By Trey Rose (BBBA Featured Writer, owner of dynastydigest.sportsblog.com)
Young star, Michael Conforto, was demoted a few days ago because of a massive slump. Following May 1st, Conforto was batting .148, with a .217 OBP, and a .303 slugging percentage. Many people believe his struggles may stem from a wrist injury, but Conforto assured the media it was a mechanical issue rather than medical.
Well, it looks like the wrist injury may be a bigger issue than previously stated. On June 14th, Conforto received a cortisone shot to treat the injured cartilage in his left wrist. This cortisone shot could prove that Conforto is in fact too injured to play, which could lead to a grievance case. In the Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement, it states that teams may not send injured major league players to the minor leagues. Rather, the team must place the player on the major league disabled list. This could have big repercussions on the New York Mets if Conforto decides to file this case.
You be wondering, “why would Conforto file this grievance,” but it’s very simple, money. By sending him down, Conforto is losing roughly $2,000 a day when you take into account major league pay compared to the minor leagues. Not only is he losing money, but he is also not losing service time, which could delay his future free agency. While this must be frustrating to Conforto, it is very unlikely he will go through with the case.
In order to win a grievance case for this situation, the player must not be healthy enough to play for the minor league club. Conforto has a few things going against him that would more than likely cause him to lose this case.
First of all, before he was demoted, he was very adamant when stating that his problems don’t stem from an injury, but rather his mechanical approach at the plate. In other words, he took full responsibility for his struggles. Second of all, he did play his first game at Triple-A, which shows he is able to play. Now he could be playing through an injury in which he shouldn’t be playing, but that could be tough to prove. Of course it is still possible for Conforto to file this grievance, but there are quite a few issues against his case.
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Thursday August 4, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports): The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010. Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base. This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years. He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft. That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly. They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.
Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster. However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year. Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense. This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach. Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past. When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand. Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise. Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.
When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off. He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI. More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense. Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him. Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.
Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play? The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base. Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders. Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions. Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future. That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench. You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then? Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July. He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span. Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September. Here is how that lineup stacks up.
If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem. The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen. Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench. This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term. With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time. Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years. The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around. If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there. One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.
I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs. If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player. He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.
What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder. Rajai Davis has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team. He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.
The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term. Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen. Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland. We highly encourge you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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