Blue Jays Rumour Roundup – Spring Training 2012 Update

Well I have returned from a ten day scouting trip in southern Florida (aka fun and sun in the Bahamas) and am getting geared up for the Toronto Blue Jays 2012 season.  The spring training schedule has started and the Blue Jays have played three games thus far, I will be doing a daily Jays Spring Training roundup to highlite some of the big performances or interesting stories that are taking shape in terms of position battles (LF). 

I will also be updating the Jays prospects as some of them go to their first big league training camp with the hopes of either making the team or impressing the Jays brass (or both).

Let’s recap some of the big stories that have broken over the past week involving the Jays and their AL East rivals:

We obviously have to start with the big news that an additional playoff team has been added to each league and this is of course great news for Jays fans going forward.  I have already touched on this issue but it is worth revisiting.

For those wondering I decided to look and see how many times the Jays would have been a playoff team in the new five team format per league since they last made the playoffs in 1993.  They were actually close in a few years but would have only finished in the top five in 1998 (88-74).

To be fair and also put a bit of a positive spin on the above data as this on the surface doesn’t inspire confidence going forward.  The new rules weren’t obviously in place and if they had been I think it is safe to assume the Jays would have run their business slightly different and more aggressively trying to field a winning team to finish within that top five in the American League.

-The announcement was made on Friday March 2nd, 2012 at 1:15pm MLB has officially announced the expanded format. For 2012 only the Division Series will open with two home games for lower ranked teams, and continue with three home games for top ranked teams. This will cut down on travel time and make the Wild Card play-in game possible.

The Blue Jays may be the best-positioned of any team to benefit from the expanded playoff format, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

The two East divisions boast seven of the top 16 fantasy pitchers in baseball, according to Mike Axisa’s rankings for Roto Authority.  The Phillies alone have three pitchers in the top seven, including Roy Halladay in the top spot.

-Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos joined Greg Brady & Jim Lang on Sportsnet 590 the FAN and said Kyle Drabek is opening up some eyes and starting to make strides. The 24-year-old right-hander walked 55 in 78 2/3 innings last year.

-Anthopoulos said the trade market is quiet now, though he expects out-of-options players to become available toward the end of the month.

-Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and assistant GM Benny Looper are well aware that trades they’ve made to acquire Roy Halladay, Hunter Pence, and others will eventually be painful, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Amaro and Looper both discuss how difficult it was to part ways with players like Travis d’Arnaud and Anthony Gose. Amaro didn’t deny the November report that he attempted to re-acquire D’Arnaud.

-Not to get way ahead of ourselves but I had to take notice of Washington agreeing to terms on a new $100MM, six-year contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman, with a club option for a seventh year worth $24MM.  In conjunction with his current deal, the new agreement can keep the 27-year-old in the nation’s capital through 2020 if the option is exercised.  No-trade protection was said to be the final hurdle in talks and the new deal will provide Zimmerman with a full no-trade clause.

Given the early development of Jays 3B Brett Lawrie this might be great motivation for the youngster.  No worries Jays fans the team will be getting at least four to five seasons on extremely team friendly terms.

-The Yankees intend to lower payroll below $189MM by 2014, but GM Brian Cashman explained that the club will continue spending aggressively, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). “We’re still the Yankees,” he said. “We’re still going to outspend everybody else. That’s not going to change.”

-The Pirates announced that they expect A.J. Burnett’s eye injury to sideline him until two or three months from now. The right-hander underwent surgery today after injuring himself in a bunting drill.

-Tim Dierkes has a quick glance at the 2013/14 free agent class, it is worth a read.

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