Archive for the 'Jays Rumours' Category



Why Not Blow It Up?

The Jays-related rumours continue as the offseason market heats up.  The market was slow to develop but has picked up speed recently as there have been several significant free agent signings and one blockbuster trade.  Of particular note to Jays’ fans was Josh Johnson signing an incentive-laden deal with the San Diego Padres.

The Landscape

The free agent market for pitching, catching, and middle infield is pretty thin right now, making upgrades difficult, if not impossible.  That leaves 2 main options: the farm and trades.  The farm isn’t deep enough to provide an answer for any of those positions, leaving trades as the primary means of improvement.  Is gutting the farm even more than they have already–in exchange for a 74-88 record, no less–the answer?

The Latest Rumours

No one knows yet what form any moves will take, of course, but it needs to be considered.  The latest rumours to hit the fan in Toronto are instructive.  Apparently, the Jays have varying degrees of interest in OF Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, free agent starter Ricky Nolasco, and starter Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs.

The rumours swirling around the Blue Jays’ interest in Jeff Samardzija focus on the Cubs receiving one or both of Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, the Jays’ top 2 prospects, in the deal.

Jeff Samardzija is a good pitcher (good K-rate, K/BB ratio, ground ball ratio) who struggles somewhat to keep runners off base (higher walk rate) and to keep the ball in the park (HR/9 rate north of 1).  An average 9-inning start will yield 3 walks and 9 hits, one of which will leave the park.  He’s 28 and under team control for 2 more seasons.  His WAR over the last 2 seasons–his only 2 seasons as a starter–is unimpressive.  That the kind of market the Jays are scouring to find the hidden gem: a market that sees Jeff Samardzija as being worth at least one top pitching prospect plus other valuable young players.

At A Glance: Some Completed/Pending Deals

Jason Vargas signed with the Royals for 4 years/$32MM, 38-year old Tim Hudson signed with the Giants for 2 yrs/$23MM, and Dan Haren received a 1 yr/$10MM deal from the Dodgers.  These are mid-to-back-end-of-the-rotation guys.  The Giants also signed Tim Lincecum to a 2 yr/$35MM deal.

The St. Louis Cardinals just addressed their middle infield need by signing PED abuser Jhonny Peralta to a 4 yr/$53MM contract.  Apparently his 50-game suspension (Biogenesis) didn’t deter the Cards one bit.  He replaces Pete Kozma because someone should.

The best remaining shortstop on the market is Stephen Drew, who was given a Qualifying Offer by the Boston Red Sox.  He declined it.  I mention this because the Jays would like a shortstop to play 2B.

The Phillies, under the inspired direction of Ruben Amaro, Jr., re-upped with catcher Carlos Ruiz for 3 yrs/$26MM, and the Yankees locked up Brian McCann for 5 yrs/$85MM.  The best catcher remaining on the free agent market is Jarrod freakin’ Saltalamacchia.

But…

What about the other option?  What about hitting the reset button and blowing it up?  The Jays, given their situation and their needs, seem desperate: do they have to make a bad move?  Why not sell between now and July 31?  Let’s think about it for a bit.

The emotional position against selling is powerful, but not particularly compelling.  Who cares if people cry and wail and gnash their teeth if the Jays blow it up.  Also lacking teeth is the AA-is-trying-to-save-his-job argument.  As a matter of fact, it works in favour of blowing it up.  No, there are too many unknown variables in this option.  We don’t know what his relationship with Paul Beeston is like, we have no idea what the new guy will do when he starts in January, etc., etc.

Toronto Has Players with Value

In a market where the value of the positions that the Jays are trying to fill is ridiculously bloated, why not turn the tables on the game and find a loophole or inefficiency?  Alex Anthopoulos actually has a history of doing this and he has some (very) valuable chips to play in this game.

Pitchers:

RA Dickey

  • RA’s a top-end starter with a good contract and a history of overcoming adversity;
  • To Chavez Ravine if they lose Nolasco and Beckett continues to decline?  How about Dickey and Thole to PIT?

Brandon Morrow

  • He has good ‘stuff’ and a nice contract, but is durability driving down his value?
  • His skills play in almost any venue in either league;

Mark Buehrle

  • His contract isn’t bad in this market, not for a guy who offers 2+ WAR and 200+ IP;
  • Could TEX use his durability and reliability?

JA Happ

  • He’s a serviceable starter and he’s left-handed: his value is similar to Jason Vargas, whom the Royals are now paying $32MM until 2017–Happ doesn’t cost near that much;
  • The Angels want pitching and have a pitcher-friendly park–Happ’s also better than the pitchers they acquired last year;

Casey Janssen

  • His numbers and that contract?  The line forms at the rear…;
  • DET?  Nah, re-unite him with Jason Frasor in TEX;

Steve Delabar

  • Some contending teams need his swing-and-miss stuff desperately;
  • DET is calling;

Brett Cecil

  • An All Star season highlighted by several substantial improvements mean Cecil has value as the #1 LHRP out of the ‘pen, LOOGY, or possibly even as a CL;
  • Package him together with Delabar to DET and see what shakes loose.

