JAYS FROM THE COUCH ADDRESSES THE Blue Jays Interest in Brett Lawrie Rumor, which is probably just that: a rumor
After agreeing to a $3.5M salary in arbitration this offseason, the Chicago White Sox last Friday decided to cut ties with infielder Brett Lawrie. This move comes as a bit of a surprise since the White Sox had the option to non-tender him back in early December. Lawrie has yet to see the field this Spring Training with continued leg soreness, this coming after a very injury riddled 2016 season. The 27 year old Lawrie, now finds himself in the middle of Spring Training looking for a team to start the season off with.
Multiple teams have shown interest in the infielder, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays are considering a possible deal, intrigued by the addition of his “right handed bat”. ESPN’s Jim Bowden then reported that the list of teams had expanded to the Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, and even the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lawrie was a fan favorite in his four years in Toronto, before being traded in the five player deal that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto. While fans may have loved him for his crazy intensity, and being a fellow Canadian, he struggled with his health only seeing the field in a little more than half his time in Toronto.
A lot of what fans saw in that 2011 season where Lawrie made his rookie debut was electrifying, slashing .293/.373/.580, posting a 2.6WAR, showing above average power, and nice speed around the base paths. Since then a lot has change, Lawrie went from one of the most exciting prospects in baseball, to a frustrating hitter, and a poor defensive infielder. Last season with the White Sox, Lawrie had arguably one of his worst seasons to date.
At the plate, Lawrie has a very aggressive swing happy approach. Early on in his career, he looked like the perfect candidate for someone who could be a potential leadoff hitter with 20+ home run potential, now he’s a pretty frustrating 8-9 hitter in the lineup. Last season, he slashed a pretty pedestrian .248/.310/.311, hitting 12 home runs, with a 92wRC+ in 384 plate appearances. The troubling part of his game is the 28.4% strikeout percentage which has skyrocketed every year he’s been in the league, this K% is backed by his 7.8% walk percentage. The same plate discipline problem have lingered around for the past two seasons: he gets behind too early in the count, his swing% is always high, and makes little contact on pitches both inside and outside the zone.
This hasn’t been always a problem for Lawrie, looking at the graph below, you can see some of the changes that are effecting his strikeout numbers. (I chose the 2012 season for the Blue Jays because it’s the largest sample size with his time in Toronto)
|2016 League Averages||30.3%||66.7%||46.5%||63.9%||86.3%||60.3%||10.1%|
While most of the numbers have seen slight negative impacts over time, the biggest change is simply in the amount of contact he makes at pitches. Maybe pitchers have figured out Lawrie’s eyes widen every time he sees a fastball up in zone, his discipline when seeing pitches up in the zone isn’t great and he struggles making contact in that area of the zone.
With Todd Frazier playing third base, this shifted Lawrie over to second base full time for the first time in his career. Second base didn’t treat him kindly, not showing much range or versatility with a UZR of -5.5, RZR of .751, and a DRS of -4. These numbers have been on a steady decline since leaving the Blue Jays, playing full time at third base with the Oakland Athletics the year before saw his metrics show even worse.
The Blue Jays have everyday players at third and second base, and very nice depth pieces in Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins, both being very capable bench pieces especially on the defensive end. If Lawrie was signed he would be coming in as a bench piece, but finding a spot for him to fill in is tough, and considering where his numbers are trending it’s tough to find which player he would be a really upgrade over.
With his defensive game regressing, it also should be noted that when Lawrie was traded from Toronto to Oakland, he had some negative things to say about the playing conditions in the Rogers Centre. Attributing the artificial turf in the Rogers Centre to a lot of his injury history with the Blue Jays. In an ESPN article back from 2014, Lawrie said, “It treats my body kind of silly and throws it off, I just want to go out and be healthy, and I feel like this getting off the turf is a big step forward for me.” If he still believes this, and hopes to play in more of a full-time role, Toronto doesn’t seem like the most logical place for him at all.
Lawrie doesn’t really fit within the Blue Jays plans/needs right now, and for someone who is entering unrestricted free agency next season, the Blue Jays are probably not the best landing place for him to set himself up for the open market. The Blue Jays may have just been thrown into this rumor without much thought other than “Lawrie is Canadian, the Blue Jays are a baseball team located in Canada..” Other than that reason, Lawrie coming to the Blue Jays doesn’t make much sense for both parties, and would be very shocking if this got much past the rumor stage.
After a long offseason of rumors, you’re probably frustrated with them. You’re probably feeling like this:
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: James G UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.