Sunday, December 18, 2011

Offense vs Defense - Fielder vs Darvish

Offense vs Defense - Fielder vs Darvish

It’s one of the oldest debates in professional team sports, especially baseball - Offense vs defense. Which is more important? Do you win by not letting your opponent score any runs, or do you win by beating your opponent into the ground? The problem is, is that without context, both are right. So let’s add in some context. What should the Blue Jays add to their team to help them contend in 2012 and beyond, or more specifically, who? This offseason the Blue Jays have been linked to just about everyone, and most of all to Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder. A perfect offense vs defense situation.

The Blue Jays finished 2011 with a .500 record at 81-81, good for fourth in the AL East and ten games out of the Wild Card. So how can we jump into contention? Many believe the Prince Fielder will provide a huge spark to the Blue Jays, by bringing in a very big bat to help boost their offensive numbers, not only on his own, but also by providing some much needed protection to Bautista, and bringing what would likely be the most feared 3-4 spot in any lineup in the MLBs in 2012. However, is offense really the best option? Afterall, many detractors say that the Blue Jays finished 6th in the MLB in runs scored, behind the Yankees and the Red Sox, but quite far ahead of the Phillies and the Rays, who both made the postseason. But beyond that, the Jays also finished the season as a team with the 10th worst average (.249) and the 12thworst OBP (.317). These are very obvious concerns that need addressing, and Prince Fielder would go a very long way in helping those concerns being erased. So there is no doubt that the overall offense needs to be improved. However, those clamoring for Prince haven’t realized all of the upgrades the Jays have made to their line-up since opening day last year. We can all look forward to full seasons from Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson and Colby Rasmus, and hopefully a bounce back year from Adam Lind, and maybe for once, everyone can stay healthy. All of those additions will do wonders to provide a very big boost to the Jays overall offensive numbers, so maybe Fielder isn’t the catalyst he appears to be to so many. But what about the pitching side of things?

The Jays had one of, if not, the youngest pitching staff in the majors last year, and showed tremendous potential, but finished the season with the 6th worst ERA (4.32), 8th worst WHIP (1.35), tied for the 5th most walks allowed (540), and allowed more HRs than any AL team save the Orioles. A lot of this can be tied to the young staff, and a lot of changes made to the rotation throughout the year and a lot of different pitchers were given a lot of time in the rotation as the Jays took a look at what they had, but there is no doubt we have more room to improve with our pitching staff than we do with our lineup. Sure a lot of starts were given to the likes of Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo Reyes at the start of the season, and much like the Jays line-up, the rotation has no doubt improved since opening day last season, even before the possible addition of Yu Darvish. Without him, we have a possible opening day rotation that would most likely go Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil, McGowan. That includes a lot of question marks of course, and is still a very young rotation, but it loaded with potential. You only need to look at Romero’s season last year to show how the Blue Jays pitchers are growing and what they can become. Again, with bounce back seasons from Morrow and Cecil, and if McGowan can recapture his 2008 form, the Jays will have a very solid rotation once more. But does the addition of Darvish provide a greater boost to the Jays than Fielder?

Consider the bigger picture. The case for Fielder is a strong one. Prince Fielder is a very big and fearsome bat, and there is little doubt he can handle the pressure of the AL East and is a proven talent. However, in signing Fielder to a contract, the Jays would need to surrender one of their extremely valuable draft picks, and sign him to contract that, at this point, is likely longer than they’d want to. Not to mention that first base and DH are currently filled and either Adam Lind or Edwin Encarncion would likely have to be traded, in a move that would limit the value of either asset and thus limit the return. So in order for the Jays to grab Fielder, they would have to surrender a draft pick, give up at least one big league talent, and commit to a very large amount of money. Yet the cost of adding Yu Darvish is significantly less, and provides a much bigger impact when you look at the ramifications. Adding Darvish does not cost any draft picks, and will not force a major league talent out of the club. If Darvish does join the Jays, he will join the rotation and most likely Brett Cecil will join the bullpen, but Henderson Alvarez could also be pushed to the bullpen as well. He is an “unproven” MLB level talent, but the amount of risk for this to blow-up is significantly reduced. The worst case scenario for adding either Darvish or Fielder is the always the risk of injury. No matter how much either cost, if both end their careers early due to injury, the cost of Darvish will only be money, where the cost for Fielder could be future All-Stars as well.

So what is the best path? Do the Jays contend in the tough AL East by hoping to improve their potent line-up to go head-to-head with offensive juggernauts like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, or do they boost their rotation with more top-tier pitching talents and shut down their bats before they become an issue? I suppose it’s a personal preference in the end, but I also think it wouldn’t be unlike Anthopoulos to do both. Only time will tell now.

What are your thoughts? Offense vs Defense? I’d love to hear them, so add some comments below or feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Bam_86) and let me know that way! Big thanks to @BlueJaysBatBoy and @BlueJays_Giants for the twitter debate that inspired this article!

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