Infielders:

Jose Reyes

  • Similar to Buehrle‘s, Reyes’ contract isn’t nearly so bad in this market;
  • With money to spend, a hole to fill and Peralta in STL, Reyes could return to a place where they lamented his departure and he’s still popular: the Mets;

Adam Lind

  • A LH veteran hitter who torches RHP with a pretty friendly contract who returned to form in 2013;
  • SEA?  PIT?  NYY?  Is Mark Teixeira still injured?  The short porch beckons…;

Edwin Encarnacion

  • A premier slugger who’s become a student of hitting, has versatility (DH/3B/1B), and has one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of MLB: who wouldn’t want this guy?

Outfielders:

Jose Bautista

  • Another premier slugger with a terrific contract, versatility, but who is one of the top RF in MLB when healthy;
  • SEA is looking for a real OF, and they have pitching prospects;

Colby Rasmus

  • A young player with team control remaining who provided >4 WAR for the Jays in 2013;
  • I bet the Jays could have their pick of PHI‘s prospects if they wanted to move him;
  • I also wonder if the Mets’ interest could be piqued…

Catcher(s):

JP Arencibia

  • There are rumours that teams are interested in his services–I know, I didn’t believe it either, but the rumours persist;
  • Find one of those teams and deal him, pronto;

Josh Thole

  • His value is linked to RA Dickey, dictating any prospective destination.

So keep Edwin Encarnacion and Brandon Morrow, but the rest of these guys help to re-stock the farm pretty well with enough surplus value to get decent roster players too.  Filling out the remaining positions would be relatively simple, as there are plenty of mid-to-low-end FA’s available.  Heck, James Loney can play 1B…

Who cares what Joe Schmo in the 5th level or Billy Blogger say on their mobile?  Sure, it’s probably a PR nightmare and an on-field disaster in the making but, seriously, they’ve won 73 and 74 games in each of the last 2 seasons and missed the playoffs 20 years running.  Would we even notice the difference?  We’re used to it.  Besides, it’s an opportunity to get some reasonable value out of this market rather than giving up your 2 top pitching prospects for Jeff Samardzija, and then hoping to make more trades to fill other needs with prospects you no longer have.

Wes Kepstro

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 24, 2013

A few tidbits including an absolutely massive AL East signing by a Blue Jays rival.

From MLBTR:

-The Yankees and Brian McCann have agreed to terms on a five-year, $85MM deal with a sixth-year vesting option, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The sixth year option could boost the value of the deal to $100MM, Rosenthal says, adding in a second tweet that the deal is simply pending a physical. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the contract includes a full no-trade clause. McCann is represented by B.B. Abbott.

As Rosenthal notes in his article on the deal, the average yearly salary McCann will receive, $17MM, is the highest ever given to a catcher in free agency. While Joe Mauer‘s average yearly rate of $24MM remains the record for catchers overall, the Twins have said that Mauer will transition to first base on a full-time basis beginning next season, meaning McCann is set to become the game’s highest-paid backstop.

QUICK TAKE: While I was pretty much resigned to the fact the top free agent catcher wasn’t coming to Toronto my initial reaction is disappointment.  McCann would have been a massive upgrade for the Blue Jays and the fact he joins an AL East rival is doubly hard to take.

-As the Red Sox survey their options for alternatives to free agent Jacoby Ellsbury, an interesting name has popped up on their radar.  The Red Sox are one of several teams who have made inquiries on Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, a major league source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

- Jhonny Peralta‘s asking price has been said to be significant, but to this point, reports have only indicated that he’s seeking “much more than $45MM.” Joel Sherman of the New York Post sheds some light on his demands, reporting that he’s seeking something in the four-year $56MM to five-year, $75MM range.

-The Angels and Cardinals have officially announced a trade that will send center fielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals in exchange for third baseman David Freese and right-hander Fernando Salas.

-The Blue Jays discussed a trade for Matt Kemp with the Dodgers at the GM meetings,reports Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Those discussions appear to have gone nowhere, but Davidi says they are indicative of a trend throughout MLB — teams are entertaining ideas of big trades (like the recent Prince Fielder / Ian Kinsler blockbuster) rather than diving into a free agent market that’s become increasingly expensive. Here are more notes from around the East divisions.

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 19, 2013

A few notable items from around the majors according to MLBTR:

-Josh Johnson has narrowed his decision down to three or four teams, agent Matt Sosnick tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Pirates are among the finalists. A deal could be done “in the short-term,” Sawchik adds, reminding that Johnson is seeking to rebuild his value on a one-year deal (Twitter links). Last night, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Johnson reached out to the Padres and Giants early in the offseason to inform the teams that they were his first choice.

Johnson, 30 in January, posted a bloated 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings. Sabermetric stats such as xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73) feel that Johnson was victim to some bad luck, and his .356 BABIP and 18.5 percent homer-to-flyball ratio would back that line of thinking up.

