Adam Lind Needs a Partner in Crime

Who wouldn't want to be the Robin to this guy's Batman? - Tom Szczerbowski

Adam Linds ability to hit baseballs is incredibly dependent on which hand the guy throwing them at him uses. Who will the Blue Jays turn to when a southpaw takes the mound in 2014?

Approximately nine years and four months ago the Toronto Blue Jays spent the 83rd pick of 2004 draft on an outfielder out of the University of South Alabama named Adam Lind. Since that time Blue Jays fans have witnessed a rollercoaster of a career that has involved some pretty impressive heights and some pretty demoralizing lows. Last season Adam Lind put up a .288/.357/.497 line for after three years of very poor production. This surge was somewhat unexpected, and in most cases that kind of shift in career path would have a player labelled as a complete enigma. However, in many ways Adam Lind is the least mysterious player there is. When it comes to evaluating Adam Lind as a hitter (which is basically all he is given he is a substandard defensive 1B who plays a lot of DH) there are really only two things to know:

1. Adam Lind mashes right handed pitching

2. Adam Lind tests the boundaries of ineptitude against left handed pitching

This is not a profound observation. It is one that has been made for many years now. The statements above are the equivalent of saying that the sun rises in the East or that John Farrell doesn't have a lot of fans in Toronto. Adam Lind doesn't have platoon splits so much as he has a platoon chasm. In his career said chasm looks something like this:

Vs.

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

LHP

5.0

25.6%

.219

.261

.342

58

RHP

7.9%

17.3%

.286

.343

.508

125

In 2013 the contrast was even more extreme:

Vs.

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

LHP

4.0

31.0%

.208

.240

.333

53

RHP

11.2%

17.1%

.309

.385

.539

151

This is all old news. Adam Lind is quite simply the perfect candidate to be platooned. Luckily, last year the Blue Jays had not one but two men for that job. Both Mark DeRosa and Rajai Davis were available to spell Lind and both were excellent against southpaws in 2013 (125 wRC+ and 137 wRC+ respectively). Unfortunately, neither of those players will be back in 2014. Despite the fact Mark DeRosa had his option for 2014 picked up by the Blue Jays he has ridden off into the sunset of retirement while Rajai Davis is looking to test free agency in search of a starting job. Although the needs the Blue Jays have at second base, catcher and in their rotation are their most important and most publicized, the departure of DeRosa and Davis have left a hole that absolutely must be filled in 2014. No one wants to see Adam Lind send to the slaughter at the hands of pitchers like John Lester, Matt Moore or David Price this year. That's just cruelty.

As a result, I thought I would look at a couple of platoon partner options the Blue Jays might consider for this year. In the name of variety one of the options is internal, one is a free agent and one might be available by trade. For each candidate there are two pertinent questions:

1. Can they punish left handers?

2. How much are they going to cost?

We begin with the in-house option. The Blue Jays have a great deal of right handed thump in their everyday lineup but very little when it comes to their reserves. As a result the internal option is not necessarily the most appealing. However, should the Jays choose to make do with what they've got, Moises Sierra could be an interesting option. According to Gregor Chisholm he is even taking ground balls at 1st base to possibly prepare for the job. Moises Sierra has not logged very many plate appearances in the major leagues, so all of his numbers come with an official "small sample size" warning. That being said, here's how his splits look so far in his major league career:

Vs.

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

BABIP

wRC+

RHP

7.7%

29.3%

.244

.309

.372

.339

86

LHP

8.2%

20.4%

.267

.327

.478

.303

116

These splits are pretty significant, especially when you consider how Sierra's numbers against right handers are propped up by a high BABIP number. The sample size here is a little bit small to say if Sierra can carry one side of a DH platoon, if anything it's more of an indictment of his ability to hit same handed pitching. The idea of putting Sierra at DH against left handers is appealing in that it keeps him out of the field, where he often seems out to lunch, and it keeps him away from tough right handed pitchers he may not be able to handle. In that sense it could be a good situation for Sierra, but the best situation for him might not be the best situation for the team. As a platoon DH/1B Sierra would be expected to produce quite a bit with the bat and it's unclear as to whether he has that kind of production in him. That brings us to the questions:

1. Can he punish left handers?

It's kind of unclear. Maybe. His career numbers against lefties so far are solid, but virtually meaningless. He has shown the same issues with right handers that Rajai Davis did in terms of chasing the off-speed stuff low and away and that isn't nearly as much of an issue with southpaws. However, it's a stretch to think that because he shares Davis's weakness he also shares his strengths. Ultimately there is far too much uncertainty here.

