more or less?
With this weeks games we're now past the halfway point in the spring season and the media buzz is that this is when things get serious. Some initial trends have solidified, and some questions have come into sharper focus but with the important games still to play there is room for both resolution and disaster. So nothing that I'm about to write really proves anything as Marcus Stroman's knee can attest.
Still, a position by position inventory of the situations is worth speculation. In two parts, I think.
Outfielders: There's really nothing much to say here, so far. You'd be foolish to believe the rhetoric that Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey are in direct competition for the CF job but both are set to make the team. Jose Bautista needs no explanation of course and that leaves only to take note of Michael Saunders and whether or not he'll miss any portion of the early games. There's still a possibility he's back by Opening Day but given some of Alex Anthopoulos' recent remarks, on other related topics, let's pencil him in as returning for the first home game on April 13.
Infielders: Josh Donaldson and Jose Reyes need no elaboration, but the other two spots are sources of considerable uncertainty. At 2B the sort of default position is that Macier Izturus by dint of his $4 mill obligation would be given every chance to provide some value as the starter, but a couple of factors make the decision more and more problematic. Devon Travis has displayed his advertised bat but also a satisfactory glove, and Ryan Goins has paired his well-known excellent glove with a possibly improved bat. Both are building a case to win the job, contract be damned. BUT now Izturus comes up lame with a groin injury that, depending on severity, may solve the problem or make it far worse. If the injury is severe, then the path becomes fairly clear - Travis starts and Goins in reserve, given that the latter can play both middle infield positions (and third, I suspect). If Goins can hit even to a John MacDonald level he's well worth the roster spot, and they can sort out what to do with Izturus later.
However, if the Injury sidelines him for, say, a week, or 10 days then it confuses the answer of whether or not he can be serviceable AND it undermines the one thing that would have solved the problem: Trading Izturus.
Yes, they might have to eat some money, or take some in return, but he is not without value. For one possibility, the Angels having traded Howie Kendrick and replaced him with a younger and less certain player, and having intimate familiarity with Izturus may well have a decent interest in bringing him back. But a mild injury makes that more difficult. The news from the MRI will be important.
Speaking of potential trades, Alex acknowledged on the radio that it's at least on the table that they may have to consider outside options at 1B. Despite good offensive days on Friday, neither of the leading candidates - Justin Smoak and Daric Barton - have taken the lead in proving they will hit well enough to win the job. Both and excellent defensive reputations in terms of flagging down (or scooping out) errant throws, for which both Donaldson and Reyes have a propensity. The thing is, there's not a lot in terms of options out there. The Red Sox might entertain offers for Alan Craig, but not from their chief rival. One could maybe speculate about other players but it's just wishcasting. Still, let me cast just one:
Justin Morneau. It's not entirely crazy. The Rockies could make good use of Dioner Navarro, you could throw in Smoak (if there's anyplace he might maximize an offensive game that only really has one thing going for it - some power) and right there you offset $6 million of the 9 owed to Morneau. The Rockies can use Wilim Rosario who's a butcher behind the plate as another option at 1B as well. Meanwhile, the Jays can platoon the new acquisition with Danny Valincia to excellent result. Of course, you'd have to include prospects to make it work. I submit the possibility of Mitch Nay who can bring the prospect of a good offensive and defensive game to one of their corner infield spots by the next time they have the talent to contend. Throw in one of the second tier pitching prospects like Matt Boyd or Chase De Jong (if you must) and and why not?
Do this and an already great offense gets even better, and you can protect EE's back as the primary DH. Speaking of Dioner Navarro, that brings us to the overcrowded catching position. The team really doesn't need to carry 3 catchers, and the clock is ticking on solving that problem. Let's lay aside the foolishness of Navarro as a regular DH. Tolerate it as a very temporary solution at most but not even that if you can avoid it. Trading Navarro is the obvious solution and if it can be leveraged to address another need so much the better.
In the absence of that, one alternative is to send Josh Thole to Buffalo (he has an option) until things pan out, letting Russel Martin catch Dickey a few times in the interim. There's discussion of how you rest Martin but that's easy - you let Navarro catch Buehrle as that went fine last year and he's the one least in need of Martin's wisdom. This isn't something I'd want to see happen all year, but it is certainly a workable solution to the looming implications of carrying three catchers.
That being, of course, who's on the bench? You need a reserve who can play the outfield (Pillar), one who plays the middle infield (Goins), and a reserve catcher beyond the starting nine and that's 12 of 13 spots. Practically that last spot needs to be a corner infielder (Valencia) - so the problem of having a third catcher is obvious: you can't spare either of those. So either you trade Navvaro or you farm out Thole until you can.
Yes, Saunders will maybe open on the DL but, even if the Jays don't use that moment to protect Kyle Drabek from passing through waivers until he's less likely to be claimed, if you carry another hitter he has to be capable of playing in the OF - probably Steve Tolison in this scenario since he's already on the roster (and he too may slip through waivers unclaimed a week into the season). I'm not sure why no one else is discussing this yet (demoting Thole), but it seems to me that it pretty much writes itself.
In the next couple of days I'll wax similarly verbose (we, not really, there's less to say) about the pitchers.