Friday, 1 November 2013

To Exercise Or Not To Exercise, That Is The Option

Well the Blue Jays wasted no time at all in announcing which 2014 options they'd be picking up and which they'd be declining. There is only really one surprise in the bunch, from my perspective at least, and those of you who are familiar with my opinions on various players might be similarly surprised by my surprise. Still with me? Good.

Casey Janssen's $4 million option was an absolute no-brainer. He's been great for a second straight season, posting a 2.56 ERA and a 2.74 FIP while striking out 23.8% and walking 6.2% of the batters he's faced. If you go in for saves (which you don't, because they're kind of silly) he's converted on 34 of 36 opportunities. In short, he's been one of the league's most reliable closers, and given some of the absurd contracts handed out to "proven closers" in recent years, picking up his option was not a decision that Anthopoulos expended much brain power on, I'm sure. It was going to get picked up unless his arm fell off, and while there were times this season that we heard his post-op shoulder was giving him trouble, it remained firmly attached to his torso and never seemed to have much of an impact on his performance. Now that he'll have a presumably surgery-free off-season to rest and recover, paying him $4 million to hopefully do it all over again next year is very appealing, but as I wrote here, I'm not entirely sure it'll be with the Jays. That's not to say I think he will or should be traded, but that salary for that kind of performance will likely be very appealing to other teams as well, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if we hear his name in a lot of trade rumours this off-season.

In a similarly unsurprising vein, the Blue Jays also exercised their $7 million option on the left-handed power bat of Adam Lind. He's a polarizing figure among Jays fans, as many of them (okay, us) were ready to cut bait on him after the three extremely mediocre seasons that followed his breakout 2009. I'll admit that I too have piled heaps of scorn upon him for his seemingly philosophical objection to taking a damn walk (even when I'm praising him, apparently). This year, however, he busted right back out again, hitting .288/.357/.489 and posting a 132 wRC+. 

The thing with Lind is that even from 2010-2012 when he was mediocre and stuck on just the wrong side of league average with the bat, he still hit right-handed pitching to the tune of a 113 wRC+. A big part of his struggles was that he was being pencilled in against far too many lefties, and that's hardly his fault. Even this year, his excellent overall numbers were driven by his absolutely beastly .308/.385/.539 line and 151 wRC+ against righties. After some early success that seduced Gibby into giving him a few too many at bats against southpaws, he finished the year with a putrid 51 wRC+ against them.

So, we pretty much know that at his very worst Adam Lind is an above average bat on the strong side of a strict 1B/DH platoon. We also know that at his best Adam Lind can be an absolute righty masher... on the strong side of a strict 1B/DH platoon. So, given that the difference between his $7 million option and his $2 million buyout essentially makes him a $5 million dollar player, I considered it an all but foregone conclusion that they'd be exercising his option. Sure you'd prefer a guy that can play every day that doesn't necessitate carrying a lefty caddy on the roster, but Lind's reasonably predictable floor, his considerable ceiling (when used properly, of course), his strong 2013 and the terms of his buyout all made exercising his option make a lot more sense than declining it.

Speaking of a lefty caddy for Lind, the Blue Jays also picked up the $750 000 option of 38 year old utility infielder Mark DeRosa, who was much better in 2013 than anyone but his own mother had a right to hope for. He'd been coming off a couple of wrist surgeries that had apparently hampered his performance at the plate, something of an understatement given that he put up a 57 wRC+ just last season with the Nationals. The fact that he put up a .235/.326/.407 for an exactly league average 100 wRC+ in entirely too many plate appearances for a team that was supposed to be a contender was a pretty nice surprise. Even nicer, is that injuries meant he faced a lot more right-handed pitching than he would have had Gibby had any other choice. So, if he returns next year (he's 38 after all, and might just as easily retire) and can be used mostly to make sure Lind never sees another left handed pitcher and to spell the occasional infielder, his numbers could look a fair bit better. He did, after all put up a 123 wRC+ against lefties this year, so if Lind can be a bit more like 2009/2013 Lind than 2010-2012 Lind, that's a pretty tidy little platoon the Jays could work with. Whether he retires or not, DeRosa's played well enough and is cheap enough that there's really not much risk to the Jays picking up his option, and it could be a nice bargain.

The surprise, I thought, was Munenori Kawasaki's option being declined. Now I've never really been on the Kawasaki bandwagon, as those of you who follow me on Twitter, or have read this, or this know, but I also appreciated the contribution he made this year and recognized that even his paltry .226/.326/.308 line and 78 wRC+ was more than most teams could have hoped for after being forced to reach so far down their shortstop depth chart. That said, he was a huge hit with fans and in the clubhouse, and while I'd hope that would be a pretty minor factor in Anthopoulos' decision making process, I thought that in combination with his better than expected play it might be enough to get them to pick up his option. Ultimately though, I think I summed up my feelings on Kawasaki's option getting declined best thusly:

Really, whether he's back or not, if this move ends up meaning anything at all for the Toronto Blue Jays then things have already gone horribly wrong. The 40-man roster is probably going to start getting pretty crowded this off-season, and I'm just fine with the bar for a guaranteed roster spot being set higher than Munenori Kawasaki. The irrational, antics-loving side of me hopes that things somehow shake out in such a way that they're able to retain him, maybe even as the 25th man on the roster, but this is really not worth getting worked up about like I've seen some people doing. Aim higher for 2014, folks. Aim higher.

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1 comment:

  1. The Janssen decision was definitely a no brainer. Lind showed he can contribute, as long as his back is OK. I think Kawasaki added a lot to the "team" - the players loved him, the fans loved him and he was pretty good at the plate when needed. I hope he somehow ends up back with the Jays - they need his good karma.