Wednesday, 18 March 2015
The Brave and the Bold
This time of year baseball fans and sometimes managers too toss out unusual suggestions about how the personnel on hand might be arranged for the best of the team so it's in that spirit that I offer two thought experiments. The first has only the most microscopic chance of catching us by surprise, the second more possible but still - I think - a pretty bold move.
The problem: What the hell are they going to do at first base? Smoak and Barton flash the leather with the best of them and both apparently aspire to be the 1B version of John McDonald this spring. Others, like Vecideo or Navarro might give you some offense but do you dare trust them to field the position. Of course, Edwin can play first but if the back goes south that's a big issue. There's really not any obvious candidates to hit the waiver wire out there and the Jays don't seem to be making as much noise about dark horse candidates like Chris Calabello as you'd hope.
The Brave Solution: Move Jose Bautista to 1B! We all know it's going to happen at some point anyway, his arm being his only above average tool in RF, and if you do it in the face of desperate need it's "do it for the team" rather than "we don't think you can cut it in RF anymore." If Bautista is your everyday 1B, then Keniv Pillar is your presumptive RF (he'd be a betterfielder other than having a lesser arm) and Caleb Gindl (also capable of playing RF) likely makes the team as the reserve OF Say what you will about them, they will look better in the line-up than Smoak and Barton have this spring. Plus, you are more likely to find an OF on the late-spring trade market than a first baseman (Alan Craig could well solve either but one assumes the Red Sox have no interest in fixing our problem).
The problem: It's twofold actually. First, many worry about what jumping a 20 year old to the major league bulllpen from A ball will do to his development as a starter, I'll get to that in a second.v Secondly, something I've only seen mentioned once. By Gregor Chisolm. I'll let him explain:
Todd Redmond: The right-hander is known to be a favourite of Gibbons, but he might be facing an uphill battle to make this year's squad. The decision on whether or not to carry Redmond on the roster likely will come down to whether the club makes it a priority to add a third left-hander to the bullpen. If Toronto is fine with two lefties, Redmond should have a spot after posting 3.24 ERA as a long reliever last season. Redmond is out of options on his contract and would have to pass through waivers before getting sent to the Minors.
The third lefty: Gibbons has mentioned that it would be "ideal" if the Blue Jays had three left-handed relievers, with Cecil seemingly set for closer duties. Veterans Jeff Francis and Colt Hynes are currently receiving the most consideration. Francis was added on a Minor League deal, and he continues to transition from a starter to the full-time reliever role. Hynes was added on a waiver claim. and both pitchers currently appear to be ahead of Redmond on the depth chart because of situational needs.
This is bad. Losing Redmond to waivers to carry Francis or anyone else he might be competing against as the third lefty is simply unacceptable. Todd Redmond has been a not inconsiderable asset for the Blue Jays over the last couple of seasons. A team hurting for good relievers doesn't let this one get away. Now, to be fair, the easy solution to Chisolm's dilemma is to carry Redmond over Wilton Lopez (or more precisely, to carry Miguel Castro over Lopez) but that's not Bold, now is it?
The Bold Solution: Make Castro the closer. Then you have Cecil ready to put out the biggest fire wherever it arises, another lefty in Loup - and your seventh reliever is the best candidate regardless of handedness. Castro has given us no reason to think he couldn't dominate every bit as much as Sanchez did last year, and his dominate two-pitch combo could make him a ROY candidate and more in the ninth. But, you ask, what about his development as a SP? Aren't starters more valuable? They are. But we are operating from a position of strength. Assuming the two Veterans left next fall, next years ST could see the following young candidates for a rotation spot: Stroman, Hutchison, Sanchez, Norris, Osuna, and Hoffman (to say nothing of lesser lights like Matt Boyd or other potential helium guys like Jario Labourt). Castro can rejoin that competition if the team sees fit or continue as closer if they have five healthy and ready young guns. If five of those six guys are your rotation over the next 5-6 years you are going to be just fine with Castro closing.
Full disclosure, from an emotional point of view I'd be bummed for Cecil if he didn't get-to pump up his future payday be raking up saves, but i try to lay that emotional investment aside and look at on-field considerations.