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My father has an expression that he acquired growing up in Newfoundland, back when there was a fishing industry to speak of in those parts: “He’s got more guts than a five-cent fish.” It’s a statement made admiringly of someone who shows a lot of gumption; “the guts of a burglar,” they’d say in places presumably with more crime and fewer cod.

Well, that expression is deservedly attached to Dave Bush today, who was under a whole lot of pressure going into last night’s game against the Yankees – some of it internal, and a whole lot external. Not only did the team need someone to stop the bleeding of a five-game losing streak and a brutal loss on Tuesday, but Bush himself needed to show his manager and GM that he belongs in the major-league rotation after getting shelled in two short outings in Detroit and getting demoted to Syracuse halfway through the year.

That he accomplished. Bush had one of the best starts of his career, a five-hit shutout over six innings with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts, including whiffing the side in the 4th after giving up a leadoff double to inevitable MVP Alex Rodriguez. His stuff was electric at times, and he was challenging some of the best hitters in the game with it. Bush had two things going tonight that he’s been missing before: tremendous location and a few extra mph on the heater, which he blew past a few surprised Yankee batters.

Bush did get help, particularly from his defence (a big shout-out to Corey Koskie), and he did require 100 pitches to get through 6 innings. But he also battled the umpire at times, especially early in the game. It’s interesting: Bush, like a lot of young command pitchers, needs the called strike on the outside corner to survive. And like a lot of young command pitchers, he’s not going to get that call till he shows he deserves it. Last night, Bush wasn’t getting a lot of those close calls early. Then he struck out a few million-dollar Yankees swinging, and suddenly the umpire was giving him a little more leeway.

Young pitchers often ask how they can get the calls older pitchers get – it’s like the old saw about job interviews: how can I get experience if no one will hire me? The answer is that once you show you can get batters out on your own, the umpires will be more inclined to help you out in future. Once Bush showed off the heat and the moxie, the ump cut him some slack. Hopefully, it’s an experience he can build on going forward.

That was quite the interesting linescore: 0 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 0. I love the symmetrical feel to it, and I’d be inclined to guess that in the 28 years and more than 4,400 games in their franchise history, the Blue Jays have never posted a linescore like that. It’s unusual enough to score 9 runs in one inning on any occasion, and to do it while posting 4 goose eggs on either side is, well, unique. Jayson Stark is probably scurrying through Retrosheet as we speak to see if this pattern has ever occurred before.

What a bizarre outing for Mike Mussina. He allowed a one-out double to Frank Catalanotto in the first, which was swiftly erased on a soft-line-drive double play. Then he set down 10 Jays in a row, showing off a knee-buckling breaking ball and great pitch selection, keeping the Toronto batters off-balance. I was thinking that Mussina had successfully made the transition from power pitcher to breaking-ball master late in his career, and then the roof fell in. He lost the strike zone. He couldn’t finish off hitters. He nicked Eric Hinske with the bases loaded, then walked the #9 hitter on a full-count outside fastball. Three batters later (double-single-homer), he was gone and probably still wondering what the heck happened out there.

The Blue Jays needed this win -- not for contention purposes, because I think even they recognize that that ship has all but sailed at this point – but for their own confidence going forward. They’ve played the tough teams tough this year, virtually owning the Red Sox and playing other contenders very well. But the Yankees had daunted them all season, and the blown game on Tuesday night was a heartbreaker and potential confidence shaker. The Jays needed a solid start and a breakout night from the bats; they happened to get them both at the same time, and this team is probably feeling a lot better about itself today as a result.

And now, on to the main course.

Musical Chairs

The question has been hanging over this team from the day Corey Koskie fractured his thumb and Aaron Hill tore up the American League upon his promotion: what are the Blue Jays going to do with their infield? Counting DH, the Jays have six infielders (Shea Hillenbrand, Eric Hinske, Orlando Hudson, Russ Adams, Aaron Hill, Corey Koskie) and a maximum of five places to play them. Koskie’s injury allowed Hill to get his feet wet and introduce himself to the show; his first slump coincided nicely with Koskie’s return, and since then, John Gibbons has done a masterful job of juggling these six players as the Jays toyed with contention.

