Jays Pass On Stephen Drew, Who Signs With The Yankees

drew-wmc

In 300 plate appearances in 2014, Stephen Drew posted a .162/.237/.299 line. An explanation of why it’s not worth lamenting that the Jays didn’t spend $5-million (as the Yankees have done) of what precious little remains of their budgetary resources for 2015 on him could really begin and end there. To do so, though, would be missing a much greater, often-ignored point: the Jays’ second base situation really isn’t the mess that many think.

Truthfully, it also doesn’t give Drew enough credit.

Consider that he didn’t have a spring training, give him a mulligan on his abysmal 27 games prior to the All-Star break, and his second half line “jumps” to .169/.246/.315. HEYO!

No, but seriously, Drew is broken down and useless — a Joe Sheehan tweet reminds us that “Drew is 32, and from 28-31 he hit .228/.305/.382 with 12/7 SB/CS and -2 DRS” — and he projects to almost the exact same line as Maicer Izturis does (albeit with better defence). He missed about a week with an oblique issue in 2014, a month with a concussion and three weeks with a thigh strain in 2013, and lost multiple months in both 2012 and 2011 with an ankle fracture.

In their list of the market’s top free agents, Baseball Prospectus ranked him 43rd and wondered if he’d be able to hold down a starting spot for the entire season, suggesting that whoever signed him would be “praying for a return to normalcy.” Keith Law had him higher — way up in 34th — but wasn’t any kinder: “He might be finished. It’s not as if ZiPS has much confidence in his bat, and I certainly don’t, not after his second cipher season at the plate in the past three years,” he wrote. “There is some non-zero chance he gets back toward his 2013 level of production, even though we saw no signs of it last year. He really hasn’t hit left-handed pitching in years, and last year he couldn’t catch up to a decent fastball; if he did, there was a good chance he’d pop it up or hit a weak fly out.”

Drew did, however, have a very good 2013 with the Red Sox (109 wRC+, 3.2 WAR), and a decent half-season in Arizona in 2011, an outstanding 2010 there (4.7 WAR), and a couple decent seasons before that. He’s been good before. And though his age and recent awfulness suggest it’s not a great bet to think he’ll approach his previous heights again, $5-million isn’t a whole lot to spend to find out. Especially if you’re the Yankees.

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Dalton Pompey Will Be The Blue Jays’ Starting CF In 2015

Dalton Pompey

That’s a bold statement, I know.

I may very well end up being wrong for saying so, and frankly, if anybody said something so unequivocal I’d probably admonish them for not couching their statement with enough uncertainty. But… come on! It’s totally going to happen.

I think.

Let me explain why, now more than ever, I believe this to be the case:

Shi Davidi wrote two pieces for Sportsnet on Tuesday that addressed the Jays’ outfield situation. In the first he focussed on the apparent impasse between the club and Melky Cabrera, but closed with a quote from Alex Anthopoulos about the GM’s contentedness with his internal options in centre. “Unless an opportunity presents itself, which I don’t see occurring as we sit here today, that will probably be internal competition between Gose, Pompey and Pillar.”

When his second piece hit, we got a little bit more. Looking at where the Jays might go if Melky doesn’t return, Davidi explained, pivoting off AA’s quote about the situation in centre, that “the emerging picture for the Blue Jays is that their to-do list includes one outfielder, not two, along with a second or third baseman plus help for the bullpen.”

In the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott used an even more direct quote. “We think we have the solution for centre internally,” Anthopoulos told him. “Whether it is Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar or Pompey in centre.”

Back in Davidi’s second piece, we’re told that Pompey will “have an equal opportunity,” according to the GM. “With Dalton it’s going to be how well does he play defensively in centre field, and it’s not going to be so much the statistics in spring training with respect to the number of hits and so on, Dalton offensively is going to be evaluated on the quality of the at-bat. As long as he’s putting up competitive at-bats where he’s grinding and he works the count, we feel he’s going to have a chance to be a good offensive player right out of the chute.”

That right there is the money quote, as far as I’m concerned. Especially in conjunction with a thing like this:

“The one thing is he’ll consistently give you a quality at-bat, no matter what level we continued to move him,” said Anthopoulos back in September, according to Toronto Star profile of Pompey. “He’s one of the few guys who is extremely selective at the plate. He really does profile as a top of the order guy.”

According to Elliott’s piece, Anthopoulos noted that “he’s an above-average defender,” too.

So… according to the GM, whether Pompey wins the job will be about how he plays defensively, which the GM says he’s above average at, and whether he can have quality at-bats, which he tells us he consistently does.

Oh yeah, and as I noted in yesterday’s Daily Duce, by way of The Blue Jay Hunter, manager John Gibbons had this to say about him, too: ““If the season were to start tomorrow with what we have today, from what we saw last year, I’d love to see Pompey out there. It was a short audition, but I tell you what, he played very good and he’s got a chance to be a hell of a player.”

Aaaaaand with the talk about not looking at spring stats, isn’t Anthopoulos already sort of laying the groundwork for choosing Pompey regardless?

Hmmm.

Of course, it’s not that Pompey really needs a bunch of money quotes to make it clear he has the edge in a straight-up competition against Gose, Pillar, or even a Gose-Pillar platoon.

The latter option will, of course, provide the toughest challenge for the switch-hitting Pompey to surpass, though he has the advantage of taking up just one roster spot, rather than two.

Still, Pillar’s 116 wRC+ against left-handers — buoyed as it is by an MLB-portion-of-the-season-saving September, and powered by a .361 BABIP in the split — is pretty nice looking. He hit as well as ever at the minor league level in 2014, too. And Gose can be passable against right-handers with an average-ish OBP, like the .329 he put up in the Majors last year, coming as it does with his otherworldly defence and speed on the basepaths.

But maaaaan. Gose’s .238/.329/.312 line in his good split is somehow even less inspiring than Pillar’s 4.9% walk rate, 21.0% strikeout rate, and .351 BABIP in his good month of September.

And Pompey? Yeah, he’s ridiculously green, and yeah, he’s maybe not going to be a fully-formed big leaguer just yet — in fact, in Elliott’s piece, Anthopoulos himself noted that, defensively, “we’d like to see him tighten up his game — come over the top with his throws rather than to the side” — but there’s so much to like here. He’s just so much more of a complete player than the other two. Not as good defensively as Gose, but more selective than Pillar, and never a candidate to be replaced by a late-game pinch hitter. And there’s also the fact that Gose and Pillar both can be optioned to the minors, which makes it much easier to start out the season with Pompey and hope for the best, instead of the other way around — which itself doesn’t come without a bunch of hoping, let’s not forget.

If I was a GM with my ass on the line, I know who I’d be betting on. Based on the title of this post, I guess I am betting on it — and if you read between the lines, it sounds like Alex may well be ready to make that bet too.

And given the alternatives, why the hell not? I’m all for it. The club’s resources are finite, their roster space is finite, and even though an ideal world would probably see a quality veteran pushing back Pompey’s ETA by a year or two, he brings enough glove that you can take a chance on a bat that, all things (i.e. platoon issues) considered, is probably already more valuable than either of his two challengers. Just… uh… just don’t say Jackie Bradley Jr.

 

Image via @DaltonPompey.