Now that free agent second basemen Robinson Cano, Omar Infante and Mark Ellis are off of the market, it’s looking more and more like Ryan Goins will get a shot at the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting second base job in 2014. Manager John Gibbons explained at the Winter Meetings that the Blue Jays view Goins as ‘top dog’ over utility player Maicer Izturis entering the season.
“Today that’s the way we look at it,” Gibbons said. “Alex [Anthopoulos] could go out and make a trade for somebody to bring a second baseman in. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But if not, I really like what Goins did.”
The alternatives have started to disappear. Cano, Infante and Ellis are off of the market (by the way, the Blue Jays aren’t believed to have shown serious interest in Ellis). Utility players such as Willie Bloomquist, Skip Schumaker, Kelly Johnson, Nick Punto, David Adams and Ryan Roberts have also signed.
This leaves the trade market. Nick Franklin should be available now that the Mariners signed Cano, but the switch-hitter’s strikeout numbers are worrying even if he’s a promising, affordable player under long-term control. Brandon Phillips also appears to be available, but the 32-year-old’s offensive numbers have dropped off and taking on his $50 million contract would limit the Blue Jays’ flexibility elsewhere.
The Blue Jays have limited flexibility, too. If they go with an eight-man bullpen again, there won’t be room on the bench for a utility player other than Izturis. This would open up second base for Goins, who appeals to team decision makers because of his steady glove.
“We’ve got to play better defense or forget it,” Gibbons said. “It’s a big part of it. It’s a big part of all sports. You’ve got to defend. We did. We were bad early on and that affected us in a big way.”
Goins hit .252 with a .264 on-base percentage in 2013, so expecting the 25-year-old to succeed in a full-time role would be asking a lot, especially considering that his numbers against left-handed pitching have suffered in each one of his four full seasons as a professional. Roster space permitting, it would be prudent for the Blue Jays to add a right-handed hitting complement if the left-handed hitting Goins projects as their starter.
If the Blue Jays acquire enough starting pitching to go with a seven-man ‘pen, they’d have room for another bench player on the roster. The Blue Jays could use that roster spot to acquire someone capable of complementing Goins at second in the same way that Mark DeRosa contributed as a right-handed bench bat in 2013. Here’s a mostly speculative look at some options (career slash line vs. left-handed pitching in parentheses):
The Blue Jays don’t appear to be bluffing when it comes to Goins’ chances of becoming an everyday player. They like his defence and there aren’t many alternatives capable of starting at second. Yet if bench space permits, adding a complementary player to a low-risk deal would set Goins up for success by easing him in to the starting lineup without over-exposing him.