But the juggling can’t go on forever. Young players need to play and veterans get restless on the bench. The Jays expect to be full-blown contenders in 2006, and they can’t do that without a degree of certainty at these key positions. These six players present an eclectic mix of skills, age and productivity, a wide range of defensive skills, and an equally wide range of salaries. It’s going to take some very creative work this off-season to cull this herd, confirm players’ roles, and maximize both the talent and the payroll these players represent.

Many people already predict that this off-season’s shopping and trading will make or break JP Ricciardi’s tenure as general manager, and this is probably correct. But just as key to his legacy, as well as to the franchise’s next five years, is how this crowded infield gets sorted out before spring training 2006.

Here’s a look at the six players, what they bring to the table, what they’ve done this year and what they can be expected to do in future.

Shea Hillenbrand has posted two seasons where he received more than 500 ABs, and he currently stands at 470 AB so far this year. Barring an injury, he’ll make it three seasons in 2005. Here are his batting lines in those three seasons:

2002   .293	.330	.459	
2004   .310	.348	.464
2005   .294	.351	.465
This, folks, is what you call an established level of production. Hillenbrand is going to hit about .300, add another 40-45 points in OBP, and slug right around .460 every season while giving you competent defensive work at the infield corners. That’s a valuable asset to have around — it’s an asset, however, that’s worth about $5 million a season in the American League. Right now, it’s not entirely clear whether Hillenbrand will get more than that to return to the Blue Jays next year, as JP Ricciardi very clearly wants him to do.

Hillenbrand is also not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cleanup hitter in this league, yet the Jays’ lack of depth and firepower has miscast him in that role much of the year. Hillenbrand is a fine #6 hitter, preferably #7, playing three-quarters or four-fifths of a season – if everything breaks right for the Jays next season, that’s just what he’ll be doing. If Hillenbrand is anywhere near the cleanup position on Opening Day ‘06, however, you’ll know the off-season went very poorly indeed for the Blue Jays.

Russ Adams has had a very solid full-season debut with the bat, ranking 7th among AL shortstops in offensive win shares, wedged between bigger names like Edgar Renteria and Bobby Crosby. It’s reasonable to think he’ll add some more power next year, but I firmly expect him to maintain a BA/OBP right around where it is now, in the neighbourhood of .275/.350. Why? Check it out:

Year	Team		BA	OBP
2003    Dunedin        .279     .388
2003    New Haven      .277     .349
2004    Syracuse       .288     .351
2005    Toronto        .274     .346
Adams still loses about 50 BA points against lefties, but his batting eye is actually stronger (in limited at-bats) and he draws more walks. He’ll never be a major threat against southpaws, but his days of being platooned are over. His defence is still raw, but it’s not really a glaring problem in that infield, and there’s every reason to think he can and will improve with the glove. He’s also going to have a couple of .380 OBP seasons in the next several years – watch for them.

Corey Koskie has been — there’s no other way to say it — a major disappointment this year. After a very slow start, he was starting to find his batting stroke again when he suffered his thumb injury in June, and his progress since returning has been agonizingly slow (.185 BA in August). His injury was unfortunate, but it wasn’t a shock, either, as his games-played record shows:

Year	  Age	GP
2001      28	153
2002      29    140
2003	  30    131
2004	  31    118
2005	  32	99
And that current year’s total assumes that he’ll play every game between now and Closing Day. Simply put, Koskie is injury-prone and can’t be expected to give you more than 120 games anymore. What’s worse, his bat has looked really slow much of the season: it’s long, loopy and doesn’t seem capable anymore of catching up with the best fastballs.

