Blue Jays Mailbag: Upton's Release, Platooning in Left, and Bautista's Contract

Andrew Stoeten explains why he won't lose any sleep over the Blue Jays releasing Melvin Upton Jr., and figures there's no way Bautista won't opt into free agency next offseason.
April 4, 2017, 2:50pm
Photo by Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Stoeten answers your questions in our Blue Jays Mailbag, which runs weekly at VICE Sports. You can send him questions at stoeten@gmail.com__, and follow him on Twitter.

Real baseball is finally here! But it didn't arrive without a tough extra-inning opening day loss to the Orioles, and a late twist from the Blue Jays front office, which released Melvin Upton Jr. in order to keep Ryan Goins. Cue outrage!

Or, at the very least, cue one of the questions from my fourth installment of this homage to Richard Griffin's old Blue Jays mailbags for the Toronto Star...

And if you have a Blue Jays question you'd like me to tackle for next week, be sure to send it to Now on with the show...

Why are people so concerned with platoon LF defence and pinch running when Pompey can do both better than Upton?


You ask a good question, Todd. I tweeted on Sunday, after it was announced that the Blue Jays were letting go of Upton in favour of Ryan Goins, that those folks out there who are desperate to dislike this front office had suddenly become big fans of Melvin. That doesn't mean that I don't recognize that the move is a little confusing, it's just... really? Keeping Melvin Upton is the hill you're going to die on? Hoookay.

You're right that Pompey is going to be an option at some point to do many of the things that Upton was best at, and to do them better. I'm not sold on Pompey's abilities against left-handed pitching (I'm not even sold on his abilities against right-handers), and Upton certainly would be an improvement in that regard, but the Jays do have other options. Steve Pearce, as long as he's healthy, will always be playing when a left-hander is on the mound, be it in left field, at first base, or elsewhere. Having him in left on those days might mean giving Justin Smoak a bunch of at-bats from the right side, which nobody wants. But there's also the possibility of playing Pearce at first and taking advantage of Ezequiel Carrera's reverse platoon split and playing him against some lefties anyway, despite the fact that he's a left-handed bat.

READ MORE: Troy Tulowitzki Is the Key to the Blue Jays' Season

Doing so requires a belief in Carrera that I'm not sure is justified—though Mark Shapiro did call him "a darling of the analytical world" in a recent radio hit, so the club clearly thinks there's more there—but it wouldn't surprise me if they feel they'll be able to pick the player who matches up best with the opposing pitcher that day and do just about as well with Carrera and Smoak (who they also clearly like far more than the public does) as they would have with Upton—who, let's not forget, was baaaaaaaad during his time with the Blue Jays. And for the two years prior to the nice little rebound he had in San Diego that ended just as the Jays were trading for him.

Sure, blame the bat, Melvin. Photo by Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't of the mind that it was Carrera who was the weaker link in this situation (as well as Smoak), but there is absolutely a logic to what they've decided to do here, too.

How many Smoak-like hitters do you really need? And, I mean, with Carrera, Pompey, Darrell Ceciliani, Chris Coghlan, Jose Tabata, and potentially Lourdes Gurriel or Harold Ramirez down the line, the Jays are not exactly wanting for mediocre outfielders. And a team with Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson on it doesn't exactly need to start shedding infield depth.

It's really probably just about that simple. And if you're a front office that believes in Smoak and Carrera more than the public does, it's probably even simpler still. Furthermore, um... call me when this is an actual problem. Because, I gotta say, I don't feel like I'm going to be spending a whole lot of time this season thinking, "Damn, if only they'd have kept Melvin Upton...." Call it a hunch.


I know its early but there's lotsa apparent mutual love between Jays and Bautista. Is there a way for them to agree to have that vesting option kick in and lock him up for another year or two?


I mean, they could agree to just about anything they wanted, the question is "will they?" And the answer to that is, "I highly doubt it."

As much as everybody's been acting like it's business as usual this spring, I think the fact that it took the Jays so ridiculously long to sign Bautista, even after it became staggeringly obvious that they had to, says quite a bit, y'know? Had the Blue Jays been able to find another player to give that money to, I have no doubts that he wouldn't be here right now. It's a marriage of convenience, and one that one side seemed very reluctant to enter.

It's not impossible that the club could have suddenly changed its tune, but Bautista can opt into free agency next winter by declining to exercise his end of the mutual option for 2018 on his deal (the vesting option covers the following year), and at this point there isn't a whole lot of incentive for him to do anything else.

Don't get me wrong, if they found a way to have him stick around, that would be great, but don't mistake the fact that everybody is saying the right things for that.


Do fringe 25 man roster players (read: Bo Schultz) who have yet to be optioned go on the DL during spring training accrue MLB service time?


What am I, Google? Yeah, if you're on the Major League disabled list, you're accruing service time. So right now that's Schultz, Glenn Sparkman, Roberto Osuna, and Dalton Pompey.


question, would a Jay Bruce in right field and JB in left field look make the @BlueJays serious contenders?


No. Jay Bruce is awful, the death of Jose's arm has been greatly exaggerated, and they're already serious contenders.


Since no team actually uses pitcher wins to evaluate pitchers, how long do you think it will be before baseball broadcasts stop using it?

Space Ghost

That's a great question, and one that I have no idea the answer to. When I worked at a TV station we talked about making change as being like turning a battleship in a bathtub—and that was an especially progressive station! So, understanding that, I'd guess that we'll still be hearing about pitcher wins for quite a long time yet. I don't know if viewers would miss the stat if it suddenly went away, or if it was replaced with like the team's record in games a pitcher started, but it's pretty deeply ingrained in the way most fans talk about the game that I just don't think that it becoming utterly irrelevant within front offices is going to make much of a difference.

J.A. Happ won 20 games last season. But we know pitcher wins don't mean what we once thought they did. Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, I'm not sure when the last time a team that wasn't the Diamondbacks used pitcher wins, but I'm sure it's been a long, long time. And yet the statistic persists! RBIs, too! I think we might just be stuck with them. Which, honestly, is probably OK anyway.

At the rate that new metrics for analyzing the game are developed, it's like we'd have to be teaching fans a new vocabulary every year or two. "I just started to get the hang of OPS, then you told me wRC+ and WAR were best, *now* Statcast is putting those into question???"

Some fans obviously want to learn that stuff, but the majority would probably end up grumbling about it. Plus, it's tradition. I don't know... I can live with it.