Make Or Break Year: Adam Lind

Uspw_5516222There were more than a few Blue Jays fans disappointed that Adam Lind was still the club's first baseman on Opening Day, given the (mostly unfounded) belief in Toronto that the team would make a push to sign Prince Fielder last winter.  Playoff-starved Jays supporters were no doubt tired of having to wait at least one more year for the team to fully go "all-in" for a postseason run, but given the cost of acquiring a big first base bat, it's no surprise that the Jays are giving Lind another season to pull himself together.

Lind enjoyed a big breakout campaign in 2009, hitting .305/.370/.562 with 35 homers.  That performance earned him a multiyear contract extension worth a guaranteed $18MM from 2010-13, plus club options for each of the 2014 ($7MM), 2015 ($7.5MM) and 2016 ($8MM) seasons, which would have been Lind's first three free agent years. 

The extension was so team-friendly that it could still prove to be a bargain for Toronto, despite the fact that Lind has struggled mightily since signing the deal.  Lind posted a combined .243/.291/.432 line, 49 homers and 48 doubles in 2010 and 2011 — just 14 homers and two doubles more than he hit in 2009 alone.  This poor performance didn't occur in a vacuum, however, as Lind has battled wrist and back injuries, gone through a position shift to first base that he admitted he was physically unprepared to handle and also possibly distracted by off-the-field events like getting married and having his first child.

Now, Lind is healthy and entirely focused on baseball.  Even if he doesn't hit as he did in 2009, I think the Blue Jays would simply be satisfied with Lind proving he can be a productive Major League hitter rather than posting another sub-.300 OBP.  The Jays' plan is to have Lind play every day against right-handers and he'll be occasionally spelled at first by Edwin Encarnacion when Toronto faces a tough left-handed starter. 

The Jays have given themselves flexibility at the 1B/DH spots, between Lind, Encarnacion (the team holds a $3.5MM option on him for 2013), the loser of the long-term left field battle between Eric Thames and Travis Snider, or even Jose Bautista, who the Jays probably have slated to move out of right field within a couple of years' time.  Toronto's deep minor league system also provides depth; it's easy to see a scenario where Bautista moves to first to make room for Jake Marisnick or Anthony Gose in the outfield, with Gose could bumping current center fielder Colby Rasmus to right.

As noted, Lind's contract is not a great burden on the Jays' payroll.  Even if he does again underachieve, he'll be likely brought back in 2013 as a platoon candidate.  A third straight poor season, however, would be the third strike for Lind's place in Toronto's long-term plans.  Lind would be facing a $2MM buyout from the club rather than a pickup of his $7MM option for 2014.  As we saw last winter, 1B/DH types with much more proven track records than Lind had trouble finding Major League contracts, so it's not a stretch to say that Lind's career could be riding on how he hits in 2012. 

It's hard to avoid the parallels to the ignominious end of Aaron Hill's tenure as a Blue Jay.  Hill also enjoyed a big 2009 campaign and had a team-friendly contract extension that included a number of option years.  Hill's productivity after 2009, however, fell off so sharply that the Jays dealt him to Arizona last summer and moved on with Kelly Johnson at second base.  Hill's defensive skill and his premium position made him a more attractive trade candidate than Lind, but his departure confirms that the Jays will only give so much rope to an underperforming player, even one who has a good contract and was very recently thought of as a key part of the club's core.

There are a multitude of reasons why the Jays didn't feel the timing was right to make a play for a big-name first baseman last winter, be it signing Fielder or making a franchise-altering trade (i.e. selling the farm to the Reds for Joey Votto).  If all goes well for the Jays in 2012, however, the team will surely be looking to contend for the postseason in 2013, and they know they won't be able to achieve that goal without at least steady production from the first base spot.  Toronto has already prepared itself for the post-Lind era, so the pressure is on the 28-year-old to show that he deserves to not just keep his job now, but also that he deserves to play for the contender that the Jays fancy themselves to be in the near future.   

Photo courtesy of Michael L. Stein/US Presswire

28 Responses to Make Or Break Year: Adam Lind Leave a Reply

  1. Jose_Bautista 3 years ago

    Lind will bounce back. Perhaps not to his 2009 form but something decent.
    I predict .280/.340/.460 line with 27HR if he stays healthy.

  2. Never pictured Jose Bautista as the first basemen of the future, but wow think about the defence this team would have. He would need to play in right field against a strong base stealing team in order to take an advantage of his plus arm. Think about it : C-D’Arnaud, 1st-Bautista, 2nd-Hechavarria, SS-Escobar, 3rd-Lawrie, RF-Rasmus, CF-Gose, LF-Marisnick, DH-Arencibia (he can fill in at catcher and we can have 2 well rested catchers).

    • Runtime 3 years ago

      I like Kelly Johnson. I hope he sticks around and they can flip Hechavarria for something impressive.

      • Jose_Bautista 3 years ago

        If Johnson plays well like is playing currently, he will be in line for a hefty FA contract. Blue Jays have been really cheap in FA area and I doubt they will sign him. Just hope Hech’s bat developes nicely to be atleast mlb average.

        • $17867741 3 years ago

          At the very worst, Johnson will be valuable enough to garner draft pick compensation. If I recall, the new rules require the former team to offer a 1yr/$12m contract in order to have the player subject to draft pick compensation.