2. What does he cost?

Nothing. More specifically, the league minimum. The benefit of going with Sierra, or someone else internal like Kevin Pillar (Pillar hit .387/.400/.645 against left handers at Buffalo, the main reason I have Sierra over him is that Sierra is out of options), is that there is no prospect cost or payroll boost. Though given that we are talking about bench players here neither of those costs is going to be particularly prohibitive.

Moving on to the second option on the list we have a potential free agent addition. There are quite a few right handed bench bat options floating around in the free agent pool such as old friends Reed Johnson and Casper Wells, but we are looking for a guy who can produce DH/1B numbers against southpaws and the best guy out there is Jeff Baker. PH/1B/2B (according to baseball-reference.com) Jeff Baker isn't exactly a household name but he did put up a pretty solid year in 2013 for the Rangers. Deployed almost exclusively against left handers Bakers put up a .279/.360/.545 line which was good for a 143 wRC+. Baker didn't only dominate left handed pitching in 2013; he has been doing it for a while:

Timeline

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

2013

13.0%

30.1%

.314

.407

.667

186

Career

7.9%

20.1%

.298

.353

.522

128

The 32-year-old Baker, much like Mark DeRosa, also adds value with positional versatility. In 2013 he played every position on the diamond for the Rangers except for shortstop, centre field and catcher. Baker is a proven commodity who could fill this role. The only real issue is his health. Last year he ended the season with a sports hernia issue that relegated him to DH work and pinch hitting down the stretch. It's somewhat ambiguous as to where he stands now. If he opts for surgery he could be out for a chunk of the season, and out of luck as a free agent. Given that he is coming off a pretty solid season he might opt to keep rehabbing it and trying to play through it in order to score a contract. The outcome remains to be seen. The baseball world waits with bated breath. As to the questions:

1. Can he punish left handers?

Yes.

2. What will he cost?

Probably not a great deal. If Baker is healthy and ready to go I wouldn't mind tossing the million or two it would cost to sign him. If his health remains a question mark perhaps you could work out a deal at the veteran minimum with incentives.

Last but not least is a potential trade target. Although it may feel like salt in the wound to enter into another trade with the Miami Marlins, Justin Ruggiano would be a good fit for the role of designated southpaw assassin. Ruggiano is coming off a season where he was worth 0.9 WAR over 472 PA starting for the Marlins. Due to the fact that Miami miscast him as a starter he put up an unimpressive .222/.298/.396 line on the season. At the trade deadline there where quite a few rumors about Ruggiano and it looks like he may be on the trading block again. This makes sense given that the Marlins are trying to clear the way for the host young outfielders they have on the way. Hidden beneath Ruggiano's uninspiring 2013 total statistics was his mastery against opposite handed pitchers:

Timeline

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

2013

9.3%

19.3%

.248

.329

.504

130

Career

9.1%

21.8%

.256

.328

.506

127

Along with his consistent excellence versus LHP, Ruggiano brings the ability to play all three outfield positions meaning that he could play left field and leave Cabrera to DH if Cabrera's injuries were still bothering him. In many ways Ruggiano is an ideal 4th outfielder to go along with his potential as a Lind platoon partner. He's much like Rajai Davis in that way, although with more power and less speed. The questions beckon:

1. Can he punish left handers?

In all likelihood. His track record isn't that long but last year he was able to be effective against left handed pitching even without the BABIP love that fueled his breakout season in 2012.

2. What will he cost?

This is a good question. If Miami is marketing him as the player he appeared to be in 2012 there is no way the Blue Jays should make a move. However, if they sell Ruggiano as a quality 4th outfielder then perhaps he is more in this team's price range. The Blue Jays should not be parting with any piece of much future or present significance to get Ruggiano, but if they can get him at a reasonable rate he's worth considering.

Adam Lind is now without his platoon partners from 2013. In 2014 the Blue Jays will have to go in a different direction. The options I've outlined here all come with their uncertainties. It's unclear whether any of the internal candidates can handle the job. It's unclear whether the top free agent platoon bat will be healthy. It's also unclear what the Marlins might want for Justin Ruggiano. No one is losing a lot of sleep over the loss of Mark DeRosa, but he played a role on this team that needs to be filled. It's not certain as to who will be the man to fill that role, but one thing is clear: Adam Lind needs some help.

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