Adam Lind’s Career at a Crossroad
The only thing that was surprising about Adam Lind’s demotion to Triple-A on May 17, 2012 by the Blue Jays was that it took Toronto until May 17 to demote him. To say that Lind’s career is at a crossroad is a huge understatement. Lind has posted a .186 batting average with just three home runs in 34 games in 2012, continuing where he left off in the second half of 2011, and he is now 3 years removed from his breakout 2009 season.
When Lind smashed 35 home runs and posted a .305 batting average in 2009, the Blue Jays thought that their first baseman of the future had finally arrived, and promptly signed Lind to a 4 year, $17.4 million contract. Lind’s contract also includes three more option years at $7 million, $7.5 million and $8 million dollars, with team buyouts totaling $3.5 million. At the time, the deal looked like a smart, economical way to control a promising young player at a very reasonable price. It was the kind of long-term gamble that teams like the Blue Jays need to take in order to compete in the big-spending world of Major League Baseball, particularly in the AL East.
Unfortunately for the Jays, Adam Lind offers no value outside of his ability to hit. He is a defensive liability, and has not shown much skill with the glove in either the outfield or at first base. When Edwin Encarnacion, Lind’s replacement at first base, made two diving catches into the stands during the recent interleague series against the Mets, many Jays fans noted that these were plays that Lind never would have made. Lind also has lead feet, which means he has no range in the field and clogs up the base paths, that is when he is actually able to reach base. Lind’s on-base percentages in the three seasons since 2009 have been .287, .295, and .273. Although his walk totals were up this year, Lind simply does not reach base enough for a starting first baseman.
The other problem with Lind is that, aside from his 2009 campaign, his hitting ability is basically restricted to hitting for power, and even so he supplies power numbers that are just adequate for a first baseman. He has hit 23 and 26 home runs in his last two seasons, and he has struck out over 100 times in each of his full seasons in the majors. The reality is that the Blue Jays would probably be able to tolerate repeats of Lind’s 2011 production, including a .734 OPS until the end of his contract in 2013, but they won’t be likely to exercise their team options if that is what he delivers. The Jays need to get star-level production at several positions in order to even consider a run at a playoff spot, and Lind hasn’t delivered that since 2009.
With Edwin Encarnacion’s ability to hold the fort at first base and his strong hitting in 2012, the Jays have plenty of options ahead of Lind to fill the designated hitter spot on their roster. Travis D’Arnaud and Travis Snider have both been ripping it up at hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas, and either could provide production at or above Lind’s 2010-2012 levels. Both are also significantly younger and cheaper than Lind. The Blue Jays also recently signed Vladimir Guerrero to a low cost, incentive-laden deal, if he performs well at the minor league level he could earn a shot with the team.
Adam Lind is 28 years old, and at a time when he should be enjoying the prime years of his career, he is instead trying to rediscover himself in Triple-A. Lind needs a monster session at Triple-A, both in terms of stats and perceived performance, to play his way back into the Blue Jays’ plans, either short or long-term. Failing that, he is in danger of becoming another disappointing chapter in the post-Carlos Delgado era of Blue Jays’ first basemen.
…and that’s the Last Word.