Sunday, September 23, 2012

Angst Now, or Angst Later?

The last time I blogged hereabouts, I was railing against the dying of the light, refusing to go gentle into that good night, swearing I would enjoy the last few weeks of the Blue Jays' disastrous 2012 season.  It's been a challenge, friends.

Since then, out of thirteen games, they've won... [counts]... TWO?  Two goddamn wins?  Yes, that's apparently accurate.  I've tried to focus on the positive -- the settling in of Adeiny Hechavarria, the emerging adequacy of Aaron Loup, I'm sure there are one or two others -- but losing sucks.  The fight to finish fourth in the division ahead of the equally discombobulated Boston Red Sox has been as dreary an endeavour as you might expect.

I think it's jealousy that I'm feeling, actually.  I've taken to cursing the improbable Orioles every time they pull another extra-inning win out of their hindquarters, because I refuse to believe the talent they've assembled there is better than what Toronto has on a position by position basis, yet there they are, challenging for the division lead in late September.  We haven't seen that for two decades as Jays fans, and to see another long-suffering AL East franchise enjoy such a stretch now makes me envious.

On the plus side, though, this ugliness has probably provided me with a certain amount of objectivity I didn't have before about some players on whom decisions will need to be made in the off-season.  As a fan, I want them all to succeed, and even when they don't, I often look past their flaws or assume they can be easily rectified with some off-season coaching, adjustments, and presumably pixie dust.  But this season's struggles have led me to question whether I'd be prepared to see even some of my favourite players be moved in off-season deals if it meant an upgrade.

I think it's healthy to begin to re-evaluate which players are untouchable when it comes time to address the needs that Alex Anthopoulos has candidly identified.  Last off-season, I was singing Yunel Escobar's praises as a long-term solution at shortstop.  Now, given his dismal offensive season, to say nothing of his other issues, I wouldn't hesitate to include him in a trade (even if that's admittedly selling low on an asset).  But the Escobar situation is pretty much self-evident by now.  Who else on the roster is untouchable now -- or more to the point, who would you have considered a longshot to be traded six months ago that now might be more realistically on the block?  Does Colby Rasmus still get the benefit of the doubt after what we've seen apart from one strong month?  Is next year's 23-year-old version of Brett Lawrie more valuable as a trade chip than he will be over the long term as the Blue Jays' every day third baseman?

I expect the Jays' marketing department and/or the Mounties to show up at my door at any moment for daring to suggest that the Blue Jays could trade Brett Lawrie.  And I'm not even saying they should.  Maybe it's just this bleak, brutal September that has me thinking things are worse than they are, and players that were once seen as cornerstones could now be trade bait.  Thankfully there are people who actually get paid to think about baseball making these decisions on a more informed basis than me.

But I do believe there are some surprises in store this off-season with respect to what the team will have to give up to get those much-needed upgrades.  Some prospect-porn types on whom we've been dreaming might end up on some other team's Eastern League affiliate.  And yes, even some big-league players to whom we've become attached will change uniforms too.  The last couple of off-seasons have been filled with one kind of angst:  the kind that comes from the team perceived to be doing little or nothing to improve.  If Anthopoulos starts dealing, we might be faced with a whole different kind of angst this time around.


plain_g said...

i think all that's left for us is to do those imaginary trades + fa signing posts, then show how the imaginary 'new' lineup would be awesome. i'll start:
hech + Gose + single A premium arm + for Jup + david hernandez
ejax for 4 yrs 50m
moises sierra + Kelly Johnson (re-signed) to phils for doc...
adam lind for justin morneau in a change of scenery/salary dump...
b-mccarthy for 3 years 20m

rogers ponies up the extra 50m in salary and puts grass in the roger-dome.
turns out 2013 rules.

David said...

I would not call this "angst" -- I would call it objectivity. This was not a bad season solely because of injuries. The fact is that three players who were considered keys to the future -- Escobar, Rasmus, Romero -- underperformed. (I would not put Lawrie among them. For a 22-year-old in his first year in the majors, his offense + defense was fine. OTOH, his unapologetic attitude needs a serious adjustment.) It's only reasonable to look at upgrades at these positions. One problem, apart from selling low, is that there are no immediate internal replacements. That's another problem this season -- none of the minor-league players (e.g. Hech, Gose, Jenkins, Mcguire) showed that they're ready for the majors. Finally, if the Blue Jays are going to be serious contenders, Rogers has got to open the wallet. Unless a team is extremely lucky (e.g. Hudson, Mulder, Zito; Longoria, Price, etc.), they cannot rely on the minors alone. So unless Rogers interjects some money, AA's moves are just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

DWBudd said...

It's been a pretty dismal season, really.

The injuries will get a lot of the blame (and there were many, to be fair). But I hope that the front office let them obscure the fact that the players who were out there for most of the season - Encarnacion aside - were mediocre to awful.

It's very hard to blame "injuries" when Kelly Johnson, Colby Rasmus, and Rajai Davis put up the numbers that they did. Frankly, in the second half of the season, Rasmus has been one of the worst players in the American League. Ricky Romero, who as far as I know has not been hurt, has been dreadful.

Brett Lawrie has, let's be perfectly honest, been less than thrilling at third base, making mental mistakes on the field and putting up numbers that would be OK for a second baseman...

Bautista will be back next year (we hope), but if one takes a long, hard look at the actual performances, does anyone really think this current roster can win 85 games in 2013? 81?

The Ack said...

I don't know what's more depressing - the fact that the term "emerging adequacy" is in play and the best descriptor of current hope... or being, y'know, 20 games under .500 and pretending this team is in shape to contend next year.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question: Are the Orioles challenging for first in the East with John Farrell at the helm?

Anonymous said...

I think Lawrie really is untouchable. Beeston wouldn't allow AA to trade him, if only from a marketing perspective. I wouldn't anyway, he's uber young and has so much talent with the bat, despite the somewhat-worrying lack of extra base power this year.

tincanman2010 said...

I'm all for moving Escobar. Stats aside, I think he sends the wrong message about on field deportment.

I have concerns about Lawrie long-term because his gung-ho attitude is too over the top. The price is paid in base running errors and injuries.

Crazy, innit, to criticize one player for being too intense and another for not being intense enough?

Most controversially, I felt at the end of last season that Bautista was at the peak of his value and rather than hope all these prospects became legitimate very day major league players, better to use Bautista in a blockbuster. If you subscribed to the notion that the team was within striking distance of the playoffs, trading him made no sense. If you believed, as I did, that they were realistically a few years away, by which time Bautista would likely only be every day as a DH, then a trade made sense. I feel that way more than ever now that we've seen how many 'can't miss' prospects turn out to be wearing no clothes.

Hopefully Buffalo will provide a more realistic look at players than the stats-inflating Las Vegas stints have.