The Mockingbird

Simmer Down on Shanny

with 4 comments

In addition to Dave Rouleau’s unabashed rumormongering that Shannon Stewart is limping around hotel lobbies (which might not be a deal-breaker: everyone hurts bad in the first week of spring training), here’s some more sand thrown on the fire of Stew’s chances this spring. Bastian hints at it in his mailbag, but the rest of the Toronto media seem to have handed the job to Shanny because he’s a career .300 hitter (yawn)/classic Jay/nude model, instead of seeing this as the shrewd zero-risk, bargain-bin, minor-league-contract insurance policy it is.

Here’s the thing: the Jays don’t need a full time left fielder who can handle both right and left handed pitching equally well (Stewart is the rare breed who is dead even against pitchers from both sides over his career). They are locked into a platoon situation in left, and rightly so, because Matt Stairs crushes right handed pitching. Even if you don’t believe he can reproduce his miracle resurgence from last year, Stairs hasn’t hit right-handed pitching as poorly as Stewart did last year at any point in the last decade. The only reason Matt has not had a full-time job (or a shot at the hall of fame?) in that span is that he’s a decidedly pedestrian .239/.331/.422 against LHP. But until he gets too old and/or breaks down, nobody should be taking at-bats away from him against the majority of pitchers.

What the Jays really need is someone who can hit left-handed pitching, and maybe play a little defense when Stairs needs some time on the defibrillator- and that’s Reed Johnson. It doesn’t matter if 2006 was a giant fluke, he’s always been an above-average hitter against southpaws. Heck, even during his disastrous, injured 2007 campaign, he hit .325/.381/.532 against them. Even if you take Reed’s amazing 2006 out of the picture (and that makes his career not much to look at), Johnson’s career numbers against LHP compare favourably to Shannon Stewart:

Name AVG OBP SLG OPS
Reed Johnson .304 .354 .467 .821
Shannon Stewart .299 .375 .421 .796

Add to that the fact that Shanny just isn’t that .375 obp guy any more and has an arm that makes Johnny Damon look like Jesse Barfield, and this is still clearly Reed’s job as long as he doesn’t come up lame. It’s not that Stewart isn’t probably the better all-round hitter, he’s just not what the Blue Jays need.

Written by halejon

February 26, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Seriousness

4 Responses

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  1. I agree with you that Reed’s skill set is probably a better fit for the Jays’ needs this season, but of course that’s assuming that everyone stays healthy. If say, Stairs gets hurt, or Wells or Overbay haven’t quite recovered and the Jays don’t want to use Lind, Stewart is a much better candidate for everyday at-bats than Johnson because Johnson is so poor against righties, with a lifetime .711 OPS and 4 times as many Ks as walks, and that’s including his 2006.

    The other advantage to Stewart, I guess, is that he will cost about half as much (JP has mentioned that the Jays are strapped for cash), although that’s only if the Jays are able to trade Johnson and find someone willing to pay his entire salary. Of course, it’s not my money so it doesn’t really matter to me, but if the Jays are convinced that Stewart can provide equal or better production for less money, it may be a factor for them. And I suppose the money could potentially come in handy at the trade deadline, though I doubt it.

    The other thing is the fact that the Jays apparently offered Stewart a two-year deal in December, before they offered Reed arbitration, suggests that they prefer Stewart, at least, for the money. Though I might not agree, if the Jays thought that then, they likely still believe it, though I suppose seeing a healthy Reed in spring training could change their mind.

    hugo

    February 26, 2008 at 11:00 pm

  2. Yah, I think it’s a totally different situation before we gave Reed 3.275 million bucks (although throwing another 2-year deal out there is bizarre…that’s 4 probably-bench players signed for 2009?!). Johnson as an everyday player is still a big question mark. It’s only now that this is not a great fit and we’re really committed to Stairs/Reed.

    I’m really hoping there are enough free agents still playing musical chairs when ST is over that Stewart ends up accepting AAA. He’d be a great insurance policy. Or that Lind is going is hitting .450 in AAA by July and makes this all moot.

    halejon

    February 26, 2008 at 11:21 pm

  3. Bang on.

    stoeten

    February 27, 2008 at 5:04 am

  4. I look at this as nothing but a fairly shrewd depth signing. JP’s moves in the off-season can be best characterized as a guy accepting and even expecting that anyone can get hurt at any time. He’s got a couple of people who can be legitimate everyday players seeded for depth, and a wide range of positions covered.

    For example, if Wells goes down to injury, Stewart makes a lot of sense to have in AAA ball as an option to subout Johnson, who’d move to covering in RF. Hell, pop up Lind (who showed much improved range in the the field last year) and platoon both OF corners. Stewart/Stairs, Rios, Johnson/Lind isn’t a bad option if Lind starts raking in AAA again this year.

    Most of the Jays signings outside of Eckstein/Rolen seem to be either pretty solid utility men, who won’t tear up the field but will provide at least league average performance around the stars, or low cost relief junkballers who are minor risks since the team’s likelihood of needing them unless one of them starts flat out acing AAA ball is all but nil.

    Bryant Telfer

    February 27, 2008 at 3:24 pm


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