QUICK TAKE: Well what a bust for the Blue Jays.  They got absolutely zero value out of Josh Johnson.  I wouldn’t have offered him the qualifying offer but I really thought he would feel some obligation to give the Blue Jays at least one decent season.  My guess is he bounces back in San Diego in a much better league and ball park.

-The Red Sox have had “serious dialogue” with free agent oufielder Carlos Beltran, hears Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald (Twitter link).  Boston has been said to have interest in the veteran, but the Yankees, Orioles, Royals, Indians, and Mariners are also said to have interest.

QUICK TAKE: Beltran is a player I really wished the Blue Jays were able to sign two years ago however the turf at Rogers Centre played a factor apparently in his refusal to sign with Toronto.  I would still like him as a DH type but probably not for the money he will eventually settle for.

-The Orioles have some interest in free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd and have been monitoring his progress as he recovers from elbow surgery, industry sources tell Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

-Corey Hart told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter link) that his agent has talked with the Brewers, Red Sox, Rays, and Rockies amongst other interested teams.  Hart added that he won’t officially get 100% medical clearance until December 3rd when he visits his doctor in Los Angeles, but he’s fully healthy (link).

A Few Thoughts On Jose Bautista For Domonic Brown Rumours

Sometimes a rumor comes out of nowhere and surprises you a little bit.  When I read that the Blue Jays and Phillies were potentially discussing a Joey Bats for Dominic Brown trade (that has since been debunked) my initial thoughts were, “that’s all we could get?”.

Brown is a fine player, only 26 years old and coming off a breakout season where he swatted 27 HRs and slashed a respectable 272/324/494.  Over 139 games Brown had a .351 wOBA and was worth 1.6 WAR.  Pretty solid but I think the notion that he is about to become an ‘elite’ slugger are probably misplaced.

Bautista had another “off” year yet still slugged 28 HRs, slashes 259/358/498 and in only 118 games was worth 4.2 wins.  In other words Bautista is still a monster when factoring offense, defense, arm and positional diversity.  Brown offers little to no defense, can only play left field and isn’t an on-base machine.  Brown also has a pretty one-sided platoon split as he doesn’t hit lefties that well.

Basically, Bautista is still a monster under a reasonable contract and I think the Blue Jays could do  a lot better if they actually were to move him.

Dave Cameron made some great points in his piece today:

A common criticism of Jose Bautista’s future value is that he’s 33 and is trending the wrong way. Both of these statements are true. Over the last three years, Bautista’s wOBA has gone from .443 to .378 to .372, driven primarily by a significant reduction in power; his ISO actually declined for a fourth consecutive year, and has now gone from .357 to .309 to .286 to .239 since the start of the 2010 season. If you just extrapolate the line on its current path, Bautista begins to look much more like like an ordinary player over the next few years rather than the star he has been.

However, extrapolating trends into the future is often completely incorrect, because the reality is that performance often regresses back towards the average of a larger sample performance rather than continuing to move further and further away from a peak. Or, put another way, players who are labeled as “trending downwards” often have a very good performance in their recent history which should continue to inform our opinion of what they will do in the future.

Just like old players can have “fluke” seasons, so can young players, only when a young player has a fluke season, it’s usually called a breakout instead. Maybe Domonic Brown really did take huge sustainable steps forward last year, but history suggests that it’s probably more prudent to expect him to maintain or regress than it is to improve yet again. Just like Bautista shouldn’t be expected to linearly trend downwards, taking Brown’s 2013 performance and forecasting upwards from there is also a mistake.

As stated previously the Jose Bautista rumor season is just starting.  Stay tuned.

MLB Rumour Round Up – November 12, 2013

Here is the latest and greatest from MLBTR, including more action involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

-The Blue Jays‘ priority is improving the rotation, but they’re also keeping an eye out for help at second base and catcher, writes Heyman.  It’s no surprise to hear that they’re interested in Robinson Cano, but his price tag will probably prove to be too much since they need to direct their bucks towards starting pitching.

QUICK TAKE: Never say never but it would be a pretty big surprise if the Toronto Blue Jays actually landed one of the games best overall players.  Saying that the Jays roster has many Dominican connections and stranger things have happened.  If this occurred, WOW.

-With uncertainty over Alex Rodriguez and the future of Robinson Cano, theYankees have contacted free agent Kelly Johnsontweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Johnson has primarily played second base over the course of his career but he also offers experience at left field and saw some time at third base in 2013.

-It’s not a huge surprise, but teams are inquiring on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).  Whether they are willing to move him is another story.

-Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran are targets 1 and 1A for the Yankees, a person familiar with their thinking tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Fellow outfielderJacoby Ellsbury sits a hair behind the other two stars.

-Veteran infielder Mark DeRosa is set to retire this offseason, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter).  Toronto exercised their $750K option on the veteran late last month.  Toronto has confirmed the news via press release.

-The Astros are receiving significant interest in catcher Jason Castro, and interest could pick up once big free agents like Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia go off the board, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Their interest in trading Castro isn’t known, but Houston is said to like catching prospect Max Stassi very much.  Heyman sees the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Rockies, and Twins as teams that could possibly have interest if Castro is on the block.

