Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind tags out Twins baserunner Eduardo Escobar at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 2, 2012. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)
TORONTO - John Farrell was asked Tuesday, the penultimate day of the MLB regular season, what his team’s greatest off-season need was?
“Same as a year ago, starting pitching,” the Toronto Blue Jays manager replied without hesitation before his team went out and downed the Minnesota Twins 4-3.
In the Jays clubhouse, though, the players with the longest tenure had a different opinion.
They wanted experience and they wanted leadership, two assets that the Jays of 2012 so clearly lacked.
Jason Frasor is 35 and the right-handed reliever has played virtually his entire big-league career in Toronto. He arrived in 2004 and stayed with the Jays until he was traded to the Chicago White Sox on July 27 of 2011.
Last January, the Jays re-acquired him.
A free agent, Frasor doesn’t figure to be in the Jays’ plans going forward and he was asked if he thought general manager Alex Anthopoulos needed to make major changes this off-season.
“I think he has to,” Frasor, who holds the Jays record for pitching appearances, replied. “I think he has to make some major decisions because this wasn’t a good mix this year. It didn’t work out obviously.”
What do you mean not a good mix?
“Too many young guys, too many young guys,” Frasor said. “We need some veteran leadership. How you go about finding it is tough to figure out, especially when you’re pulling in guys from other organizations and stuff.
“If I was back with the Blue Jays, I’d like there to be some older guys. Guys who carry themselves a little more professionally. It makes for a better team out there. The sloppiness off the field carries over to the field.”
Among position players, Adam Lind, 29, has the most tenure as he has been with the Jays since being called up in 2006.
The first baseman/designated hitter has had a difficult season as he struggled at the plate, was sent to the minors for a lengthy stint, was put on waivers and, in the 33 games he has played since being recalled, has responded by hitting .305 with three homers and 18 runs batted in.
Still, it wouldn’t be a shock if he was traded this off-season.
Like all the players and coaches, Lind went through an exit interview and said he found it to be positive and a good time to express his opinions on what’s needed for the team to move forward.
“They spoke to me of what they expected and what they’re going to expect and I expressed my mind a little bit about ways we can be a better team through leadership and communication,” Lind said. “It’s a two-way street and it was all very positive.”
What the Jays don’t have on this team is a veteran everyday player who is willing to take on a vocal leadership role.
“I’ve only been in this clubhouse so I can’t speak for other teams, but we don’t have anyone like that in this clubhouse,” Lind said. “I think it’s one thing to be liked and another thing to be respected, and I think for a staff respect is more important than being liked. It’s all a learning process and we all learned a lot about who we are.”
How hard is it for a player in this day and age to be a stand-up clubhouse sheriff?
“I’m not really the biggest ... I’ll have 5 1/2 years of service time,” Lind replied. “That’s still an arbitration player. So I’m not a 10-, 11-year veteran that’s been in three or four clubhouses, that doesn’t really care what a young kid thinks. I’m such a nice guy that I want people to like me.
“There’s some things that I’d speak out about but I don’t feel like I’m in that position to do so yet.
“We’ve gotten young, have a lot of talented players. Veteran players who are good are expensive and we’ll see if we go after them.”
Lind isn’t alone in waiting on that call.
Both Frasor and Lind were asked if they expected to be back.
“That’s a big assumption,” Lind said with a laugh. “Who knows. I really don’t know.
“Obviously Alex isn’t scared of doing anything and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for this ball club. I really hope I get to be a part of that. But I’ve done as well as I could, I’ve played as hard as I could for this team this year and I hope they see that, that I’m a wanted commodity in this clubhouse and time will tell.”
Frasor’s return is more of a longshot.
“I don’t know. Alex doesn’t say much as far as that,” he said. “He likes to wait until the World Series is over, so he’s a hard guy to read. We’ll see. I don’t know. But would I come back? Of course I’d come back.
“But I’ll play for anybody. If I learned anything from my two months with the White Sox last year it’s that there is a life beyond Toronto as far as playing.”