Showing posts with label off season. Show all posts
Showing posts with label off season. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Farrell And Everything After

Photo from the wonderful @james_in_to. More of his great stuff here.
I had counted myself among the horde who didn't believe for a second that if and when the Toronto Blue Jays traded their manager, John Farrell, to the Boston Red Sox, they would receive anything more than an above-average prospect in return.  Barring the inclusion of a higher-level player from Toronto's side, I was fairly certain that a major-league player would not be coming back north of the border.

Here we are more than a week later, and things obviously shook out much differently than I had expected they would.  Frankly, I'm pretty happy with how things transpired.  I didn't actively dislike John Farrell as a manager, really, but I also didn't put him on any kind of pedestal either.  For two years, he was just kinda there, inspiring mostly indifference in me, despite my protestations on Twitter against his daily inclusion of Adam Lind as his cleanup hitter or some other passing transgression.

The trade, in which Toronto acquired Mike Aviles in return for their erstwhile skipper, opens up a couple of key questions for GM Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of the organization to address (to go with a pile of others the team will need to address this off-season, but we'll get to those later in the fall and winter).  The answers to those key questions are going to have a material impact on the approaches the team might take in 2013 and beyond -- although those impacts might not be immediately evident.

The first question, obviously, is who will replace Farrell as manager.  Anthopoulos has had one crack at picking a manager and landed, after much careful consideration, on Farrell.  Along with that choice came a particular approach to in-game strategy, clubhouse management, and all the other things a manager can influence.  Now, if the Road to Contention in the AL East were a video game, this represents a chance to at least re-start the current level.  You may have to start again a little further back than you were, but at least you have a sense what's coming at you and what you did wrong last time. Picking another manager now, after an abbreviated stint like Farrell had, gives Anthopoulos an opportunity to re-assess what it is he wants from his manager.

If there really was a disconnect between Farrell and Anthopoulos (I'm not sure there was), or if Anthopoulos has a firmer idea now of what kind of manager he needs than he might have had the first time around (I have to think he does), the GM will now get to pick a manager that he expects will fit his vision, strategy and resources better.  But there's still a huge element of guesswork involved, since it's not until the manager is in the job -- and has a roster to work with -- that results will even start to be evident.

The new manager's approach will become evident not through an introductory news conference, but rather through the dribs and drabs of information that show themselves through the course of a season.  One of those bits of data will be the way the manager utilizes a player like the freshly-arrived Aviles.

Here's a reasonably versatile middle-infield type, with a little bit of pop and a little bit of speed, and a sizable platoon split in which he's a career .344 wOBA in his career against lefties, versus a .297 against righties.

Could Aviles play every day at second base or at shortstop with numbers like those?  Sure, I guess.

Would he make a better strict platoon partner for, say, a Daniel Murphy, who bats from the other side and hits righties better than lefties, and who has been reported to be on the trading block for some time, including this past summer?  Or perhaps as a utility guy, filling in where and when his particular skill set matches best -- like starting against lefties, pinch-hitting against them when they come out of the bullpen, and being an important asset in case of injury?  Absolutely yes.

I'll concede that to use Aviles in such a way would necessitate some other upgrades to the roster in the middle infield, in particular at second base, with everything else remaining equal (that is to say, with Yunel Escobar remaining a Blue Jay or a reasonable facsimile of a starting shortstop taking his place).  That's going to be on the General Manager's shoulders.

In the optimum situation, though, I hope a new manager will be the kind of guy who isn't necessarily glued to an every-day 1 through 9 in the batting order and in the field.  I'm not talking about Joe Maddon's mad scientist routine here, which despite the accolades it gets, can also get in the way of itself.  But given this team's resources, and the talent it has now and can reasonably be expected to add in areas like the middle infield, it wouldn't hurt at all to show a bit more creativity where it's warranted.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Farewell 2011 Season, Welcome to 2012

After a roaring end to the 2011 Major League Baseball season, the finality of it all has just started to strike us.

The season is long and intense, densely packed with 162 games over 26 weeks, plus the four weeks of postseason. The days without baseball between the spring and fall are few, and the season proceeds so relentlessly that there's barely time to digest the previous night's game and contextualize it. (Try as we might.) We all tend to get a bit lost in the moment.

So it follows that the moment they stop playing the games, the silence gets deafening. The vacuum that is created from the lack of games to discuss hisses and wheezes and begs to be filled. We would be better served to take some of the downtime to relax, recover and salve some of the injuries, including the repetitive stress on on clicking finger as well as the imagined bruises to our ego. But given the fact that being a Jays fan means fixing your gaze to the future on an almost perpetual basis, the start of the wintertime sabbatical is the time when we'll probably kick our hindsight-fuelled recriminations and unfounded speculation into overdrive.

