I've been experimenting with the Jays 2014 lineup and thinking about who to acquire to get the most production out of it. As far as the lineup goes my main goals were upgrading the defence while not causing the offence to suffer too much. I tried to upgrade as cheaply as possible to save more money for pitching upgrades.
The positions in the starting lineup I found us likely to improve were C, 2B and 1B. 1B may be not be as big of a need, but I thought it would be wise to find a defensive upgrade there. Both Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion appear to be poor defenders at 1B, so I thought it would be a good idea to DH Edwin and replace Lind.
Here are the players I have chosen to target for the starting lineup:
Ryan Hanigan: A career .359 OBP to go along with solid defence. Threw out base stealers at a 45% clip last season and would be a clear upgrade on defence. His OBP may come down coming over to the AL (where he won't be hitting ahead of a pitcher), but he should still be able to post respectable numbers. He may see more pitches to hit in the AL, so he may see his batting average rise above his career .262 mark. Coming off a 53wrc+ season, one year of Hanigan should come fairly cheap in terms of prospects. With his salary projected to be 2.3M, he seems to me to be the best value on the trade market at catcher.
Dustin Ackley: The Mariners have Nick Franklin at 2B and Ackley could very well be expendable. Ackley is set to make just 0.5M next season, and is a gold glove candidate at second base. He has a career 89wrc+ and there seems to be quite a lot of potential there. He hit 12HR in 2012 and a move to the Rogers Centre makes me believe he could hit 15+ if all goes right. He can hit lefties reasonably well and wouldn't likely have to be platooned. He may cost a solid reliever or a decent prospect, but his value at 0.5M seems to easily exceed paying a guy like Brandon Phillips or Omar Infante.
James Loney: He's coming off a strong season but it is rare that non-power hitting first baseman get paid fairly. He would likely cost a similar amount to Lind, but is a better fit for the team in my opinion. Loney is a very strong defender at first base and would help us have a very strong infield defence. He has a career 105wrc+ overall and a career 113 wrc+ vs righties. His .351 career OBP against righties would help set the table for our big bats in the middle of the order. If the BlueJays are serious about upgrading their defence, Ackley and Loney would make a extremely strong left side of the infield.
The Bench Bats:
I tried to find bench players we could acquire to help complement our starters. I see Reyes, Bautista, Lawrie, Encarnacion, Cabrera and Hanigan as guys who would definitely be in the lineup vs. lefties. I figure it would be wise to keep Josh Thole around as he has experience catching Dickey (if for some reason Hanigan was incapable). Thole is also a left handed hitter who could give Hanigan the odd day off against tough right handed pitchers. I am counting on a rebound season from Maicer Izturis and enjoy having a switch hitter off the bench.
That leaves two spots on the bench with 3 left handed hitters in the lineup. It could be argued that all three of Loney, Rasmus and Ackley can hold their own against lefties, but I figure it would be pretty easy to upgrade by platooning. Of the three, I would not platoon Ackley as he has the smallest career splits and would hit low in the order anyways. Finding a solid RHH 2B would likely be more difficult to acquire than a 1B or CF anyways. Izturis could be used to give Ackley the day off against a tough lefty however. If an injury occurs to an OF, Rasmus could play everyday and Gose could be called up to platoon with the bench player.
There seem to be many players capable of playing 1B and CF and mashing against lefties. I have chosen Drew Stubbs to be Rasmus' platoon partner. He would cost 4.5M or so but would likely not cost much in terms of prospects at that price. His strong defence, elite speed off the bench, and career .349 OBP against lefties would be a strong fit for our bench. For 1B there are plenty of options. I'm still undecided on who would be the best fit but Jeff Baker seems to be a strong fit. He mashes lefties, has some positional flexibility and wouldn't cost too much.
In Summary: (Players and Estimated Salaries)
IN: Loney (8M) + Ackley (0.5M*) + Hanigan (2.3M*) + Stubbs (4.5M*) + Baker (3M?)
OUT: Lind (7M + 2M buyout) + Arencibia (2.5M) + Sierra (0.5M)
-Ackley, Hanigan and Stubbs would cost prospects but at least we won't have to give up our top guys. I figure we could likely get value back for the outgoing guys to help offset that. All in all, this lineup has been altered while only costing 8.3M (not including Lind's buyout). That should leave plenty left over for the rotation. More money could be saved by trading for a cheaper CF than Stubbs and giving up more in terms of prospects/players.
To see my ideal lineups vs both lefties and righties, please see my next fanpost on maximizing the lineup. If you are wondering why I chose the players I chose, it may make more sense after reading my ideal lineups. I look forward to hearing what you think and what you would rather to do upgrade the offence. Should be fun to discuss.