Monday, November 19, 2012

Jays Can't Be Satisfied

The Blue Jays have kick started their team with a strong opening to their offseason, but I feel the remaining moves they make will determine just how successful the team will be in 2013.

Today, the team announced the twelve player blockbuster that will bring SS Jose Reyes, SP Josh Johnson, SP Mark Buehrle, IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, and cash considerations north of the border. Also, they made official the signing of maligned OF Melky Cabrera to a two year contract that will pay him eight million per year.

The quick movement of Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who also signed the underrated Maicer Izturis away from the Angels, has certainly boosted the clubs chances to compete next year. Depending on what some of their rivals in the American League can accomplish before the season begins, the Jays might be looking at a 90 win season even if they put their feet up for the offseason.

This is where the sledding gets tough though. Baseball people always say it is easy to get your team to 80 or so wins, but it is the next ten or fifteen W's that will test your ability to assemble a team that will assure themselves an opportunity to compete for and in the playoffs.

While the financial commitment Rogers has already made to their baseball team shows how committed they are to winning in the coming years they may be doing themselves a disservice by stopping now. I feel like there are some opportunities out there still that could benefit a team like Toronto and I know Anthopoulos will be searching high and low for the right opportunities. 

There are still some big ticket free agent pitchers that could be fit into the rotation such as Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, or Anibal Sanchez. These pitchers are guys that might not have made sense on the team as soon as two weeks ago, but now they may be just what it takes to push the squad over the top. 

SP Brandon McCarthy would be a smart addition to the back end of the rotation that would ensure a strong six starters for the Jays. He has been an effective starter, but his scary injury last year and injury riddled history would allow for the Jays to sign him to a reasonable deal. 

McCarthy's teammate last year with the surprising Athletics, OF Jonny Gomes would make a perfect platoon partner with current 1B/DH Adam Lind, who has proven that he struggles to hit left-handed pitching. Gomes has crushed lefties in the last three years to the tune of a .903 OPS. 

All of the options I have listed are currently free agents, but the team still has enough prospect capital remaining to complete trades for some high calibre major league players. For example, the Jays could potentially form a package of players (or include a third team) to satisfy the Arizona Diamondbacks to part with Justin Upton. He could fit right into RF and the Jays could move Jose Bautista to first base. 

Anyway the point of this article wasn't to list off players that I would like to see on the team next year, but rather to express that the front office still has work to do. A lot of fans are pleased to see the direction the team has gone, but if you are going to make a financial commitment to win then it might just make sense to go all the way and improve your odds that much more by adding those projected wins where you can. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bautista: Then and Now

I was searching for the sneak preview of the Jays' new  uniforms and I decided to click on the 'Jose Bautista' tag under another video. I decided to go back and look at a few of his Pirates highlights and really noticed the change in his swing mechanics.

I thought I would put up the video of Bautista's first homer as a Jay of what would be many more to come. Who knew that he would become such a monster in the future.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Potential Trade Targets

Buy low and sell high is something you often hear thrown around in fantasy sports, but Alex Anthopoulos has used this technique in his trades since taking over as GM.

He bought low on Brandon Morrow by moving Brandon League and OF Johermyn Chavez after they both had strong seasons. He bought low on Yunel Escobar with an aging shortstop who had an outstanding 1/2 season (Alex Gonzalez). In his best move yet, he moved OF Vernon Wells after a strong bounce back season in January.

Most buy low situations come up in the trade market, but Anthopoulos has also bought low on the free agent market with players like John Buck.

With the MLB trade deadline coming up I thought I would take a look at a few players who could be targets for Anthopoulos to ask about. There is one player in particular that I think could be a good player to go after.

SS Hanley Ramirez
This is a player who is in the line of the Yunel Escobar type. He is an outstanding talent with a track record of success in the past. The Dominican infielder is in a down year by his standards and is not on the best of terms with his front office and fan base. At just 27 years old I think he could be bought for a high price, albeit not the price it would have taken in previous years. Ramirez is currently playing short, but could potentially play second for the Jays in the event that Aaron Hill is not brought back.