Oh, the fun we'll have.

Thankfully, we haven't had any frost settle on us in advance of the long winter whinge, as the business of baseball cranked up the machine first thing Monday morning, in a hurry with a flurry. (The other flurry, you know.)

The Excercism of Edwin's Option - It was a no-brainer that the Jays should pick up the 2012 option on Edwin Encarnacion, whose bat carried the team for significant stretches in the second half. From June 1st onwards, EE posted a .858 OPS (.360 OBP/.499 SLG) and hit 16 of his 17 homers in the final four months of the season. As a full-time DH, occasional 1B and emergency 3B, Encarnacion could be a steal at $3.5 million for next year. (And apparently, he might possibly play left field, but more on that below.)

We couldn't be happier to see Edwin come back, as we thought that he endured an unfair onslaught of snarkily cynical scorn through much of the first few months of the season. We can't remember who called him "garbage" on Twitter, but we hope that person feels shame that eats away at their soul every day for such denigration.

We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but we still figure that Edwin could be a 30 homer, .850 OPS guy in the middle of the Jays lineup next year, even though we said the same thing last year. But this year, we really and truly believe it. For realsies, this time.

If You Like Tony LaCava, and Getting Caught in the Rain: So on the one hand, we hope that the casual fan appreciates the fact that other teams within their highly competitive division are looking at the non-player personnel of the Blue Jays enviously. Boston's potential interest in John Farrell (which we figure was nothing more than someone saying "Sure wish Johnny was still around") and the Orioles' pursuit of Jays GM Tony LaCava should indicate to one and all that the team is not administered by a bunch of nincompoops who stumbled accidentally into their position. These guys know what they're doing.

Moreover, the news from NBC Sports' Aaron Gleeman that O's Meddler-in-Chief and Chief Mediocrity Officer Peter Angelos was unimpressed by LaCava and thought his desire for greater authority over the baseball decisions in Baltimore was overstepping his bounds is a triple shot of happiness because:

1) It means LaCava might return to the Jays;
2) It shows that bad organizations don't appreciate smart baseball people;
3) Baltimore is looking for some stooge with shallow charisma and a desire to be Angelos' hand-puppet through another decade-long cycle of basement-dwelling.

That, kids, is what we in the business (which business?) call a "win-win".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An irrational argument for Cliff Lee

Okay, so seven years is entirely too long for a pitcher (in spite of how free and easy Cliff Lee's delivery seems to be), and on that level, we shouldn't even go where we're about to go.

And moreover, Lee is an Arkansas boy, and we'd presume that moving to Canada until sometime in 2018 isn't high up on his bucket list. For someone who grew up that far from the 49th parallel, we would imagine that Toronto might just as well be Nome.

But if the much coveted hurler were here before us, we'd offer him this reason to consider looking at a deal to come to the Blue Jays:

You remember that guy who got traded from the Jays to the Phillies? Which precipitated you being moved from the Phillies to the West and then to the South, so that they could make room for their new shiny staff ace...you remember him?

You remember how the day that you got shipped off, how that dude's wife was all like: "Cliff Lee wasn't even supposed to be here...we were supposed to be here all along, so he was just keeping the uniform warm for us until we got here." Ring any bells?

You know how many times that guy brought Toronto to the playoffs? None. And how many big games did he pitch in here? None.

And you know what you can do? You can come to Toronto, take a team that's about the emerge into a contender, take them where That Guy never could, and shove it right up his ass.

Now would that (along with seven years and $155 million) be something that interests you?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Remember this team...

... because a week from today (or thereabouts), it might not look the same.

The evolution of the roster has already begun, with the departures of John Buck (he got paiiid), Edwin Encarnacion (released, claimed, non-tendered, in therapy), Freddy Lewis (good luck finding those everyday AB's, Fred), and Brian Tallet (who will be serviceable in 2011 for the Cards). Those certain to find new homes in the days ahead include arb decliners Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg - who apparently didn't appreciate the lack of fan support for his white-knuckle ninths. The nerve of Blue Jay fans!

Who's new? Rajai Davis takes the at-bats Freddy Lewis left behind and Carlos Villanueva will eat up the hipster's innings - both low cost upgrades at their respective positions, but hardly the game-changers we've all been speculating are ahead.

So which is it - the calm before the storm, or a much quieter offseason than previously anticipated?

