Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sundays in February are Terrible

Holy cripes was today ever a wasteland for TV sports viewing. It was EXACTLY the kind of afternoon that should have been filled with baseball games. I can’t watch golf. It’s dreadful.

You can tell it’s time for the season to start, because we’ve re-hashed all the exact same questions about the Blue Jays nine or ten times over. There is nothing left to discuss. Of this I am convinced.

But hey, no sense letting that stop me, right? Let’s talk about the outfield some more.

Of the Blue Jays position battles to take place this spring, the most scrutiny is likely to be given to the outfield. The Jays are heading into camp with Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco, set to fight it out for three full-time spots. Realistically, though, the battle is between Davis, Francisco, Snider and Thames for left field and a bench spot as a fourth outfielder. Drilling down even further, the focus for many is the Snider vs. Thames question.

But what happens with the bench, and the resulting impact on the bullpen, is potentially intriguing. Alex Anthopoulos has indicated a willingness to carry five outfielders, which is a configuration we haven’t often seen with the Jays in recent years.

Presumably, carrying an extra outfielder would come at the expense of the bullpen, which in turn might have an impact on the types of relief pitchers the team carries. That is, with one fewer reliever on the roster, it might be a good idea to carry bullpen arms that can log more innings. Carlos Villanueva fits that bill, and so does Jesse Litsch, and so does Luis Perez – all three have starting experience.

And then there’s the question of options. Perez is out of them.

If they keep five outfielders (with Davis and Francisco on the bench, and one of Snider or Thames in AAA), they can keep only seven relievers. Six of them are going to be Sergio Santos, Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor, Francisco Cordero and Carlos Villanueva. The seventh will be one of Litsch or Perez. It’s hard to think Perez doesn’t have a leg up, given the fact that he’s a lefty and is out of options.

From where I sit, keeping five outfielders is going to keep Jesse Litsch off the 25-man roster, although given the not-terrible performance he delivered once he became a reliever late last season, he’s not a bad security blanket to have available to call upon in case of injury.

I still have trouble sorting out exactly how Ben Francisco fits into the Blue Jays’ plans this season. But the five-outfielder situation does give Anthopoulos a certain amount of the flexibility he so values. Having a surplus of viable major league relievers and outfielders may seem out of place in April, but it can be a nice problem to have later in the summer. It’s a long season. On the field, guys struggle and get hurt. Off the field, as we’ve seen, players like these can be the stuff of important transactions.


DaveC said...

The Jays having eight relievers at times last year annoyed me. Any more than seven is bizarre, given how few bench spots they'd have already.

I'd say the fifth outfielder would affect their bench configuration (two outfielders/one infielder/one catcher) more than their bullpen, but I liked the breakdown you had there on the 'pen anyway.

Anonymous said...

Love you, man.