AL East Rumour Round Up – November 8, 2013

This is the month that last year Alex Anthopoulos really reshaped the Toronto Blue Jays roster, and it was done pretty much out of the blue.  So expect the unexpected.  However at this time I am not seeing many free agent or trade rumours involving the Jays.  I read the Jays may have interest in Dan Haren, but nothing concrete in terms of an actual offer pending.

Here are a few making the rounds involving AL East teams, as per MLBTR:

-The Yankees are planning to make Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a “top priority” this winter and are considered the team to beat in bidding for the 25-year-old, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Writes Passan: “If re-signing Robinson Cano is priority No. 1 for the New York Yankees this offseason, securing the rights to Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka is No. 1a.”

QUICK TAKE: I am not convinced Tanaka will warrant Yu Darvish type money that is being rumoured as the starting point to win the posting.  He should be steady but I don’t think his strikeout numbers in the Japanese leagues have looked all that impressive.  I do not see the Jays being in this race.

-Free agent, right-handed starters Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are both looking for five-year deals, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The former hopes to earn a $100MM guarantee, while Nolasco is asking for $80MM, sources tell Rosenthal.

Of course, it is still early, and players’ agents are probably still feeling out how baseball’s revenue increases will translate to free agent dollars. The pair of durable thirty-year-olds, who were born within a day of each other, just put up respective 3.0 fWAR campaigns. For Santana, his 3.24 ERA over 211 innings for the Royals was a marked improvement on a terrible 2012. Throwing for the Marlins and Dodgers, Nolasco’s 3.70 ERA across 199 1/3 innings was his best since 2008. Santana is still weighing a qualifying offer, though there is little doubt he’ll reject it, while Nolasco was ineligible due to his mid-season trade.

QUICK TAKE: Wow.  $100 million for Ervin Santana?  #comeonman

-Multiple reports indicate that the Red Sox are interested in Carlos Beltran, though the extent of that interest is somewhat up in the air. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that Boston is “aggressively” pursuing Beltran but are receiving early competition from the Yankees and Orioles. Elsewhere, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweets that the Red Sox do indeed have interest in the eight-time All-Star, but a team source tells him they haven’t been very aggressive to this point.

-Barring a trade of Dempster or Peavy, WEI.com’s Alex Speier figures that the Red Sox will have just over $32MM to spend and still successfully avoid this year’s $189MM luxury tax threshold. That number, theorizes Speier, could be the reason that the Red Sox couldn’t afford to gamble on making qualifying offers to all three of Mike Napoli,Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Saltalmacchia, of course, was the odd man out and didn’t receive a qualifying offer.

-There has been no recent movement in negotiations between the Yankees’ front office and Cano’s representatives, reports Dan Martin of the New York Post (hat tip to Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues). Martin also explains that Cano has yet to get a read on what other teams might be willing to pay.

-If the Yanks lose Hiroki Kuroda and/or fail to land Masahiro Tanaka, power pitchers could make up the backup plan, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote yesterday. Sherman notes Josh Johnson and Dan Haren as possibilities, while his Post colleagueGeorge A. King III says that the club could be in on Ubaldo Jimenez.

Say, What About Mark Ellis?

Ha, Mark Ellis’ 2014 option was just declined by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the vultures are circling. No, he’s not dead, career-wise or otherwise. At least not yet, anyways. The vultures are limited to this particular blogger here at AL Eastbound. Now is the highpoint of the Toronto Blue Jays 2013 season: it’s the time between an incredibly disappointing campaign and new acquisitions. Let the speculation begin.

The Sitch-ee-ay-shun

The Jays’ best 2B of the last 15 years were Aaron Hill and Orlando Hudson. Hill was on the plus side of steady defensively; Hudson was very good. He had more range than Kate Smith. Hill was very good offensively when he wasn’t battling the after-effects of concussions; Hudson was a plus player offensively.

Second base was a significant problem for the Jays in 2013. Emilio Bonifacio stunk it up, then was traded to the Royals for a Tim’s card and an old one-piece Sherwood. Maicer Izturis was the lowest ranking utility player in all of Major League Baseball. Ryan Goins provided a glimmer of hope but small sample cautions apply here. Also, the free agent market for 2B isn’t exactly pulse-quickening after Robinson Cano and his $300MM dream is crossed off the list.

The Cons

Mark Ellis is a proney. Steamer projects 146 G for Mark Ellis in 2014 but that’s a pipe dream: he’s played 150 games or more only twice in his career, but not since 2007. A strained right quadriceps, a groin problem, and a ‘leg injury’ slowed Ellis down in 2013. Leg injuries aren’t good no matter what position you play, but they’re especially problematic for middle infielders, catchers, and pitchers. He missed 43 games in 2012 with a left leg injury.

Do the Jays need another regular DL candidate? Probably not. Imagine the frustration in the front office, the dugout, and the seats at The Rog if both Ellis and Jose Reyes were both on the DL at the same time, for an extended period of time. Ugh.

