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Phillips: Should the Blue Jays have traded Bonifacio?

Steve Phillps, TSN Baseball Analyst
8/16/2013 11:32:20 AM
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Each week, TSN Baseball Analyst Steve Phillips breaks down all the big stories and issues around Major League Baseball on TSN.ca. In this edition, he explains why the Toronto Blue Jays shipped out Emilio Bonifacio instead of Mark DeRosa and whether the team should keep JP Arencibia or Maicer Izturis next season.

1) Why did Emilio Bonifacio not work out with the Jays – there was a lot of hype about his multi-talented skill set and second base was wide open, yet he was given away this week for the dreaded cash or PTBNL. Why would the Jays trade him and keep Mark DeRosa who is 10 years older and was also on the trade block?

The Emilio Bonafacio era has come to an end in Toronto and begun in Kansas City as he was dealt on Wednesday.  Bonafacio was a big part of the off-season deal with the Marlins that also brought Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle and Jose Reyes north of the border.  Bonafacio's versatility was a big part of his value as he can play anywhere in the infield and outfield.  He was given the opportunity to start at second base but his defence was awful and he soon lost playing time in the infield to Maicer Izturis.

Alex Anthopoulos believed he had acquired starting player who could put pressure on the defence with his speed. Instead, Bonafacio looked lost at second base and at the plate.  He hit just .218 with three homers and 12 stolen bases in 94 games for the Jays. He's been a major disappointment since he stole 30 bases last year in only 64 games and had a .360 OBP two years ago.

What happened?

Bonafacio got overexposed.

There's a reason that some players are utility players.  Bonafacio was a super-sub with the Marlins.  He filled in where needed always doing an adequate job.  He is a jack of all trades.  He can play many positions on the field, but none of them very well.  Anthopoulos made an assumption that if Bonafacio played every day at a single position that he could add to the numbers he put up as a utility man.  Unfortunately, Bonafacio has been over exposed the more he has played.

There is a big difference too between playing every day as a replacement at a number of different positions and playing every day at one position.  There's a ton more pressure when there are expectations to deliver as a starting second baseman as opposed to a fill-in for the starting second baseman on one day and then the left fielder another day.

It is easy to see that Bonafacio underachieved.  His stats scream it.
 
The reason he was traded instead of Mark DeRosa is the $2.6 million contract he has.  Bonafacio is arbitration eligible, which means his salary will go up next year.  That is way too much to pay a utility man.  Utility players should make about $750,000- which happens to be DeRosa's salary this year and next year if the Jays exercise his option.

2) The Blue Jays have had some of the worst production in the entire league from the catcher and second base position in terms of AVG, OBP and OPS. Would you be more comfortable with J.P. Arencibia or Maicer Izturis starting every day next season?

Successful teams are built with strength up the middle with good pitching and solid defence at catcher, shortstop, second base and centrefield.  Offence is important but teams that don't pitch well or catch the ball don't win games.

If a player isn't good defensively, then he has to justify his starting role by producing more offensively.  If a player isn't very good offensively, then he better be a wizard with the glove. The deadliest combination is being poor offensively and defensively.  Players like that lose their starting roles.

It is true that the Jays had terrible production offensively at second base and catcher.  But the Jays score enough runs to be a winning team.

They didn't pitch well enough or catch the ball well enough to be a winning team.

The Jays need to cut bait with JP Arencibia. The pitching staff underachieved for which he shares some responsibility.  He is also not the smoothest receiver or best game caller either.  The Jays need to sacrifice his occasional home run for a better defensive catcher.  He doesn't have enough power to justify his defensive deficiencies.

Alex Anthopoulos can probably get something fairly decent in return because general managers all think they are smarter than each other. He will find someone who thinks they can fix Arencibia. I can say that because I was once that general manager who thought he was smarter than everyone else and could fix broken players.  See where that got me?

Macier Izturis can be the starting second baseman next year for the Jays.  He is not great offensively but he can do everything the Jays need and more defensively.  The Jays have to upgrade their pitching next year.  That will cost money. Izturis is a cost effective option at second base, which will free up money for their primary need.

3) After struggling in the first half of the season, the Dodgers are a remarkable 32-7 since July.  They were floundering like the Jays before that - so what did the Dodgers do in order to right the ship while other teams, including the Jays, continued to sink?

The Dodgers have had a remarkable turnaround to their season.  They struggled the first three months of the season.  Don Mattingly, their manager, got a public vote of confidence but behind the scenes he was told that if things didn't turn around he would lose his job. 

Mattingly tried everything but nothing worked:  he changed lineups, benched struggling players, confronted bad attitudes, etc.

The Dodgers have been able to do what others like the Jays have not. 

They have been able to reverse the struggles and negative feelings that losing can foster.  Los Angeles is 23-3 in the second half and 40-8 since June 22 - the best 48-game stretch in the Majors since 1942 when the Cardinals won 41 of 48 games.

Did Mattingly suddenly become a good manager?  No.

The Dodgers got healthy and their good players started playing well and they improved their pitching via trades and role changes.