Koskie can still flash the leather at third – his fearless catch of Gary Sheffield’s pop fly in the New York stands was sensational and really bailed out Dave Bush at a key moment – and his batting eye is still sharp. But it’s still hard not to conclude that the Jays have themselves a less expensive (but still pricey) version of Jim Thome Lite on their hands: an old-guy’s-skills player who’s gotten older faster than expected. Right now, .250/.340 with 15 or so home runs in about 425 at-bats is pretty much all the Jays should count on for the next two seasons. I need hardly tell you that that’s pretty much all Eric Hinske is delivering these days, at a lower cost.

Aaron Hill and the Blue Jays were both the recipients of an unusually lucky break this season. If Koskie hasn’t been injured, it’s doubtful Hill would have been promoted, unless the team chose to cut bait on Hinske in mid-season. (The Jays similarly benefited from Roy Halladay’s injury, in that they got to see Dustin McGowan sooner than they might have otherwise expected. That’s a pretty thin silver lining, though, considering the cloud.) Hill arrived in the Show as hot as a live grenade, stayed hot for a while, froze over, and is now making his way back to simply solid play. Observe these monthly OPS totals:

Month	   AB	 OPS
May	   41   1020
June	   90   867
July       91   574
August	   40   766
It’s difficult to predict Hill’s future development from his minor-league record, because his stay in the bush leagues was so short: just 238 games over the equivalent of two full seasons. He was batting .300 in 156 AB when he left Syracuse, and had he maintained his pace there for a 500-AB season, he would’ve finished with 35 doubles and 15 home runs. Interestingly, if you extrapolate his major-league season thus far over 500 AB as well, you’d get 36 doubles and 6 homers.

Rogers Center has always been a doubles haven, so it seems realistic to expect Hill to punch out 35-40 two-baggers every season while maintaining a .300 average. He drew one walk every eight at-bats in his minor-league career and he’s currently sitting at a 1/10 ratio, so an OBP of at least .350 going forward seems to be a reasonable expectation, too.

The question is how much home-run power will develop. Hill is not especially tall (5’11’) and has never belted more than 15 homers at any level, college or pro. The two players most often compared with Hill’s potential upside are Jeff Kent and Paul Molitor: Kent didn’t hit more than 21 homers till he turned 29, and Molitor only ever averaged 14 homers a season. It would be reasonable to think that Hill is capable of around 15 home runs a season, but there might be a few 10-homer seasons between now and then. If he continues to rap out the doubles, though, the home runs may not be far away; he’s only 23.

Eric Hinske is making one last grasp at continuing his career in a Blue Jays uniform. He entered last night’s game at .354/.429/.521 for the month of August, marking his best month since June of his rookie year in 2002, and that, as I hardly need tell you, was many months ago. Has Hinske finally figured something out? Probably not. His history of sustained mediocrity with the bat is too lengthy to support any other reasonable notion but that this is just a nice hot streak. What’s really interesting is to compare Hinske’s current numbers to his total career stats:

Hinske 2005     .255/.337/.425
Hinske Career   .257/.336/.429
That is not a misprint. That, in fact, is a fingerprint: two virtually identical lines that perfectly capture what Eric Hinske can produce at the plate, which is to say, not much. That total places him 94th in the American League in OPS, and that’s what the Blue Jays should expect from him for the balance of the two years and $9.9 million left on his contract. Whether Hinske produces that line for Toronto or for another team is entirely up to the Blue Jays at this point.

What happened to Hinske? Nothing. This is the ballplayer he is. The real question is, what happened to the Blue Jays’ faith in him? And the answer is that two great months in 2002, April (.318/.398/.471) and June (.338/.442/.675) turned out to be huge outliers in a career that would much more closely resemble his July (.245/.324/.415) and September (.263/.327/.455) of that season. Basically, the Jays read the results inside out and gave Hinske a deal commensurate with a level of production that, it turned out, he simply wasn’t capable of sustaining.

