Today, we examine Kelly Johnson and a second base position that is currently in flux for the organization. Previously considered Aaron Hill’s territory, Johnson heads into the off-season as the incumbent but, like Hill, is a free agent.
However, before breaking the position down, a quick word on the hullabaloo over John Farrell and his involvement in the Red Sox managerial search:
Alex Anthopoulos made the right big picture move in refusing to make Farrell available as a candidate, but it may not pay off in the short-term. This was similar to the decision of the club in 2002 when Boston was eyeing J.P. Ricciardi as they pursued a new GM – Ricciardi was an unmitigated disaster in Toronto, while the BoSox did pretty well for themselves after bringing Theo Epstein on board, but the move sent a message that the Jays would not be compliant in serving as a minor league feeder system for their AL East rivals. Nine years later, the message is the same: sorry, John, but taking the same job in Boston as you have here is a lateral move and we won’t be seen in any lesser of a light than those New England folks. That being said, the Jays weren’t exactly rolling on the strength of Farrell’s force of personality last season and would likely lose little if either internal possibilities Don Wakamatsu or Brian Butterfield or external candidates like Dave Martinez or Sandy Alomar Jr. stepped in. The only real noticeable change I see with a potential Farrell departure would be the addition of a young talent as compensation.
Anyway, on to second base…
The 2011 Guy(s)
Starter: Kelly Johnson (previously Aaron Hill)
Back-Up: Mike McCoy, Chris Woodward (previously John McDonald)
Waiting in the Wings: Adeiny Hechavaria?
How Did The Jays Fare?
Hill’s tenure in Toronto ended rather ignominiously as part of a decidedly insignificant post-trade deadline August deal. Sure, he was offered a chance to contribute to a playoff-bound Arizona club (and he did, albeit in an ultimately losing cause), but his exit barely caused a ripple after having been one of the faces of the franchise as recently as the start of the 2010 season.
In his place, Johnson stepped in and posted the kind of numbers that had been expected of Hill (.270/.364/.417 in 33 games). Not that the former D-Back’s numbers left anyone in awe, but they offered a fine compliment to the Blue Jays’ other potent bats and were plenty of production to be getting out of both the No. 2 spot and the No. 6/7 (Johnson saw time in all three spots in the line-up.
While Mike McCoy offered steady contributions as a versatile, defence-first back-up and didn’t complain in spite of countless trips between Toronto and Las Vegas, the real concern is the lack of any viable second base prospects in the organization. Justin Jackson has floundered since being the 45th over-all pick in the 2007 draft, leaving a positional switch by Adeiny Hechavaria (or maybe by Yunel Escobar) as the only possible in-house solution at the position for the time being (recent draft selections Dickie Thon Jr. and Brandon Mims are, at best, years away).
Where Are They Headed?
Anthopoulos has asserted that Johnson is the team’s first order of business this off-season and, given the other free agent options available, that may well result in his return to Toronto. Johnson, Hill and Brandon Phillips represent the only viable options in a thin free agent market for second baseman, with Phillips being the oldest and probably the most expensive. Hill is worth a courtesy call, but the 30-year old had a good thing going in Arizona and, even aside from the $8 million club option for 2012 that surely won’t be picked up, will likely command a price that the team will find prohibitive.
As I stated above, barring the home run addition of a Jose Reyes (which would then require some positional flip-flopping), second base will likely be emphasized more as a defensive position than as a key, middle-of-the-order offensive contributor. It’s always exciting to play armchair GM and come up with some elaborate fantasy in which your team gets its hands on Star Player X (as I continue to do with Prince Fielder), but much of Anthopoulos’ job comes down to recognizing fit and that may be the case here.
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Written by Ben Fisher