The Blue Jays want to add an impact bat to their lineup. I know Alex Anthopolous has been lauded for many of his moves to date, but it’s still surprising to hear that the Jays care.
In yesterday’s slideshow (the one without the llama), I noted that faux-Vietnam vet Tim Johnson had gone 88-74 as the team’s manager in 1998, and that remains their best record between 1993 and the present.
With the exception of 2004, when they went 67-94, the Jays haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been good either. They float around 80-something wins without really contending and don’t seem able to make a decisive move up or down.
Part of the reason is that in some ways, the Jays have been badly victimized by their own players. Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are players you can build around, right? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no, with the result that three of the four are gone at this point and none too soon. Going to build a rotation around Jesse Litsch and Brett Cecil? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
You would think that Travis Snider would be an internal option for the Jays. Still just 24, he’s off to his umpteenth hot start in the minors, hitting .426/.500/.766 in 12 games. In 139 career games at Triple-A, he has hit .341/.415/.569, and with far better contact rates than he has shown in the majors. That the Jays opted for Eric Thames this spring suggests they’re tired of being teased. Yet, that still leaves them short of a bat.
Last night, Justin Morneau cracked two home runs against the Yankees. He’s now hitting .279/.340/.605 in 11 games and seems pretty well past the injury and concussion problems that derailed his last two seasons. Could he be a target for the Jays?
Well, sure, but there are some problems: Lind isn’t great, but he’s ensconced at first base, while Edwin Encarnacion is doing a fine job at designated hitter. The Jays don’t have a lot of room to add an impact bat unless it’s in left field, where Thames is just keeping the position warm. You could see punting on Lind, although he’s still owed a minimum of $12 million on his current contract, but Morneau has played one game at first this year, and it’s not clear that his body can take the work.
Meanwhile, Morneau is owed $42 million this year through 2014. Current Jays making that much money include Jose Bautista...and that’s it. Unless the Twins pick up part of the cost, it’s difficult to see a fit between the two teams given Morneau’s disproportionate impact on the payroll.