Second, he’s 36 years old. He’ll be 37 on the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on the beach in Normandy on D-Day (June 6). His injury problems aren’t likely to get better (146 G, Steamer? Seriously?), but his offense, defense, or base running won’t either. Every aspect of his game will continue to circle the bowl because he’s several years beyond his career peak.

His decline relates directly to this one, salient fact: Mark Ellis is old, as far as most professional sports are concerned. I don’t think he’s old. Mark DeRosa, Mark Buehrle and RA Dickey wouldn’t think he was old. But my kids would.

The Pros

He’s not what he used to be, but he’s still a very good defender. Fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1443&position=2B) rates him as a plus defender every year of his career, and his last 3 seasons have checked in at 12.6, 7.0, and 7.4 runs above average. Good defenders are multi-faceted: good positioning, understanding hitters, understanding the pitcher, good athletic ability, understanding the game, and so on. As they age, they rely on some of these factors more than others, of course, as physical skills dissipate. Good, smart defenders are hard to find.

Baseball-Reference, in their defensive metrics, tells me that Mark Ellis has averaged about 1.5 WAR per season on defense alone. C’mon, Wes, you’d say. Don’t try to pull that stuff over my eyes; it’s just an average drawn from a long career. You’re right, I’d say. But then I’d tell you that his defensive value isn’t skewed toward his younger/peak years. He was a 4.5 WAR player on defense mid-career (28-30 years old); he’s been a 4.3 WAR player on defense for the last 3 seasons (34-36 years old). He’s been a consistently strong defender for his entire career.

On offense, I’m going to bring a passage by Dave Cameron to your attention:

Ellis is renowned mostly for his glove work at second base, and he carved out a nice career for himself as an underrated defender on some good teams. However, over the last month, Ellis’ bat has been one of the primary reasons the Dodgers offense has clicked. In that span, he’s hit .347/.390/.507, putting up a 154 wRC+ that is second among Dodgers regulars behind Mr. Puig. And despite Ellis’ reputation, he’s actually never really been the glove-only player that his reputation suggested.

For the season, Ellis has a wRC+ of 99. Last year, it was 98. For his career, it’s 96. Mark Ellis has been an average hitter for most of his career. Like everyone else, he has ups (135 wRC+ in 2005) and his downs (67 in 2011), but overall, he’s usually ended up right back around average. Like pretty much all of his teammates this year, he was lousy early in the season but has been pretty great lately, and getting quality offensive production from a second baseman can go a long ways towards beating your opponents.

Because Ellis’ production mostly comes through a barrage of singles, he can be easy to overlook, but in the last month, no second baseman in baseball has been more productive at the plate. With Matt Kemp on the DL and Adrian Gonzalez struggling, it’s tempting to think that Puig and Ramirez are carrying the offense, but relative to his position, Ellis has actually been the team’s best hitter.

This is the player he was in mid-2013. Not 2003, 2007 or 2009, but 2013. He won’t be mistaken for Robinson Cano, but for a month—whether we agree with Dave Cameron’s assessment or not—Mark Ellis was perhaps the most valuable offensive contributor on the hottest team in baseball. And Cameron was almost right: Ellis was only a notch below average (91 wRC+).

It’s almost a footnote, but I find a comment made in Mark Ellis’ scouting report at www.tsn.ca to be intriguing. They assess Ellis’ offense as follows: “Is very good at moving runners ahead of him, and generally doing the little things.” His offense is in decline and has been for years but he handles the bat well, moves runners along, sacrifices, and makes productive outs. When was the last time this could be said about a Toronto Blue Jay?

Another significant positive is that Mark Ellis is presently unattached: for no more than money (i.e. no draft pick compensation, no prospects, no roster players), Ellis could be a Blue Jay. I don’t know if that makes him the MLB equivalent of a gigolo, but that’s free agency for you. The Los Angeles Dodgers paid him $1 million to play for someone else next season.  And he’s still good enough to play for someone else next season.

The Round-Up

Alright, we don’t want to flog this one too much. There are other players being considered who have their own pros and cons (e.g. Gordon Beckham, Brandon Phillips), but we didn’t want to just gloss over the possibility of Mark Ellis at 2B for the Toronto Blue Jays. Would he look good in blue? A mentor for Ryan Goins, perhaps? Very interesting. Very interesting, indeed.

Wes Kepstro

Blue Jays Interested in Light Hitting 2B Gordon Beckham?

Let the fun and games begin.  As we near the beginning of the always interesting offseason I am sure there will be a ton of rumours and notes about various free agent and trade targets.  We will try our best to keep up with them.

As per MLBTR:

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is no stranger to the trade market. Early reports have already pegged Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta as potential trade targets for Toronto, and nowScott Merkin and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com report that the Jays are targeting White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham as well.

Beckham, 27, hit .267/.322/.372 with a career-low five homers in a career-low 103 games this season. A broken hamate bone in his right hand cost him nearly two months of the 2013 campaign, which could have something to do with the decline in home runs. However, Beckham has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him after being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft, slashing just .249/.314/.380 in 2,217 big league plate appearances.

