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Looking To Next Season: Putting Together The Bench

Since we are in next year territory, we might as well start talking about things we'd like to see in next year's edition of the Toronto Blue Jays. To start at a random spot, next year I'd like a reasonable bench. Our bench really hasn't been useful this year, I'd like to see us care enough to put together a decent one. I'd like to see us put together a bench that has players that don't make us shutter if we see them in a game.

First, we have to get rid of the idiot 8 man bullpen. 8 guys in the pen, 5 man rotation, 9 guys in the starting lineup, you can add, that leaves 3 guys for the bench. I'm old enough to think that a 7 man bullpen is overkill, but that's not a fight I'd win, so let's not fight it. In the 'the past was so much better file', teams used to carry guys in the pen that could pitch you 3 or 4 innings at a go and could give you 100+ innings in a year. I wish John would build his bullpen with one or 2 that could go 4 innings, if needed, (and, you know, let them pinch 4 innings in a mop-up type spot) but let's talk about bullpen makeup another day.

The trouble with a 3 man bench is that we have to choose the members of the bench for reason that don't involve winning baseball games. You have to build it around guys that can play many position. Generally, players that can play multiple positions are guys that don't' have any abilities that help a team win, mostly because if they have a skill that can help a team win, nobody tries them at several positions.

When you have guys on the bench that have little skill that can help a team win, you really don't want to put them in the lineup. What tends to happen is the regulars play at times they shouldn't. They'll play through the little pains that happen during a season, even if it effects their performance or might lead to a more serious injury. Let's say, purely for example sake, that your third baseman is Brett Lawrie and he's got a nagging little injury (say from falling into a camera bay) and that injury drops his performance level 30%. Normally, if you have a decent backup, you put him in his place, for a few days, and let Brett recover. But let's say your only replacement is Omar Vizquel (sorry Omar), Brett Lawrie at 70% is a far more useful player.

The trouble is that nagging little injuries, if played through, become bigger injuries. Or the player's performance drops more than that 30% (Kelly Johnson/Colby Rasmus). Baseball players want to play through injury. We admire it. Sports are filled with stories of guys that play through injury. Kirk Gibson. Cal Ripkin, there are hundreds of these stories. Trouble is that there are more times when a guy plays through an injury and makes it worse.

Anyway, next year let's build a bench around guys that can help us win. One spot is filled, Jeff Mathis. I'll live with him, if we can get to the point he doesn't pinch-run or pinch-hit. After that, I'd like Mike McCoy. Yeah, he plays a lot of positions, and his bat is pretty limited, but he does have a skill, or two, that can help a team win. Did you see him score last night? That was just a terrific play, watching Nix field the ball, seeing that he didn't have time to check if McCoy was moving, and then going on the play. If Jeter did the same thing, Buck and Pat would still be talking about it. And, course, having speed, so that when he went in, as a pinch runner, he drew enough throws to first that a mistake was made.

Most of the season, if we needed a pinch runner, it has been Jeff Mathis or Omar Vizquel. Is there anyone that would rather have either of those two pinch run over McCoy. McCoy can also bunt (not that I'm excited by that skill) and is good enough on defense to be a defensive replacement in the outfield. And, if he had to be in the lineup for a couple of games, I could live with it. I'd be ok with him giving Johnson or Escobar a weekend off if they were hurting. I am open to someone better than McCoy (I'm sure I like him more than his skills deserve) but he would fill a role.

The other two spots on the bench, I want bats, I want someone that can come in to pinch hit, someone with the threat of power, I'd like a lefty bat and a righty. Guys that could DH, maybe fill in in the corner spots. I'm ok with Rajai Davis being one of them. I know, there isn't the thread of power and we have the speed skill in McCoy, but I'm ok with 2 fast guys on the bench. He can pinch hit against lefties and play a few games without us hating to see him in the lineup. He can play any of the 3 outfield spot, not amazingly well, but for a fill in, he'd be fine. If we wanted to trade Rajia, I'm not against Moises Sierra getting a spot on the bench, reasonable power, speed and defense.

The last spot, I want a lefty bat, someone with power. If he could play corner spots, I'd be happy. Someone like Eric Chavez (who would be a free agent after the season, but likely would stay with the Yankees). Perhaps Chad Tracy. That sort of player.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on next year's bench?