What do the Blue Jays need right now? A left fielder. What did they get? A broken down, soft-tossing left hander.

Go Jays!

With all do respect to former two time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, he ain’t what he used to be.

However, he is what the Blue Jays would like him to be. Cheap, potentially useful, and full of old war stories to entertain the kids with.

If you look back over the years, the Blue Jays have a real soft spot in their heart for players of great previous success because of their ability to be role models and teachers for up and coming talent. The Jays’ experience exposure principle: If you have former stars on a team, they can teach the younger players how to be stars themselves.

While I’d like nothing more than Santana to sit down and have a long, therapeutic chat with Rickey Romero, the honest truth is, you can’t quantify the effect of having an old salt around to tell war stories to the kids, hoping it will help them unlock latent potential.

Even in the previous years, when players like Mark DeRosa were around, sure, the team loved the guy, but they still lost. And Brett Lawrie, the main target for DeRosa’s role modeling, only calmed down a titch, but still spent a good portion of the season injured and/or raging, and is now someone else’s third baseman.

I can also remember DeRosa sitting down with me when we did the TBS panel and saying that the whole JP Arencibia debacle was something he tried to circumvent, explaining how he said to JP before he unleashed his accusations on the Rogers’ morning radio show, “If you go on air and rip the commentators, what good do you think is going to come of it?”

Not a lot, obviously. Good try though, D-ro.

My point is, it’s nice to have older guys around, but they don’t always have the impact on the youth that you want them to. For example, RA Dickey is a veteran pitcher, but he’s not exactly Mr. Approachable for the rest of the team, mostly because he’s a knuckleballer, but also because his high brow, faith-based baseball filter—while respectable—is not universal in a clubhouse.

And if you really want a veteran lefty to talk with, what is Mark Buehrle, chopped liver? They guy is the gold standard!

It makes much more sense to look at moves from on field impact standards and toss out the off-field as a value added narrative device. For multiple reasons, in fact.

First, because older guys are great, but they are usually worried about legacy and have a hard time relating to young guys who can be five to twenty years their junior. Just because a guy is older and has had results in the same profession doesn’t mean the way he got them, environment he got them in, or style he was taught to get them by, is one-to-one transferable. Times change. People change. Most players think it doesn’t, but it does.

Second, you get more from being around like-minded impact makers than you do older, established, legacy concerned ones. I mean that both in terms of on field production and teaching. Here is why:

Baseball is a-what-have-you-done-lately profession, a  team sport based on individual results. You want players who can, whether happy and positively or vengeful and arrogantly, push one another to prove they are the best. You can’t do that with a guy who walks in already known as one of the best, and must be placed on a pedestal for all to admire, even if he’s not helping.

The goal is to make the best winning environment possible, which can be different from the best learning environment possible.

Looking at Santana for his potential on field impact is more dice role than projection, (on field in the big leagues, since that’s where they want him, not in winning games in Buffalo) anyone who says it isn’t is fooling themselves. Johan Santana is not a low risk, high reward investment. He’s a low risk, low reward investment. Everyone thinks that he’ll return to the form on his former glory if he can recover and get back on track. That’s highly unlikely. He probably wont even return to Daniel Norris’s ability level now, in which case, why would you bother putting him in the bigs over Norris? And why are folks talking about him being the opening day starter?

The later is just ridiculous. The former, however, is not. If Santana is even close to Norris’s ability by the end of spring training (or, April 15th, when the team would actually need a 5th starter due to off days) he could be there to buy time. Time in which Norris can stretch out in the minors, and maybe they Jays can push back the payday clock. In that sense, Santana could be a high impact move, but it would be intrinsically linked to Norris’ development, not so much his recovery. And the Jays need to know when to bail on Santana.

What I mean there is, consider that Santana could recover, but not be effective.

I get he could, possibly, maybe be a role player if all goes well, but that’s a big if. Given his injury history, his declining ability, and the gamble associated with effective results, would you rather have him, or a couple young, unproven, uninjured arms fighting it out to prove they belong?

I’d rather have the younger unproven arms since, when they do bad, you’ll send them back to the minors to improve instead of believing in their past history as a reason to let them keep bleeding out on your big league roster


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