Monday, April 15, 2013
Life Without Jose Reyes Begins
By Ian Hunter
Life without Jose Reyes for the Toronto Blue Jays has officially begun.
It was a very surreal scene to watch on Friday in Kansas City; there was Jose Reyes, an extremely vibrant player, writhing in excruciating pain and in tears on the field. It's the antithesis of Jose Reyes' personality.
To see a player carted off the field is never a good thing; but it's especially concerning to see a typically upbeat guy like Jose Reyes just completely deflated and looking like a man defeated.
Now Jose Reyes is gone for three months, on crutches and not likely to return to the Blue Jays until around the All-Star break. That's huge for a team who heavily relies on a player like Jose Reyes to be a spark plug not only in their lineup, but in the dugout and clubhouse.
So how do the Blue Jays go on without Jose Reyes?
Well, the wheels have already been set in motion with Jose Bautista moving to the hot corner temporarily, Munenori Kawasaki going to shortstop and Brett Lawrie experimenting at his natural position at second base in Dunedin.
As unorthodox as it seems to have an infield of Bautista, Kawasaki, Lawrie and Encarnacion/Lind, it's an infield configuration that's so crazy ... it just might actually work. And frankly, the Blue Jays don't really have any other options at this point.
One thing that was very apparent the first few weeks of the season was the Blue Jays did not have a very good defensive infield. So now with Jose Reyes out, it allows them to reconfigure the infield to give them their best possible fielders on the corners and up the middle.
Even though Kawasaki was called up from Buffalo, there's always the possibility the Blue Jays could seek a new short-term shortstop in trade. It would be difficult to replace Reyes' offense and speed, but plugging in a defensive-minded shortstop would at least be focused on run prevention rather than run creation at the shortstop position.
I think the cost (whether it be via free agency or trade) for a slick-fielding shortstop would be far less than say an offensive one. A player like Brendan Ryan or Clint Barmes doesn't come with the clout or lustre of say an Ian Desmond or Elvis Andrus.
Whichever solution the Blue Jays opt for in the interim, it really is just a band-aid solution until Jose Reyes returns in about three months. It will be a long three months mind you, but the Blue Jays aren't the first team to suffer a setback like this.
The thing is ... good teams find a way to win in spite of injuries.
As badly as the Blue Jays were banged up last year, the New York Yankees were equally decimated by injuries in 2012, if not more banged up than the Blue Jays. And yet they found a way to win their 14th division title in 19 years.
In fact, go through the who's who of MLB's best teams over the past 25 years and you'd be hard-pressed to find a team that didn't sustain at least one injury to a key player during the regular season or the playoffs.
Over at Tao of Stieb, The Org Guy really puts the Jose Reyes injury into perspective; saying "you're not going to prevent the worst from happening, but you can prepare for it and insulate your team from its worst potential effects."
By rearranging the infield and adjusting the batting order, John Gibbons is doing the best with what he has; trying to shore up the defense while also creating a semblance of the on base power and speed that Jose Reyes provided.
This stretch until the All-Star Break will be a true test for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. People thought it was time to hit the panic button after what happened in week one, but what takes place over the next three months will be the true test for this team.
Until then, the Blue Jays will surely be hoping for a speedy recovery for Jose Reyes. While life without Reyes is one they would prefer not to imagine, it's something that's a reality. And how they react to this setback will define this team ... one way or another.