Inbox: What role best serves Davis?
Blue Jays beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
Rajai Davis is among the league leaders in stolen bases while getting nearly half the at-bats of the top guys (Jacoby Ellsbury ). Why does he not get more credit for his feats, and why is he not playing every day down the stretch?
-- Rocky V., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
This seems to be a popular question lately and one that has been asked before over the years, but the answer remains the same. Davis certainly can have a major impact on the game when he's in the lineup, but he is best served as a platoon player who starts only a few times a week.
The main reason for that is Davis has struggled against right-handed pitching throughout his career. He hits righties at a .255 clip while posting a .648 OPS, and those numbers simply just don't justify an everyday role, even with his blistering speed on the basepaths.
Davis' numbers are drastically different against left-handers, and that's where his true value lies. He is a .296 hitter with a .783 OPS vs. lefties, and that's why when he's used properly Davis can post standout performances.
Because Davis is a pending free agent, it's certainly possible he'll be given a chance to play every day with another team in the future. But he received that shot with Toronto in 2011 and it didn't work out all that well, and that's why more at-bats in September have been given to the likes of Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and -- to a lesser extent -- Kevin Pillar.
Melky Cabrera seemed to be a player on the decline this season, but do you think the tumor that was removed from his back can help explain why he looked so bad? Or do you think his best years are now behind him?
-- Adam D., Barrie, Ontario
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The Blue Jays spent almost this entire season trying to figure out what was wrong with Cabrera. He arrived at Spring Training in good shape, was moving well and appeared set to have a successful season after signing a two-year, $16 million contract during the offseason.
But the problems began almost immediately, as Cabrera began the season with a lack of mobility on the basepaths and in left field. Some struggles at the plate would have been understandable, but it was incredibly bizarre to see someone at just 29 years old moving around with so much difficulty.
Toronto examined both of Cabrera's legs on multiple occasions but couldn't find a cause. It wasn't until the former All-Star admitted to having back pain that the organization found the benign tumor and was able to have it removed without any complications in early September.
The presence of a tumor can never be considered a positive thing, but at least now the Blue Jays have something concrete to point to as being a main reason behind his lack of mobility. The location of the tumor inside of Cabrera's spine created a lot of pressure and ultimately sent waves of pains through his legs.
That should now be a thing of the past, and the Blue Jays can realistically hope for a bounce-back season in 2014. There are no guarantees it will happen, but Cabrera is expected to make a full recovery prior to Spring Training, and considering he is set to earn $8 million next season, he will be given every opportunity to win regular playing time.
Do you expect the Blue Jays to pick up Adam Lind's option for next season? Or will they look elsewhere for help in the middle of the order?
-- Justin R., Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Lind's chances of being back next year seemed remote a couple of months ago, but that has changed in recent weeks. The main reason is that the Blue Jays found the cause behind Cabrera's issues this season, which has opened up another spot in the lineup.
The line of thinking back in July was that Cabrera would probably need to shift to designated hitter because of his lack of range in left field. Now that Toronto diagnosed Cabrera's problem, he is once again expected to start in the field, which opens up the DH spot for someone else.
It's a position that Lind has been accustomed to for the past few seasons, and there's a realistic shot he could have his $7 million team option picked up for next year. If Toronto did decide to part ways with Lind, it would still cost the club a $2 million buyout, so the difference of $5 million might not be that expensive for a player who just surpassed the 20-homer plateau, while maintaining an average above .270 for most of the year.
Is it time for the Blue Jays to start thinking about locking up Colby Rasmus to a long-term deal? He has been one of the best hitters on the team this season and in my opinion is worthy of a big pay raise.
-- Josh M., Ottawa, Ontario
Rasmus certainly has made a strong case to become a part of the Blue Jays' core with a breakout season at the plate. Despite missing more than a month with an oblique injury, Rasmus is three home runs shy of a career high, while posting an impressive .828 OPS in 114 games this season.
It's his best year at the plate since 2010, and with Gose having struggled at Triple-A Buffalo, an argument could easily be made that Rasmus isn't just Toronto's center fielder of the present but also of the future.
The big question surrounding Rasmus, though, is what he is worth on the open market. Rasmus' agent certainly could make the case that he should paid similarly to Atlanta's B.J. Upton, who signed a five-year deal worth $75.25 million during the offseason.
Upton signed that contract after hitting 28 homers for Tampa Bay, but he managed to post just a .246 average and .752 OPS during that same year. Rasmus has both of those final two categories beat, and even though he's just a .248 career hitter, he's batting .275 this year and appears to have turned a corner before his final year of arbitration.
The biggest question mark surrounding Rasmus is consistency and whether he can produce at this elevated level again next year. That's one of the main reasons why general manager Alex Anthopoulos likely will be inclined to wait another year before deciding just how much Rasmus is worth on the open market. It also would get Toronto one year closer to 2015, when a lot of its biggest contracts will be coming off the books.
With the 2014 schedule having just been released, I was wondering what road trips you would recommend the most? I'd like to get a head start on some summer plans and would like to hear your opinion on which cities have the best ballparks and local attractions.
-- Ashley D., Toronto
One of my top recommendations would be PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It's a place the Blue Jays don't get to visit often, but they'll be there from May 1-3, and the stadium is generally regarded as one of the best in baseball. Next year would be an ideal time to book the trip, because you don't know when the opportunity will arise again.
Another must for any Blue Jays fan is to make the trip to Seattle. The atmosphere there is unlike any other road series considering the number of Blue Jays fans who make the drive from British Columbia and other western provinces in what's usually their only opportunity of the year to watch Toronto in person. If you haven't done it before, that series should be on your bucket list at some point over the next few years.
My personal favorite will always be Fenway Park in Boston. I'm a little biased because I grew up in the Maritimes, and as many Canadians know, it's the closest ballpark to that area. I watched countless Blue Jays games there while growing up, and the history and energy of that ballpark is something unlike any other place I've been.
Do you think it's smart for the Blue Jays to keep starting Edwin Encarnacion? He still seems like he has a sore wrist. Wouldn't it make sense to shut him down for the season?
-- Wesley B., Toronto
Encarnacion might still be dealing with some discomfort, but the Blue Jays insist he isn't at any risk of doing further damage. Considering there's only two weeks remaining, Encarnacion should be able to play through the pain while potentially receiving an occasional day off.
There's also still plenty at stake for the Dominican Republic native. He's four home runs away from becoming just the third player in franchise history to record 40 in back-to-back seasons. Carlos Delgado and Jose Bautista previously accomplished the feat, and with 14 games to play, it will be a tall order for Encarnacion to achieve, but one that is still possible.
Is there any chance that the Jays will enter the Robinson Cano sweepstakes?
-- Chris G., Caledonian
This has probably been the most common question over the past several weeks, but the answer is pretty simple. Even though the Blue Jays have a clear void at second base, I can't imagine any type of scenario where the club would take a serious look at Cano.
It seems likely that Cano will eventually re-sign with the Yankees, but even if he doesn't, the Blue Jays won't be able to spend the type of money it would take to lock up the All-Star second baseman. Toronto also has a club policy of not signing a free agent to a contract that is guaranteed for more than five seasons, and Cano will be looking for more than that.