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And We Note Our Place With Book-Markers: The Dangling Conversation, Part IX - Ongoing Offseason Jays Conversation

It's been awhile since we've done a dangling conversation installment, so let's get to it.  Today we'll be discussing Blue Jays wunderkind Travis Snider and whether the Jays should go ahead and hand him the keys to the leftfield job in 2009. 

Rincewind:Should the Jays clear a spot for Travis Snider to play everyday in 2009, or should they start him in AAA?

Hugo: That’s a good question. Projection systems can’t agree whether Snider would tread water this season if handed a starting job or whether he would be an above-average regular. Marcel and Bill James have him over an .800 OPS while ZIPS doesn’t like him at all, pegging him at only .715 with 151 Ks and only 39 walks. If I had to guess, I think Snider would be a solid regular next season, based on what looked to me to be a mature and solid approach at the plate. Yes, he struck out a lot, but no more than he did in the minors. More worrying was the drop in his walk rate, but I would expect to see that go back toward his minor-league numbers. Snider had a very high BABIP last year (.417) but a good part of that was based on high line-drive rates so some of that should be sustainable. I think he will be a competent major-league hitter if given a full-time job.

That said, I would be much more comfortable with Snider beginning 2009 in the minors, from a team standpoint. I would rather see the Jays sign a bat and have Snider putting up some big AAA numbers in the Pacific Coast League so that he will be the first brought up for the inevitable injury. Even if no one gets hurt and everyone is playing great, we trade Overbay to maximize his value and put Lind at first base. Anyway, my point is that if someone gets hurt or flames out and we have Snider in reserve, that’s a pretty good plan B. If we use Snider, who do we use in the event of an injury or flameout at 1st/DH/OF – Inglett? And it’s not like we’re holding Snider back – he was the youngest position player in the majors last season and there’s no doubt but that he will play a big part in 2009.

Rincewind: My worry is that they do to him what they have done with Lind, bring him up, sent him down, bring him up, send him down……So I am worried that if Snyder is used as the injury replacement this year he’ll suffer the same fate. What I’d want the Jays to do is when he is brought up to the team, be it the beginning of the season or sometime in the middle or the start of 2010 is that they tell him ‘you are now a major leaguer, you won’t see the minors again’. Make a commitment to him so he can learn the league and he doesn’t have to worry that a 0 for 4 will have him back in Las Vegas.

I’m not really against the idea of him starting the year in Toronto, he is young but the best players start when they are younger. If he does, I hope he is told ‘you will play 150 games this year, barring injury, so relax and play the way you can. He is the type of talent you have to make that sort of commitment to and just understand it will pay off in the end.

Lind never seems to have been allowed to just learn how to play in the majors, until Cito came in, and I can’t imagine that has helped his development at all. Yeah I know there isn’t a plan B if Snyder starts but then last year plan B turned out to be Wilkerson and a cast others that shouldn’t have been in the majors. Actually plan A was guys that should have been in the majors. Plan B was the circus coming to town. Inglett is a better backup option than Stewart/Stairs/Wilkerson/Mench were last year.

So while I’d like them to pick up a bat, I don’t want Snyder just an emergency call up, if they want to leave him in Triple A for the season, that’s ok. But if they call him up I want him to be an everyday player and stay one for the next ten years.

Hugo: I agree that Snider shouldn’t have to worry about being sent down after an 0-4 day with 3 Ks and an error. The hard thing is what to do if Snider is brought up to the majors, told he doesn’t have to worry about his job security, and then shows that he’s really not ready. Then you have to go back on your word or keep an unready player in the majors. So when they tell Snider that, I want him to have a very high likelihood of success. I think a little time in the minors wouldn’t hurt.

One idea I've been toying with lately is signing an injury-prone vet like Moises Alou. He performs well when on the field and he’s all but sure to get hurt, which will give Snider his chance to play everyday when it happens. Once Snider comes up, you tell him he's got a job and you can keep Snider up after Alou returns -- mixing and matching Alou with the lefties Lind, Overbay, and Snider, and getting them all regular playing time. And of course there is a lot that Snider could learn from watching Alou, a gifted and accomplished hitter over his career.

Here are our past installments:

Part 1: Good and Bad of 2008
Part 2: Jays Priorities for the Offseason
Part 3: Should the Jays Rebuild?
Part 4: Who Should Lead Off For the Jays?
Part 5: How Should the Jays Fill Out Their Rotation
Part 6: Part 6: Can the Jays Complete with Barajas catching and Scutaro at Short?
Part 7: Should the Jays Trade From Their Bullpen?
Part 8: Part 8: What Should Be Done About the DH Spot?