Monday, 18 February 2013

Depth at First

Gregor Chisolm let us know yesterday, or maybe the day before, that David Cooper is going to be missing some time early on this year with what John Gibbons has labeled as a "serious" back issue.

This is probably a fairly minor bit of news in the grand scheme of things, as Cooper was unlikely to make it through the spring training roster crunch and force his way on to the 25-man roster, given Edwin Encarnacion's bat, Adam Lind's 2009 numbers, and Cooper's lack of defensive ability.

What does suck about this is that Cooper would probably be the best bat in the organization to otherwise miss out on the 25-man roster and be sent to Buffalo, and that he occupies a position that, frankly, has a little bit of wiggle room.  Turns out, that's not really saying much.

Cooper does only have 225 career plate appearances, which is obviously too small a sample to hang anything on, but comparing Lind and Cooper quickly and lazily sort of leads me to believe that if Lind does, indeed, continue to suck this year, or even gets injured, Cooper wouldn't be a tremendous improvement, though he could still have at least a bit of upside moving forward (temper that-- Cooper is already 26).   Guess that doesn't really matter now, at least for the foreseeable future.

Alright, so let's say Lind's back flares up again (or some other excuse) a week in to the season-- what's the contingency plan?

I'm sure AA is looking in to adding some depth to the minors, but I think there are already some good options within.  Couple of thoughts:

  • The Jays don't necessarily need to go find anybody.  Edwin can play a serviceable 1B, despite what the metrics say, especially now that he doesn't have to worry about throwing the ball across the field.  He's not good defensively by any stretch, but dat bat.  Beyond that, being a DH has a pretty huge positional adjustment, as far as WAR goes.  If Edwin plays first, the issue becomes (a) filling the DH spot, or (b) finding a defensive upgrade and shifting someone from the field to the DH slot.
  • Andy LaRoche is tucked away on a minor league deal, just in case.
  • Mike Carp was just DFA'ed, and Daric Barton could probably be had.  Carp was a halfway reasonable major leaguer as recently as 2011, and Daric Barton holds a career .360 OBP.  Barton hits for no power whatsoever, but that's not a big deal.
  • Aubrey Huff and Carlos Lee are still out there, as far as I can tell.
  • Sign Jim Thome to DH.  This seems pretty unlikely to me, unless Mark DeRosa goes and fucks himself, since Thome isn't going to Buffalo.
Seems easy enough, right?  There are about 7 options listed there, all of which seem halfway reasonable, especially considering that they're all backup plans.  Nothing significantly worse than Cooper anyway.  But I've got my Joe Maddon cap on.

It's probably not the option that they want to use, given his preference to play in right, but Jose Bautista would probably be just fine at first.  It's a less stressful position, physically, than the outfield, and frankly, Bautista isn't anything special defensively, save for the strong arm.  He's entering his age-32 season, after having his age-31 season cut short due to injury.

Moving Bautista to the infield allows the Jays to stick any number of bodies in to right field (or LF, if they want to shift Melky).  It's a way to get Anthony Gose and his hotshot glove in to the lineup, even if they want to platoon him. If not, Moises Sierra, Rajai Davis, Adam Loewen or Emilio Bonifacio all probably offer more than what we can expect out of Laroche, Loewen, Carp, Barton, Huff and Lee.  Cooper was a nice contingency plan, but getting some positional flexibility from Bautista might be worth more, since it allows the Jays to pull from a greater pool of replacements.

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