CF Colby Rasmus
This is a player that every Jays fan has heard and dreamed about playing for the team. Rasmus is on shaky grounds with the upper management and field management at the moment and it is fair to say that he is not living up to the hype that was created as he was coming up through the Cardinals system. Last year he had a breakout campaign with a .859 OPS and solid defence in CF. The 24 year old is struggling a bit this year with a .742 OPS.

RP Joakim Soria
The Royals closer has had a bit of a rough year (by his standards) with an ERA above four and a reduced K/9 IP. At just 27 years old you would think he would be in the prime of his career and could be had for prospects.

SP Edinson Volquez
Volquez had a great year in 2008, as a 24 year old after being traded for Josh Hamilton, but has failed to replicate that success in recent seasons. He has maintained the strong strikeout rates, but has given up more base runners. A lot of the base runners come via the base on balls and that is something that has been pretty consistent in the last three seasons. If the Jays could get Volquez into their system and work with him they may be able to find success.

These are just a few names that popped into my head when I thought of underachieving talents.
Obviously you have to give up something to get something and some of these teams are still in contention for 2011, but if the right deal can be made for both teams Toronto could benefit both short and long term.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Arencibia Needs More Time

No, he doesn't need more time in the minors, but he needs more time behind the dish and at the plate in the majors.

J.P. was on a path to become the Jays main catcher for the 2010 season, but had a rough season in AAA Las Vegas in 2009. The Jays went out and signed John Buck and Jose Molina to catch last year and the tandem ended up overachieving expectations, particularly offensively.

Meanwhile in the minors, Arencibia began tearing up the Pacific Coast League. At age 24, repeating AAA, he produced a .301/.359/.626 slash line with 36 doubles, 32 homers, and a minor league career high 38 base on balls. Scouting reports always painted Arencibia as an "offensive-oriented catcher" which is a tough reputation to break. In 2010, it was reported that his offense began to shine while catching and calling a strong defensive game behind the plate.

With the offseason departure of John Buck the Jays were seemingly on the lookout for a starting catcher for 2011. Arencibia, even though he had a great ML debut, had a tough time hitting big league pitching (albeit in sparse opportunities). There were mentions of Russel Martin, A.J. Pierzynski, and even Rod Barajas as possible catchers and mentors for the young starters.

These options really confused me, especially after the Jays picked up the option on career backup, Jose Molina. Arencibia was a young catcher who needed to cut his teeth in the Show and Toronto was a perfect place for that to happen. The Jays, admittedly, are a team on the upswing and they could afford to have patience with a young backstop.

Along with new manager John Farrell, the Jays brought in a few new members of the coaching staff including bench manager Don Wakamatsu who had experience teaching the catching position. Wakamatsu was drafted in 1985 and played 12 seasons in minor league baseball (with a cup of coffee in the bigs) and is known for his great work with Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Arencibia has said that he feels much better while he is catching and he looks like it too. He has a strong arm and is getting better at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt.

During Spring Training, Farrell said that he felt that catcher was a "two-man position." This meant that Arencibia would catch Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Jesse Litsch. Molina caught the others (Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo- Reyes) because of his success with Brandon Morrow a year earlier. Farrell, as a former big league pitcher, must believe in the idea of a pitcher-catcher "battery" because he held steady to that idea only once DH'ing J.P. on an "off-day." I am sure that John Buck could have caught Morrow just as successfully last year and I am also sure that Arencibia would be fine with catching Drabek and Reyes. The whole idea of a personal catcher just doesn't make sense to me.

That being said, Molina still is a useful backup, but he is just that. He is one of the worst hitters on the team and is getting time for no reason other than to follow the guidelines that were set out during the spring.