Beckham is eligible for arbitration for the second time this offseason, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a raise from $2.9MM to $3.5MM. He is under team control through the 2015 season.

The article they reference also included a quick tidbit on the possibility of dealing Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez.  Unless the entire franchise is coming back for Stroman or Sanchez I do not see a fit with the White Sox at all.  They do not have anything of interest in my opinion.

Gordon Beckham is terrible, and not young.  He owns a career .308 wOBA, 86 wRC+ and has slashed a paltry 249/313/380 in 2217 PAs.  Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos is letting it be known that he is willing to go all-in and deal his last remaining pitching prospects to continue his attempt at building a contender that can win now.  Or perhaps this is just unfounded rumour and speculation that is rampant at this time of year.

Mission ’13: Jays Interested in Angels’ Catchers

Per mlbtraderumors.com:

Catcher is known to be a priority for the Blue Jays this offseason, and Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports that the team is interested in Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger of the Angels. According to Elliott, the Blue Jays have already begun their efforts to acquire one of Anaheim’s backstops.

As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk noted in analyzing the Blue Jays’ upcoming offseason, the team is set at most offensive positions with the exception of catcher and second base. Mark noted that while incumbent J.P. Arencibia may not be non-tendered, his days as the team’s starter are likely over. Toronto’s desire to acquire one of the Angels’ catchers and their interest in Washington’s Wilson Ramos seem to support that line of thinking.

Iannetta, who turns 31 next April, might at first appear to be similar to Arencibia given his low batting averages and escalating strikeout rate (25.1 percent in 2013). However, Iannetta has always been adept at drawing a walk. In fact, he drew nearly as many walks in 399 plate appearances in 2013 (68) as Arencibia has in his entire career (74). Overall, Iannetta batted .225/.358/.372 for the Halos in the first season of a three-year, $15.5MM extension. He’ll earn $4.975MM in 2014 and $5.525MM in 2015. In each of those seasons, his contract calls for an additional $100K bonus for starting 90 games at catcher and $125K when he reaches each of 100, 110, 115, 120 and 125 starts behind the dish.

The switch-hitting Conger batted .249/.310/.403 in 2013. He’ll turn just 26 years old in January and won’t be eligible for arbitration until next offseason. Originally selected by the Angels with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Conger has never gotten a full season’s worth of at-bats with the Halos despite a robust .298/.371/.470 slash line in 854 career plate appearances at Triple-A.

As we saw last offseason, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has no problem dealing young talent to fill holes on his big league roster. Though the Blue Jays’ farm system was depleted after acquiring R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson in trades, the team still has plenty of minor league pitchers that would pique the Angels’ interest. According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, the Blue Jays’ top six prospects are all pitchers, though a top prospect along the lines of Aaron Sanchez would seem far too steep a price for either of the catchers in question.

If the Blue Jays really want to get aggressive, they could look to structure a deal that would land one of Iannetta or Conger as well as second baseman Howie Kendrick, who is known to be available. While that scenario is purely my speculation, such a trade would address both of the major holes highlighted in Polishuk’s outlook. The Blue Jays own two of the first 11 picks in next year’s draft, so they would have ample opportunity to add high-end talent to their farm system following another aggressive winter on the trade market.

Okay, a few bits of house cleaning regarding this latest rumour. First, CAN WE STOP LOOKING AT LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM CATCHERS PLEASE. Napoli, Mathis, and now Iannetta and Conger? There are 28 other teams in Major League Baseball: feel free to consider them occasionally.

Second, yes Aaron Sanchez is too steep of a price unless you’re throwing in 2B Kendrick and OF Bourjos with either of those humps.

Third, yes Iannetta drew a bunch of walks but he still can’t hit. Moving to The Rog may boost his offense but I hope the ship has sailed on poor-hitting catchers in Toronto.

That said, we all know how important defense and staff handling are for catchers. Fangraphs has him as a negative hitter for his career. He struck out 160 times in his last 652 PAs. He’s a plus defensive catcher albeit a weak plus defender lately. He’ll be 31 in early April and he’s never caught a knuckle ball. I have very little about ‘staff handling’ to pass on to you.

Fourth, Iannetta’s not terribly durable. He’s exceeded 100 games 3 times (’13, ’11, ’08) in a career that began in 2006.

Fifth, is Iannetta really a $5MM catcher? Really?

Sixth, does anyone consider “.298/.371/.470 slash line in 854 career plate appearances” with Salt Lake in the PCL to be “robust”? JP Arencibia was a .267/.320/.530 hitter in AAA, including a .301/.359/.626 line as the PCL MVP in 2010. Perhaps Conger’s .225/.295/.368 with 107 K in 457 AB at the ML level is indicative.

Finally, www.tsn.ca says it all in their scouting report about Chris Iannetta. They tell us that he calls a good game behind the dish but, wait, it gets better.  And I quote: “Can be all-or-nothing at the dish: takes a huge cut when he swings and strikes out too much. Has holes in his swing (and would benefit by shortening it up)”, “Inconsistent catcher with power”, and “Needs work on throwing runners out”. This sounds awfully familiar…

Frankly I prefer the Wilson Ramos rumour myself.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Pitching: What Went Wrong? Can It Be Fixed?

