever. In fact it’s just the opposite: more earned praise to be piled on to Shapiro, Atkins, Cherington, LaCava, et. al.
After weeks of conjecture from us and the rest of the media regarding “the left field situation”, the club made a swift, neat and tidy move by acquiring Chris Coghlan a couple of days after his release from the Phillies earlier this week.
The addition of Coghlan coupled with the release of Melvin Upton Jr. quickly put the left field questions behind us. Steve Pearce will presumably be handed everyday duties in left, with Coghlan being the depth piece there, waiting in the wings in Buffalo should the need arise. He has after all shown gap power throughout his career, hitting double digits in extra-base hits despite rather limited plate appearances.
The Angel Pagan questions can thankfully also be put to rest as well. The most troubling aspect of acquiring him, should we have done so, is that he hasn’t played a full season since 2012. The last thing a team needs is a back up to their back up so to speak.
So the Upton experiment was a failure. It was worth a shot though, as his cumulative numbers last year, including his time in San Diego, netted him 20 homeruns and 27 stolen bases – not too shabby at all, especially considering that the Padres ate the majority of his salary.
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You have to like the way this front office doesn’t waste time with unfulfilled projected performances. The swift departure of Upton is reminiscent of last season’s moves to cut ties with the largely ineffective Drew Storen and Jesse Chavez.
Obviously it’s too bad the Jays couldn’t recoup any offerings in exchange for Upton, the other clubs likely wise to the fact that since the jays were “shopping him”, as had been reported, he was likely to be released anyway.
The team in all likelihood would have shopped Upton earlier, but it seems they wanted to give him a legitimate shot at making the club. Ultimately the front office’s hands were tied as Devon Travis’ bone bruise was apparently lingering and Josh Donaldson’s calf was a question mark. Add to that the fact that on more than one occasion throughout his career, Troy Tulowitzki has been described as “a piece of glass”, given his extensive time spent on the disabled list during his tenure in the bigs.
Given the level of uncertainty in the infield it would have been irresponsible to carry less than two utility infielders on the bench. Alas there just wasn’t enough roster space to carry two utility infielders, and Upton.
Also in this short span, (MLB set the deadline at noon yesterday to have your 25-man roster set) the Jays boldly took the chance of getting Mike Bolsinger over to triple A Buffalo. Bold because he had to pass through waivers and would be a shame to lose. A great move though, to have yet an extra starter with major league experience ready to call up as needed, in addition to Mat Latos. Turning Bolsinger into a farmhand also gives the Jays the luxury of keeping Ryan Tepera with the club. If Aaron Loup falters as our LOOGY, you can call on Tepera to face a dangerous lefty bat in late innings due to his reverse splits.
Lastly, since Pearce will be taking over in left field, that leaves Justin Smoak as the Jays every day first baseman. Previously with the club, Smoak had to play on a limited basis, often coming in to pinch hit off the bench. Regular reps could really help ease his difficulties at the plate. Everyday at-bats should almost certainly help him recognize pitches and thus alleviate his propensity for striking out.
One good sign is that he’s starting to heat up at just the right time, and the Jays analytics department seem to love this guy, likely due to newer metrics such as launch angle and exit velocity.
With a little more plate discipline Smoak could be good for 20-25 homeruns and at least those same numbers in extra-base hits. Plus he’s got extra motivation now with Rowdy Tellez breathing down his neck.