Anthopoulos has made no secret of the the fact he's more willing than ever to take calculated gambles in assembling a roster poised to contend for seasons to come. That means dealing quality players & top prospects at positions of strength to fill perceived areas of weakness. Hardly proof positive, but the Jays have been "tied" to every high-upside player bandied about the hotstove thus far. So is a big move inevitable?

On the other hand.... is it prudent to shake up a roster of players already seen as "on the rise", especially given a new on-field coaching staff? Would simply adding solid veterans and capable major-leaguers to fill the roster holes during another year of team maturation be a reasonable strategy?

Quite frankly, I waffle back and forth on this. It's a talented team with questions at the core (Hill, Lind, Snider, Arencibia) that need answering. Is now the right time for a Big Splashy Move? I really don't know, but Anthopoulos does. And we're probably pretty close to finding out.

Jason Frasor will be a Blue Jay....
... and I'm OK with that. A complete bullpen overhaul consisting of mostly unproven arms is terrifying. Frasor might not be Duane Ward, but he's no Frank Wills either. And let's not sweat the salary he's sure to land in arbitration, all right? It's a one year commitment that won't break the bank for 7th or 8th inning work. Frasor's decision to accept or decline arb was a win-win. So we win!

.... and AJ Pierzynski will not be
Two words: thank fuck.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Tweet Bag! Your tweeted questions answered blogically

Because we like for you to do the thinking, and because we are auditioning to take over Griff Mail Bag (should we get the call from One Yonge Street), here's some pithy answers to to your questions delivered via Twitter. Tweet Bag!

The Tweet Bag's biggest fan, @PdcD asks: Any predictions or pre-indicators of what a full season of Yunel Escobar as the Jays SS may produce in 2011?

We know that by now, you've all figured out that we're a worrier and that we fret about everything with this team. But Yunel is one of the pieces that concerns us most headed into next year.

While his behind the back glove flips and drag bunts were enough to keep us all excited through the last half of last season, his trend line after arriving in Toronto led gradually downwards. His OPS from July 16th (his first game with the Jays) through August 16th was a respectable .784, with three homers and 10 RBI. The next month (August 17th to September 17th) saw him put up a .748 OPS with one homer and six batted in.

By the time that the last two weeks of the season (September 18th to October 2nd) were finished, Escobar fell off a cliff, posting a .397 OPS, eking out just six singles in his final 54 plate appearances.

The Bill James predictor figures him for a .748 OPS over a full season next year, but with a solid .366 OBP. Which sounds about right to us. We think it's possible for him to be productive out of the number two spot in the lineup, even if he's not crushing the ball. But we have a sneaking suspicion that the more the fans in Toronto see him, the more that they will begin picking away at some of the perceived flaws in their "flashy" shortstop.

NEXT! @a_rebolledo asks: Spose the Jays make minimal changes. Rajai in LF, JBau 3B, JP at C. Say even Lyle comes back at 1B. Are they better next yr?

The way you frame the question, we'd say: "Nope".

We're not convinced that JPA has a Rookie of the Year campaign (though we're open to that eventuality, of course). We don't think that JoBau puts up the outrageous offensive numbers that he did last year (and really, how could he?) Rajai? Well, we like him as a fourth outfielder, and we wouldn't be averse to seeing him get lots of PT. But is he an upgrade? Not really. And Lyle would be welcome back in our mind, because he was sneakily productive (so sneaky, that the advanced metrics don't even notice!), and we love his glove.

Does that mean that we don't think the Jays will improve on last year's showing? Not at all. But you're looking too much towards the offense, and not enough towards the state of the pitching staff. The Jays' offensive numbers could go down next year, and they could still man up and compete based upon their pitching staff (particularly the starters) taking their game to the next level.

Late entry! From our favorite man in Lotus Land, @dlbrows: Is this a make/break year for the plan? No playoffs is fine but can THE plan handle no bounce back from Hill/Lind and...no break out year for Snider? Take the team from the cusp to too much to upgrade?

The short answer is "no". This is not a make or break year for the plan because from what we understand of Alex Antopoulos' direction for the team, the plan isn't about hitting higher peaks, but rather, about raising the level of the plateau.

If this team takes a step backwards this season (80 wins? 76 wins?), and the decline is in part attributable to disappointing years from Hill, Lind and Snider, there is still capacity for the team to make smart acquisitions (like the Yunel trade, in spite of our sour response above), and continue to develop, build and trade from a strong base of prospects.

We've never been a big fan of the "tear it down to build it up" approach, because we actually think that there is a false dichotomy built into that line of thinking. So if 2011 turns out to be something less than stellar, we wouldn't call for the franchise to be stripped down and for the Eternal Building Process to begin anew from a couple of rungs down.

(Plus, we actually don't think that you can tie a team's progress to its win-loss record if you are taking a longer view.)

