Russell Martin Should Be The Jays Player-Manager in 2019

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team in flux. 2018 has served as a brutal reminder of what the rich teams can accomplish especially within the Blue Jays own division. 2019 and the prospects that populate the farm system do suggest a bright future, but should the Jays enact a near-ancient phenomenon to usher in this new generation?

Okay, “near-ancient” is a bit of a stretch, but not since Pete Rose from 1984-1986 has there been a player-manager in the MLB and I think the Blue Jays should revive the position here in Toronto. It would be a risky move with a team poised to be full of young, developing prospects but a club veteran player could be the move at manager.

My nomination is Russell Martin. Martin is a student of the game and 13-year veteran of the MLB. His accolades aren’t too shabby either: four-time All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, and MVP consideration in three seasons.

Besides his awards, Matin has substantial in-game experience across the MLB. He plays now as a catcher for Toronto in the American League but has spent time in the National League with the Dodgers and Pirates, too. He also has experience playing as an infielder as Toronto fans are well aware of. In 96 games played this season 71 are at catcher, 21 at 3B, 3 at SS, and 1 in LF.

The reason why Martin would be a choice for player-manager relies on his experience as a catcher first and foremost. Yes, him spending time across the diamond is important to understand the game from the perspective of other positions, but as a catcher you have the responsibility of organizing the team and your teams game from behind the plate.

This is why you see former catchers transition into manager roles post-playing careers because they are comfortable reading a game and setting up a dynamic game plan during play. Mike Scioscia, Ned Yost, Joe Girardi, and yes even John Gibbons are examples of former catchers who have made the transition to catcher.

Russell Martin is also a prime choice for player-manager due to the depth of catchers the Blue Jays currently have at their disposal. Danny Jansen is all but a lock to step into a major league role next season after having a solid start to his MLB career this season. Likewise, Reese McGuire who was called up with the expanded roster is poised to stake a claim at a job too after an impressive season in the minors.

This leaves Russell Martin and Luke Maile as the veteran catchers left to fight for two positions on the roster. With Martin’s $20 million contract for 2019 still on the books, it is likely he’ll stay with the team making Maile moveable in the offseason. Logically you don’t want 3-4 catchers on your roster with a young and unpredictable pitching rotation so moving one out makes sense.

Martin knows the MLB, he knows how to call a game, and maybe most importantly he knows how to work with young pitchers. Martin has handled countless pitchers over his tenure as an MLB catcher and would not only positively affect the likes of Borucki’s and Reid-Foley’s development, he would demand more out of the catching prospects below him to maximize all of his pitchers’ skills.

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are not likable characters in Toronto and hardly stray from their plans when it comes to drafting and developing talent. They probably have a manager in mind to bring in and act as a stop-gap between now and whenever the Jays are a contending team again, so Martin as a player-manager may not be a situation we see in the near future.

Despite these facts, it’s an interesting idea to play around with. Martin has to be the best candidate on the team for the job, plus he could chip in at catcher or really anywhere across the diamond should he need too. It would be nice to for once see a manager actually use those crisp uniforms they don in the dugout night after night, right?

It’s unlikely, but if the Blue Jays ever had an opportunity to reopen a long forgotten MLB practice 2019 and Russell Martin is the perfect combination for the first player-manager in 32 years.

Another Series Gone, Another Series Won By The Blue Jays

In just 29 hours the Toronto Blue Jays played a three game series with the Kansas City Royals this week. With their weekend and Monday action postponed due to weather and piercing ice the Blue Jays remained well rested and stole the series away from the floundering Royals. Runs scored was heavily in favour of the Blue Jays 31-12 which was the result of two double digit blow outs.

The Jays are getting the job done in all ways right now; here are a few key players in this series.

Teoscar Hernandez

4-6 with 6 RBIs in an afternoons work isn’t too bad for the promising 25 year old prospect, but that was just the cap on the strong start to his season for the Jays. In four games played (KC series and one game in Cleveland) Hernandez has hit .421 avg., has 6 RBI, with a .450 OBP and five extra base hits. He also has one walk and stolen base a piece.

