Empty Nest: Players That the Blue Jays Can Afford to Lose
Finishing at .500 is a respectable percentage in baseball, especially when you finish at .500 in the AL East behind Boston, Tampa and New York.
However, the Jays had the potential to finish higher than .500. The team had many issues and struggles during 2011, but ever the optimist, 2012 look promising for the club to make noise and become playoff contenders instead of perennial spoilers.
That being said, here is a list of players who do not need to return to the Big Smoke in 2012, reasons why, and my idea of a replacement.
The Travis Snider Experiment has worn thin on Blue Jay fans. Snider, 23, in parts of four seasons in Toronto, has more career strikeouts than hits. Yes, he has spent part of his career on the DL, but it can be argued that he didn't make the most of his opportunities in Toronto. He's had his opportunities to shine in Toronto, but has merely flickered his entire career.
Snider's upside is that he's still young, and has a lot to prove. Could Alex Anthoupolous make a deal that would send Snider out of Toronto and help acquire bullpen talent? It's certainly a possibility.
When Brian Tallet signed with St. Louis after the 2010, Jays fans breathed a sigh of relief. In Tallet's five years in Toronto as a middle reliever, only once did he post a sub-3.00 ERA. In '09 and '10, his ERA was on the wrong side of 5.00 both times.
Then, this past summer, AA brought Tallet back to Toronto, as part of the Colby Rasmus deal. He pitched one-third of an inning as a Jay, gave up two walks, two hits and two runs, lost the game, and was released later that night. If that save hadn't been blown, the Jays would have finished over .500.
It may not be fair to pin the blame entirely on Tallet for that loss, but he should be held accountable for part of it.
Granted, right now, Tallet isn't a Jay. Three times would not be a charm for him.
(Oh my gosh...does he get a WS ring?!)
Now, I love the speed that Davis brings to the lineup. It can single-handedly win games (like against Seattle this year, when he singled, stole second, stole third, then scored on a sac fly in the 14th).
In only 95 games, he lead the team in steals. However, his speed isn't enough to keep him in a Jays uni.
Davis hit .238 and stole 34 bases. He did provide some offense and showed good defensive capabilities. But with Rasmus and Bautista all but guaranteed to start, and Encarnacion recently signed it comes down to Davis or Eric Thames. Thames offensive numbers were better (and he's a left-handed bat), so Davis becomes the odd man out.
Sorry, Rajai. Thanks for the memories.
Any baseball purist will tell you that having lefties in your bullpen helps make a good bullpen. But Perez just didn't do it for me this year. Maybe it's the blowout to Boston. Maybe it's the walk-off grand slam Travis Hafner hit off of him...I don't know.
His K/BB ratio was 2:1, but his WHIP was over 1.50. Over 100 base runners in 65 innings. Surely that contributed to some of Toronto's bullpen woes this season. His numbers weren't even that good in AAA.
I know the PCL isn't a pitcher's league, but come on, were talking the Bigs here. Average performance isn't good enough.
I think the club can find alternatives to Perez. Leave Litsch in the pen for '12? Why not?!
Francisco's contract status for 2012 is that he's currently a free agent. Maybe he's hugging JP goodbye in the picture, because he had a feeling, that, you know, he blew too many saves and probably wouldn't be back in Toronto. Just maybe...
Francisco had too many blown saves for me to count, but on the plus side, contributed to an increase in antiperspirant sales in Ontario.
Every time Frankie entered a game, Jays fans got nervous and sweat just a bit more. He started to settle into his role near the end of the year, but my goodness, he's a career reliever. It's not like coming into a game to shut the door, or at least help close it, was something new to him!
Do you re-sign No. 50 to a contract at $4-million per, or do you make a splash in the free agent pool to get a Papelbon or Broxton or Bell? The latter option sounds better.
At Least 1 Utility Guy
Edwin Encarnacion, pictured, is probably going to be Toronto's new utility man for 2012. He hit .272 and had 17 bombs in 2011, so I think Jays fans will be comfortable having someone like him in that role.
That being said, at season's end, Toronto had Mike McCoy, Mark Teahen, Dewayne Wise, and Adam Loewen (who has already been outrighted). It's good to have role players on your bench, but a couple can go. Keep McCoy, because at least he can pitch (like he did during a 16-4 thumping by the Red Sox).
Now, Johnson performed admirably after being acquired from Arizona, hitting .270 in 33 games. But here are some questions about second base that the Jays need to answer:
Are Jays fans ready to see him as their full time second baseman next year?
Will Aaron Hill return?
Is Adeiny Hechevarria ready for the Big Leagues?
Can McCoy handle the job?
Do the Jays try to get a Reyes or Rollins?
Should Roberto Alomar un-retire?
Time Will Tell
Toronto saw many positives this year. The play of veterans like Bautista and Lind and Escobar comforted fans. The emergence of Arencibia, Lawrie, Alvarez gives fans hope for 2012. And guys like McGowan and Litsch returning from injuries gave fans goosebumps and even more reasons for optimism.
Yes, we're still waiting to see what Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil can do. We're also anxious to see what Colby Rasmus can do over the course of an entire year. We know we need a closer, second baseman, another lefty from the pen, and maybe a veteran starter who can provide leadership to this young and very talented staff.
The Jays and Rays had similar records until early August. The Red Sox are having difficulties of their own. The Yankees are still the Yankees, but they aren't spring chickens anymore. To echo Brooklyn Dodger fans of the 40s and 50s "Wait till next year!"