One more! Punk Rock Icon @DrewGROF asks: Seriously, why would anyone drink a Canadian red wine?

Oh sir. This is an entirely regrettable position you've taken. And while we understand that your South Ontario baco noirs aren't for everyone, to paint all of Canada's vinters with a broad brush of shame is quite unfair.

It's true, however, that those of us in the middle of the country aren't always given the opportunity to get our hands on some of the finest product out of the Okanagan Valley in B.C.. And so maybe Mission Hill's fine products have eluded you in recent times. (And you have yet to come to the realization that John Simes, Mission Hill's winemaker, is a bit of a genius.) But if you have the time and inclination (and a spare $75 to toss around), we'd highly recommend you try a bottle of the 2006 Oculus, a truly outstanding Bordeaux-inspired wine. It's probably the best wine experience that we've ever had.

Also from B.C.: Quails Gate's Pinot Noir, which has a fantastic dark cherry and oak flavour. Also: It gets you drunk.

Finally, a plug for an Ontario wine: Inniskillin can be hit or miss, but their Reserve Series Meritage is great. A nice combination of dark fruit and spiciness. Plus, it's on sale at the Wine Rack this week! (And this post was not paid for in any way. Consider this plug a public service.)

And if none of these recommendations satisfy you, Drew, then I'll keep an eye out for a case of something tasty and suitable for you as I spend the next month in Australia.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It won't be easy

Backed into a corner, I would tell you that I don't foresee Justin Upton, or Colby Rasmus, or Zack Greinke in a Blue Jays uniform next season. Deals involving premium young talent locked up with (mostly) reasonable contracts are the rarest of rare trades. And I say "backed into a corner", because with Anthopoulos & his recent comments concerning being unafraid of taking gambles, you just never know.

But here's the thing - in the unlikely event the Jays do pull off such a deal, I don't foresee myself immediately turning cartwheels in my (yes, my) basement at the acquisition of such game-changing talent. One, because I don't think I've ever actually turned a cartwheel, but two.... there will be game-changing talent going back.

It's fun to salivate over the prospect of Upton or a Rasmus patrolling the outfield for the Jays, but consider that DBacks and Cards fans are dreaming of Snider in the same scenario. Greinke would immediately (arguably?) become the Ace that contending clubs look to acquire, but Royals fans would, in turn, be pinning hopes of better days ahead on the right arm of Kyle Drabek. Because that's what it would take - talent doesn't come cheap. Forget about the prospect of packaging numerous middle of the road prospects for the potential superstar - quantity won't get it done. A potential superstar in return is the only way.

And we get attached to these players, don't we? We all think (hope?) Snider will, sooner rather than later, become the all-fields masher he's shown glimpses of & has always been projected to become. When Drabek became the centrepiece in return for Halladay, we all exclaimed he could never replace Doc, all the while dreaming that one day he would.

By no means am I implying that I hope the Jays stand pat. Anthopoulos undoubtedly has a targeted skill set for his offseason game plan, and will follow his mantra of rolling the dice as the only way to catch the division's big boys.

It just might be a little tough to swallow if he can actually pull it off.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Offseason update (already?)

Rather than ramble on with a long-winded introductory paragraph, pontificating deeply about this and that, all meant to fool you into thinking I have it all figured out.....I'm just not going to bother. Not that I'm better than that (I'm not), but I'm short on time and energy, friends. So let's just muse, shall we?.....

Our favorite hipster reliever - gone
We won't have Brian Tallet to kick around anymore, as the 5-year Blue Jay (really?!) refused his assignment to AAA Vegas and becomes a free agent. As sorry as one can feel for a guy paid a million bucks to toss a few innings of baseball every other night, I do feel a twinge for a player kicked around by the fanbase for posting a fairly brutal 2010 campaign.

It's been stated a few times but bears repeating - used properly, Tallet was once and still could have been a quality asset for a major league pitching staff, as his '06-'08 campaigns can attest. But somewhere along the line, certain of the Blue Jays braintrust determined that Tallet's best role was in the rotation as an "innings-eater" (barf), or at the very least, as a multi-inning longman out of the bullpen.

Evidently, it took 2 full seasons of misusing the dude before anyone could figure out that formula does not compute. And now Tallet faces an uphill battle to land a major league job. Didn't have to end this way, but here we are.

E5 - gone
Slightly less surprising (but still surprising nonetheless), Edwin Encarnacion finds himself among the ranks of former Blue Jays, gone to Oakland on a waiver claim.

