I other news, Michael Saunders was in good spirits at the start of spring training. His calm, and generally quiet demeanor is a much needed balance to the lively, spark plug that is Jose Reyes, and upbeat, cheerleading styles of Russell Martin. He’s the quiet player’s role model, a trait he credits to Griffey Jr., and other veteran Mariners who spoke up only when needed. Given what we know of Saunders’ desire to prove himself here with the Jays, he looks to be an over-achie— and he’s injured…. DAMMIT!

God almighty, can’t they stay healthy long enough for me to even write an article about them?! %#$!@ this team! And screw this stupid stadium!  It’s so old, I almost tripped over a calcified pile of seagull crap in parking lot and tore my own meniscus. 

Now I have to go write another article about whether Dickey feels like his knuckleball is going to knuckle or not this year… Guy talks like he’s a Tyranno-thesaurus-Rex…. Somebody shoot me… 

I’m just assuming the above is the kind of thing you’d hear or see from the press covering the Jays, on their laptop screens and word pads and… cocktail napkins.

But, since I’m not in Jays Land, I can only tell you for certain what I think from here.

Lets take a look at the Saunders issue from past present and future, shall we?

The Jays dealt JA Happ for Saunders, which wasn’t a great loss considering what Happ wanted and the Mariners field afforded him, and what the Jays had in the prospect pipeline. Norris is a better option than Happ, costs less, and has the potential to be more effective long term—especially if brought up under the tutelage of Martin.

In return, Saunders would be a nice fit for the Jays since his offensive values fit surprisingly well in the Jays lineup, could reaplace(ish) Melky, and was cheap considering his upside.

If he stayed healthy.

Which, of course, he didn’t, because he’s now a Blue Jay, which essentially marks you like the black spot, unleashing the injury Kraken to hunt you down (was that a sprinkler head or a tentacle?).

What do the Jays lose with this injury? Well, a solid batting line that could, and would do more slugging damage in the Rogers Centre, as well as a welcome defender. You’re looking at a projected slash of 250/340/397/720 for Saunders, give or take with favorable splits. Consider that Reyes, Martin, Encarnacion, Bautista, and Donaldson are your core, Saunders’ upside was just gravy.

That said, Saunders gravy could very well have taken some pressure off of Pompey and the revolving mix of impotent/unproven backend bats. It’s not so much about protecting the damage dealing side of the lineup as it is helping the backend go down with a fight.

But that’s just the paper side of the equation, one where Kevin Pillar will get written in, if he hasn’t been already. Layer on the unseen ramifications for Saunders role on the Jays by getting hurt this early and you see the real trouble.

Consider that Saunders is a brand new guy on a brand new club fighting for a brand new start. He’s trying to find his fit, which will now be on a training room table, or some place other than where the team is. He’s out of the action for both the formative pre-season and team solidifying first half. Even if he’s kicking around in the Jays locker room, he’s still a fifth (and flat) wheel. And, even if he is back by the All-Star break, his first audition will be a make or break role at the big league level instead of the eased in process of Spring Training.

This could be a major setback for his career—with the Jays and beyond if you consider his injury history.

It always sucks to get hurt, but it really sucks to get hurt when you’re auditioning, not just your skills but also your fit within the team’s collective. Saunders is now dead weight. Worst of all, he probably knows it. For all the loving, warm and fuzzy “they all get a long” malarkey you’ll hear during the honeymoon period of spring training, this is the one thing you wont hear about until after the fact. Saunders’ opportunity just become someone else’s, and if he doesn’t hit the ground running when he comes back, he could go the way of so many other players that the luck and opportunity steamroller of baseball has paved over before him.

So, what about going forward for the Jays?

As I said, Pillar is your man. He’s a solid, near premier defender, is still young enough that you can consider his splits non-damning. and he’s really the only viable internal option. He’s also cheap. Ezequiel Carrera is the other choice. He’s a quick, punching lefty that can do some damage on the bases—if he gets there— but looks to be more of a back-up option for center. Chris Dickerson is also an option, but looks to be a Triple A failsafe at this juncture considering his age and his limited results in inconsistent roles.

Outside of the Jays there is Jason Kubel and a various smattering of others. Considering the Jays desire to stay in house and not test the payroll until W/L results warrant it, I doubt much deviation from their stated intent.


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