Orlando Hudson appears to be a shoo-in for the Gold Glove at second base this year, at least if you listen exclusively to Blue Jays personnel and commentators. Gold Glove voting is notoriously suspect, however, and it’s quite possible that a Tad Iguchi or Brian Roberts could benefit from a contending team and a hot start with the bat, respectively, and waltz away with the award. I do think Hudson is the leading candidate for the honour, but don’t be too disappointed if he fails to get it – the voters play by their own rules.

While Hudson’s defensive prowess is unquestioned, it also seems safe to say that his bat is pretty much a known quantity as well. Hudson has now played three full seasons in the majors. Here’s what he’s done:

Year   Age      BA/OBP/SLG
2003    25    .268/.328/.395
2004    26    .270/.341/.438 
2005    27    .275/.324/.419 
Career  --    .271/.330/.420  
Like Eric Hinske, Hudson is having a season almost directly in line with his career average. Since this is his age-27 season, the absence of a breakout is further evidence that offensively, WYSIWYG. Moreover, Hudson has actually taken a step back this year: his BB/PA has dropped from 0.93 in 2004 to 0.66 this year, while his slugging percentage is off 19 points, due mostly to a dropoff in doubles.

All of which is to say, the Blue Jays know exactly what they have in Orlando Hudson – tremendous glove, decent stick – and they know exactly how much they’ll have to pay for it over the next couple of years. That kind of certainty is extremely valuable when building a contender – and is also extremely valuable if and when someone comes calling with a trade offer for that player, as you can rest assured, someone will do this off-season.

So, where do the Jays go from here? For five positions (third base, shortstop, second base, first base and DH), they have six players:

• Two exciting rookies on the left side of the infield with great potential, each of whom is capable of a .350 OBP, 30+ doubles and 10 homers a year to go with steadily improving infield defence -- together, costing only $660,000.

• A probable Gold-Glove winner at second base whose infectious enthusiasm make him a clubhouse sparkplug and fan favourite, and whose salary is well within cost-effective bounds for the next few years.

• A steady veteran corner infielder with an established production level of better-than-average and a competitive edge that his General Manager prizes for the clubhouse, sure to command at least $5M next year and perhaps more.

• Two veteran corner infielders with big contracts and fading bats, unlikely to fetch very much on the trade market, on a team can afford to carry only one of them as contention nears.

There is no competition likely to arrive from the minors, unless John-Ford Griffin or John Hattig makes the club next year as a bat off the bench. The Blue Jays might elect to keep all six players and rotate them through five positions, but the clear necessity of giving Hill, Adams and Hudson 500-600 AB each means that Koskie, Hinske and Hillenbrand would need to squeeze $15 million into two positions of mediocrity. With the Blue Jays in dire need of offence next season, that won’t do.

Something’s gotta give. The question is: what? And who? I’ll leave that to you, Bauxites, to answer for yourselves. But here are my four theses that I think will frame the reality of the Blue Jays’ infield going forward:

1. Neither Adams nor Hill will be dealt. They are too productive and too young for this team to let go. Even with an enriched payroll, the Blue Jays know that the key to contention is to get multi-million-dollar production out of league-minimum players at as many positions as possible. In a division where the Yankees pay the left side of their infield 66 times as much as the Jays pay Hill and Adams, that’s exactly the competitive advantage Toronto needs. These two kids are JP Ricciardi’s only first-round draft choice position players; they’re not going anywhere.

2. JP will not shop Orlando Hudson this winter. From all indications, Ricciardi values immensely everything that Hudson brings to the team, and he knows that he has quite possibly the best defensive player at any position playing second base for his club. There is, however, a distinct possibility that Ricciardi will receive a trade offer he can’t refuse this off-season -- a deal that could bring a co-ace to the rotation or a tremendous cleanup hitter to the lineup. Hudson is valuable, but the Jays might simply need to make a move. It was heartbreaking to lose Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff too, but that 1990 deal made the Jays’ two World Series championships possible. If JP receives no offers good enough, Hudson will stay put and sign a medium-term deal with the Blue Jays this winter.