In reality, being sent to Vegas mid-season was all the evidence he & we really needed as proof that he was never viewed as a long-term fit at 3rd base for the Jays, but his occasional hot streaks and five homer weekends provided a flicker of hope that he might be. In the end, Encarancion - he of the criminally underused marketing ploy - finds himself swinging for the fences in Oakland (good luck), for now.

Oh yeah - DeWayne Wise - also gone
Kind of figured Wise had a shot at sticking around as a 4th/5th outfielder-type, but like Tallet, he was uninterested in a AAA assignment and has elected free agency. Maybe he comes back on a minor league deal. Either way.

Jays are reportedly interested in Greinke, Rasmus, Dunn, Berkman, Huff......
Again, not proclaiming original thought here, but again, bears repeating..... the Jays will likely be tied to most every player on the market - trade or free agent - to varying degrees, as intrepid GM Alex Anthopoulos kicks every tire on the lot on the off chance there could be a "fit". And why wouldn't he?

If Dayton Moore proclaims that he's trading Zack Greinke, why wouldn't Anthopoulos pick up the phone? Maybe Moore has a Brett Cecil and JP Arencibia obsession? Not that such an offer would even result in a callback, but if there's one thing we've learned, it's that AA leaves no stone unturned. And I love that about the guy.

Richard Griffin brings you John Farrell
Let me tell you something about Rich Griffin - when he's not intent on crucifying JP Ricciardi for all sins real and imagined, he's a hell of a baseball writer. This Q&A with the new skip reveals a little more about Farrell and the way he thinks about baseball. The more I see (er, read), the more I like.

I mean....it's mid-November and I already cannot fucking wait for next season. The Winter Meetings just might be the death of me.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A two-sentence post on.... mixed emotions

Especially for fans of baseball north, winter is the longest and most desolate of seasons, robbing us of all the pleasures that baseball brings.

So tell me why, then, am I anxiously counting down the days of the post-season - one that I am thoroughly enjoying - with greedy eyes focused on the Hot Stove?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome to the offseason

Wait.... what? The Blue Jays regular season ended two weeks ago? Seriously? Where have I been? (.... and that's my quasi-apology for being absent. What can I say? An untimely convergence of a busy work schedule, two kids at home, and not a lot on my mind would have resulted in baaaad blogging. Much like we have here & now. Self-heyo!)

(Oh, and as an aside, if you don't think Appetite For Destruction is one of the best albums released in the last 25 years, we probably can't be friends. That's just how I roll.)

So, yes....the offseason, which finds us all consumed in the search for the new manager. And I have to be completely honest here, friends - I have no idea how to feel about the direction the team should take, nor do I feel strongly for any candidate in particular. Does Anthopoulos look for his own Joe Maddon (you have no clue how it pains me to type that), or shoot for a "name" guy with big-league managing experience? Look to hire a bench boss who will accept input from the front office, or hand the reins over completely?

Much has been made of the team interviewing the flamboyant Bobby Valentine, and with the Mariners apparently zeroing in on another potential Jays candidate, Eric Wedge, the internets might just blow right the fuck up with speculation.

And what of the "Cito Recommends" group? Do we have to take this seriously? Does Anthopoulos? Don Baylor? Juan Samuel? Really?

Or how about the "hidden gem" department, which basically includes every bench coach in the major leagues?

Or the internal candidate group, including Butterfield, Leyva, Rivera, and Fasano?

(Hang on, I'm going somewhere with this. Really.)

But wait - we still have the "once managed in the bigs and looking for another crack at it" genre.

And the "somehow affiliated with the Red Sox, so they must be good" category.

If you're getting the impression that I'm worried AA might be casting his net a little too wide, you might be correct. I'm all for due diligence (finance nerd), but it seems to me that Anthopoulos runs the risk of missing out on candidates - like we've already seen with Wedge - as a result of ensuring seemingly everyone and anyone with interest is interviewed.

But again, I just don't know. You'd think I'd feel strongly one way or the other - Valentine! Butterfield! Martinez! - but I don't. Speaking in the vaguest of terms, I suppose I'd like to see a bright baseball mind willing to accede some decision making control to the front office (specifically, with regards to the coaching staff) with fresh (but not batshit crazy tinkering) ideas on how to run a ball club. Is that too much to ask?

.... and about the playoffs
If you can't get into Roy Halladay vs Tim Lincecum, I question your genetic makeup as a baseball fan.

Oh, and fuck the Yankees.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hugs all around on the close of another year

So, hands up those of you who had 85 wins in the pool...no one?

The Jays finish at 85-77, ten games out of the playoffs and 11 back of the AL East title. They never lost more than five games in a row, and never fell more than two games below .500.

