Hard Pass On Brett Lawrie

Lawrie Day
Image from DJF on Lawrie’s debut via me combing the Wayback Machine for 45 fucking minutes.

Josh Donaldson got hurt in the first week of Spring Training. Devon Travis is still ailing from arthroscopic knee surgery in November, and it’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready to start the season. Steve Pearce is recovering from off-season forearm surgery, and  made his Spring 2017 debut just this afternoon; Ross Atkins told Sportsnet this week that there are “varying opinions” as to whether he’ll be ready to play the outfield by Opening Day (so… maybe just make him your everyday first baseman? *COUGH*).

Sure, the Jays have Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins, and Gibbers’ favourite, Richard Urena, to potentially fill in at second base or — god forbid — third base, should any of these guys not be quite ready to answer the bell, but at this stage, could they maybe not use another utility infield type? Just to take a look?

Perhaps one that was released today by the Chicago White Sox?

Yes, that’s right, Brett Lawrie has been, rather unceremoniously dumped by a rebuilding White Sox team. 

Oof.

This would probably be notable around these parts even if the Jays didn’t almost, maybe, if you squint hard enough need another utility guy to have a look at this spring. Lawrie was Canadian Jesus for quite a long while there. He was going to be the Next Big Thing through the early part of 2011, and had Jays fans clamouring for his call-up. “You want me to walk more before you promote me to the bigs? OK, skip!” And then in a 43 game cameo that summer he gave us a tantalizing glimpse of an incredible, unbelievably great future for the Blue Jays at third base.

And that future would indeed come to fruition. Unfortunately for Lawrie, it would do so in the form of Josh Donaldson, after Brett’s bro ass was sent packing to Oakland in what might be — and I say this with genuinely no hyperbole — literally the greatest fleecing in the history of Major League Baseball.

He coasted on that cameo for a long while after 2011. His obliques gave him trouble back in the bad old days of 2012, before most clubs had heard of soft tissue injuries, let alone started implementing training regimens designed to prevent him. “He could still break out!” we thought in 2013. But then… y’know… he didn’t.

Lawrie, in a sense, is still coasting a bit on those 43 games. He’s a league average hitter by wRC+ for his career; exactly 100. But remove those 171 incredible plate appearances from the 2,417 he’s taken since and his wRC+ drops to 96.

He’s slashed .258/.310/.407 since the start of the 2012 season, and his numbers really haven’t fluctuated. His wRC+ marks for 2012 to 2016 are: 97, 95, 103, 96, 92. Over two thousand plate appearances. He is who he is.

And while those are fine enough numbers for a multi-position guy who might take a minor league contract, he… uh… he is who he is. GETT ITTTTTTTT? THINK I DIDNNNNNNNT?

I mean, I’m not in the clubhouse, but you do hear stories. And even if you didn’t, the fact that a guy who just turned 27 last winter, who comes with such a huge prospect pedigree, who was a key piece in a trade for Josh fucking Donaldson just two years ago, and has hardly been awful as a big leaguer, is about to move on to his fifth organization speaks kinda loudly (then chugs a Red Bull and crushes the can on its head). Which… y’know?

Maybe “insufferable” is unfair, because like I say, I don’t know the guy, but talent can go a long way toward making an insufferable teammate tolerable. Granted, the Brewers got sick of Lawrie and dealt him for a little less (two years of Shaun Marcum) than he was probably worth, but the Jays tried to stick it out and only finally moved him when the opportunity to get Donaldson presented itself — or so the story goes, though I have my suspicions that the club was maybe a lot more inclined to move him than they let Billy Beane think. The A’s moved on, ostensibly because he failed so badly to fill Donaldson’s shoes… but one wonders.

That stuff alone shouldn’t be enough to stop a team from giving a guy a try, but the Jays know him as well as anybody, so… my guess is that it makes an approach for him a total, hilarious, laugh in your face, bro non-starter.

Maybe I’m wrong! Who’s to say that a guy can’t mature? Especially between 24 and 27. And if I am wrong on this front, there are still reasons why it’s not really a a great fit anyway. 

For one thing, Lawrie’s defence does not get good grades from the metrics. Over his last 1178.2 innings at second base he’s posted a -7 DRS and a -9.5 UZR. He didn’t play third base in 2016 for the White Sox, and graded out nicely there in 403 innings for the Jays in 2014, but was a disaster for Oakland in 2015, with a UZR of -10.3 and DRS of -3 in 930 innings.

He can take the field at those positions and not kill you, and he can give you a little bit of pop to go with a whole bunch more strikeouts than we thought we’d ever see, and complete 110% madness on the basepaths and in everything else. But all I’m pretty sure that adds up to is just… meh.

Even if you considered him as an outfield option, he doesn’t really work, because who the hell knows what his defence would be, and he’s not as good a hitter against left-handers as Melvin Upton. Which… y’know?

Hard pass on this one. Hard, hard pass.