Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Blue Jays Make Immediate Improvement with Danny Valencia

Well the trade so many were hoping for was hardly a blockbuster, but it was definitely something. In Danny Valencia, the Blue Jays have hopefully acquired the lefty masher they have needed since the beginning of the season. He should be able to slot in at third base or designated hitter against left-handed pitching, providing Gibbons one more piece to work with when setting up the infield platoons he's employed to great effect this year.

Erik Kratz and Liam Hendriks are the pieces heading to Kansas in exchange for Valencia, and while neither are nothing, they also aren't going to provide the Blue Jays with the immediate impact that Valencia can. Kratz might end up being missed if Navarro goes down to injury, which still feels uncomfortably like a thing that could happen, given that the 91 games he's appeared in this year already represent his highest total since 2007, when he appeared in 115. Realistically, Kratz probably should have been the second stringer all along, but with Dickey needing Thole to be his caddy, Kratz had been the third catcher on the depth chart. He hasn't hit at all when he's been with the big club either, slashing .198/.226/.346 for a wRC+ of 52, so even though he's undoubtedly better than he's shown it's hard to make too much of a case for him, even though he was the strongest defender of the three. Let's just hope that Navarro is able to remain healthy, because if he doesn't their catching depth now probably consists of all-glove prospect A.J. Jimenez, and a Thole/Jimenez platoon is not a situation a contending team should hope to see.

Liam Hendriks is pretty much just a guy. His three big league starts were less than confidence-inspiring. He's alright as depth, but if he's in the major leagues you've probably got pretty big problems with your rotation. In his three starts with the Blue Jays, he pitched to a 6.08 ERA and 6.21 FIP, and needed to use every inch of the ballpark to even do that. If the team is in a position to miss Liam Hendriks, the season is likely already lost.

As mentioned earlier, Valencia's job will be to hit the crap out of left-handed pitching, something he's done very well for his career. So far this year, he's hitting lefties to the tune of .354/.386/.492 for a 146 wRC+ in 70 plate appearances. In 498 career plate appearances against lefties, Valencia has hit .333/.369/.510, good for a 140 wRC+. The guy has smacked lefties around quite well, and that's something that has been sorely lacking in the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup this year.

For now, I suspect (hope?) that it's Ryan Goins on the outside looking in. He's hit surprisingly well in his most recent call-up, but then he did in his very first call-up last season didn't he? As funny as it seems to say, I have more faith in Kawasaki's bat than Goins', and it's not like the defensive gap between them is so great as to make up for what I'm still pretty sure will turn out to be Goins' unplayable bat. That would mean a Kawasaki/Tolleson platoon at second and a Francisco/Valencia platoon at third. I suppose it could also be Gose who is the odd man out now that Reimold is back, but the infield is so crowded with left-handed bats that I think I'd rather they keep Gose's wheels around than Goins' glove.

When the reinforcements return from the DL there will be more difficult roster decisions to make, albeit not for a couple of weeks yet from the sounds of it. I could see the infield shaking out something like Edwin at first, Lawrie at second, Reyes at short, Francisco at third, and Lind DH'ing against right-handed pitching. Against a lefty starter, I'd imagine Lawrie would slide over to third, Tolleson would come in at second, and Valencia would take over designated hitter duties from Lind. I won't even hazard to guess what the bench might look like at that point.

This is exactly the kind of marginal depth move that can pay big dividends down the stretch, whether it's starting against lefties or pinch-hitting late in a game. Valencia is the right-handed bat that everyone knew they needed coming into the season, and while it's a bit frustrating that it took them this long to make such a small, obvious move that immediately makes them so much better, it's better late than never, right?

Update: It's Rob Rasmussen that's been optioned back to Buffalo, meaning that for today's game at least they'll run with a six-man bullpen. So of course:


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1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with you that it will be Goins who is the odd man out. If Francisco keeps hitting, they'll want to keep his pop in the lineup. I won't be surprised if against lefties we see Lawrie at second, Valencia at third, and Reimold at DH. Against righties you could still see Lawrie at second, with Francisco at third. Kawasaki would remain as your super sub.