We'll have the full winter to go back through the entrails of the season that has passed - and with six months of darkness and cold, you gotta know that we're going to want to think back kindly on the warmer days - so we're not going to go through a full debrief at this point.

But if we could sum it all up in one thought, it would be this: This season was never boring, rarely discouraging, and often enthralling. And as we enter into the long off-season, we are filled with more anticipation for the year to come than at any time in recent memory.

Thank you cards for everyone
We're not sure what Emily Post would say about forgoing hand-written thank you cards in favour of a quick note at the bottom of a blog post, but we also doubt that she'd care for much of what we think of as polite and courteous. But seriously, fuck that bitch.

All this to say: Thank you all once again for reading, commenting, following, tweeting and retweeting, emailing, sharing your thoughts and generally encouraging me (us!) to keep on keeping on with this blog. I can tell you that this past year has offered me more personal and professional challenges that I had anticipated, and there were moments where I felt as though the blog had to take a backseat to what seem in those moments to be more pressing matters. But you readers/commenters were always on my mind, and I truly appreciate your ongoing patronage.

Also, big bro hugs to The Ack, without whom this blog would likely have devolved into an angry screed read only by myself and my team of therapists. Ack is pretty modest about his contributions around here, but I seriously couldn't keep this blog going without his help. His posts this season were amongst the most thoughtful and thought-provoking that I've read anywhere this season, and I feel lucky to have him as a contributor.

To one and all, I hope you had as much fun as I did this year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A One-Sentence Post on...Brandon Phillips

Further to Blair's floated notion this morning, we've got mad love for Brandon Phillips, even if he's never played a major league game at third, and he's only once OPSed higher than .800 in his career.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Baby steps (you gotta start somewhere)

Discounting the waiver claim of capital-P Project Sean Henn - who might have been worth keeping an eye on under the eye of now departed reclamation king Brad Arnsberg - the Jays began the inevitable (and necessary) roster makeover by claiming middle infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir from the Cardinals organization.

On first blush, it's an intriguing move, as Hoffpauir appears to have solid on-base skills, with a career minor league OBP of .365 (not a typo). The knock on the 26 year old appears to be his limited defensive skill set - and hello there, Brian Butterfield. Glad to see you weren't run out of town.

While Cards writer Brian Walton (see link above) seems to think this is just another Blue Jays "claim 'em & slide 'em through waivers" move (tough to argue the evidence), this addition to the 40-man bears watching for a variety of reasons:

1. These aren't your father's JP Ricciardi waiver wire claiming Blue Jays. It remains to be seen if these are really Alex A's Blue Jays, I guess, but let's give the retooled front office the benefit of the doubt on this one.

2. Outside of Aaron Hill, the entire infield - starters and reserves - is a major question mark heading into next season for the Jays, with Scutaro and McDonald heading to free agency. Jose Bautista and Eddie Encarnacion would be best advised to keep their real estate options open, too.

3. Did I mention the OBP? Oh, I did? How about the .843 OPS he put up in 350+ AAA at-bats last season. Why was this guy available again? Right - defense. Butter!!

Vernon Wells will remove the knife from his back and have it applied to his wrist
Word is that the much maligned Vernon Wells will have his left wrist repaired, after quietly dealing with the problem for a good portion of his brutal 2009 season. While it's certainly not unreasonable to believe the injury contributed to his miserable campaign, I don't think we should all go expecting the 2006 version of ol' Vern to reappear.

But a reasonable facsimile of the 2008 vintage Wells wouldn't be too much to ask, would it?

(No, seriously, I'm asking - what do you think is a reasonable expectation for Wells in 2010?)

Monday, March 2, 2009

If Orlando Cabrera is the answer...

...then seriously, what the fuck was the question in the first place?

For the amount of machinations that the Jays are going to have to make use of in order to add this dude (or is that dud?) to the roster, you'd think they might want to go after someone who gives you more than Marco Scutaro can provide.

SUPERAWESOME UPDATE! The A's sign Cabrera! The A's sign Cabrera!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Random offseason player update: Jason Frasor

Continuing along with my accidental weekend theme of "the players aren't giving up on the season, so why should we?", I came across this little nugget concerning the much maligned Jason Frasor. And by "came across this little nugget", I mean "lifted from the Jays headlines on the DJF page." Thanks, fellas.

It seems our guy Frasor has decided he's sick of being the 8th man out of a 7 man bullpen, and is working to improve his game this winter. The solution? Adding a change-up to compliment his straight-as-an-arrow fastball and inconsistent curve.

"I'd be cruising, and I'd walk somebody -- I'd walk Joe Schmo -- and then here comes another hitter, and then it's a two-run homer," he said. "It's like, how did that just happen? Two outs, nobody on, and then there's two runs in just like that.

