Could A Trio Of Former Blue Jays Be The Lefty Slayer They Need?
The commencement of spring training is just around the corner and the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to make an off-season splash. The Jays have been waiting for the pitching market to crash to an affordable rate and seem content with remaining status quo with their position players.
One thing is for sure, Alex Anthopoulos and company need to add a reliable lefty masher to offset the shortcomings of designated hitter Adam Lind. The 30-year old was very productive last season hitting .309 and hammering 20 of his 23 homers against right handed pitching. However, the numbers get a little dicey against lefties where Lind struggled worse than “The Mighty Casey at the Bat” hitting lefties to a depressing tune of .208 in 100 plate appearances. For his career it doesn’t get anymore promising as Lind owns a career .219 average in 855 plate appearances.
There are a few interesting and familiar options available on the free agent market that could provide manager John Gibbons with some options against tough lefty pitching.
The New York Yankees recently released veteran outfielder Vernon Wells who is no stranger to life north of the border. The man affectionately known as “VDub” was drafted in the 1st round by the Jays and spent 12 years in Toronto. Wells and his astronomical contract were dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in 2011 for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, however Wells is a career .286 hitter against lefties in 1878 plate appearances and could also provide veteran leadership in a bench role. The Jays could essentially sign him for $500,000 and let both the Angels and Yankees pay the $21 million salary that they originally negotiated.
The second former player available is the gritty, fan favorite Reed Johnson who spent last season with the Atlanta Braves. Just like Wells, Johnson was drafted by the Blue Jays and spent 5 years with the club before his surprising release in 2008. Johnson has notoriously hit lefties well throughout his career to the tune of .311 in 1464 plate appearances. The veteran would be a welcomed addition to the Jays supporting cast and would bring smiles to the faces of the Blue Jays faithful seeing Reed back in a Jays uniform.
The third player and maybe the most intriguing of all is 37-year old Michael Young who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 5th round of the 1997 amateur draft. Young made it as far as Double A with the Jays before being dealt to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Esteban Loaiza in 2000. It is rumored that Young is contemplating retirement but the infielder has enjoyed tremendous success against lefties throughout his career hitting at a .313 clip in 2139 plate appearances.
Besides the former players with ties to the Blue Jays there are some other available lefty slayers still on the market with Jeff Baker leading the hit brigade against lefties.
Jeff Baker .298 in 827 PA
Jason Bay .270 in 1438 PA (Retired)
Ty Wigginton .267 in 1466 PA
Yuniesky Betancourt .263 in 1097 PA
Brandon Inge .260 in 1513 PA
While the Jays lay in the weeds for a starter they should address the lefty situation and strengthen their bench before some of the more valuable assets find work elsewhere. Who says you can never go home again.