Brett Lawrie was on the verge of being called up in May when a broken hand knocked him out for two months, but he’s hit .350 at Triple-A since returning in mid-July and today the Blue Jays officially added their top prospect to the roster.
There are questions about whether Lawrie can stick at third base defensively long term, but he’ll get a chance to play the hot corner for now with Jose Bautista shifting back to right field and his bat is the real draw anyway.
Lawrie, who was acquired from the Brewers for Shaun Marcum this winter, hit .353 with 18 homers and a 1.076 OPS in 69 total games at Triple-A, which is pretty damn impressive for a 21-year-old even at hitter-friendly Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
He didn’t show nearly that much pop at Double-A last season, hitting .285 with eight homers in 135 games, but the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft ranked 10th on Baseball America‘s midseason top prospect list with the only position players ahead of him being Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Jesus Montero.
To make room for Lawrie in the lineup and Bautista in the outfield the Blue Jays demoted Travis Snider to Triple-A for the second time this season. Snider was once a very highly touted prospect himself, but he’s struggled to make consistent contact or control the strike zone. So far a .249 batting average and .308 on-base percentage have offset Snider’s significant power potential, but he’s also still just 23 years old.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.
It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.
The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.
So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.