Yesterday’s post about former Jays in the playoffs arose as an extension of that with which I was wrestling: the Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching staff. It seems as if the universal opinion is that if the Jays don’t improve significantly on the mound, 2014 will be similar to 2013.

Since the acquisitions made in the offseason between 2012 and 2013 used up a lot of the Jays’ resources, the obvious question is ‘how can the Jays afford to make a high-quality pitcher (or two)?’ There’s no easy answer to that question. A better question is ‘what sort of pitcher do the Jays need?’ Now we’re talking.

I compiled a basic table of the Toronto Blue Jays’ pitchers. Then I realized that, even with the criteria I imposed, the list was still pretty unwieldy. It was unwieldy enough that I think we’re into 2 post territory. So, since every game begins this way let’s start with the starters.

SP

GS

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

Buehrle

33

4.15

4.10

4.09

2.5

Dickey

34

4.21

4.58

4.23

2.0

Happ

18

4.56

4.31

4.82

1.2

Redmond

14

4.32

4.40

4.16

0.8

Johnson

16

6.20

4.62

3.58

0.5

Rogers

20

4.77

4.73

4.06

0.3

Morrow

10

5.63

5.42

4.49

-0.1

Wang

6

7.67

5.42

4.07

-0.1

Fangraphs gave this info away with free toilet paper samples at: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=14&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

Let’s make some preliminary comments and observations about the info in the table:

  • Only pitchers with at least 5 starts are included;
  • We didn’t separate Esmil Rogers’ and Todd Redmond’s starter/reliever splits;
  • Only 3 SP surpassed 100 IP: Buehrle (203.2), Dickey (224.2), and Rogers (137.2);
  • Injuries played a major role again as several of these guys (Redmond, Rogers, Wang) and others who didn’t make the cut (Ortiz, Nolin, Laffey, Romero, Jenkins), weren’t really even on the radar when the 2013 season began;
  • Home runs were a problem, as Buehrle (10.6), Dickey (12.7), Redmond (11.8), Johnson (18.5), Morrow (15.6), and Wang (20.8) all had double digit HR/FB rates;
  • these starters gave up 135 HR in 898.1 IP (1.35 HR/9); and
  • The cumulative fWAR of SP with 5 or more starts in 2013 was 7.1.

So, what went wrong? ‘Injuries and ineffectiveness’ is the short-and-easy answer. The same problem the Jays faced in 2012, and every team seemed to face in 2013—injuries—ensured that Toronto would scramble, having to start guys like Wang, Ortiz, Laffey and the like. It’s obviously not ideal, but it did expose a weakness in the Jays’ organizational strategy: quality depth. The same weakness was exposed in 2012.

The flip side of the coin, ineffectiveness, is a little harder to nail down since it’s so broad. Throwing a bunch of guys together and saying, ‘go out and win the AL East/pennant/World Series’ is tough to do, especially when everyone else is trying to do the same things. But that’s the rub. BOS finished last in the AL East in 2012 and are serious World Series contenders in 2013, on the basis of several key additions. They didn’t sign high-priced talent; they signed middle class (and lower) talent. And they’re winning. Now, with a season together under their belt, there are fewer excuses for poor play in TOR.

Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. For the purpose of seeing what we have I’ll split the staff into 4 different groups: Keepers, Swingmen, Goner(s), and Status Unclear. As such, I will do some review and then offer an opinion as to what I think should happen with these guys.

Keepers

  1. Mark Buehrle
    • he pitched as advertised, eating a lot of innings, keeping them in games, competing hard, and offering a strong veteran presence;
    • his career numbers (3.84 ERA/4.14 FIP/4.21 xFIP) lined up nicely with his 2013 effort (4.15/4.10/4.09);
    • his contract isn’t pretty but it’s not my money, so I don’t care;
    • I believe that he should be the #4 starter in 2014;
  1. RA Dickey
    • He wasn’t as advertised, and injuries played a smallish role;
    • April/May were dismal, but there was significant improvement from June-September;
    • home runs (35) were a key problem;
    • I believe that he’s a good candidate for improvement in 2014;
    • I believe he should be the #2 starter in 2014;
  1. Brandon Morrow
    • Injuries prevented Jays’ fans from being exposed to too much radiation, as Morrow only managed 10 GS/54.1 IP;
    • he was no better than Chien-ming Wang when he did start;
    • a nerve problem is the significant factor here: he won’t throw a ball until mid-October and until then, the Jays won’t know a thing about his status;
    • Likely rotation spot: unknown.

