Wells staying in center, Marcum ready to go
As much as Blue Jays fans were rightly concerned about the decline in offensive production from Vernon Wells in 2009, it was also troubling to witness a subpar season from him in center field.
Earlier this week, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was asked if there was any thought of shifting Wells out of center and into one of the corners. Anthopoulos said that is not something being considered now and it is not likely to be discussed in the near future.
“We don’t have any plans of that at all. We consider him a mainstay in center field,” Anthopoulos said. “If Vernon was older, it might be more of a concern. He’s still a young guy and he also made some treemendous plays as well. There’s time he didn’t make great plays, but he also made a lot of tremendous plays. It’s just to the point that we expect it, so if he doesn’t come up with a ball or comes close, those are the ones that stick out like a sore thumb, because it’s rare.”
According to Fan Graphs, Wells has been declining steadily on defense in each of the past four seasons. Since 2006, his yearly UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) has gone from 7.5 to -1.1 to -14.3 to -18.2 last season. That last figure rated 17th among 18 qualified center fielders in baseball. Sure, Wells only made one error, but that is hardly an accurate way to gauge his performance with the glove.
Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays do look at defensive statistics, but he does not believe the raw data always tells the whole story.
“We do some defensive analysis from a statistical standpoint, but those are certainly not fullproof at all,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s just one tool. We certainly use our eyes as well. Some of the things we look at are just jumps and guys getting ready between each pitch. Those are little things that can make all the difference in the world. It’s not footspeed. It’s not routes. It’s not instincts. It might just be getting ready between each pitch. A split second one way or the other can really impact things.”
So, Toronto is looking for some help in the outfield this offseason, but don’t count on them looking for a new center fielder, even though such a search might also help in the hunt for a new leadoff man. The Jays need help in the corners, considering Adam Lind figures to split time between left and DH, and it’s not a given Travis Snider makes the Opening Day roster.
With the signings of shortstops Alex Gonzalez and John McDonald, Anthopoulos did note that Marco Scutaro could help out in the outfield if he accepted the club’s one-year arbitration offer. Scutaro would also solve the vacancy in the leadoff spot. If Lind is a regular in left, Anthopoulos noted that Randy Ruiz is currently the next option for the DH role.
INJURY UPDATES: Anthopoulos also addressed the status of injured pitchers Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch. Beginning with Litsch (right elbow), the Jays want to be conservative and aren’t counting on him returning until July. As for Marcum, the news is very optimistic.
“What the expectation is, talking to our trainers and doctors, Shaun Marcum is fully recovered,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ll see him in Spring Training. He’s not going to have any limitations at all. But again, we have to continue to monitor, knowing he’s coming off Tommy John. Hopefully, there’s no setbacks at all. Right now, we expect him to have a full recovery and be ready for Opening Day. Again, we understand it’s a long spring. Things can happen, so we’re still going to be careful with him.”
Does that mean Marcum, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September of 2008, won’t have an innings limit in 2010?
“We’ve talked about that,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s one of those things we’re going to have to monitor. We haven’t put a number on it. That’s one of the first questions I asked our trainer, ‘Can we count on him for 200 innings?’ He said, ‘Right now, we expect him to be able to carry the workload.’ But, again, we have to just monitor how he feels throughout the season.”
McGowan — out with a right shoulder injury since July of 2008 — is another story.
“He was doing great before we shut him down for the season,” Anthopoulos said. “He was rehabbing, but like you saw in the summer, he was doing very well with his rehab and then when he got to the mound throwing [in the middle of October], he had some tightness in his shoulder again and we had to shut it down. It’s one of those things that we’re going to have to continue to evaluate and continue to talk to our doctors and so on. We’ll see how he does. Right now, it’s more of an unknown.”
ARBITRATION: The Blue Jays have nine players eligible for arbitration: Jeremy Accardo, RHP; Jose Bautista, UTIL; Shawn Camp, RHP; Raul Chavez, C; Jason Frasor, RHP; Brandon League, RHP; Marcum, RHP; McGowan, RHP; and Brian Tallet, LHP. The deadline to exchange salary figures is Jan. 19, but Anthopoulos does not plan negotiating after that date. If the contracts aren’t settled by then, the players will likely face an arbitration hearing.
“Really, after the 19th, for us, there’s not going to be any more negotiations if we haven’t settled any arbitration deals,” Anthopoulos said.
RULE 5: Anthopoulos also noted that the Blue Jays have targeted some potential Rule 5 guys. Toronto picks 11th in the annual draft, which is held on the final day of the Winter Meetings. If a player is selected, he would need to remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season, or be offered back to the original team. Recent Rule 5 selections by the Jays included Randy Wells (2008) and Jason Smith (2007). Toronto’s 40-man roster is currently full, so the team would need to vacate a spot for a Rule 5 addition.