Like the stock market, Travis Snider’s career fell into “official correction territory” on Thursday.
Never mind being sacrificed for Brett Lawrie, who is nothing less than this city’s Own Personal Baseball Moses ®, or Eric Thames. But Edwin Encarnacion? Old E-5 himself? What’s up with that?
And here we all thought that the club option on Encarnacion’s contract was just so much filler in the sausage of a third- or fourth-place finish. Turns out there is much more to it, because there was Alex Anthopoulos, the Toronto Blue Jays general manager, throwing Encarnacion’s name into the equation on Thursday in explaining why Snider had been optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make way for Lawrie.
Anthopoulos made clear that the Blue Jays want to see Lawrie play in something other than meaningless September games against other non-playoff contenders. He also made clear that Encarnacion, while not part of the team’s youthful core, is something more than Juan Rivera or Corey Patterson.
“If you had asked me a month ago, Edwin would have been moved to the bench, but John [Farrell, the Blue Jays manager]and I talked about it at length and player performance is what it came down to,” Anthopoulos said. “He [Encarnacion]has a club option for next year, and we have two months left in the season and want to continue to evaluate him, especially considering how well he’s played in the month of June and July.”
Bringing up Lawrie means that Jose Bautista will move back to right field, and with Colby Rasmus the everyday centrefielder that meant left field would go to Thames or Snider, both of whom are left-handed hitters. Yet instead of some kind of competition between the two – loser goes to the trade block in the off-season – or letting the non-fielder on that day man the designated-hitter spot, it was Snider who was dispatched.
Don’t just blame Encarnacion. Blame, too, the fact that the Blue Jays are carrying two right-handed hitters on the bench (John McDonald and Rajai Davis) who are one-dimensional. McDonald plays defence, Davis has speed, neither can hit. Encarnacion can hit – he went into Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays fifth in batting average and fourth in OPS in the American League since July 7, with a team-high 27 doubles – but he can’t do anything else. This is what happens when it takes three players to make up one good player.
Look, Anthopoulos knows that if you put 100 Blue Jays fans in a room (hold your attendance jokes, please) 91 would vote to release Encarnacion never mind lefty-righty balance, two would suggest shipping out Snider, a popular player in social-media circles and a 14th pick overall in 2006 who some place along the way went from can’t-miss power prodigy to tragic figure, two would send out Thames and five would yell: “Screw that: Get us a closer.”
Anthopoulos said there wasn’t really much to choose between Thames and Snider, except that “Thames, on the overall season, has played a little bit better.” True, that. Even during brief flashes under Farrell, Snider’s power stroke seemed to have been replaced by an opposite-field, one-handed tap, like he was trying to channel some inner Rod Carew. Thames needs to burn those fielding videos that Patterson left him, but he has had a more consistent approach than Snider and his athleticism has made him an intriguing prospect and topic of conversation in the scouts’ seats at the Rogers Centre.
Some might see in Anthopoulos’s interest in Encarnacion overtones of last season’s melodrama involving John Buck and J.P. Arencibia. But the guess here is you need to look beyond to an off-season where the Blue Jays must make a player or pitcher acquisition of such significance that multiple prospects will be involved.
This is the beginning of Brett Lawrie’s Blue Jays career, and it sure seems as though it is the end of Travis Snider’s.