As we are at the official start of the off-season for all of baseball, this is the last part in the review of the 40-man roster: the hitters.
Most of the Blue Jays decisions for hitters were explored when addressing potential free agents with a team option: Mark DeRosa, Adam Lind and Munenori Kawasaki, and we were divided on the best approach for the three of them.
The 40-man roster only has 14 hitters under team control, with few decisions needed to be made from an asset management point of view. We can pretty much assume a spot on the 25-man roster being held for Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes.
The core of the decisions will be related to players who underperformed in 2013 or may not be ready to be on the major league roster yet. But this is minimal compared to the situation we reviewed for pitchers, and most decisions will fall easily into place.
No Jays fan got used to it, and we probably all hope the Buffalo Bisons will have to "get use to" J.P. Arencibia. He still has options and is relatively cost-controlled, so it would make sense to keep him, but he has not shown that he can handle the main catcher position on a major league roster. On the other hand, Josh Thole has not shown that he can handle the backup catcher role this year. He also still has options, and was hitting well in Buffalo before the call-up, showing little impact from the concussion that took him out in 2012. One will make the Jays roster as the backup role, the other hopefully not.
This group of players, who have options, could likely gain from spending more time in the minors. Thanks to injuries, we saw more than we expected from them in 2013. Anthony Gose and Ryan Goins have shown that they could possibly handle the majors, but are still below average for production at the plate. There are some concerns this year that Gose’s defense might have regressed, and this would be a major issue as he derives a significant part of his value from it. Goins's defense was great, but he is more likely suited for a backup role, due to his bat (or lack thereof).
Kevin Pillar and A.J. Jimenez will spend time in the minors. I was going to say Buffalo, but the catching depth could be crowded there. Pillar is a great story, and he is still viewed as a serviceable fourth outfielder, but more time in triple-A will be helpful. Jimenez needs to get healthy. After Tommy John surgery last year, he continued to have shoulder issues, and he was shut down early in August, and his scheduled appearance in the Arizona Fall League cancelled.
The worse fWAR for a hitter in 2013
Maicer Izturis had a really really bad year. Fangraphs had him at a -2.1 WAR, the worst WAR number in baseball. He still has 2 years left on his contract, a total of $6 million. A big case will be made to walk away from the contract, and it would be totally justified. This is certainly not what the Blue Jays were hoping when they signed him, but he showed little redeeming qualities, and had negative production in all aspects of play. Maybe someone will take him as part of a bigger deal, but I cannot see many scenarios with him a major producer in 2014.
One actual asset decision
Moises Sierra has been toying with fans since he was signed at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic. In 122 PA, we were treated to glimpse of what he can produce with a .290/.369/.458 slash-line. Sadly he also showed us also what he can do on the basepaths and in the outfield, producing negative value in both according to FanGraphs. He is now out of options, so the Blue Jays have to make a decision. I think he will be gone by April, but a case can be made for him to take the role vacated by Rajai Davis.
So this is it for the roster review. Things will now start shaking up with free agency being declared in five days, and options decisions. The pitching decisions should be much more interesting than the batters.
Next week, just for Tom, the preview of the Australian Football League draft. :-)