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.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.