Swingmen

  1. JA Happ
    • a freak injury played havoc with Happ’s season;
    • before the injury, Happ was a model of inconsistency; after the injury, Happ was a model of inconsistency;
    • they’ve monkeyed with his arm slot/delivery, and he likes it (sub-3.00 ERA in Sept)), which means he’ll probably be a strong candidate for the #5 spot;
    • I don’t think that his career shows enough consistency or that he’s an innings eater for the back end of the rotation;
    • because of that, I’d like to see him as a long man out of the ‘pen;
  1. Todd Redmond
    • I was suitably impressed with Redmond: with a little more control over the HR, I would have been very impressed;
    • as a back-end-of-the-rotation guy who’s a fly ball pitcher we expect HR (13 in 77 IP), but his K-rate (8.88/9) and BB-rate (2.69/9) were good;
    • I’d like to see him as a RHP long man out of the ‘pen;
  1. Esmil Rogers
    • at times Esmil showed flashes of brilliance, while at other times he was awful;
    • he’s a sinker baller who doesn’t miss enough bats (9.94 H/9), or pound the strike zone enough (6.28 K/9; 2.88 BB/9) in a rotation with Dickey and Buehrle;
    • I’d like to see him compete with Redmond to be the RHP long man out of the ‘pen.

Goner(s)

  1. Chien-ming Wang
    • He’s the only starter in this category: his first 2 starts were acceptable (even surprising), but his other 4 starts were terrible;
    • his career stalled when he was injured several years ago, but there’s no Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon, hidden gem here—he’s more like Jason Marquis;
    • if he’s willing, then sign him to a minor league deal for depth; other than that, his value is negligible.

Status Unclear

  1. Josh Johnson
    • Johnson’s intriguing case has been discussed here at AL Eastbound and elsewhere: as a free agent on the heels of a terrible year, what should the Jays do?
    • His year was so poor that a qualifying offer would be financially suicidal: ~$14MM could be better spent elsewhere, since it’s highly unlikely that another team would sign him and forfeit a draft pick;
    • injuries were a factor—again—but Dr. James Andrews performed surgery and was clear that the problem (1) was fixed, and (2) contributed to his struggles;
    • his agent mentioned that he has ‘unfinished business’ in TOR and that a 1-year deal loaded with incentives would be about right;
    • if that’s what he wants, I say sign him and make him the #5 starter and DO IT QUICKLY: he’s an excellent bounce-back candidate (3.58 xFIP);
    • he’s 29, has something to prove, likes TOR and John Gibbons, and is immensely talented (when he’s not of the DL): the likelihood that they will find a better candidate at that price to be a #5 is slim:
      • consider the LAA acquiring Joe Blanton to be their #5 starter for 2 years/$15MM plus an option for 2015;
      • using fWAR Johnson ranked 130th in MLB; Blanton ranked #142;
      • Johnson’s xFIP was 3.58, while Blanton’s was 3.84;
      • I think Johnson is a better candidate to bounce back than Blanton: based on several considerations I believe Johnson is (much) more likely to produce a 2.5-3 fWAR season;
      • 2.5-3 fWAR likely means there would be ample surplus value, which is something the Jays need, to an incentive-laden, 1-year deal.

The most notable exclusions from the analysis are Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison. These 3, along with swingmen JA Happ, Esmil Rogers, and Todd Redmond offer admirable depth if another higher-end starter is in the crosshairs.

A rotation including Dickey, Buehrle, and Johnson as the #2, 4 and 5 starters is appealing, since 2 are bounce-back candidates and Buehrle is rock-steady. They don’t need to acquire a true ace; another #2 would do nicely.

Acquiring this #2 starter is the challenge. There aren’t many #2 level starters available via free agency but an intriguing option could be 24-year old Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. He’s more of a control pitcher than Yu Darvish (his BB/9 rate is very low), but the key question is whether his skills translate well into MLB.

There are several potential targets, including Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, and Ervin Santana. The only MLB-related name specifically linked to the Jays so far has been Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo’s an innings-eater (200+ IP 8 times in 9 years; the other year, 2011, he reached 199 IP) who’s been very healthy (32+ starts every year since ’04). Is he a good fit for the AL East/Rogers Centre? Do the Jays need another back-end-of-the-rotation starter? Is Arroyo simply a right-handed Mark Buehrle? Is that a bad thing? Would Ubaldo and Arroyo, in concert with several bounce-back campaigns, help the Jays make up the 18 games between a 74-88 also-ran and a 92-70 wild card team?

Two blockbuster trades and a couple free agent signings were sabotaged by injuries and ineffectiveness, limiting the Jays to a one-win improvement in 2013 over 2012. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Wes Kepstro


AL Eastbound On Twitter!

  • Wow what a great attempt to throw out BJ Upton by Yasiel Puig. #cannon 22 hours ago
  • Ok just say it Buck. "Brock Holt just looks like a baseball player". 23 hours ago
  • Does anyone know if these Blue Jays WestJet commercials use WestJet employees instead of actors? Might take them from awful to only bad. 23 hours ago
  • I really picked the wrong team to blog about. The #BlueJays are very well represented in this area. I wonder if Colorado have any fans... 23 hours ago
  • If this was PS4 baseball I'd have the #BlueJays add Adrian Beltre, Andrew Miller, David Price and Colin McHugh. Right? 23 hours ago

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers