Posted by: Asher Roth | November 26, 2009

A Barrage of Shortstops!

Well, folks, we have some good news! The Blue Jays have found suitable fillers for the #9 spot in the batting order! (oh, and the vacant shortstop position). Just as we were going to announce that Johnny Mac was signed to a 2-year, $3M contract, we have also learned that the team has signed 2003 World Series champion, Alex Gonzalez, to a one-year, $2.75M contract with a club option for 2011.

First off, I know what you’re thinking, Jays fans. Blast from the past, right? Well, no, the Jays have not signed this Alex Gonzalez. That one is 36 years old, and unfortunately hasn’t held a starting job in about four years. Alas no, they have signed this one.

Now I don’t completely understand this move, on the part of AA. Gonzalez can defend well, there is no denying that, but so can John McDonald. We all know that Johnny Mac’s bat is a liability, but Gonzalez is not exactly a power bat either. Sure, he hit 23 homers in 2004, but last year he hit just eight, after missing the entire 2008 season with an injury. This move seems like a gamble, and a peculiar one, considering Gonzalez is not even slated to make much more than Johnny Mac makes.

So what’s the point of signing the both of them? Since Cito Gaston showed throughout last season that he’d rather throw Kevin Millar into the line up on a semi-regular basis than play McDonald, why sign him at all? Why waste $1.5M a year on a guy that is going to ride the bench all year? Could this be why McDonald was signed for two years and Gonzalez only for one? Because at the conclusion of Cito’s tenure as skipper, his replacement will realize the gold mine he possesses in Johnny Mac?

And this really provides optimism for a very talented left side of the Jays infield. Remember when we had Scott Rolen on the hot corner and Marco Scutaro manning short? Well, now we get to look forward to Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez. Because when your team is in building mode, there’s nothing better than to “build” the left side of your infield on the foundation of two former Cincinnati Reds… a team we all know has found plenty of success in the last several years… of course the one former Red we would have liked was Adam Dunn, but JP Ricciardi took good care to make sure that never happens. And let’s not forget the rumour that the Jays are trying to get Brandon Phillips as well. Perhaps the team’s plan moving forth will be to just trade rosters with the Reds. I wouldn’t mind seeing Edinson Volquez here, personally. And Bronson Arroyo’s whacky leg kick would provide consistent entertainment every five games..

Another point worth making is, why are the Jays dishing out so much money for these guys? Now, maybe this is attributed to the fact that I’m not exactly racking up dough at my crummy supermarket cashier job, but isn’t $1.5M a little too much money to pay John McDonald, again, if he’s not going to get any playing time? To contrast, Andruw Jones, the same Andruw Jones that once hit over 50 homers and was a consistent Gold Glove threat, just signed with the White Sox for $500,000. That’s right, John McDonald makes more money this upcoming season than Andruw Jones (minus the incentives that he COULD get if he does even remotely well, which he seems unable to do anymore).

My thought was that the Jays had learned their lesson since the last time they signed McDonald for too much money. Bench guys are not even supposed to crack seven-digit salaries, in my opinion. When that signing was announced, I was going to launch into a rant, expressing that the time is now to hand Johnny Mac the starter’s job. Where’s the harm in it? The team isn’t trying to win in 2010 or 2011, so where’s the harm in giving the guy a chance to win a Gold Glove or two, sticking him in the ninth spot in the order? He proved last season that he’s an ok contact hitter, and he IS coming off a career-high four home runs, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was healthy all year, and had a measly 156 at-bats. He can get on base the odd time, he’s got speed, and best of all, he’s completely unselfish, and so would sacrifice guys across, and do anything he can to help out.

Consider this: when batting with nobody out and a runner on second, McDonald advanced the runner 60% of the time last season. Vernon Wells: 18%. (We shall ignore the fact that Johnny Mac was in this scenario only five times last season, but 3/5 still ain’t bad..).

My long-winded point is that I’m a little puzzled by AA’s moves here. Perhaps chalk it up to the fact that the Jays don’t really have any prospects at shortstop, although I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the team acquire Brandon Phillips (if there is still anything behind that rumour) and sticking Aaron Hill at short, because of the strength of his arm, which I believe is being wasted at second. Signing Johnny Mac seems like nothing but a move to appease the fans, bringing back a fan favourite when there is not going to be much to cheer for this upcoming season. But why waste a million and a half to do so, and why sign yet another defence-first shortstop to start? Personally, I think it should have been one or the other.

However, the news here is that Toronto now seems to have the left side of their infield determined for this season, with a back-up to boot.

You can’t say we didn’t warn you that this off-season was going to be very, very depressing…



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