With just over a month left in the 2012 MLB season, the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves 16.5 games to the back of the division-leading New York Yankees. The Jays and their fans wrote off the potential for playoff baseball long ago and instead have turned their focus to more pressing questions regarding the future.
Where do they go from here? What can they improve on for next year? What do they need to do to make the jump from mediocre to elite? And most pressing of all: Who should stay and who should go?
A question with such magnitude rarely has a cut-and-dried, black-and-white answer, and this case is no different.
Usually after such a poor showing by a team, players are shipped out in order to rebuild or players are brought in to try and win. But this season was a little different for the Jays.
It was a tumultuous, up-and-down season that saw injuries deplete the starting rotation along with injuries to key players like Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind. Because of these injuries, a number of players saw playing time in a big league uniform who probably would not have, had the team stayed healthy and competed for a playoff spot.
Next year, players like Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra should not necessarily get the boot, but they should not see the inside of a Major League ballpark. They were helpful in a time of need to fill in roster spots for injured players, but assuming that next year the Jays can stay healthy, they should stay in Triple-A to develop for at least another year.
But then there are those players, like Aaron Loup, who came up to help and might be able to earn themselves a spot on the team next year . Loup is a 24-year-old rookie who has shown that he can pitch effectively in the Majors. Look for him to earn a bullpen spot coming out of spring training next year.
Which player should be shown the door after 2012?
Keeping players in the minors in hopes of a healthy ball club and keeping the players in the major league that have earned the chance is all fine and well, but who should truly get the boot next year?
In his time with the Blue Jays, Adam Lind has been the definition of a AAAA baseball player. He absolutely destroys the minors and sometimes can do the same in the Majors, but more often than not, he struggles. And he struggles badly. On May 16th of this year, he saw his batting average drop to .186 before he was sent down to Las Vegas for the Pacific Coast League. There he hit .392 in 32 games until he was recalled.
At 29 years old, there is still the opportunity for Lind to prove himself as an effective everyday player, but it most likely won’t happen with the Blue Jays. Edwin Encarnacion’s breakout season has really pushed Adam Lind into no-man’s land as far as the position is concerned. He was relegated to a designated hitter and struggled to hit.
The Blue Jays are notably interested in acquiring a big bat to fill that DH spot in place of Lind, which officially makes him expendable, but there are two obstacles standing in the way.
The first is his contract. In order to trade Lind, general manager Alex Anthopoulos would have to convince another team to take a $7 million gamble on him. He is guaranteed $5 million next year and can be bought out for an additional $2 million at the end of the 2013 season. That is a hefty price tag for a career .264 hitter.
The next obstacle standing in Anthopoulos’s way is an injury that Lind suffered earlier this year to his back. What appears to be an injury that he can play through, also has Lind thinking that it will “probably be there for the rest of my life," according to Gregor Chisolm for MLB.com.
That is a huge blow to any potential trade because Anthopoulos does not need to convince another GM to take on an aging, overpaid slugger with a nagging back injury.
If he were to be traded, the Blue Jays would need to package him in order to receive anything of real value. Since they are most likely looking to add a pitcher and another hitter, there is the potential that happens, but it is more likely that Anthopoulos accomplishes these tasks in separate trades—first dumping Lind’s salary and then going after the players that he thinks will help the team win with his new found financial flexibility.
When healthy, the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays were good enough to compete in the tough A.L. East so there are not many players that deserve to get the boot. That being said, Adam Lind is the player most likely to be shown the door at the end of the year in order to make the move from a competitive team to a playoff team.
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