Monday, January 31, 2011

Hot corner hot stove - What JoBau's 3B reticence has wrought

So somewhere along the line, José Bautista got it into his head that he would prefer to play in right field. (Don't ask us to come up with the quote. It's been out there so long that we just assume that it's true.)

We get why JoBau might want to take this approach. Ladies love baserunner kills, but throw a guy out from across the diamond, and you elicit barely a yawn. Also, there are far fewer screaming-take-your-dome-clean-off-your-shoulders line drives that come hurtling themselves hungrily at your flesh when you're in the outfield.

Unfortunately, this particular stance isn't necessarily the one that makes the most sense for the Blue Jays. There are plenty of warm bodies that you can stick out in the outfield on any given day, but only so many guys who can hold their own at third. If Bautista would accede happily to life on the infield, sharing jokes and smiles and hip bumps with Yunel, then we could wrap up this discussion and go get ourselves some aging slugging non-fielder (other than Juan Rivera) and toss them in right or left or wherever.

But seeing as how the Jays aren't likely to do anything to upset or turn off Bautista until after they sign off on their longer-term matrimony, it leaves us without an enviable option at third for now.1

Nature abhors a vacuum, though, so we've spent the past weekend observing the efforts of some to fill the third base void. Here's the options that we've seen, for better or worse.

Kevin Kouzmanoff: KK is probably off the table now that Chone Figgins has precluded any further discussion on getting traded to Oakland. And to think that we'd just started to come around on him, in spite of the fact that he hasn't posted an OPS above .732 in the past three seasons. (He's got home/road splits that look promising, and his defense seems to carry much of the weight of his 2.7/2.7/2.9 fWAR over the past three years.) A long shot to think that AA can get him, though the A's seem determined to replace him.

Eric Chavez: On a minor league deal? Why not? For some of the cushion change in Bob McCown's green room, you sign a guy who was an elite player at one point (admittedly, five years ago) and who might have something in the tank and something to prove. If he's healthy, he could be a low-risk/high-reward pick up. If not...well, what's the down side?

Aaron Hill: You create one hole by filling another, though there may be an argument that you'd be moving Hill in a year anyways to make room for Adeiny Hechavarria. (Unless it's Yunel that moves to third, in which case, you slide the tiles in your slide puzzle the other way around.)

John McDonald: In limited playing time, Johnny Mac managed a .727 OPS last season. Which, we'd point out, is better than Kouzmanoff's OPS in 2010 and 2009. Oddly, though, the PMoD has put up a negative UZR/150 at third over his career (-7.9). But if you're sliding Hill over, you get McDonald's career 18.9 UZR/150 at second over Hill's 4.8.

Edwin Encarnacion: He's still on the roster. He still has a higher career OPS than Aaron Hill. And his UZR/150 last season at 3B was -2.3, which is a vast improvement over seasons past. Playing EE in the field means that the Jays would have more flexibility with their DH spot. We could go on attempting to make the case for Edwin, though we're reasonably sure that all you'll read from this point on would look like "E5 E5 E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5E5 E5".

1. You have no idea how many different ways we tried to work a marriage analogy into this paragraph. "Put a ring on it" was tossed around. We conjugated the verb "to betroth" for 20 minutes, until we realized that it only connotes getting engaged and not buying the whole cow. "Down the aisle" was used. Rote "no sex after marriage" jokes were tried on for size. We gave up. This is the best we could do.


Anonymous said...

No Brett Lawrie? Certainly not a favourite for the role, but shouldn't be discounted out of hand, either.

Tao of Stieb said...

Right you are, Kenny.

If we're talking long shots, I probably could have included Lawrie, and should definitely have included him in the slide puzzle analogy, because he's an important piece in the infield in the next year or so.

Darren Priest said...

I have to think Edwin Jeans is at 3rd unless something changes.

(stupid nickname, but I was just remembering the early 90s)

gabriel said...

I'm a complete bore on this point, but let's hope either Bautista or his agent realizes how much more valuable he is at third. Generally accepted positional adjustments see the same player at 3B as about 1WAR more valuable than in RF; and TZ really hates him in RF. Moreover, when you look at his career fielding statistics, he was poor in the outfield last year, while his bad years at 3B came some years ago.

Archives, Card. said...

I think you've gotta give Edwin a chance to show that he's further improved.

The injuries will come and their length will determine the line-up for the majority of the year so I'm not overly concerned about the depth chart heading into spring.

The Jays have enough flexibility to make any number of possibilities work and that's really all that matters.

If they break camp and Jose's in RF and E5's at third, no biggy. I'd be happy if we can get 60-70G of Jose at third.

The Ack said...

E5 isn't going to play 3B - the Jays took great pains to announce the signing of "1B/DH" Edwin Encarnacion. It's also seemingly been the justification for not signing the likes of Manny/Vlad/etc.

I don't think AA is done yet....and I wouldn't rule out Bautista at the hot corner either.

Nick Wernham said...

If the team were able to procure some no field/good hit guy to be their DH (other than Juan Rivera) then putting Edwin at third base seems like the best option to me.

Just like putting Jeremy Giambi in left field for the 2002 Oakland Athletics (at least to open the season) putting Edwin in the field could be seen as a reasonable part of price of doing business with his bat.