Hernandez, acquired last season in a deadline deal with the Houston Astros for pitcher Francisco Liriano, has made that deal a win-win for both teams. Houston and Liriano get the World Series and Toronto look to have a legitimate outfielder who can hit in the top half of their line up.

While limited, Teoscar’s numbers this season are supported by his play to end out 2017 when he was called up. In 26 games he it .261 avg. with 8 home runs and 20 RBIs. Hernandez is showing that he can contribute on a big league level and his defence adds another element to the team as well.

The question now is what do Toronto do with him when Morales and Donaldson are back from DL stints? Hernandez is playing himself into a regular position on the team and is showing that the he has out grown the minor leagues. With Pearce, Granderson, and Grichuk all outfield options realistically this puts pressure on Morales to produce once he is back, and on Grichuk to get his bat straightened out. Regardless, Hernandez is a totally exciting piece the Jays have clicking right now and he should continue to impress given the chance.

Yangervis Solarte

The guys is a likeable character. I may even be writing that he is a positive influence on the team if all he contributed was some salsa dancing to celebrate Blue Jays home runs! Besides his celebrations Solarte has been consistent for the Blue Jays and repaying them for the game time he’s been getting.

To start the season so far he is just shy of .300 avg. hitting .296. To go along with that average Solarte has nine RBIs and seven extra base hits. What is really impressive about him is his patience at the plate. Hitting mostly from the cleanup spot in the line up, Solarte has drawn eleven walks, just one behind team leader Justin Smoak. Not selfishly hacking away with men on base, or looking to splash big regardless of the situation, Solarte is showing every bit of his experience in the majors.

Despite his high amount of walks, Solarte can mash, too. An unlikely duo atop the Jays team leaderboard for home runs, Solarte and shortstop starter Aledmys Diaz each share the top spot with four dingers. To go with that bat, Solarte is solid on D as well. In the series finale with the Royals Solarte garnered a rowdy round of applause from the Jays fans after a diving play in the outfield to stop a ball and swing it to first for an impressive out.

He’s got offence, defence, veteran presence, and charisma. This is what the Blue Jays needed in such a transitional season, and Solarte is providing it all for his teammates and fans.

Luke Maile

Colour me surprised with this one, but Luke Maile is clutch! More than that, Maile is consistently hitting in high intensity situations and bringing runs home for the Blue Jays. In the third game of this series with Kansas City, J.A. Happ didn’t have his best stuff and it was the likes of Maile who eventually helped in picking up his pitcher and hitting a long RBI single to the outfield to increase the team lead.

He is hitting .476 avg. in 25 plate appearances this season. In this time he has racked up 8 RBIs, good for third on the team and eclipses his 2017 total of 6! He is taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to him which is not only beneficial for his own stats and the win/loss of the team, but also of his catching battery mate Russell Martin. Martin who has been injury plagued in the last few seasons can breathe a little easier knowing that he isn’t needed for his (at times) big bat in the line up. As well, Maile is a good defensive catcher and has a now two year history with the majority of the pitching staff providing comfort in the thought of him taking over the catcher position if needed.

Maile has been a shock so far for the Jays, but the trust he has from John Gibbons now should prove valuable to his confidence levels at the plate. Toronto is happy to see this likeable guy getting some results for his team.

 

Sure, it was just the Kansas City Royals who after this sweep fall to 3-13 on the season but that shouldn’t discredit Toronto’s success. Good teams beat bad teams, and compete with the elite which is exactly what comes next for the Blue Jays with the New York Yankees up next.

The good news is that despite losing their opening two games to the Yankees, Toronto took the following to for a series split and now are sitting comfortably ahead of the thought-to-be slumbering giants. Even more good news – Aaron Sanchez takes the mound for the series opener in New York. Now is the time the prove the doubters wrong and keep the steak alive. Anyone up for another series win?