Talk about self-awareness - that about sums it up for the life and times of Frasor these past few seasons. Still, it's good to see another Blue Jay take it upon himself to throw a nice little "fuck you" to the (numerous) critics and pessimists and actually, you know, work towards the season.

Refreshing, actually.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jesse Litsch - never meanin' no harm

When you've had an offseason like the Blue Jays have had this winter, strange things happen and you don't even bat an eye.

A former first round draft pick is introduced to those three dreaded letters - D, F, and A? Seriously, all the best and good luck to you, Rusty. Your team is the only one in the league not to sign a free agent to a major league deal? It's "the economy", I guess. Assistant GM's are cut loose to save a little cash? Let's call it a redistribution of assets instead. A 23 year old pitcher with less than 50 big league games under his belt becomes a staff mentor? No big dea.....what?

Jesse Litsch - veteran influence?

That's right, Uncle Jesse is ready to step up and be a leader. And you know what? That's just fucking nails, man. Oh sure, you can question the wisdom and validity behind the rationale that sees a kid who spent some time in AAA last season saying "follow me"....but just listen to him:

"We just have to think we're better than them," Litsch said of the Jays' positive thinking. "If we come out hitting and pitching like we did last year ... at the end of the season we were just as good as anybody. We have to overlap that into this season and run with it. We're all good enough to be at the major-league level, it's just a matter that they spend more money. Some people may not be worth the money they get, but we still have the same number – nine guys – that they have. It's just you against the Yankee hitters, and you're going out there with same winning mentality as their pitchers."

You know what, I'm sold. Now if he can just master the art of the fist pump after inducing a weak inning-ending grounder, and maybe sprinkle in the odd congratulatory hug for his teammates, we're all set at the #2 spot in the rotation.

(14 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA would be nice too, but let's not get crazy.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A one-sentence post on...the bottom of the barrel

In spite of all of our professed optimism, we know things aren't really going swimmingly in the Jays' offseason when we spend an hour arguing with ourselves over the relative merits and hidden value of Matt Belisle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Keep hope alive

When it comes to the 2009 season for our beloved Blue Jays, there's a lot of people saying we'd be better off dead.

(Like our weekend contributor, for instance.)

Certainly, looking at the state of the Jays' roster on paper and contrasting it with that of our AL East competitors, there's plenty of reason for pessimism. The Yankees are adding big names, the Red Sox will be moving soon to supplement an already strong roster, the Rays are in play for a big bat (like Jason Giambi) and the Orioles are running down anyone who is willing to take their money.

The games, of course, aren't played on paper, and there are reasons for optimism with the Jays next season.

Think of some of the 2008 contributions made by Jesse Carlson, who nobody knew in December 2007, but who went on to lead the team in appearances, posting a 2.25 ERA. Carlson had pitched well at Double-A New Hampshire in 2007, but he was scarcely mentioned as a prospect anywhere in the lead up to last season.

So, to warm your innards like a piping hot cup of mulled cider, we offer a few reasons for optimism this winter. Keep these in mind as you are opening up your Christmas presents next week only to find a "Burnett 34" jersey lovingly gifted by a family member who knows that you love the Jays, but who isn't necessarily following along as we do.

Hopeful Thought # 1 - Travis Snider
The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM is a star in the making, and a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate for 2009. While we've been salivating over LF/DH types in the free agent market, we're of the mind that the Blue Jays could generate as much offense from Snider at the major league minimum salary as they could have from Raul Ibanez at $10 million per year. We see Snider eventually as a Lance Berkman type, who could hit 30 to 35 homers with an OPS over .900. For next year, 20 homers and 80 RsBI seems like a reasonable expectation. Even with that modest expectation, he would represent an upgrade over the 2008 team's production.

Hopeful Thought # 2 - The rest of the farm
As much as the baseball hobbyists in the Toronto/Canadian sports media will continue to focus on J.P. Riccardi's draft gaffes, the minor league system is in its best shape since the salad years of the team. In addition to Snider, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil and David Cooper all look to be legitimate high-end prospects.

Dig a little deeper, you may find next year's Jesse Carlson in the person of Robert Ray, a soon-to-be 25 year-old starter who put up some impressive numbers in his first crack at Double-A. A glance at his numbers suggests that he may be a step ahead of Ricky Romero at this point, and he could potentially find himself with the big club by season's end.

Moreover, there's Scott Campbell, who has put up better offensive numbers in his minor league career than Aaron Hill did. There are also (finally) a number of higer-ceiling Latin American players (Balbino Fuenmayor, Yohermyn Chavez, Moises Sierra) who are on the way, and who could make big strides in the coming year.