          I’m fairly certain Johnson is worthy of at least a 4yr/$40m contract.

          Conversely, Johnson is far more valuable than the 30th draft of the 1st round. Decisions, decisions.

    • Steelslayer 3 years ago

      I think the reality is that they will ask Escobar to move to 2nd at some point and Hech will take over SS.  Johnson will get too expensive considering they can cover the position internally for much less.

    • vilifyingforce 3 years ago

       JPA’s bat isn’t good enough to hold down a full time DH gig.

  3. FriedCalamari 3 years ago

    I really hope Lind can find himself again this season. Wasn’t Murphy the hitting coach back in 09’? 

    • $17867741 3 years ago

      In 2009, Gene Tenance was the hitting coach (also served as the Blue Jays coach in the early 1990’s), and Murphy was the 1st base coach.

      I’m not sure how much of an effect Gene had on Adam.

      • FriedCalamari 3 years ago

        Thanks for the info :)

      • i believe cito was thought to have a big effect on lind in ’09, to the point where lind would sit with cito between AB’s (he was DH), and they would talk pitch selection and how the pitcher might attack him.

  4. southpawryno 3 years ago

    Not much Lind-sanity on this site.

  5. $17867741 3 years ago

    Please Lind return back to your 2009 form!

  6. Doug Conn 3 years ago

    He will be ok, if you average it out to 620 bats last year he was on pace for 30 HR and 100 RBI which is a steal for the money.

    • zachtree 3 years ago

      Sure, and if you average it out to 1033 ABs last year, he was on pace for 50. Oh, that doen’t really work though.

      By my count, 11 players last year had 620 AB or more. 20 had > 600. Lind has never had more than 587 so something’s not right there either.

      In any case, there was nothing wrong with his HR total given only 499 ABs. The problem is even if you average out his obp over 620 ABs, it still would have been .295

  7. Lind will come back 38 HR and 98 RBI

  8. atomicme123 3 years ago

    I think Lind is on his last leg with the jays. The problem for Lind is about how badly he struggle against lefties. (Even back in 2K9 he struggled badly against LHP during his breakthrough season) 

    He is not athletic at all (even for 1B standard) with at best neutral (more likely -ve) defensive value, he should be a platoon AL DH candidate at best in 2013.

    The next wave of prospects is going to arrive in TOR in a couple of yrs time. Until then, I dont see AA giving Lind up for nothing.

    • vilifyingforce 3 years ago

      While I think Lind could be done with the Jays soon if he doesn’t produce this season I think you’re selling him short(His 09 split puts him within 20 points of Fielders lifetime split against LHP, does Fielder struggle badly against LHP?). He was fine last season at first, only had 4 errors in over 100 games at first and I don’t remember seeing any plays thinking it was unbelievable he screwed it up, he made all the routine plays. He’s already average and trending upwards. He’s not EE on the field.

  9. yabud 3 years ago

    People need to be real. What’s more likely, his 2009 form (.305/.370/.562) or the rest of his career where he hovers around (.255/.300/.430) ?

  10. Doug Conn 3 years ago

    You are right, I should have said 620 PA’s instead of Bats last year to be on pace for 30 HR and 100 RBI which is a steal for the money.

  11. Christopher Wilson 3 years ago

    I just wanted to point out an error in the article, it states the Blue Jays hold a $3.5M club option for Edwin Encarnacion in 2013. That is incorrect the Jays held a 3.5M club option for 2012 which they picked up. This was part of a 1 + 1 contract EE signed after 2010.

  12. $17867741 3 years ago

    Lind has a very nice smooth swing, that part is true. However, the swing alone won’t bring him back to his 2009 stature.

    What Adam needs is a hitting coach with a different philosophy. Not that
    Dwayne Murphy is a bad coach – Bautista clearly enjoys Murphy’s pulling
    style – but he is clearly unable to reach Adam Lind.

    It’s a real shame to see Lind completely lose his opposite field power. I
    hope that other opposite-field-power guys like Kelly Johnson can help

  13. $17867741 3 years ago

    It would be really nice if Arencibia can play as DH/C/1B. If only Arencibia could learn patience and maintain a high OBP he’d actually be very useful.

  14. Runtime 3 years ago

    Unless the Jays get a very impressive return (maybe a #2 starter) for JPA, I’d imagne that they’d hold onto him as a C/DH/1B guy (like Encarnacion right now is a DH/1B/3B guy). You don’t give up a guy with that much “heart” for nothing.

  15. Jose_Bautista 3 years ago

    Can’t blame the coach entirely for his struggles. I think it was a combination of injuries, positation switch and personal issues that ruined the two years. He still had the power we saw in 2009 just his plate discipline went to null.

  16. Jose_Bautista 3 years ago

    His bat won’t play at DH/1B. It just won’t.

  17.  As a rookie catcher that did not even focus his attention on his offence, he hit 23 homeruns. He also beat A-Rods homerun records somewhere in the minors. His bat is really strong and it will improve with time. Having him catch two out of the five pitchers will keep both of them rested and at 100% most of the time. Catchers have the hardest jobs and they get injured the easiest, look at Mauer and his injury problems.

  18. vilifyingforce 3 years ago

     Don’t confuse power with an overall bat. He has plenty of power, but, he can’t do anything else with his bat.

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