Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekend Whatnot - The Crowded 25-Man Roster

The team heads onto the field after their seventh straight win.
Photo courtesy @james_in_to's peerless Flickr stream.
Burning questions, idle thoughts and silly preoccupations as we ease into the first official weekend of summer.

The Crowded Roster, Part 1: As I waited for a ride yesterday afternoon, I offered up my downtime to answer whatever was on the minds of my Twitter followers. In a fairly predictable turn of events, the most commonly offered query had to do with the roster machinations that will be required once José Reyes returns from injury next week.

(Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith has a nice rundown of the possibilities here, if you hadn't already read it.)

There really shouldn't be any angst or downside to the return of Reyes, who was by far the Jays best player in his 10 games at the start of the season. But given the unusual attachment that people have developed towards Munenori Kawasaki, the prospect of losing him from the 25-man roster seems to have created some distress.

It also offers fans an opportunity to take a running start at booting Maicer Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio or even Mark DeRosa in the ribs.

There's certainly some argument for keeping Kawasaki around, mostly fueled by his team-best 13.4 per cent walk rate. He might not hit the ball hard or often, but a .337 OBP will certainly do for a player in a bench role or a part-time second baseman. His weighted on-base average (wOBA) has been slightly above league average for shortstops (.294 versus .289), so there is certainly some value to keeping him on the roster.

While, both Izturis and Bonifacio have looked much better in the field over the past month, both continue to languish offensively, sitting at the bottom of the heap in wOBA over the past 30 days (.255 for Izturis, .242 for Bonifacio versus .289 for Kawasaki.)

What keeps this from being an easy call is the three-year deal that the Jays signed with Izturis in the offseason. The Jays obviously can't demote Izturis without designating him for assignment. The most likely situation if that were to happen - and I still think it is highly unlikely - is that no other club would step up to acquire him, and Izturis would reject a minor league assignment. At that point, any other team could step in and sign Izturis for the MLB minimum without giving up so much as a bag of balls to the Jays in return.

Meanwhile, the Jays would be stuck with paying out the remaining two-and-half years and $10 million to Izturis in the hopes that the two-month samples of both Kawasaki and Izturis portend their future value. That's something of a gamble.

If the Jays were to go the unpopular route of sending Kawasaki back to Buffalo, it would mean keeping all of their assets, and not having to worry about who the next infielder in their depth chart might be if they run into injury trouble again.

The Crowded Roster, Part 2: There's another simple solution to the conundrum above, and that's to finally - FINALLY! - do away with the 13-man pitching staff and send a reliever packing.

After all, a week or two of decent starting pitching performances has meant that some of the relievers are having to shake of dust and cobwebs from under their arms when they go to warm up.  And while lefty Juan Perez would seem to be the most likely candidate to be cast off, his performance has been good enough that you almost hate to lose him.

Meanwhile, the Jays will soon find themselves in a position of finding roster spots - and rotation slots - for J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow, should an extended period of good health ever find them. Moreover, the Jays will have to decide whether if Drew Hutchison or Kyle Drabek will get Major League innings as part of their recovery from their respective Tommy John surgeries in the later stages of the season. There is also Luis Perez, who suffered a set back last week but is likely to be the first of the TJ'ed pitchers back on the big league roster.

Having too many arms is a nice problem to have, and good lord, haven't the Jays needed the extra help over the past two years. The simple solution with controllable players like Hutchison and Drabek would be to leave them in the minors until September 1st, then shut them down for the year.

Perez - that's Luis, you understand - might pose a more difficult problem, as they may be put into a situation where his rehab time comes to an end and they need to find a way to wedge him back onto the roster.

A week ago, I might have suggested that sending Darren Oliver to a contender might be a smart way to uncloud the picture...but who really wants to give him up now, with the Jays back in a place that sort of resembles contention?

A Big Week: I don't want to put too much stock in the results over the next week, with the Jays finally squaring off against AL East counterparts. But a good result - let's say 6-4, depending on how you slice up the wins and losses - could go a long way towards mixing up the playoff picture in the division.

After years of hearing people moan longingly for "meaningful games", I hope that fans realize that the incredibly tight state of this year's AL East - coupled with the Jays' lousy start - means that almost any divisional series becomes something akin to a three or four game playoff.

If you only care about meaningful games in September, then fine...enjoy your summer off. But for those who are geared up, this could be as much fun as a Jays fan has seen in years.

Just try to contain yourself.


Chad said...

I never really considered it that much of a decision re: Kawasaki. Yeah I talked about it around the watercooler to whomever had the misfortune to be around, but this is not a tough call. Kawasaki goes down.

Yes, I voted on Ben NS`s poll.

andrew sissons said...

I like the idea of sending down a reliever, and having some combination of Kawasaki, Izturis, Bonifacio and DeRosa at second and third base each day. I think Wagner is the only one who can be optioned, so maybe it's a choice between him and Kawasaki whenever Reyes is ready.

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