As the Blue Jays prepare for their rubber match against the Mariners on Sunday, questions about the structure of the ball club continue to present themselves. Some days more so than others.
Questions like – When will Aaron Sanchez come back and will he be able to stay healthy? How long will Devon Travis be out for? Can Happ return to his 20-game winner form? Can the Barney/Goins duo hit well enough to fill the gap until Travis returns? Who stays in the rotation and who doesn’t? But the biggest question mark that still remains is: what to do with left field?
The season-long struggles in left field have been well documented throughout the baseball world. I have been critical, you have been critical, the team has been critical. John Gibbons isn’t one to call out player’s play, he never really has been. He has a way staying in his player’s corner, but even he didn’t know what was going on in left field earlier this week in Oakland. Zeke was a nightmare that night, which cost Estrada and the team in timely moments of the game. After the game, Gibbons met the media and was asked about a specific play where Zeke missed a ball in LF and he replied, “I don’t know what happened there”. A very polite way to say: my left fielder shit the bed.
What is John Gibbons to do? He fields the 25 guys on his active roster in what he feels is the best combination to get a win each day. Can John Gibbons expect to have some better options to pencil in over the next couple of weeks? Yes and no…
One option – Steve Pearce, remember him. The management team felt comfortable with their decision to sign Pearce this off season, a move that parlayed with Ezequiel Carrera and gave the team a strong enough platoon in LF. Pearce has been banged up all season but should be returning in the next few days. His defense is not anything to write home about, and his bat can and will go quiet for long stretches. I love the guy as a line-up filler, who can play multiple positions and hit some against lefties, but I don’t feel it’s enough for an everyday gig in LF.
Option two – Play Ezequiel Carrera more. This would totally be a ‘live with it’ move. Gibbons would be giving in to the terrible decision-making and absurd plate approach that comes with giving Zeke more at bats. It would be a risky move to give him a bigger leash. When you stack up his numbers, he is batting almost .300. He is getting on base at a good clip, but the number that blows my mind the most is that he only has one error.
Lucky for him, when you throw to the wrong base, (the 8 times he has this year), it never gets scored as an error, more so just a bad decision. When you lose it in the lights, they usually take it easy on you. When you make a terrible jumping attempt at a ball in the corner, the scorer goes with ‘he isn’t good enough to make that play, so it shouldn’t be expected he does’… no error. If Gibbons plays Zeke more – he will get exposed. The average will drop, the defensive circus will continue, and it could cost the team a couple of wins down the road. A couple of wins can make or break a playoff run.
Option three- Ross Atkins goes out and acquires help. This would be the most popular option, but it also is probably the most unlikely of the three. The Jays have some decent prospects who could get a chance to run with the position, but no one can stay healthy long enough to get a valid chance. This could lead Atkins to acquire a body. I wouldn’t expect a blockbuster, but more of a ‘stop-gap trade’ to fill the hole for the rest of the season and maybe next. So, don’t expect to see an Estrada and prospects-for-Kyle-Schwarber type of trade. More likely it would be a low-costing veteran who plays good defense, has some speed, and can hit in the bottom of the order. Names like Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, and Curtis Granderson may be names the Jays would have interest in, but of course, it all depends on the cost.
It is going to take the combination of winning ball games and continued left field struggles for the Blue Jays to go out and acquire another body for their outfield. Every decision about this current team is directly related to winning and that will not change. John Gibbons knows this philosophy and he has bought in. Let’s hope the winning continues or come August, the only thing John Gibbons will be buying will be some name tags for the new faces in the Clubhouse.