3. Shea Hillenbrand will return, probably for two years at $12M (or $1M per season more than he’s worth), and will become a jack-of-all-trades: some first base, some third base, some DH. If the Jays have upgraded the offence properly, he will get only about 450 AB a season going forward and will sit against tough righties. Hillenbrand is exactly the kind of guy you want for a contending ballclub – batting 6th or 7th, or coming off the bench.

4. One or both of Corey Koskie and Eric Hinske will not be back next year. The Blue Jays must now regret signing Koskie to some extent. His trade value is minimal and his contract, more expensive than Hinske’s, is too much to eat. His glove at third base is still valuable, and the Jays may simply have to hope for a healthy bounce-back season. Hinske is cheaper, less valuable defensively, and less likely to rediscover his stroke. The tea leaves aren’t that difficult to read.

Musical Chairs | 18 comments | Create New Account
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Paul D - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 09:32 AM EDT (#126550) #
Nice write up Jordan.

A few points. At Sabr there was a presentation on aging patterns (by Ken Cherven), which showed that players are peaking later now than they used to. So the age 27 season that we're looking for should actually be the age 29ish season.

Also, while I realize that this won't happen, I would not be sad to see the team trade Adams. My ideal team next year would have Koskie at 3rd, Hill at SS, Hudson at 2b, newly acquired slugger at 1b, and Hillenbrand at DH (or Hillenbrand could play 1b and the slugger could DH... maybe Larry Walker).

Anyways, I say this because I have not been impressed with Adams' defence. I realize that many people here seem to think he's playing good defence, but the numbers don't seem to back that up, and fans of other teams seem to think he's terrible.

Although, that gets me thinking. Does defence typically improve over time? How much improvement can we expect from Adams?
Named For Hank - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 09:37 AM EDT (#126551) #
I think that Hillenbrand is more valuable at either first or third (or both) than DH -- he's obviously not a slugger, and he's also not a defensive liability. He's been far better in the field this year than I think any of us were led to believe.

And seconded, nice work Jordan.
Craig B - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:04 AM EDT (#126558) #
Let's live this again, since it was *so much fun* the first time...

Hillenbrand struck out swinging.

Koskie walked.

Zaun singled to left, Koskie to second.

Johnson singled to right, Koskie to third, Zaun to second.

Hinske hit by pitch, Koskie scored, Zaun to third, Johnson to second. 1-0.

Hudson walked, Zaun scored, Johnson to third, Hnske to second. 2-0.

Adams doubled to right, Johnson and Hinske scored, Hudson to third. 4-0.

Catalanotto singled to right, Hudson scored, Adams to third. 5-0.

Wells homered to left, Adams and Catalanotto scored. 8-0.

Hillenbrand doubled to deep right.

Koskie singled to right, Hillenbrand scored. 9-0.

Zaun flied out to center, Johnson fouled out to catcher. Once again, that's Blue Jays 9, Yankees 0.
jsut - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:06 AM EDT (#126559) #
Good read. I wouldn't mind at all (at least right now) if hinkse and koskie both found their way somewhere else during the offseason and we somehow managed to pick up a real cleanup hitter as well. That however is likely a big longshot short of eating at least 1, if not both of their salaries.
Rob - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#126562) #
Nice work, Jordan. I didn't know you were also posting a Jays-related "fingerprint" this morning -- Gabe Gross' .380 OBP waves hello.

I'm not a big fan of Hillenbrand at third, to be honest. Especially when the alternatives are Corey Koskie and Aaron Hill. If we're talking first base, I have no problem whatsoever. This means absolutely nothing, but Hillenbrand has hit much better this year as a first baseman than as a third baseman or DH (where he hits about the same).

Craig, you forgot to mention that of those nine runs, Mike Mussina gave up eight. Though I guess it's irrelevant now, since I just drew attention to those eight runs Mike Mussina gave up.

Mike D - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:52 AM EDT (#126569) #
Orlando Hudson appears to be a shoo-in for the Gold Glove at second base this year, at least if you listen exclusively to Blue Jays personnel and commentators.

