By Patrick Flynn
(ISN) – With the New Year fast approaching and the Blue Jays not making any big upgrades in the bullpen, or at second base, it’s time to start looking at how this team stacks up with last year’s team. Let’s run through some positions on the roster and make 10 a great upgrade, and 1, a huge downgrade.
The obvious position that has downgraded is left field but it’s not as massive as some people may think. Let’s start with the age of both Melky Cabrera and Michael Saunders. Saunders is 28 while Cabrera is 30 – that may not present as a big difference, but it is. Saunders has very high potential; injuries incurred while playing with the Mariners have not allowed him to reach his full potential… Alternatively, Cabrera bats with a quick swing which allows him to have a high average and is primarily why Jay’s fans loved him. As he gets older and his swing slows down, his average will drop dramatically and he will potentially, in turn, become less lovable.
Saunders, who is known to hit home runs has landed in a great ballpark for his strengths and should be a perfect bottom three hitter, to follow the killer top six batters in this lineup. On the defensive side of the ball Saunders WILL be better than Cabrera. He could be considerably better but Saunders definitely surpasses in the field. I’d have to say that I’d still rather have Melky in left field but Saunders is a great replacement, so the upgrade-downgrade at left field is a 4.
Second base is a position that everyone knows the Jays have to improve at but the question is how and when? There’s not a great chance the Jays will improve at second base this offseason, but they may surprise us! Goins and Izturis look to share the job this season and that could get very ugly, but it will work. This is a downgrade after Lawrie owned this position for most of last season but I think Devon Travis may even this one out. The Jays obtained Devon Travis in a trade with the Tigers earlier in the offseason. Travis was ranked as the 84th best prospect in America last season, and has showed some potential with his bat in the minor leagues. Travis spent most of last season in AA and is expected to start the season in Buffalo but anything can happen in Spring Training, and it wouldn’t surprise if Travis is on the opening day, 40 man roster. With Lawrie leaving but Travis being shipped in I’d say this position stays the same. Upgrade-downgrade 5.
First base is a weird one and has basically just turned into “whose better”, Lind or Smoak. Both players are good when sharing first base with Edwin Encarnacion, but if I had to choose one, it’s Lind despite not hitting lefties. This makes first base’s upgrade-downgrade a 2. We’ll miss you Adam! Who would you rather have starting at catcher, Martin or Navarro? That’s what I thought, Martin! Don’t get me wrong, Dioner Navarro was a great starting catcher last season but he’s simply not as good as Russell Martin. I think it would be great if you had Navarro as the backup catcher and part time DH, but then you would run into the same problem the Jays had last season – having three catchers on the roster. Navarro has also made it clear that if he’s not starting he wants to be traded to a team where he will start. In summary, the Jays do look better at catcher, and who doesn’t love a Canadian kid on the Toronto Blue Jays! Upgrade-downgrade 7.
The Navarro trade just may deliver what the Jays have been waiting for – bullpen arms! This would be the biggest problem for the Jays if the season started today. The bullpen has been the focus for Alex Anthopoulos the entire offseason but still, nothing has been done to solve the issue. With many big name free agent relievers being signed it’s now time to see if AA was telling the truth when he said he was going to build his bullpen through trades and not free agency. I think it’s still too early to judge AA on the bullpen because there’s still more than 2 months left in the offseason – this of course allows time to make further moves. For now I’m going to leave the upgrade-downgrade at 5 but that will change, I promise!