They might not all contribute to the 2009 team, but the wealth of prospects could provide the Jays with more trading chips if they need to make a short term move to shore up their pitching.

Hopeful Thought # 3 - The ailing return
In the short term, Aaron Hill, Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo should all return for the beginning of the year after missing most or all of last season. Dustin McGowan could be back as early as May. Obviously, it's difficult to bank on players returning to their former glories immediately after an extended period on the DL. But these players seem to have been forgotten in all of the tales of woe that are being spun over next year's team.

Hopeful Thought # 4 - The ailing return to form
Is it too much to hope for better seasons from Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen?

Hopeful Thought # 5 - The other guys have their problems, too
It's not to say that the Rays' season was a fluke, but it seems unlikely that they will walk between the raindrops in the same way they did this year. Carl Crawford seems like an extended DL stint waiting to happen, as does the Red Sox' David Ortiz.

There's no telling what the jumble of new bodies (and their associated personalities) in the Bronx will produce, and Orioles have more holes to fill in their rotation and bullpen then money can paper over.

Moreover, with the exception of Boston and the Yankees, the rest of the AL will also feel the squeeze of the economic slowdown, which means that the Jays won't be the only team counting the coins in their change purse throughout the winter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reading the tea leaves in the bottom of an empty cup

The big free agent signing is no signing at all
The first thing that went through our head when we heard of the Matt Clement signing yesterday was "Jaime Navarro". The Jays signed him in December of 2000, and after a couple of Spring Training outings, he never threw a pitch in anger for the Jays. We're assuming the same fate for Clement.

The triumphant return of Cody Heather Hatheer Haerther
The Jays are apparently smitten with Cody Haerther, seeing as how they plucked him from the Cardinals for the second straight year in the Rule 5 draft. Which is a little puzzling, seeing as how he posted a .658 OPS in 100 games at Triple-A Memphis last season. If nothing else, this pick up provides the Jays' PR team with a do-over after mangling his name in successive press releases last season.

Harbingers of doom, courtesy of Bob Elliot
Sun Media's veteran baseball scribe raises the spectre of the Jays being put up for sale in the wake of Ted Rogers' passing. Our thoughts: no one at Rogers is going to make a decision this quickly on the team, because they've put to much time and effort into integrating their media properties and marketing initiatives into the Jays.

Some of the signs that Elliot points to have less to do with the team preparing to be sold than they have to do with the team battening down the hatches for the financial decline that is sure to have a significant impact on them for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Sadly, for us Jays fans, there are forces in the world working against the team's ultimate success that are bigger than the Yankees and Red Sox.

Why are we reading the National Post?
It took us a while to come around to it, but we have to admit that the NatPost's Jeremy Sandler did a pretty good job with his reportage from Vegas. We've been dismissive of some of his writing in the past, but we found his work to be frequent, informative, fair-minded and entertaining throughout the Winter confab. We still miss the Globe's Jeff Blair (come back Blairsy!), but in his absence, Sandler probably did the best work on the Jays' beat over the past week. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A one-sentence post on...the glut of LF/DH types in the free agent market

Maybe we weren't reading every sentence and listening to every podcasted and broadcasted word on the Winter Meetings, but we can't remember anyone mentioning Adam Dunn, with his 40 homers and 100 RsBI, as a serious free agent target for any team over the past week.

Of cups and lips and the best laid plans

Sure, the Yankees have gone out and signed CC Sabathia, and seem prepared to vastly overpay for A.J. Burnett.

But somehow, we find our mind wandering back to four years ago.

Does anyone remember how in 2005, the Yankees brought in the top two free agent pitchers (Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano) and traded for Randy Johnson to supplement a rotation which already had Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina.

At the time, it seemed almost unfair.

But even having secured the three top pitching prizes on the market that year, the Yankees still won six fewer games the next season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The free agents were absolute busts, and the Big Unit was servicable, if unspectacular.

Moreover, the Yanks haven't played an inning of League Championship action since 2003, two seasons before their spree since 2004, the season before the signings. (We overlooked the '04 ALCS, because it was clearly so forgettable and not at all historic...or possibly because we are really dumb.)

We're just saying.

Update 12/12/08, for the benefit of Baseball Musings readers: We're not comparing CC to Jaret Wright at all...but the Yanks did bring in Big Unit (2.60 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, second in NL Cy Young voting in '04) and Pavano (3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, sixth in NL Cy Young voting '04). So we don't feel as out to lunch with this comparison as some might suggest. But feel free to set us straight.