BY PETER HOUSTON – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Ever repaired an old bike that’s been out of commission for too many seasons? Usually, it could use some new tires, rims, brake pads and/or a squirt of oil for the chain. Then, have you ever been lucky enough to find these spare parts lying around and they end up working better than your wildest dreams? Well, long analogy short, this is what the Blue Jays have been able to do with Major League baseball players.
They turn spare parts into high quality baseball players like no team I have ever seen. The list is extensive and starts with current Blue Jays Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and John Buck. Former Jays Marco Scutaro, Greg Myers (in his second coming) and Alex Gonzalez also fit into the category.
Bautista’s story is the one people are probably most familiar with. He went from utility man extraordinaire for five years with five different clubs to one of the most feared power hitters in the game. It all started one glorious September in 2009 when Bautista launched 10 home runs. He had spent five seasons in the majors (three full ones) before that and never hit more than 16 homers.
The next year he would prove that it wasn’t a case of the September-call-ups and hit 54 home runs. The rest is history.
Edwin Encarnacion is also what I would classify as a player the Jays turned from water into wine. He had spent four and a half average and uninspiring seasons with the Reds before the Jays acquired him in the Scott Rolen trade. However, he was more or less a thrown in to fill the void at third. The prize acquisitions in that deal for the Blue Jays were two pitching prospects, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. After two and a half seasons with Toronto, Encarnacion was pretty much as bad as people expected.
Then he turned 29, coincidentally the same age Jose Bautista had his breakout season, and something clicked. Aside from Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, he was debatably the best hitter in the AL last year.
Of the players who left the Jays after their breakout years (Scutaro, Myers and Gonzalez), Scutaro is the only one who continued his success (remains to be seen if Buck can recreate his). When he left, most fans thought “let him go and take the draft picks” back when that was the way free agency worked.
Even though Scutaro has continued to play well (still never been quite as good as he was with Toronto) taking the draft picks was definitely the best choice. They turned into Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino.
What does this mean for the Jays right now? Well, if you ask me, given their history, they should take a shot at another reclamation project. They don’t have much to lose, and considering what Bautista and Encarnacion have become, they have everything to gain.
So who could the Jays target?
Well, there are a few Canadians who might benefit from a return to the true north strong and free. Jason Bay and Jeff Francis are coming off a few bad/injury plagued years. Erik Bedard is available although his injury history is a pretty big red flag. Grady Sizemore (not Canadian) could also reportedly sign a minor league contract, which is never a bad deal for the club.
Either way, there are lots of guys out there for Toronto to take a chance on. And given their track record, these low-risk, high-reward gambles wouldn’t be a bad investment.
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