Posted by WAMCO
There is a lot of sentiment for the Blue Jays to make a run at the AL East in 2011. The 2010 season has been extremely encouraging in many ways, and this kind of optimism can be both good and bad. For my part, I am expecting a regression by some of the young pitchers as they continue to develop, so I am not sure I would necessarily dump a ton of money into the 2011 payroll myself, depending on who you could get of course.
If the Blue Jays as an organization decide that they have the core to make a run in 2011, though, they will need to improve in a couple of areas. Position by position, this is what I would do:
Catcher: Use J. P. Arencibia as the starter, and sign a good defensive backup (read: not Jose Molina, get someone who will actually block balls in the dirt. Fun fact: Molina actually played two innings at third base for the Yankees last year; that is truly terrifying)
First Base/DH: I put these two positions together, because a lot depends on who they can sign in free agency. If they are going for it, I would love to see them sign or trade for a big power hitter to play first, and allow Adam Lind to be the DH. Another option would be for Lind to play first, and for them to sign a strictly DH guy. The best solution might be to have a job share, where Lind plays 1B sometimes and the other guy plays 1B the rest of the time, and they DH when they are not at first.
Second Base: Aaron Hill. He won’t be as good as he was in 2009 or as bad as he’s been in 2010. Fangraphs suggests that Hill has been extremely unlucky this year with a .204 batting average on balls in play.
Third Base: This is where I would use Jose Bautista. I do not see a lot of other options for them here, unless they bring Edwin Encarnacion back, and the only way that should happen is if he is non-tendered and re-signed at a lower salary.
Shortstop: Yunel Escobar. Based on his career thus far, I would think he might be a decent option at the leadoff spot, with a career on-base percentage of .366.
Right Field: I’ll go here first, it works better that way. This is where I want Travis Snider. He’s played right most of his minor league career, and while his defensive metrics, according to fangraphs, are somewhat better in LF, he has not played nearly enough games for those to be accurate. He could also play LF, depending on if they sign anyone else.
Center Field: They need to stick with the twenty-million dollar man in center, barring the acquisition of a better defender, which would push Wells to LF.
Left Field: Right now they have Fred Lewis. I think they need to do better. The best option on the free agent market will likely be Carl Crawford. Whether Toronto could lure him or not, going the trade route is another option. The Blue Jays have a surplus of quality pitching prospects in the minors, and if they plan on going for it in 2011, this offseason might be the time to consider dealing a couple of them for a quality bat in the outfield, or at first, or at third.
In summary, the great thing about the players that the Jays currently have that are worth keeping for next year is that they have a decent amount of flexibility. For example, if they acquire a 3rd baseman, then Bautista goes back to RF and Snider to LF. A 1st baseman pushes Lind back to DH. I believe they need two bats for next year, one for the top and one for the middle of the lineup.