The Ack said...

.... but why go looking for a no field/good hit guy when that's exactly what they already have in Edwin?

Nick Wernham said...

Because then we could get a better bat in the lineup than Juan Rivera who I hope I am wrong in having absolutely no faith in as a productive corner outfield bat.

The Ack said...

yeah, don't get me wrong, I'm not on the Rivera train either..... I just don't see Edwin being feasible at 3B at this point, and I don't think AA sees him there either.

Having said that..... if Lawrie tears up New Hampshire/Vegas in the early going? I wouldn't be completely shocked to see him up mid-summer.

... which means Bautista to start the year at 3B and Rivera to the OF to start....with JoBau sliding out there if/when Lawrie comes up.

Nick Wernham said...

Oh. I agree with you, Ack. I think that in all likelihood we're going to see Jose at third, Rivera in right and Edwin at DH (and occasionally at first base) to star the year. I just wish it weren't so. I think that the value added by having a much better hitter than Rivera in the lineup is worth more than the negative value of Encarnacion at third base. This is especially true if:

1) You think, as I do, that Bautista is a significantly more competent fielder in right than he is at third base.
2) You realize how utterly mediocre Juan Rivera is in the outfield.

Anonymous said...

I have a strong feeling Rivera never makes the opening roster, just as I was sure Napoli was on his way somewhere else when the Wells trade went down. They're both players we had to take on to dump Wells' contract, but I couldn't imagine either ever entering AAs thinking before or since. How does a weak-fielding OF with a low OBP and diminishing power make sense over any number of other options? If they can't trade him, they'll release him.


Tao of Stieb said...

I actually think that Bautista's best position is still third, and that while I get a big purple boner at some of those baserunner kills, he takes weird routes to balls and doesn't have a ton of speed to track stuff down.

He also made a couple of drops last year that would have fueled the Rios haters for a decade.

I think that Rivera sticks around for the start of the season...I know people have written him off as a bum, but he was a .810 OPS in 2009, and plays decent LF. Might be interesting to see if the Jays would slide him there and put Snider in RF if joBau moved to third.

Nick Wernham said...

That is an interesting thought, Ack. I think that Snider is a better fielder in either corner than Rivera so if you're looking to maximize wins this year you absolutely would stick Rivera in left and Snider in right. However, if you think that Snider is more likely to be the Jays' left fielder when they next contend then there may be some value in keeping him in left just to continue to get reps and see the same angle on the ball, etc.

I don't claim to know a lot about outfield defense and perhaps there is no value in that, but conceptually it makes sense: if you want Snider to be a left fielder long term then you should keep him in left unless making the switch back-and-forth from one corner to the other is far easier than I imagine it to be.

Andrew said...

I don't think Jose is an elite right fielder, but despite taking mediocre routes to a lot of balls, he owns a career -1.3 UZR/150 there, and a career -9.6 mark at third base. Throw in the number of baserunners he likely keeps from advancing, as well as the ones he throws out, and I'm starting to think that he might be better off in our outfield in 2011.

Personally, I don't want to see a return of E5 to the hot corner. Maybe it's time to take a good, hard look at Felipe Lopez? Having sat on the open market for this long, I doubt he requires more than a one-year commitment at this point, and as has been mentioned here before, there seems to be a good chance of him bringing back a pick (or two?) afterward. If Jose does indeed want to stay in right field, he'd also give us a reasonable option at 3B (career 0.7 UZR/150) for the time being, or give us another option at 2B (-1.0 UZR/150) if you want to slide Hill to the left side of the infield.

With that settled, you'd be able to keep Encarnacion in his 1B/DH role, splitting time with Lind, and possibly Rivera, and only playing third in an emergceny situation.

Anonymous said...

Tao, I don't think Rivera's a bum, and on another team he'd be worth a look for sure. But Snider is a good left fielder at best, and Rivera is the same (at best) at 5.5 million, and a non-starter anywhere else defensively. I doubt he ever sees a uniform here.

Anonymous said...

Good day : )
Why is it that men and women (society generally) still pre-judge people with tattoos. girls especially?
I'm a twenty six year old F, have 10 tats, lots of which can not be noticed on my everyday travels. 5 - 6 in the summer are pretty much constantly on display. I don't work for attention and i also have a loving boyfriend Without Any TATTOOS .I get the impression that a majority of people believe that tattooed people are blind, as we get stared at, even when we return a glance people continue staring. When will society improve?

Anonymous said...

Another guy the Jays could go after is Danny Murphy. He was a 3B in the minors but has been bouncing around after being blocked by David Wright. He might win the Mets 2B job this year, so he might not be available.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I wonder if Frankie has more potential to be a type A or B free agent than Napoli?

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about E5's improvement at 3rd. There is nothing lacking with the man's glove. It is his footwork that generates errors.
Call me crazy,and assume that AA doesn't go get a starting 3rd baseman,IMO, the Jays are better defensively with EE at 3rd and Joey Bats in RF, than EE at DH, and Joey Bats at 3rd.
Think about there a better 3rd baseman than EE out there, who won't cost a king's ransom?
I can't think of one. Besides, it's not like EE is going to keep Lawrie backed up in the minors.