As the Toronto Blue Jays once again sputter to a mediocre record through the first six weeks of the regular season, there’s been plenty of blame to go around. Manager John Gibbons is getting his fair share, but in reality, he’s been the least of the Blue Jays’ problems so far.
He manages a bullpen very well (yes, including last night when Sergio Santos blew the save in the 9th inning). What was Gibbons supposed to do? Turn the ball over to Todd Redmond, J.A. Happ, or Esmil Rogers? Can you imagine the shitstorm he would have faced when one of those guys threw the game away? Come on. Don’t be an idiot.
I do find it funny, however, that after spending all year insisting on an 8-man bullpen, he’s actually got himself down to a 6-man unit now. He’s letting Happ start on Monday (more on that in a minute), and with Dioner Navarro banged up, he needs a third catcher, so Chad Jenkins was sent down yesterday for Erik Kratz.
I don’t expect the 6-man rotation to last very long (also more on that in a bit), so the reprieve should come shortly. The team is also returning to nearly perfect health, with 1B/DH Adam Lind, and closer Casey Janssen all due back from the Disabled List within the next 10 days.
That being said, there needs to be several decisions made about the composition of the roster. And I think it’s finally time to start putting the best roster out there, and not the one that best suits guys with roster options.
So buckle up. Here’s what I would do if I was John Gibbons.
As it stands right now, the starting nine are pretty much set, and the order is fine with me. But, just to clarify, here’s how I would line them up.
1. Jose Reyes – SS
2. Melky Cabrera – LF
3. Jose Bautista – RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion – 1B
5. Adam Lind – DH
6. Dioner Navarro – C
7. Brett Lawrie – 3B
8. Colby Rasmus – CF
9. Chris Getz – 2B
The 6-8 spots are pretty fluid, but so long as Navarro keeps swinging well, I think he holds down the 6 spot. As Lawrie continues to heat up, he can slide up into that place in the order, but for now, keep the pressure dialed back a little bit and continue to let him work himself into a groove. Same with Rasmus. In an ideal world I think it goes Lawrie – Rasmus – Navarro. Hopefully they can get to that eventually.
I also had another crazy idea about moving Bautista up to second, EE to third, and Melky to fourth. But the more I think about it, the more absurd it seems. Let Mekly get as many ABs as possible.
C – Josh Thole
He’s swung the bat well so far this season, and he catches Dickey well. He is capable of handling the other starters, too, so there’s no reason to not keep him around. I think increasing his workload to twice per week is actually a good idea, and hope that Gibbons starts to do so. As was mentioned in Episode One of the BalkCast, Morrow had his best start of the year in Cleveland with him, and last night in Pittsburgh was solid, too. I know he gave up 11 hits, but he walked just one batter. Perhaps Thole should be Morrow’s “personal catcher”, as Jose Molina was here a few years ago.
1B/3B/DH – Juan Francisco
Johnny McFrank has done nothing but hit since his recall two weeks ago when Lind went down. He’s got a .279/.380/.558 slash line in 12 games, with three home runs and six RBI. The 17 strikeouts are a touch concerning, but he’s the prototypical power bat you can bring off the bench late in the game if you need a blast. He can also spell three position players adequately when they need a day off. His defence is mediocre at best, but you could do much worse.
Some people have floated the idea that he play third regularly when Lind returns, shifting Lawrie to second. I think that’s a terrible idea. You make do with it during interleague play because your hands are tied. AL teams do this all the time (see: David Ortiz at 1B). You don’t sacrifice team defence long term like that.
IF/OF – Steve Tolleson
Tolleson is mostly an infielder, primarily 2B/3B, but he can play outfield in a pinch. He’s not much of a threat offensively off the bench, but every team needs a guy who can play multiple positions if need be. He’s essentially your 25th man. Nothing flashy, but he’ll do. This spot could easily be taken by Jonathan Diaz, or Ryan Goins, or Munenori Kawasaki. I’d be fine with any of them. Actually I wouldn’t mind having Kawasaki back. I kinda miss him. Send help for me.
OF – Anthony Gose
He’s a plus defender, and he’s capable of playing all three outfield spots, unlike Moises Sierra. There’s no reason Bautista needs to be playing centre field on days Rasmus is on the bench. Gose probably still needs some work with the bat (although his two games up this year have been very good), but he brings so much more to the table. He’s a great late-inning defensive replacement, or late-inning pinch runner. It’s virtually impossible for him to hit worse than Sierra was, so as long as he gets enough playing time to keep him fresh, this is a great decision. Sierra was not being used enough. I wouldn’t mind seeing him start in left field, with Cabrera DHing on occasion, perhaps against certian left-handers if Lind is out of the lineup.
And there’s your four-man bench. All four guys serve a purpose. You need all four of them. MLB teams carry four reserve position players. This is not a debate. Stop the madness.
The Starting Rotation
1. R.A. Dickey
2. Drew Hutchison
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Brandon Morrow
5. J.A. Happ (for now)
The 1-4 spots are locked in, so we don’t even need to have a discussion about this. So, Happ.
He wants to start, so let him. See what he’s got. If he’s awful, tell him to hit the bricks. He’s loudly proclaimed he believes himself to be a starting pitcher in the American League, despite the fact we all know he’s probably not. So it’s time for him to put up or shut up. Give him two, maybe three starts. If he can’t get the job done, introduce him to Mr. DFA. If/when he is unable to perform, call up Marcus Stroman.
1. Todd Redmond
2. Dustin McGowan
3. Aaron Loup
4. Steve Delabar
5. Brett Cecil
6. Segio Santos
7. Casey Janssen – Closer
That first spot there was actually a lot tougher to choose than I thought. It pretty much comes down to Redmond or Rogers. I considered who would be less likely to be lost on waivers, but then I remembered my criteria for this roster was BEST roster, not based on who could be sent down, etc. And I think Redmond is that guy. He’s the perfect long man. He can get through the order once without many problems, and he throws strikes. He’s able to stay in the game just long enough to bridge from poor start, to the regular relievers. Rogers is capable of doing the same job, but right now he just isn’t doing it as well. You pray that you can sneak him through waivers, or try and work out a minor deal for him.
Moving McGowan back to the bullpen strenghtens it considerably. Look, if you’re going to have both Happ and McGowan on the roster, it’s got to be Happ in the rotation and McGowan in the ‘pen. Their differences as starters are not that dramatic. Both will probably only give you 5-6 innings. Happ out of the bullpen is not nearly as effective as McGowan would be. McG is another power arm who is capable of coming in and shutting down some top hitters to record three, four, or even five outs. I think long term, this is probably best for the health of his arm. And after Gibby’s comments last night about the team missing him and Janssen, I think he might be on the way back there soon.
The rest of the ‘pen shakes up nicely. Janssen will re-assume his role as closer. I think Cecil/Delabar take the eighth inning for now, based on matchups, and send Santos down to the 7th inning until he’s recovered from whatever is causing him to suck. He’s still a talented pitcher. He proved that last year. I’m confident he can find it again.
The odd man out is Neil Wagner, another hard-throwing right hander. He’s the first callup in case of injury. Chad Jenkins is the second.
Again, this is all assuming perfect health. If we’ve learned anything from the Jays over the last two seasons, that’s just about the stupidest assumption a person can make. But a guy can dream, right?
I want to hear your thoughts. If you think the roster should be shaped differently, let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter. And we’ll discuss some of them in the podcast on Monday.