Hello, friends. These have been trying times, haven't they. If this season has taught us anything, it is that the best laid plans of young, ninja-like general managers can be torn asunder even faster than they can be constructed. Castles made of sand, and all that sort of thing.
Which isn't to say that this season was all for naught. (And there I go, speaking in the past tense again.) At some point, I'm certain that I'll be able to whip up my enthusiasm into a frenzy, and show the world I'll never give up that ship.1 And if you needed something to raise your spirits, seeing José Bautista drop two bombs in a rehab outing certainly doesn't hurt, does it? We'll get through this friends. I swear, we'll live to see the sun shine on this franchise once more. And now, on to your cards and letters. First up:
Well, Matt. I feel you, buddy. It's been grim, and the madness just never seems to stop, does it? When David Cooper goes down with a shoulder ouchy, and he was your cleanup hitter and one of the few barely-blinking lights on the roster, you know the season has gone to a darker place than those spelunking gals in the movie The Descent. Watch your head for stalagmites. (Or are those stalactites?)
@taoofstieb Please give me a good reason to continue watching this team. #TweetBag
— Matt Horner (@5mins4fighting) August 23, 2012
As for why you should keep watching, I'll just remind you that there's a chill in the air. Soon it will be fall, and then it will be winter, and then you'll be staring out your window at snow banks, pining for the start of Spring Training. We only get six months of baseball in the run of a year, so tune in and enjoy, because watching a bad baseball team is still preferable to watching whatever it is that they'll be playing this winter.
@taoofstieb Should the Jays shut players down and tank the rest of the season?
— Bryan J Cook (@BCookBCool) August 23, 2012
There are few notions that I despise more than the argument that a team should tank the season. This isn't basketball, where teams essentially battle for the one meaningful player to enter the league through the draft each year. If the Jays are as astute in their amateur scouting as we're led to believe, then the difference between a third pick or a ninth pick in the draft shouldn't be that significant in the long run. And besides: Mike Trout might end up being the transcendent star of the next 20 years, and he was drafted 25th overall.
Now, let's weasel our way back down from the moral high ground for a moment.
In the new collective bargaining agreement, the top 10 picks in the draft are protected, meaning that they would not be surrendered to a team should the Jays meander into the free agent market. (More on that in a moment.) So, I suppose that it would be best for the team if they weren't, say, the 19th best franchise in baseball and were forced to give up the 11th pick in the draft should they sign a free agent.
Does this mean the team should tank? No, but it also probably means that they shouldn't go to heroic lengths in the final six weeks of the season in some valiant run at a .500 record. No need to rush players like J.P. Arencibia back into action if they're not ready, just to take one potential roster move.
Speaking of free agents...
The time is probably right for the Jays to supplement their Major League roster with some established and experienced players, especially pitchers. Given the regression of the Jays' pitching corps from the big leagues down through the higher levels of the system, there's a yawning gap that has opened in a pretty critical area. Unfortunately, the pool of available arms is less than impressive.
@taoofstieb who are 3 FAs uncle Tao wants to see in BJ unis next year, and what are the optimal and realistic terms (not the same thing)
— Luke DeWitt (@whatadewitt) August 23, 2012
There's Zack Greinke at the top of the heap, and I would very much hope that the Jays at least toss their hat into his ring. I'd think it unlikely that he'd come to Toronto for a number of reasons - some guys just don't seem to embrace the idea of living in a foreign land - but the Jays should certainly see how many sacks of loonies it would take to convince him otherwise. But make no mistake: Greinke is going to get a contract that is the other side of reasonable. The Cole Hamels contract (six years, $144 million) should be the starting point of the deal.
There are some other names that interest me on a certain level, and I think I've mentioned them before. Brandon McCarthy and Edwin Jackson in particular strike me as pitchers who could be solid number threes in the rotation, with some potential as a two. Jake Peavy might be worth a look, especially if you can get him for three years or less at a decent number. And lets not forget our own free-agent-to-be, Carlos Villanueva, who is 29 and looking like he could be a decent back of the rotation option.
More about pitchers...
Unfortunately, I'd have to say no. There are potential top of the rotation guys further down the line, and the pitching staff at the lower Single-A Lansing Lugnuts is certainly one you can dream on. But Justin Nicolino (20 years old, 2.52 ERA, 112 Ks/18 BBs in 114.1 innings), Noah Syndergaard (19, 2.88, 109/30, 93.2), and Aaron Sanchez (20, 2.27, 89/49, 83.1) are still at least a year away, and possibly three years away from truly being relevant to the Jays' big league club. Elsewhere in the minors, Sean Nolin has had a nice season at High-A Dunedin (2.19 ERA, 90 Ks/20 BBs in 86.1 innings), and recently got the call to Double-A New Hampshire. At 22, he could be in line to make an appearance in Toronto as soon as next year.
@taoofstieb Random question. Do the Jays have any top of the rotation prospect SP's that could be ready for 2013?
— Brown Guy (@devenp) August 23, 2012
But as we've seen this year, there's a lot that can happen - trades and injuries, in particular - to young pitchers between the time that they sparkle in the Midwest League and reaching the Majors.
More pitching talk...
Delabar's had a really nice run in the 11 games since he was acquired by the Jays. I like the fact that he throws in the mid-to-upper 90's with a delivery that doesn't look overly strenuous. "Easy cheese", as Uncle Tabby would call it.
