I’ve had a bunch of fun reading some of the recent posts that have been written on here the past few days, so I figured I’d add a few of my own thoughts to the fountain of speculation. That being said, I don’t necessarily believe that marquee free agents demanding more than the 5-year mandated Blue Jays limit (Nick Swisher) or begrudged superstars requiring a king’s ransom (Justin Upton) is the best way this team can supplement their roster. I say "supplement" operatively because I believe in the core group of players on the Blue Jays. Not to say that I don’t believe Swisher or Upton would help the Blue Jays going forward. My contention is that in an effort to keep the Blue Jays as flexible as they are economically and personnel wise, one must try to accumulate as much surplus value as possible. Thus, in gleaning just the 40-man rosters of a number of other major league teams, I think I came across a few alternative solutions to some of the Blue Jays needs moving forward.
While I think there’s a widely established consensus among our Bluebird Banter community that an upper-tier starting pitcher is the Blue Jays biggest need for 2013 and beyond, I couldn’t satisfy that need by merely gleaning over rosters. As it turns out major league teams aren’t hiding very many great pitchers, as most of them are in the limelight and pitching well for their respective teams. I turned most of my attention to second basemen who could fill the void of a potentially departed Kelly Johnson, and more broadly some players who are being over-looked/under-used by their organizations, while also attempting to solve the LF/leadoff/on-base skills quandary that the Blue Jays were faced with in 2012. Lastly, I put some emphasis on some right-handed power arms that I think could help turn the Blue Jays bullpen into one of the best looking group of pitchers in the American League.
First on my list is Henry Rodriguez (CIN). Rodriguez, a switch-hitting 22-year old second baseman, is stuck firmly behind the presence of all-star and perennial gold-glove award winner Brandon Phillips. Mike Newman of fangraphs had this to say about him:
"Color me enamored with Rodriguez’ hit tool — the best on this list. He’s undersized and may not provide much in terms of power production, but I saw few better pure hitters in 2012. My only real concern about his offensive game is a walk rate which may leave the 22-year old too batting average dependent. If I were an opposing general manager, I’d be inquiring with Brandon Phillips entrenched in Cincinnati."
His 2012 numbers were impressive in his short stint in AA (to the tune of .348/.385/.439), he struggled in an extended look in AAA Louisville (.214/.313/.286). He’s killed AA-level pitching at an age-appropriate level the past two years, and his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, as well as add a touch of speed (71 steals the past three years) to a future lineup intrigues me. As Mr.Newman advocates, considering the black hole that is second base prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues for Toronto, Henry Rodriguez is a player I hope AA inquires about.
Johnny Giovatella (KC)
Giovatella is arguably too old to be considered a prospect anymore (25), but his ability to hit the baseball was on display in AAA Omaha. Over 418 AB’s, he posted a walk rate better than his strikeout rate (11%, 9.6%), and he smashed opposing pitchers with a .323/.404/.472 slash line. With Irving Falu/Chris Getz vying for time over Giovatella, as well as Johnny’s pronounced struggles in his 2012 major league at-bats (.238/.270/.304), he seems like a buy-low candidate with the chance to succeed a position of need within the Blue Jays organization.
Steve Lombardozzi (WAS)
Lombardozzi spent the entire 2012 season with the Washington Nationals, and given the growth of Ian Desmond and second base-incumbent Danny Espinosa, WAS might feel inclined to move him for help in the outfield, a position they'll surely look to fill should Michael Morse move to 1B for 2013. While he posted merely modest totals for the 2012 major league campaign (.273/.317/.354 and an 82 wRC+), a cheap, now 24-year old with a strong minor league pedigree would allow money to be allocated elsewhere, while also shoring up second base.
Matt Carpenter (STL)
With David Freese, Daniel Craig, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran all playing positions Carpenter can play (as well as second base!), this walking machine combines a strong eye with positional versatility and a little bang in his bat. Now 27 years old, He may be entering what will end up being the most productive 3 years of his baseball career. He posted a 124 wRC+ in 314 AB's for St.Louis this year while playing five different positions, and he may be expendable given the talent ahead of him in STL.
David DeJesus (CHC)
Simply put, the man gets on base. He posted a career year in BB% (10.5%) on his way to another .350+ OBP (his career OBP being .355) season. He can play both corner outfield posiitons, while also being a productive table setter. Moreover, his reasonable contract (4.25 million with a 2014 option at 6.5 million and a buy-out of 1.5 million) leaves you with a productive, albeit unspecatcular outfielder. He won't dazzle you, but his production deserves merit, and his durability must be attractive considering the woes of the Blue Jays.
With Porcello being a potential non-tender candidate, and Detroit looking to shed salary to make way for arbitration raises of Scherzer/Fister, as well as trying to retain Anibal Sanchez, Porcello seems like a natural fit into Toronto's pitching plans. A strong GB% pitcher, his efforts were often without reward, in large part because of the anaemic range of Cabrera/Fielder/Peralta. Replacing those three defenders with the likes of Lawrie/Escobar/Hechavarria and a sure-handed Encarnacion would reasonably mean that Porcello's numbers would be more reflective of his ability to pitch. Starting pitching is in such short supply, and Porcello seems like the perfect buy-low for Toronto to explore.
Lastly, the relievers. Pardon my penchant for trying to consolidate all of the Canadian talent onto one team, but the addition of John Axford to an already strong bullpen would make me very happy. Also, acquisitions of Kelvin Herrera (the man with the hardest fastball in all of baseball), and Bobby Parnell (not that far behind) would in my eyes, fight AL East HR power with an equally impressive and equally powerful collection of fastballs. Herrera has to be available given all the arms in the Kansas City bullpen, Axford isn't getting cheaper and he was relegated to set-up duties for much of the 2012 campaign, and Bobby Parnell is on a non-contender whose main focus should be to liquidate assets and rebuild.
Anyways, I had a bunch of fun doing this piece, and I hope you enjoyed. Any critiques/suggestions/profanity-laced criticisms are welcome. Cheers. and GO JAYS GO.