When the Blue Jays traded starting pitcher Francisco Liriano to the Houston Astros, what they were getting back was a big unknown. They acquired veteran outfielder Nori Aoki and 24-year old outfielder Teoscar Hernandez in return, with interesting results unknowingly in store.
Aoki came in and provided some good hitting for the team, and some solid play in the outfield, however, was unlikely to get very much playing time when the likes of Steve Pearce and Michael Saunders returned. So, the Jays decided to release Aoki so that he could find a new team to play for and hopefully join for a playoff run, which he ended up finding in the New York Yankees.
However, things have played out very differently for the other part of that deal. Getting more and more playing time with injuries to Pearce and Saunders, Hernandez found himself getting the opportunity to start games in left field, and impressed fans and the team alike for his hot bat. As of Wednesday, September 27, Hernandez has recorded seven home runs for the club in just 22 games.
However, as what usually happens when a young athlete has a breakout surge in Canada, especially regarding Toronto teams, the questions have now been hinted at about what Hernandez’s future with the club is. Jose Bautista likely will not be back next season, so people have began to wonder if Hernandez could become a starting outfielder for the Jays next year. However, the general consensus is that Pearce will return to his place in left field, and a replacement will be found for Bautista, and Hernandez will be the fourth outfielder. End of story. Case closed. Right?
Actually, hang on a second.
I would stress that you should not make Hernandez an everyday outfielder, don’t get me wrong. I think that he is a major adventure in left field defensively, and am, quite frankly, not sure if he has the defensive chops to make it as a successful starting outfielder. However, if you remember, what is the one thing that has endeared him to fans and Jays’ management? His hitting. As of late, he has been one of the Jays best offensive weapons, which is always something that should be considered. Now, since he isn’t the best defensively but has the offensive firepower you like in everyday players, is there a role for him?
How about designated hitter?
Okay, Kendrys Morales fans, just hear me out. I do not mean any ill will towards Morales, but I do feel like there should be some questions about the current DH. Firstly, I will address probably the biggest thing that most fans hold against him, and will say this is not because he isn’t Edwin Encarnacion. This is, however, having to do with two things in particular. Firstly, and you will find this with a lot of designated hitters, so I am not trying to single Morales out, but as far as playing actual positions, Morales is virtually useless. Sure, every now and again, he can play a bit of first base, but almost invariably, if you are asking him to anything more than come up the plate and swing a bat a few times a night, you’re in trouble. You could very easily make the argument that the Jays’ biggest need in their offensive lineup is some speed and base stealing, and that is something that Morales DEFINITELY cannot do. What he can do is come up to the plate, hit the ball out of the park or get on base to a lesser extent.
Secondly, very simply, Morales is old. Take for example, the ever-polarizing but ultimately beloved Jose Bautista as an example of how skill can begin to diminish with age. The last two seasons have seen Bautista’s offensive numbers decline and his strikeout numbers increase sharply and dramatically. So much so that just two years after “The Bat Flip Heard ‘Round The World”, it seems like Bautista is on his way out of Toronto. This could just as easily happen to Morales. Morales just turned 34 on June 20, while Bautista is turning 37 on October 19. Roughly a two and a half year age gap, sure, but Morales still is unequivocally not a young man anymore. Does his decline happen next year? Obviously I don’t know that for sure. However, I do know that players have good offensive years and then fall off the map (see Bautista and Russell Martin), so it is not unheardof.
And this is where I draw this whole thing back to the topic at hand; Teoscar Hernandez. If Hernandez is able to drastically improve his defensive abilities, than I am more than willing to give him a look in the outfield as a regular player. However, assuming he is who he is, I still want that offense in my lineup, especially if Tulowitzki and Martin can’t rebound, and with Bautista leaving. However, the only foreseeable way of doing that without having to sacrifice some defensive play for his offense is to have him as your DH. I do think Morales has value, and if I am being honest, I do not think he will have a major offensive drop-off next year. However, I am not 100% he won’t because of his age, and due to his inability to play a position, if his offense dries up, he is next to worthless to any major league club. So, I would seriously look at trading Morales this offseason, maybe for a good young prospect at, well, virtually any position, and making Hernandez your everyday DH. After all, if Hernandez is able to maintain his offense next season and beyond, what’s better than getting a player to fill a role who is ten years younger and eight and a half million dollars cheaper?