The cat (Dog?) is out of the bag, Jordan. This was the first year of the Extra Innings package for me, and I've watched Jays games described by a wide variety of broadcast teams. I've heard the words "Gold Glove" mentioned in connection with Orlando over and over (Ken Singleton being merely the most recent). Opposing commentators love Vernon's defence, too.

In fact, one set of talking points I've heard from at least 3-4 different broadcast crews emphasizes that (1) O-Dog has been the best second baseman for at least two years, (2) Bret Boone won based on "name" last year, and (3) with Boone gone, it's a no-brainer this season.
Christopher - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:54 AM EDT (#126570) #
Assuming for a moment that they Jays do trade Koskie after:
1. one season
2. after he said he chose Toronto because it was the team he grew up watching
3. after he took out ads in Minnesota newspapers thanking the city and the fans

I always hear of the unwritten rule that you don't trade players in the first year of a multi-year deal, how long does that statute of limitations last?

Is having him here for one year enough that the team doesn't have to worry about what potential free agents might think?
Mike D - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:56 AM EDT (#126571) #
I don't have any memory about the absurdly partisan White Sox team discussing second base defence. The Orioles play-by-play commentator said things like "with Roberts and Hudson, we're watching two of the best with the glove tonight." Buck Martinez, however, explained on the O's broadcast that Hudson's range was considerably superior to Roberts'.
Jordan - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 10:59 AM EDT (#126572) #
Mike, one thing I forgot to mention is that Hudson and Wells are ranked first among American League second basemen and outfielders, respectively, in Defensive Win Shares (Vernon is tied with the ChiSox's Aaron Rowand among all OFs). In fact, the O-Dog's total of 7.0 DWS is the most of any player at any position -- hence, my supposition that Orlando has the best glove in the entire league. I'm glad to hear that people are noticing outside of Toronto!
Mike D - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 11:06 AM EDT (#126573) #
Sadly, Hudson's poor glovework was very costly in Tuesday's loss. Maybe it wasn't objectively poor, but he failed to make three "routine-for-O-Dog" plays.

He's spoiled us so much that we judge him by his own standard.
Nigel - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 11:23 AM EDT (#126575) #
Very good article Jordan. As for what to do with the Jays infield, my instinct tells me that any significant changes to the club (at least offensively) are likely to come by trade and not by way of free agency. If that's the case, then the two assets of real value that the club has are one of Adams/Hill/Hudson and some of the pitching prospects (although I think that many of the Jays pitching prospects have less value than we tend to assign to them - Purcey and McGowan excluded). All of which is to say, that unless the Jays are unexpectedly successful in free agency, I think that one of your two first points may not be true. I think one of Adams/Hill/Hudson will get traded in the offseason. As for which one goes I think that would likely be dictated by the trading partner and their needs (i.e. Hudson can't play SS, etc.), but as hard as this is to say, I think I would look to deal Hill (assuming that the Jays are right in saying that Adams is the better SS). The reason I say that is that the Jays, rightly or wrongly, are now committed at 3rd base in one form or another with Koskie/Hinske. I think a pretty reasonable line for the next few years for Hill will be .280/.340/.430-.450. Some combination of Shea and the two sunk costs (Hinske and Koskie) can already deliver something like that at 3rd (albeit at a vastly more expensive price tag).
Pistol - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#126579) #
I think I may be the only one in these parts that doesn't think Koskie's washed up.
Year      OBP   SLG
2002     .368  .447
2003     .393  .452
2004     .342  .495
2005     .320  .397
He's only had 242 ABs this year and I don't think those 242 ABs reflect a new level of performance given that he averaged .368/.465 his past 1381 ABs. Looking up his PECOTA card Koskie is below his 10th percentile for this season (his 50th percentile was .370/.486). I recognize there's an age factor with Koskie, although 32 isn't all that old, and you can't expect him to play more than 120 games. However, I don't see why you can't write him down for at least .350/.450 next year. He's having a bad year this season, I think it's as simple as that.
Nigel - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 12:23 PM EDT (#126581) #
Pistol - I agree with you about Koskie. In describing him as a sunk cost I only meant that I don't see him being moved due to a combination of his low trade value (due to age; salary and health risk) and the negative impact that trading a free agent signing after one injury plagued season would have on other potential free agents. I think Koskie will be playing third opening day of next season - and I don't think that's a bad thing other than the fact that you could have had Hill playing there for similar production at $5m less per year.
westcoast dude - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 01:00 PM EDT (#126588) #
Great work, Jordan. Hinske's numbers for August are a thing of beauty and a joy forever. He has rediscovered the key to his success and will continue to perform at this level next season. With the Dude up in a high leverage situation last night, there were tombstones in Mussina's eyes. The Yankees really do want this guy; we'd be nuts to let him be swapped for ARod unless They ate the salary.
Yeah, I know Mussina only gave up 8. Sheesh. *sniff*
Ron - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 05:38 PM EDT (#126608) #
First off great work Jordan.

