Frequent readers will know that I find little to like in terms of the Blue Jays’ decision making at the major league level. As I discussed previously, Toronto wasted valuable time in 2010 giving at bats to players not in their future plans, and recently demoted Brett Cecil, who last year gave them 172 IP at an xFIP of 4.15, neither of which is consistent with trying to be in position to challenge the Red Sox and Yankees in 2012 and beyond.
There is little doubt that the Jays have turned the corner and Alex Anthopoulus is building a team that can compete in the AL East – there is young pitching, promising talent on the diamond and perhaps the AL’s best hitter in Jose Bautista. Following the Jays 5-2 win over the Rangers in Arlington this afternoon, news arrives that Toronto demoted a slumping Travis Snider to AAA Las Vegas.
To review – Snider broke into the majors at 20, rocketing through the system and getting 75 plate appearances for Toronto. Over 2009 and 2010, he put together basically an entire season (at ages 21 and 22) and posted a 249/315/449 slash line with 23 HRs in 595 trips to the plate. While it might not seem impressive, the list of more impressive performers at this young an age over the past decade is both brief and distinguished, and failing to produce at the rates of Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez etc hardly requires demotion to the minors.
The Blue Jays Outfield current consists of five options – Jose Bautista is (rightly) locked into RF for the foreseeable future. Currently CF is patrolled by Corey Patterson, with Rajai Davis expected to come off the DL Friday evening, and Snider’s departure would seem to open up some additional playing time for Juan Rivera, either in LF or DH (though the Jays could shift Patterson to LF as well.).
What isn’t clear to me is why any of these guys would get playing time in Toronto’s outfield. Rajai Davis has posted a career OPS+ of 89 while playing average to below average defense with no pop in his bat (12 HRs). Sadly, Davis dwarfs Patterson in terms of production – Patterson’s decade of major league service shows a .305 wOBA over 4000 plate appearances. Juan Rivera’s body of work is positively Ruthian, with a near league average wOBA desperately attempting to mask an inability to defend.
Patterson and Rivera are free agents following the season, while Davis remains controlled for 2012 at a reasonable price of 2.75M. The Blue Jays control Snider for 2011 and then his 3 arbitration eligible years. The currently sit two games under .500, only 3.5 games out thanks to the slow starts by the Yanks, Sox and Rays. Baseball Prospectus puts their playoff odds at 0.3%, which strikes me as overly optimistic. If the Jays are serious about competing in 2012 and beyond, they had better find out now whether Travis Snider will be playing LF when the challenge the beasts of the East rather than wasting one of his team controlled years by mashing in Las Vegas.