All Second Basemen Options For Jays Are Terrible

The Blue Jays announced last week that they had signed second baseman Chris Getz to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – an unexciting depth move that adds yet another unexciting option into the mix of other unexciting options at second.

It’s no secret that the Jays badly need an upgrade at second, getting an astonishing -2.1 fWAR out of their putrid mix of Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Mark DeRosa, and Munenori Kawasaki (with Brett Lawrie there for six games as well, in a wacky experiment that was quickly ditched). Entering 2014, Fangraphs notes second base for the Blue Jays as one of the three worst positions on a contending team, which to be honest, is a generous label for the Jays considering what just transpired during a 2013 season that I can only describe as…Hindenburgian.

And yet, there is some optimism to be found. Considering just how bad the Jays were at second last year, even just finding any scrub level player that would provide even just say, a single win above replacement, could potentially add two or three wins.

Unfortunately, we don’t even have that.

What we do have, barring an outside upgrade via trade that I pray for every single night, are now four equally bad, sub 1.0 WAR, internal second base options for 2014. And when I say equally bad, I really mean it – Fangraph’s Oliver projection system has all four potential Blue Jays second basemen projected to provide exactly 0.6 wins above replacement over 600 plate appearances. Likely none of them will likely even sniff half of those PAs unless one of them significantly outperforms their projected line (or something has gone terribly wrong with the 2014 season), and even the best projection system is hardly infallible, but it’s still interesting how each of them arrive at exactly 0.6 WAR.

                    wRC+   BsR    Def    WAR
Ryan Goins           59   -2.1   15.8    0.6
Maicer Izturis       75    0.4    2.5    0.6 
Chris Getz           72    2.1    3.8    0.6
Munenori Kawasaki    74   -1.4    4.5    0.6

Ryan Goins is likely the consensus leading candidate to start at this point in the eyes of the general fandom. As a young player (I’d hesitate to label him as a “prospect”) he doesn’t come with much of a track record, so fans naturally assume there’s room for improvement as he gets more playing time. But even with a much publicized eight game hit streak to start his career and carrying a nine game hit streak into the last game of the year, Goins still only hit .252/.264/.345 in 34 games, doing pretty much nothing during all the games in between. There’s also not much history of minor league mashing to think things will get better. Goins slashed only .257/.311/.369 in Buffalo in 2013…so unless he somehow manages to hit AL East quality pitching better than he hit minor leaguers, there’s really not much to hope for. He’s seen as the top option among the four mainly due to his defense, but with only 262 innings at second last year, that small of a sample size could easily cause projection systems to overrate his defense – and while it is legitimately good and passes the eye test easily, still makes you wonder if he really is indeed one of the elite second base defenders in the league as the projections are saying. And even if that was the case, for all the good he does with the glove, he gives it back with the bat, projecting as easily the worst hitter in the mix.

On the other side of things, Maicer Izturis is projected to have (barely) the best bat of the four, and even has a decent line in his recent history, performing as a league average hitter just two years ago in 2011. Which combined with decentish defense around the infield, actually made him a two win player. And after a down 2012 season, the Jays signed him to a three year contract thinking the he would bounce back, and that 2012 was an outlier. The tragedy of course is that he didn’t really bounce back in 2013, and in fact pretty much fell right off a cliff, looking completely lost both at the plate and like a butcher at second on the Rogers Centre turf. Considering that Izturis was ultimately signed for a utility role with the capability to start if required, he will still have the opportunity to attempt a return to form in his age 33 season even just as a bench player, and if for no other reason than the fact that he’s still owed $7 million of guaranteed money. The Jays are hoping that he turns back to his 2006-2011 form, but the projections are weighing 2012 as the more relevant data point in a downward trend.

Chris Getz, who played with the Royals last year under new Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, is a rather unremarkable player, slashing an empty .275/.312/.360 last season with no real success beyond that to pine for. He’s not a clear upgrade over even Goins’ bat, and without a sterling defensive reputation or metrics, he’s signed strictly for depth, to compete with the incumbents during spring training. And on a minor league contract, that’s all you need to be happy with. Getz’s edge in the mix is his base running, although it’s not quite on par with guys like Rajai Davis to think he’s got value as a late game pinch runner.

Remarkably, the best in-house option might still be Munenori Kawasaki, who returns to the Blue Jays for another year, also on a minor league contract. Fangraph’s Oliver projections doesn’t consider him a better defender than Goins, a better hitter than Izturis, or a better runner than Getz…he is just slightly less terrible at everything else than the other three guys. But there’s also stuff to like about Kawasaki, even aside from all the nonsense chemistry stuff and fan favourite wacky antics that bordered on racist pandering. This would only be his third full year in the MLB, and though he showed a big step forward in his second year with more playing time, that’s still more a statement about just how bad he was in his rookie year with the Mariners. A Gold Glove winner playing shortstop in the NPB, he was a constant .300+ hitter, but even at his prime as an All-Star in Japan he showed no power, never hitting more than just 4 home runs a season (former Mariners and Reds washout Wladimir Balentien recently became the new all-time NPB home run king by clubbing 60 dingers in 2013). But he’s always had a decent ability to take a walk and grind at-bats – his 4.18 P/PA last season was second on the team only to Jose Bautista’s 4.23, and would have tied baseball god Joey Votto for 13th in the entire league if he was a qualified batter (he was more than 200 plate appearances short).

I would not be surprised if Kawasaki ended up with the job out of spring training, with Izturis getting plenty of chances still as a utility player to bounce back as a starter, with Goins getting regular time in Buffalo to hopefully improve the bat, and Getz as depth to cover the inevitable underperformance or injury that seems to happen so often with the Jays.

Conclusion: What the Toronto Blue Jays should do? Sign Stephen Drew and fuck all these other guys. Now that he’s allegedly softened on his desire to remain only a shortstop, having a locked up starting second baseman gig ain’t too bad right? Considering the compensation draft pick attached is hurting his market, and Boston only wants him back in a utility role with top prospect Xander Bogaerts manning short, it wouldn’t be too crazy to think that Drew might be interested in a short term pillow contract. And since the Mets (the only team with a protected first rounder that is rumoured to be interested) seem content to enter a non-contending year with Ruben Tejada, there’s not too many options out there for Drew.

Is it worth losing even that second rounder and the draft pool money associated with it for a year of Drew? He’s risky and inconsistent, injury prone and would be playing on turf with a recently surgically repaired ankle, has had an escalating strikeout rate, can’t hit lefties, and was terrible outside of Fenway Park last year. But he is still easily at least a 2-3 WAR player on a team with no other non-terrible options, and having another legitimate shortstop at second base is not a bad idea for the Rogers Centre, especially if God forbid, Jose Reyes misses any time this season as well.

Sign Drew, stash Kawasaki in Buffalo as the first option in case one of Drew or Reyes goes down, sign Ubaldo Jimenez, sneak into one of the wild card spots with 92 wins, sweep the World Series.

Or whatever, just don’t make me have to swallow the prospect of Ryan Goins, 2014 Toronto Blue Jays starting second baseman.

“Would you rather get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death?”
“Are those my only two options?”



Destined to fight the world's evil, The WAMBAG endures massive battles involving impossible stunts, races on horse-pulled carriages, and the desecration of enchanting medieval castles (all done with dizzying computer graphics). Not only does the eye candy keep on coming, the tongue-in-cheek writing and deep Transylvanian accents perfect the film with a dose of dark humor.



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