I have several comments:

- I'm not sold on Adams defense. I've seen almost every single Jays game this season and his defence hasn't improved as the season has gone along. He still makes too many errors and other mistakes. At the beginning of the season it was his arm that was giving him problems with his wild throws to 1B but now it's a different problem. A lot times out there he looks unfocused fumbling around routine groundballs. His Zone Rating of .773 ranks him dead last in the Majors at the SS position. His Range Factor of 4.310 places him 8th in the AL at his position. Next to Renteria (23), no SS has made more errors than Russ (22). I'm just going to come out and say it, Russ Adams is a very poor defensive SS. I'm not sure if his stick makes up for it. Ever since Adams has been established as the leadoff man, what happened to his power? He's improved his BA and OBP but his pop has all but disappeared. Of course the leadoff man's main job is to get on base so power isn't that big of a concern although is an OBP of .350 acceptable for a team that wants to seriously contend for the playoffs?

- The season isn't even finished yet, and most are already saying Koskie's a bad contract for the Jays. While I don't totally disagree I think there's a chance he will bounce back next season. I don't expect him to go back to his 2001 season but he's surely better than what he has showed his season.

- JP has said numerous times (And by the tone of his voice I can tell he's sick of repeating himself)Hudson isn't going anywhere and he's a big part of the future.

- The Jays should cut bait on Hinske in the off-season. I'm positive JP has tried numerous times to deal away Hinske this season without any luck. If this requires the Jays to pick up a large portion of his remaining salary than I'm afraid that's the price of doing business. We have seen what Hinske can do for the Jays ... and that's not much.

- Despite the Jays ranking in the Top 10 in runs scored, this team needs a major upgrade in power for next season. If the Jays trot out Wells/Hillenbrand/Koskie as the 3/4/5 hitters next season then the off-season was a stinker. I could live with Wells in the 3 hole (JP feels the same way) but Hillenbrand and Koskie should be batting 6th and 7th in the batting order. JP's job is to get 2 legit power bats. And by power bats I'm not talking about the class of Dimitri Young or Aubrey Huff, I'm talking about the class of Paul Konerko, Carlos Lee, and Adam Dunn. Of course this is way easier said than done. The Jays face a lot of problems in aquiring players which I mentioned in another thread. Just because you have money, it doens't mean players will be begging to sign with the Jays.

- If I was JP, I would be shopping around Rios and Chacin. I would glady field offers for Hill and Adams. I'm hopeful a package of Rios/Chacin/Adams or Hill could fetch something vaulable in return. The Jays need 2 Big Bats and I see LF, RF,1B, and DH as the positions where I could fit them in.
GeoffAtMac - Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 09:19 PM EDT (#126619) #
I disagree a little bit with the characterization of Hinske as being "less valuable defensively, and less likely to rediscover his stroke."