@taoofstieb Steve Delabar is pretty cool, eh? #TweetBag
— Archi Zuber (@Archizuber) August 23, 2012
The output that you get from bullpen arms varies wildly from year to year, so I'm not about to get out the anointing oils and declare Delabar a back-of-the-pen fixture quite yet. But there's something interesting there, and I don't mind having the extra arms around. In case, you know, 20 guys go down with injuries next year as well.
You wanna talk bullpen?
To start the season, assuming good health for both, I'd think it's almost certain that this team comes north with Janssen as the closer, and Santos as one of the late-inning bullpen arms. Which isn't to say that they end the season with those roles. Heck, I wouldn't even put much of a bet on them keeping those respective roles through the end of April.
@taoofstieb odds Casey gets the closer gig to start 2013 over Santos given his performance this season? #TweetBag
— Elliott Boswell (@Boswelliott) August 23, 2012
This is the nature of bullpens. There's only one Mariano Rivera.
And on the perpetual topic of healthy pitchers...
Well, first off, I'd hope that these Quantum Leap abilities would be accompanied by Scott Bakula's strong jaw line. That man is handsome, right?
@taoofstieb If you had Quantum Leap abilities, and wound up as any Blue Jays GM, what’s one trade you’d undo? #TweetBag
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) August 23, 2012
I'm sure that people have their own list of bad trades that they'd undo - feel free to leave them in the comments! - but there's no trade that I can think of that damaged the team in the long term more than the David Wells - Mike Sirotka deal. Wells was coming off what was thought to be a pretty good season back then (20 wins, though with a 4.11 ERA), and it seems as though the Jays could have turned him into something more than nothing.
Sirotka never threw a single pitch for the Blue Jays, and the hole in the rotation created by this something-for-nothing deal led the Jays to rely on a rogues gallery of middling starters in the ensuing years. Remember Steve Parris? Or Chris Michalak? Fun times.
Since we're in the wayback machine...
Oh, it's so hard to pick a favourite, isn't it? There are a number of games from the more recent editions of the Jays that have been pretty great, but three games from the past actually stand out in my memory.
@taoofstieb what's the best Blue Jays game you've ever attended in person? #TweetBag
— Back In Blue ⚾ BIB (@BackInBlue2012) August 23, 2012
August 8, 1998 - Jays defeat A's 6-5: Believe it or not, this was the first game I attended in person, and I still remember the experience vividly. It was Ed Sprague's return to the Jays after being traded to Oakland, and one play in particular always stood out for me: A plastic bag blew onto the field, and before time was called, Sprague took several steps away from his position to grab it. Seeing this, José Canseco - who had just reclaimed his number 33 jersey after Sprague's departure - bolted for third. Though he was thrown out in the process, I always appreciated Canseco's awareness in trying to take advantage of the situation.
Canseco made up for the out by hitting a long bomb later that afternoon, and scoring the winning run in the 10th - we didn't call them walk-offs then, did we - on a Mark Dalesandro single. Shawn Green also homered, on one of the prettiest swings I've ever seen. A lovely, arcing shot that landed just over the maple leaf that adorned the wall in the outfield corners.
Notably, this was the first and last time that I'd see Dave Stieb pitch. In the midst of his comeback season, Stieb threw 1.1 innings of relief that afternoon, taking the ball from starter Pat Hentgen.
April 22, 2000 - Jays defeat Yankees 8-2 - A complete game thrown by Kelvim Escobar against the Yankees and David Cone in an 8-2 victory on. I had great seats behind the Jays' dugout, and Tony Batista homered.
June 29, 2001 - Jays defeat Red Sox 8-4 - Another game with a great vantage point, just behind the In the Action seats behind home plate. I yelled "Vamenos El Toro!" to Raul Mondesi, who winked at me, then hit a grand slam off Bryce Florie. The Jays wore the T-Bird. Tim Wakefield started for the Red Sox, and this was probably the best view of a knuckleballer I'll ever have.
And with that fit of nostalgia behind us, let's look ahead...
I really like Moises Sierra. He doesn't always look pretty - he moves like an old pickup bouncing dangerously on a bumpy road - but he looks as though he has the skills to stick as a bench player next year. He hasn't been overwhelmed by the pitching (.817 OPS in 55 PAs), though you'd like to see him take a few more walks.
@taoofstieb which 51s callup has impressed you the most? And a followup: are there any you'd like to see on the Jays fulltime in 2013?
— Mark (@thejockocracy) August 23, 2012
From the pitching side, Aaron Loup's really been something else, hasn't he? For a guy who Jays fans barely knew a few months ago, he's now one of the most appreciated arms in the bullpen. I can discern this from the fact that when he gets the call, my Twitter feed doesn't blow up with exasperation. I've already pencilled him in as a LOOGY for 2013.
One final bit of crystal ballin'...
Nope. If he were, it would be either Rajai Davis or Moises Sierra, as I'm pretty confident that Anthony Gose is going to get another year of seasoning in Triple-A. But both of those players seem more suited to a bench role, and if there is a decent bat on either the trade or free agent market, you'd have to presume that would be a spot to put them. Maybe Melky Cabrera could start his image rehabilitation in Toronto?
@taoofstieb Is the Jays' opening day left fielder for next season on the roster right now? #Tweetbag
— Dave Church (@dave_church) August 23, 2012
Okay, you've all had enough. I hope this Twitter Mail Baggy thing leaves you in a better mood than when you arrive. Now go have fun, and enjoy the waning days of the season.
1. Somewhat rambling and non-sensical, you say? Actually, just a reference to one of my all-time favourite comedy records, Eddie Lawrence's "The Old Philosopher". I suggest you take a listen. It might just lift your spirits.