Standing tall at 6 feet 2 inches, Colby Rasmus is working to climb his way back to the Blue Jays starting lineup after hitting the 15-day DL for a tight hamstring. Since his last game played on May 12th where he hit 0-3, the Toronto Blue Jays have embarked on a 20-6 record including a 9-game winning streak.
Colby Rasmus well know for his defense and power bat, has a career .247 average and is coming off back-to-back seasons with 20 or more homeruns. When addressing the Blue Jays CF, Jamie Campbell said, “There isn’t anything Rasmus can’t do well; he’s quick on the base paths, can hit for power and gets to any ball hit his way. Whether he can do it consistently will determine his future.” (Sportsnet Magazine 2013) There is no question Rasmus can hit the long ball but his discipline at the plate has been a concern over the last few years. Last year Colby Rasmus showed signs of plate discipline when he went on a tear mid-season to finish with a reasonable .276 average. Entering the 2014 campaign, fans were expecting to see more of the emerging Colby Rasmus from 2013 but as of yet he hasn’t performed as well despite hitting 9 homeruns before going on the DL.
While Rasmus has been on the DL, Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar have been responsible for covering CF duties. Both players, who were called up from AAA Buffalo, have provided the Blue Jays with ways to win in his absence. Anthony Gose, has been on the radar for the Blue Jays since being involved in the Roy Halladay trade back in 2009. Other than being an active member of the Blue Jays Winter Tour, like Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose has proven to be a great defender in the outfield- many would argue this is due to his excellent speed. Anthony Gose had showed signs of improvements in the batter’s box but has cooled down as of late hitting .136 his last 7 days with 10 strikeouts. Anthony Gose has proven to be a threat if he can get on base consistently but that’s still isn’t the case.
Many people keep questioning whether Colby Rasmus would just get his spot back in CF when he returns and who will be sent down. With the Blue Jays sending down Kevin Pillar this morning before the afternoon game against Minnesota due to the surplus of right-handed pitchers in the upcoming road series, the Blue Jays will have to decide whether Anthony Gose will remain with the ball club – possibly as the 4th outfielder. When addressing Anthony Gose, John Gibbons said, “We need Anthony Gose to carry the offense … steal some bases and execute some bunts.” With both Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose being left-handed batters, it seems unlikely the Blue Jays will keep Anthony Gose but rather send him down to AAA to get some more at-bats on a consistent basis.
With Colby Rasmus returning to the Blue Jays a bigger question emerges regarding his future as a Blue Jay. Colby Rasmus is set to be a free agent this offseason and the Blue Jays will need to decide whether they would like him back. Ken Rosenthal had reported earlier on this year that Colby Rasmus would be a top FA OF this year after last year having a tremendous free agent crop including Jacoby Ellsbury and Chin Soo Choo. Lets examine his value a little deeper:
When looking at Colby Rasmus’s stats from last year; his performance was comparable to top outfielders in the game. Looking at this year so far; given it has been a small sample size for Colby, his numbers aren’t very encouraging. Rasmus is a hit-or-miss type hitter known well for his homeruns and strikeouts. His tremendous power is over-shadowed by his high strikeout percentage. Last year Rasmus’s strike out percentage was 29.5% and has increased to 32.9% already this year. Rasmus’s OBP was .338 last year but has dropped to .266 so far this year. Last year Rasmus had a career-high 4.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), meaning he contributed heavily to the Blue Jays success, ranked 5th among outfielders in the MLB last year. So far in 2014 he sits at -0.1. Rasmus has been well known for struggling against left handed pitchers at the plate and has shown that this year, hitting only .188 so far compared to .256 last year. One stat that stands out so far has been Rasmus’s lack of success with runners on base so far. In his 37 games so far he has hit .179 compared to .312 last year – which included 12 homeruns and 56 RBI’s. (Fangraphs)
Once again we know what Colby Rasmus is capable of and many hope it’s a matter of time until Rasmus gets back to his old form coming off the injury. If Colby can do so, he will get paid. We have seen what star outfielders like Ellsbury and Choo have been paid last year and if Colby can repeat his performance from last year, teams will be willing to pay him good money. Take BJ Upton for example. After coming off a 2012 season hitting .246 and hitting 28 homeruns to go along with 31 stolen bases he was awarded with a 5-year $72.5 million dollar contract. Now we all know how bad he has been since signing the contract, but the point being Colby has a chance to make a lot of money this offseason and the Blue Jays need to decide whether or not they are willing to pay him. Should Rasmus perform well the Blue Jays will have to pay above market value for his services.
Jose Bautista’s contract of $65 million/5 years remains the largest one GM Alex Anthopolous has given out so far. Bautista certainly thinks Rasmus is a prime outfielder saying, “He’s a great defender, covers a lot of ground; he’s a treat to have as an outfielder because he can get to a lot of balls most guys can’t so it makes it easier to me … Additionally he’s a great power hitter. He’s improving in his overall game when it comes to cutting down the strike zone, the strikeouts, getting on base and being a better base runner. You’ve got to appreciate when guys are always looking to improve their overall game” (Blue Jays Program Issue 2014). The Blue Jays certainly have some options in play with the trade deadline coming. The Blue Jays can choose to trade him at the deadline and get something in return – possibly a SP or 2B which they need. Should they choose to do so they will likely be confident with Anthony Gose in CF for the rest of the year. Looking into the farm system DJ Davis could be another option in the future but he doesn’t seem to be ready as of yet. The Blue Jays can keep Rasmus and let him play the rest of the year and decide whether they would like to offer him a contract before the end of the season or let him test free agency.
Colby Rasmus has to prove to the Blue Jays he is worth a big contract. Speaking of a guy who almost quit baseball due to his struggles in recent years, he surely is a talented baseball player who can be an asset to any team. Whether that team happens to be the Blue Jays is still uncertain but John Gibbons certainly wouldn’t mind so. “Colby’s got as much talent as anybody out there, he really does … He’s got the whole game and he’s still a young man so we think he’s only going to get better.” (Blue Jays Program Issue 2014) As Jays fan await his arrival from the DL they hope to see the Colby Rasmus from last year.