Living in the shadows of the two largest markets in baseball is hard enough off the field, but the challenge provided by the perennially powerful New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox makes life for the Toronto Blue Jays that much more difficult. The inability to outspend the top two payrolls in the MLB drastically shapes the way the Jays and their other AL East counterparts formulate their rosters.
Starting with a young nucleus, general manager Alex Anthopoulous has set his eyes on the 2012 playoffs by acquiring high ceiling prospects, producing a stable of young arms and locking up current talent to reasonable deals.
Drafted in the third round of the 2004 amateur draft, Adam Lind has been projected to hit in the middle of the Toronto lineup since he joined the club for his first full season in 2009. A revelation of sorts in the designated hitter role, Lind produced an unforgettable first full season as he garnered AL MVP votes and won a Silver Slugger award. The 2009 season ramped up expectations for Lind's future as it led him to sign his current four-year, $17.4 million contract with club options through 2016.
Needless to say, this contract proved the faith that Anthopoulous had in Lind's further development into a feared, middle of the lineup hitter. The 2010 season brought Lind down to earth as he saw his numbers plummet in every significant category including his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) which dropped from 3.3 to 0.1. This alarming trend worried Blue Jays faithful and management alike, while the vacancy left by free agent Lyle Overbay provided an opportunity for Lind to prove his value elsewhere.
Lind's 2011 season began with one big sigh of relief as he has begun to prove his worth not only with his bat, but his glove at first base too. Dedicating many hours of his summer and spring training to his fielding, Lind has transformed himself from a bench bat, to a formidable big league first baseman. Not only has his defensive play improved his overall value dramatically, but it has allowed him to maximize his potential at the plate as well.
Through 29 games, Lind is hitting .316 with six home runs, 25 RBIs and has exuded an aura of confidence that has been missing from his game in the past. Though it is obvious to teams around the league that Toronto plans to build it's batting order around AL MVP candidate Jose Bautista, it is essential for both Jose's continued success and the overall success of the team that Lind establish himself as a consistent threat. If Toronto can get sustained success from Adam Lind over the duration of his contract, he will be both a bargain and a key to the future for this young yet dangerous club.