Blue Jays GM says three spots open in 2013 lineup

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Alex Anthopoulos is looking ahead to 2013 and says six spots in his lineup are already spoken for:

Obviously, those entrenched players are J.P. Arencibia, Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Second base is open because Kelly Johnson is a free agent. It doesn’t look like there’s much chance of Escobar moving to second next spring. Adeiny Hechevarria has hit just .237/.272/.329 with a 24/3 K/BB ratio in 76 at-bats since his callup, and there’s little reason to think he’d be an adequate regular at shortstop.

Likewise, the audition of Anthony Gose in the outfield hasn’t gone too well. He and Moises Sierra will likely return to Triple-A next year. Rajai Davis could stick around, but it’d be as a reserve. The Jays’ 2013 left fielder figures to come through free agency or in trade.

Encarnacion will either play first base or DH, depending on who gets brought in this winter. Adam Lind is due $5 million next season, but the team is probably done with him. Trading him for another similarly poor contract seems like the best option. 2008 first-round pick David Cooper did pretty well for himself before hurting his back last month, hitting .300/.324/.464 in 140 at-bats, but he looks like a fallback option at first.

The Jays possess a fine offensive nucleus, so if they can get a couple of legitimate upgrades, they’ll have a lineup to be reckoned with next year. As is, they currently rank 12th among the 14 AL teams in OPS from left fielders. They’re middle in the pack at both first base and DH, but that’s because Encarnacion has been terrific while splitting time evenly between the two spots. Their non-Encarnacion first base-DHs have been superior only to Seattle’s.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.

Ian Kinsler lists the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central

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Every now and then, The Players’ Tribune runs a “five toughest” feature. In 2015, David Ortiz listed the five toughest pitchers he ever faced. Last month, Christian Yelich wrote up the five toughest pitchers in the NL East. Now, it’s Ian Kinsler‘s turn with the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central.

Kinsler goes into detail explaining why each pitcher is difficult to face, so hop over to The Players’ Tribune for his reasoning. His list

Presumably, Kinsler intentionally omitted his Tiger teammates from the list. He has faced Justin Verlander a fair amount earlier in his career, and he has only a .176/.333/.235 batting line in 42 plate appearances against the right-hander. Verlander’s stuff is often described as tough to hit in one phrase or another. Kinsler has also struggled against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (.590 OPS), but one can understand why he would be omitted from a list of five given who was already listed.