Blue Jays Need Another Right-Handed Bat
by Brandon Jopko | Posted on Saturday, July 5th, 2014
Since June 27th, the second game of a four-game set with the White Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays have faced four left-handers (John Danks, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Tommy Milone) and have lost all four games. They’re also set to face Scott Kazmir and Brad Mills (this may change with the big trade) in Oakland, and then at least C.J. Wilson in Anaheim, and David Price in Tampa before the All-Star break. Versus left-handed pitchers, the Blue Jays are last in the A.L. with a .235 BA. True, their feared slugger Jose Bautista was out of the lineup with a sore hamstring until very recently, and Brett Lawrie is on the DL as well. Without those two bats, the lineup is certainly impacted, and yet Blue Jays’ replacements have not done the job, which Jose Reyes pointed out to the Star’s Rosie Dimanno: “People need to step it up. (For) Me, I need to do a better job getting on base and making stuff happen.”
Current options on the roster include young outfielders Brad Glenn (13 AB with 0 hits and 5 K) and Darin Mastroianni (3 hits in 15 AB although one was a crucial homerun). Kevin Pillar (.225/.220/.300 in 40 AB) was up with the team previously until he had a fit about being pinch-hit for and was subsequently demoted.
Erik Kratz has also seen time with the big club filling in at catcher and DH. He’s a true platoon back-up catcher who’s awful against righties, but slugs left-handers pretty well (.242/.265/.545 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 33 AB in 2014). He may be recalled soon enough from Buffalo to take away Josh Thole’s primary job, which is to catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, due to Thole’s ineffectiveness at the dish in addition to Dickey’s inconsistency with the knuckler. Why does Dickey need a personal catcher who doesn’t seem to be helping him?
Unquestionably, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos needs to scour the market and get his club some help right away. Preferrably, he needs a right-handed lefty masher who can play the outfield, and off the top of my head, a few options are listed below that won’t cost any top prospects:
Justin Ruggiano, Cubs - in 43 G, he’s slashing .257/.341/.434 and can play all three outfield positions. Versus lefties, he slugs even better - .506 SLG over his career.
John Mayberry, Jr., Phillies - in 58 G, he’s hitting .214/.313/.411 including a line of .274/.325/.532 over his career versus lefties. What’s more, over 507 plate appearances against southpaws, he’s slugged 28 HR and 75 RBIs. He too can play all outfield positions including first base.
Brandon Barnes, Rockies - in 73 G, he has a line of .259/.302/.401, he’s also very versatile in the outfield, however in looking at his splits, he’s worse against lefties with a line of .234/.317/.266.
While Barnes doesn’t look like a viable option, the Blue Jays only need a RH platoon bat that has enough versatility to spell Colby Rasmus in center field, or Bautista in right if he’s still hurt. And if the Jays recall Kratz, he could spell Adam Lind on occasion at DH. These moves would only serve to help the team when they face off against left-handers.
While it’s not quite panic time for the Jays’ 2014 season, it’s quite clear what the Blue Jays’ holes are. Anthopoulos could infuse the team with a better right-handed bench bat that can play the outfield, and while he’s at it, acquire a starting second baseman as well. More starting rotation reinforcements may not be entirely necessary at this point given how well the pitchers are doing as of late, but stay tuned; they’re not even in the dog days of August yet.
Overall, the Blue Jays are 9-17 since June 7th, which isn’t going to win any championships. In fact, the Blue Jays have two losing months thus far out of three going 13-17 in April, 21-9 in May, and 12-15 in June. What Anthopoulos does now could give the team a shot of adrenaline to try and reclaim first place in the wide open A.L. East.