The Jays face some difficult decisions in September, trying to balance playing time for veterans with showcasing players for 2018
A combination of injuries, under-performance and bad luck have made 2017 a year to forget. But in adversity there lies opportunity. From September 1st to the Jays’ final game on October 1st, the team has 28 games with an expanded roster. How can they best use those 28 games to prepare for 2018 without disrespecting the 2017 veterans?
Clearly (to me, at least!) there would need to be some compromise. In order for players like Anthony Alford, Teoscar Hernandez and Michael Saunders to get reps, veteran players like Jose Bautista, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales will have to accept less playing time, and agree to be the bat-off-the-bench at least some of the time.
My goal would be to have each of Hernandez, Alford and even Saunders, get 16 starts of the remaining 28 games. They could well get additional time as late game replacements (or if one of the regulars is hurt), but the 16 starts would be a minimum.
Similarly, I would want Smoak to have 20 starts and Bautista, Pillar and Pearce to have 16. Unfortunately, that means less playing time for Carrera and Morales, both of whom would be spot-starting and pinch-hitting/running.
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Game Plan – Outfield
So here (link) is my game plan.
Teo gets 16 starts in right field, to see if he is ready to assume that position in 2018. Alford gets eight starts in left, and eight in centre, to see if he can really be a plus defender at both positions. Mikey gets eight starts in left, four in right (to see if he is more comfortable there) and four at DH. Saunders could be treated much differently as a veteran himself, but with his hot hitting in Buffalo, it might be worth seeing if he could have future value on the cheap.
Meanwhile, Carrera gets the 12 remaining starts in left field and is otherwise a pinch hitter/runner. Pearce gets 10 starts at first, with Justin Smoak getting the remaining 18, and they both get a few starts at DH. Jose gets eight starts in right and eight at DH, and Kevin Pillar gets 20 of the 28 starts in centre.
The man left out is Kendrys Morales, who would only get eight starts at DH under this scenario, and would be relegated to pinch-hitting in the other games.
Game Plan – Starting Pitching
In theory, each of Stroman, Happ and Estrada should get six starts over the remaining 31 days. I would propose to reduce that to five for each of them, and also to give Brett Anderson five starts. That would leave eight starts to be shared between Rowley (3), Biagini (3) and others (2 – Tepesch? Borucki? Perhaps an additional start for Rowley or Genie?)
Five starts @ 6 innings per start would give Marcus his 200 innings, and would leave Happ at 25 games started and Estrada at 32. Five more starts from Anderson would give the Jays a better feel as to whether to offer him a contract for 2018+, and a few extra starts from Rowley and Biagini (after perhaps one more start each in Buffalo?) will help the team evaluate them and help them acclimate to starting in the Bigs.
The bottom line
There is an old saying that when both sides of a negotiation are unhappy, it was likely a fair outcome. Whatever the Jays do in September, there will be players who feel they they deserved more playing time. It will be a difficult to balance the needs of the 2017 players against planning for 2018, but the above is one scenario that might work.