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It’s no surprise that the Blue Jays’ 3B of the future is at the top of this list. The centerpiece of the trade that sent prized hurler Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers, British Columbia denizen Brett Lawrie has thrived in his new organization, hitting .354 with 16 HR 49 RBI 11 SB and 51 runs scored in just 52 games. The Blue Jays were set to call him up on June 3rd, but as fate would have it, Lawrie was hit on the left hand by a pitch in a game against Tuscon.
X-rays on the hand initially came back negative, but as the swelling subsided, it was indeed determined that Lawrie had suffered a non-displaced fracture and would need to miss a minimum of three weeks of baseball action. This, naturally, has dealt a huge blow to the Blue Jays who have endured a perpetual stream of bumps and bruises from some of their better offensive players.
How has this affected the market for Lawrie’s cards?
The only manufacturer to currently have exclusive licensing rights to Lawrie’s autographed cards and memorabilia is the now-defunct one year wonder, Razor Entertainment Group. Razor, as you may well remember, came out with a bang in 2008 swiping a lion’s share of the much heralded draft class from Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss and signing them to three year merchandising contracts. As a result, top young players like Lawrie, Justin Smoak, Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, Brian Matusz, Brett Wallace and others only have certified autographed cards in Razor’s 2008 products. Razor, despite their aggressive short-term forray into the baseball card market, never was able to establish the pinache or credibility time crafted by Topps and the like. As a result, the prices of these cards tend to mirror more closely minor league products like Tri Star.
All of this is a round about way of saying that there is a dearth of market data for Lawrie’s high-end autographed products. The main sellers have been the ’08 Razor Exclusive autos (#/499). Pre-injry, these were selling for $25-28 each–a price that they still hold fast to today. Topps was able to come out with a 2010 Pro Debut jersey card serial numbered to 199 copies. This features a large swatch from Lawrie’s 2009 Futures game jersey. Other than that, there are a couple other low-end base card offerings from 2010 averaging about $2-3 each. The thought behind that, I would guess, is that Lawrie is going to make a full recovery after a few weeks and have a highly impactful return.
I am skeptical.
Broken bones in hands don’t heal quickly and hitting is a hand-heavy activity. Remember Desmond Jennings’ 2010 season where he struggled with a wrist injury. He was able to muster just three HR over a full season-a career low. Being a devout Seattle Mariners fan, I also remember Ken Griffey’s broken hammate bone in 1995. After being out for most of the second half of the season, Griffey returned and had trouble driving the ball until the M’s’ playoff series against the Yankees. Lawrie’s fracture is described as being ”non-displaced” which I am guessing means that it’s more like a crack than a snap or pop. Perhaps this means that the healing process will be quick and Lawrie will pick up where he left off. I’m not so sure though. Some reports have him being out of action until mid-July. Even if Lawrie does make a quick return, he’ll have a difficult time replicating the immense success he was having prior to the injury (.349 11 HR 37 RBI in the month of May!).
I’m waiting and seeing how patient the market is going to be. My guess is that the longer people wait for him to return, the more depressed the prices will be for his various cards. Look for small to mid-sized base card lots (preferrably under $2 per card), and if you can snag an auto for less than $20, consider yourself blessed.
This injury is a minor bump in the road. At just 21 year of age, Brett Lawrie has the skills and swagger to be the toast of Toronto and Canada’s native son for years to come.