Hanley Ramirez returned from the disabled list in early June and returned to his MVP candidate form from a few years back.  He added a big bat to the lineup and upgraded them defensively at shortstop.

Carl Crawford was activated in early July from the DL and has recently caught fire and looks like the player that was coveted as a free agent a few years back.

Zach Grienke is pitching like an ace and gives the Dodgers a dominant 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw.

In early July, when they were still trying to make up ground in the division, general manager Ned Colletti kept looking to improve his team.  He added starter Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins and he has been terrific.

Colletti acquired Carlos Marmol from the Cubs and then sent him to the minor leagues to try and fix his command issues. He is back in the big leagues and has been fairly effective.  He adds a power arm to the pen.

The Dodgers also changed their closer.  Brandon League had been struggling so Mattingly shifted the ninth inning to Kenley Jansen and he has been phenomenal.  He has successfully converted 17 of 19 saves since June 22 when the turnaround began.

The most significant move the Dodgers made was calling up rookie Yasiel Puig.  This youngster is not only in the running for rookie of the year, he has a shot at NL MVP.  He has energized his team both offensively and defensively.  He is hitting .368 with 11 home runs and 27 RBI and has scored 47 runs. He has made diving and leaping catches and dramatic throws from the outfield to gun down runners.

Puig's presence has inspired and challenged his teammates.  He has brought a swagger to the Dodgers that was lacking.  The Dodgers are now cool and exciting.  They are Hollywood. They are the hottest ticket in town.  It is becoming cool to be seen at a Dodgers game like it is a Laker game.  Kanye West, George Lopez, Robin Thicke, Pat Sajak and former Lakers forward Robert Horry were at the game on Wednesday night.

Everything is going right for the Dodgers.  They are not just a hot team; they are a good team playing great baseball.  They believe in themselves and are hitting on all cylinders.  They have a great combination of youth and experience.  Solid starting pitching, timely hitting and great defense all lead to championship caliber baseball.

Fair or Foul

I want instant replay in baseball.  So does Bud Selig and I am glad to hear that.  But what in the world did MLB do announcing the new baseball replay system yesterday without most of the nuts and bolts in place.

Here is the plan as it was presented: Managers will get three challenges per game, one to be used through the first six innings, and two for the final three innings. Challenges do not carry over, so if the manager doesn't use it through the first six innings, he will have only two left.

If a challenge is not successful, the manager will lose a challenge. If it results in the play being overturned, the manager would get to keep his challenge.

If a manager runs out of challenges, he will still be able to ask for reviews of home runs, which have been grandfathered.

Not all plays are reviewable.  The exact plays that are reviewable have not been finalized.  They will need agreement with the Major League Players Association and the umpires union as well.

All replays will be reviewed by umpires at MLB.com headquarters in New York.  An umpire will be in a control room with access to video replays of the game feeds for each contest. Once a manager challenges a call, the home-plate umpire or the crew chief will go to a communications center near the field and pick up a phone that will have a direct secure line to New York. The umpire in New York will review the play and make a call.

Sounds simple enough but this announcement leaves open so many questions.

Why does a manager only get one challenge in the first six innings and two in the final three (or more innings)?  Are there fewer bad calls in the first six innings?  Is a bad call in the early part of the game not as bad as a bad call late in the game?  I believe every inning is equal.  A bad call in the first inning that leads to the opponent scoring a run is just as bad as if it happens in the 7th.  It is still a run.

Won't managers use the challenges for gamesmanship? If a manager is going to lose a challenge after six innings if he doesn't use it then why not use it to mess with the opposing pitcher's mind?  What if the opposing pitcher has a no-hitter going into the sixth inning; can't a manager challenge a ridiculous foul ball or play at first base just to throw off the rhythm and flow of the pitcher?

The easy solution is to allow three challenges per game regardless of the inning.  This would take away the fear of wasting a challenge if you don't use it by the 6th inning.

There was no indication in the statement if teams get additional challenges in extra innings.  What if a manager uses his challenges after 9 innings and the game ends up going 18 innings?  Is there no remedy available to a manager if there is a bad call in the 15th inning?

Honestly, I don't understand why there would be any limitations on how frequently challenges are allowed.  Why would we ever want a game decided on a horrific call?  I know that time of game and pace of game issues have to be considered but not at the expense of getting a call right.

I also just don't understand how baseball made this announcement without a clear and concise list of which plays are reviewable and which are not.

Since the system won't be in place until 2014 what was the rush to announce this?  I know the owners are going to vote on this in November but there is plenty of time between now and then to get the plan completely together.  Any announcement from a league that generates this many questions is not an announcement that should have been made at all.  It feels like they didn't think it through all the way and can't make up their mind.  I know neither of these is true but it sure feels awkward.

It is not easy to win games and get to the playoffs.  No game of any level of importance race should be decided by an umpire's mistake.  We have the technology to get calls right so let's get it right every time.

Next time would it kill you to tell us what can be reviewed?

Steve Phillips was general manager of the New York Mets from 1997 through 2003, helping lead the club to a National League championship in 2000 and its first World Series appearance in 14 years.




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