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The weird career of Adam Lind: how we got here and where we might be going
"I'm pretty sure I'll be in the big leagues come opening day, but I have no idea where that'll be."
Adam Lind spoke those words, along with a bunch of others, in an interview with The Herald Bulletin last week. While I don't think too much time should be wasted worrying about his future with the Blue Jays (for obvious reasons), I do think that this would be a good opportunity to take a look back at his career and see how we got to where we are today.
Lind was drafted by the Blue Jays in the third round (83rd overall) in the 2004 draft, out of the University of Southern Alabama. He played half the 2004 season in Auburn as a twenty year old, hitting .312/.371/.477 in 295 plate appearances. He spent the entire 2005 season in Dunedin, improving his OPS to .862. In the following year he split time between AA New Hampshire and AAA Syracuse, once again improving his batting line (he had an OPS of 1.093 in 137 plate appearances with Syracuse, and won the AA Eastern League MVP award). On September 2nd, 2006 Adam Lind made his Major League debut against the Boston Red Sox, hitting a double off of Lenny DiNardo. His first home run came eight days later, off (fellow rookie) Jered Weaver.
In 2007 and 2008, Lind split time between Syracuse and Toronto. He was called up to the Blue Jays in early April 2007 after left fielder Reed Johnson was put on the disabled list with a back injury. He struggled for three months in the majors, slashing .238/.278/.400 until being sent back to Syracuse in July with Johnson's activation from the DL. He improved upon his return to Syracuse, hitting .299 with an OPS of .824. Lind had his next opportunity with the Jays in April 2008. It wasn't much of an opportunity, though, and once again he struggled, getting only one hit in nineteen at bats and six games before he was demoted to Syracuse for what would turn out to be the last time. He lit it up in Syracuse and was called up on June 21st. He closed the season hitting .282/.316/.439, and had a wRC+ of 95. He was worth 0 rWAR that year (and 0.1 fWAR).
This brings us to 2009, easily Lind's best year in the majors. He hit .305 with an OPS of .932, good enough to win a Silver Slugger award along with teammate Aaron Hill. He also won the Edgar Martinez Award as the best DH for the season. He had the best wRC+ among designated hitters, and was in the top 25 among all batters leaguewide. He posted an rWAR of 3.6, good for third on the team behind Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill. It appeared that Cito Gaston and Dwayne Murphy had had a very positive effect on Lind, and the team's as well as the fan base's hopes and expectations for him going forward had increased. Lind signed a four year contract extension worth $18 million (plus three options worth a total of $29.5 million) on April 3rd, 2010.
I would imagine everyone knows what's happened since then, and it hasn't been pretty. In 2010, Lind's OPS dropped more than 200 points, and his wRC+ dropped from 140 to a woeful 89, dead last among designated hitters that year. His home run totals fell from 35 to 23, and his walk rate also dropped from 8.9% to 6.2%. The only category where he saw an increase, unfortunately, was strikeouts (16.8% to 23.5%). All this is reflected in his painful rWAR of -1.3.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons were supposed to determine which one of these performances was a fluke; sadly for Lind and Blue Jays fans it appears as though 2009 is the anomaly. Over the past three years, Lind is last in wRC+ among designated hitters, and fifth last among first basemen. He's struggled with back injuries throughout this time, hitting the DL in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. On May 17th of this year he was optioned to AAA Las Vegas, and was placed on waivers a few days later, passing through unclaimed. He stayed in Las Vegas until June 25th, just before his 2012 DL stint. He did, at least, end the year on a somewhat more positive note, batting .301 in September, but we can't place much value on data from such a small sample size.
It's all but certain that the Blue Jays won't pick up the 2014 option on Lind's contract, and even his position with the team in 2013 is uncertain. While I personally believe that Lind will be a Blue Jay next year, it wouldn't surprise me to see him replaced this off season. Whatever happens, though, the team's decision on the future of Adam Lind will be worth watching in what's shaping up to be an interesting winter.
Thanks to Captain Latte for finding the Herald Bulletin interview.