Where have you gone, Roberto Alomar?
Blue Jays nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
With the club's second base woes in recent years, this is how a disgruntled Jays fan might rework the lines that Paul Simon penned as a tribute to Joe DiMaggio in his 1968 hit "Mrs. Robinson."
But pining for Alomar is futile, and at this point, Jays supporters would settle for a reversal of the trade that sent Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson on August 23, 2011.
Hindsight, however, is 20/20 and Johnson, who's on pace to set the Jays' record for most strikeouts in a season, will exit via free agency in the off-season.
Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that the Jays would have to make a one-year qualifying offer equivalent to the average of the top 125 big league salaries (around $13 million) to Johnson to receive a compensatory draft pick, if Johnson were to sign elsewhere. This won't happen.
So rather than dwell on Johnson's abysmal 2012 campaign, let's look forward. Who will man second base for the Jays in 2013?
If the Jays don't look outside the organization, most scouts would tell you that the club's best defensive alignment would have Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and veteran Yunel Escobar at second base.
But who's going to tell Escobar this? While embraced in the Jays' clubhouse, Escobar was dealt to Toronto largely due to a perceived attitude problem and it's unlikely that he'd welcome a position change.
And in fairness to Escobar, while his offensive numbers have declined this season, his defence has improved. According to Baseball Reference, his dWar - an all-encompassing statistic that measures how many defensive wins a player is worth above an average player at their position - is a personal best 2.3.
Yes, Escobar did play 21 games at second base for the Atlanta Braves in 2007, but by the time spring training opens in February, almost six years will have passed since he has played anything but shortstop. So barring an off-season trade - which can't be ruled out - the 30-year-old Escobar will likely be the club's shortstop in 2013.
Hechavarria has played just nine games at second base (one with the Blue Jays and eight in AAA Las Vegas) in 2012. But in July, he told the National Post that he played plenty of second base in Cuba.
"I never played shortstop before I was 16," he told the National Post through a translator. "I played second base and third base in Cuba, and I played a whole half-season in Cuba as a second baseman. So I feel comfortable playing there."
With Hechavarria's quick hands, Tony-Fernandez-like grace and strong arm, most baseball pundits agree that he'd excel defensively at second base. The question is whether his bat is ready for the big leagues.
To his credit, Hechavarria has hit .281 over his past 10 big league games, but his lack of plate discipline (three walks, 24 strikeouts in 25 games) is worrisome. But Johnson has hit .185 since the all-star break, so how much worse could Hechavarria fare offensively?
But if the Jays don't feel Hechavarria is ready for regular major league duty, they will have to look outside the organization for help. The free agent market for second basemen is overflowing with journeyman types like Jeff Baker, Adam Kennedy and Ryan Theriot. None of which are much of an upgrade over current Jays utility man Mike McCoy.
Former Jay Marco Scutaro, who has hit .333 for the Giants since being acquired on July 27, and veteran Jeff Keppinger, who's hitting .327 for the Rays, represent the best free agent stop-gaps. Keppinger would probably be less expensive, but the 36-year-old Scutaro, who owns a solid .351 on-base percentage over the past four seasons, would be the most effective.
Another second baseman that will likely be available is Dan Uggla. The Atlanta Braves slugger has posted a paltry .384 slugging percentage this season and was benched last week in favour of Martin Prado. The Braves would likely eat a large chunk of the five-year, $62-million deal Uggla inked prior to the 2011 campaign to ship him elsewhere. A subpar defender, Uggla remains an intriguing option because he enjoyed five consecutive 30-home run seasons prior to this year.
In my view, the best course of action for the Jays would be to start 2013 with Escobar at shortstop and Hechavarria at second base, and to sign Scutaro or Keppinger for depth. Scutaro and Keppinger can both play multiple positions and are veteran bats with good plate discipline. If Hechavarria falters, either of them could shift seamlessly into the everyday second base role. No, they won't remind fans of Alomar, but they should at least help them forget Johnson.
Back to accessibility links