This year, Hinske has a .994 fielding percentage versus Koskie's .959, and they both have the same number of errors (5) despite Hinske having 801 total chances, versus Koskie having only 123. Granted, I believe that third base may be more challenging than first base -- certainly in terms of throwing it is -- but I do not believe that Hinske is the useless lump that he is often characterized as being.

Additionally, if you project his current production rate over a 162 game schedule, he is on pace to have 16 HR, 74 RBI, and 92 runs scored. The only Blue Jay on pace to score more runs than Hinske at this point is Hillenbrand. He is also tied with Russ Adams for the second-most stolen bases on the team, despite being 6'2" and 235 lbs.

I think Hinske has more value than he is often given credit for, and I think he ends up riding the pine for having cold streaks in a more punitive way than other players on the team typically get. But, I will acknowledge that when Hinske is cold, there is almost no one who gets as icy cold as him in terms of production -- and for that reason, he tends to get benched.

While I don't think he will be our starting 1B or 3B all the time next year, I do believe he is worth keeping around, and he just (possibly) might rediscover some of the magic that made him so exciting in 2002. If nothing else, he is a *solid* late-inning defensive replacement and bench man. (But for sure $9.9 MIL is too much for a part time sub.)
Mike Green - Friday, August 26 2005 @ 09:37 AM EDT (#126658) #
One of JP's weaknesses to date as a general manager has been his habit of prematurely constraining his choices, because of his affection for particular players. The signing of Catalanotto to a 2 year deal for '05-'06 is one example of this.

In this off-season, he has Koskie, Hinske under contract, and Hill, Adams and Hudson are in their pre-arb and early arb years. He should be looking for a big bat. If Hillenbrand is signed, the big bat will probably have to play leftfield due to a likely shortage of opportunity at the 1B/DH slots. If Hillenbrand is not signed, the big bat could be either a LF or a 1B/DH, and there will be $4 million or so extra left in the kitty.

One of the hardest parts of being a GM is achieving the detachment to let go of players who have busted their gut and performed admirably for their abilities, but whose retention is not in the best interests of the club.

Smaj - Friday, August 26 2005 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#126689) #
Excellent job Jordan!

I will also contest the writing off of Koskie's future offensive production. I echo Pistol's sentiments of a bad season. More importantly, the man had serious thumb surgery, which will not truly heal until Spring Training. Admittedly, there is an injury pattern prevailing over time, yet I am positive we will see the real Corey Koskie come next April.

I will also pose the question concerning Hill being a long term keeper on the Jays Roster. When looking at the Jays roster & potential trades, the Jays area of strength is depth in the middle infield & in young pitching. Given that Koskie's contract is probably untradeable (poor form to trade a FA after one season as well), which two players do you want starting at 2B & SS, Hudson, Adams or Hill? I would make Hill the odd man out for many of the same arguements made to keep him. The Jays need to improve their offence & front end of their rotation. In order to make a trade of significance you have to give to get. I suspect Hill is a very appealing player to a team like Pat Tabler's Cincy Reds, amongst others based on positional flexibility, potential production & cost. Adams looks like a leadoff man & will improve defensively at SS (everyone comments on his work ethic...etc.). Hudson is a Gold Glover plus chips in with the bat, has upside at age 27 & is a clubhouse leader...gotta keep him.

For the Jays to improve they will undoubtedly require a major trade. Trading from their strengths is intelligent & necessary for contention in 2006. Hill makes sense in a package for an impact player like Adam Dunn (guessing something like Hill, Bush, League, Frasor & Gross may land Dunn...obviously I have no idea, its fun to speculate however). The point being in order to improve & contend in 2006 which is a theme we all seem to share, the Jays are going to be forced to trade some valued commodities (young emerging inexpensive talent is a very valued commodity) & in turn rely on a Corey Koskie(veteran with health concerns & a large contract) return to form. Plus make a mark on the free agent market (i.e. AJ Burnett).

To keep Adams, Hudson & Hill on the roster for 2006 seems like opportunity lost on improving the club dramatically, given the Jays needs & the perceived goal of contention in the 2006 season.
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