Arencibia, with the recent changes to the starting rotation should be given the chance to catch every starter (while being given acceptables off -days) becuase he is capable of being the future at the position. He is really only one of a few Blue Jays that are hitting above expectations at the moment (.289/.360/.622) and is sitting out games unnecessarily, in my opinion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is Milledge a Fit in Toronto?

Alex Anthopoulos is known to acquire players who were once highly touted prospects even if their stock has dropped significantly.

He added players like Brandon Morrow, Yunel Escobar, Fred Lewis, John Buck etc. when they were already being viewed as players who were unable to live up to the hype that was laid upon them. These players were able to provide different levels of success for the Jays major league club in the 2009 season.

In fantasy baseball you might call these guys the "post-hype" sleepers, due to their widely perceived lack of value. Often times these players either haven't been given proper time, been mishandled, or have simply underperformed the lofty expectations that were heaped upon them while they were coming through their respective systems.

Fans and front offices alike are often unable to look past what these players can do well and gradually grow tired of expectations unmet that were maybe unrealistic in the first place.

Morrow is obviously the poster boy of what I am talking about, and if A.A. is able to search out a few more success stories he will be able to get useful players with the potential to be a lot better.

With all of that said, I was looking for a few of these types myself and I came across Lastings Milledge, who was once drafted 12th overall by the New York Mets out of a Florida high school. Milledge is still just 25 years old and has already played in three different organizations. In 2006, he was rated the 9th best prospect in the minors by Baseball America.

While he hasn't lived up to his billing as a perennial all-star outfielder, he has been able to consistently get playing time in both right and left (as well as center while he was in Washington), albeit on some awful teams. Those teams were likely playing him in the hopes of rekindling some of the talent that evaluators saw in him previously.

I am not sure if this move would work out as well as some others, especially with the arrival of Rajai Davis, but Milledge has shown the ability to hit lefties which the Blue Jays sorely lacked last year. With tough left-handers in the AL East such as David Price and Jon Lester (and maybe Cliff Lee) the Jays could use someone like him if for nothing other than a fourth outfielder.

Last year he hit lefties very well (.320/.414/.512, all of his four homers, and a 19/16 strikeout to walk ratio) and has throughout his major league career. He is a flawed player in many areas (baserunning, defensive fundamentals), but if you can look at what he does well then you can see the player that he is and not the player many thought he could be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Drabek Debut?

Kyle Drabek is one of the more hyped pitching prospects to come from the Toronto system for quite some time and he may be in line for his major league debut. Double-A New Hampshire was eliminated in game three of the best of five series on Friday night after Drabek, as well as teammate Zach Stewart, pitched great, but received no run support.

In 2010, Drabek threw 162.0 innings as well as six innings in game one of the playoffs for a total of 168 innings. This came after he threw 158 in 2009 while spanning two levels of the Philadelphia phillies system. According to Alex Anthopoulos' plan with Brandon Morrow of 20% increases per season, Drabek still has some pitches in that gifted right arm.

Stewart is just past an added 20 per cent from his previous season and is being adjusted to a full-time starter so I wouldn't expect a call-up for him, but Drabek has around 28 innings remaining to reach 190 innings. The remaining innings could fit nicely into the remaining schedule for the Jays.

With 21 games remaining for the Jays he could get three or more starts if he were to be called to the bigs. On regular rest he could start the first game in the upcoming series opener at Baltimore on Monday (and that game is actually on all Sportsnet channels!).

I am not really sure if the audition would have any impact on Drabek's chances of breaking camp with the team next year, but it would be a nice reward for a pitcher who has pitched great at Double-A.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Romero is Squeezed

Come on, Dan Bellino

Ricky Romero was sent out for the start of the eighth inning with a high pitch count where he faced Johnny Damon to begin the inning. There were times throughout the day where Romero was visibly frustrated by the strike zone and Gameday backed up his point.

He tried his best and eventually did a good job to control his emotions towards the umpire, but the inconsistent strike zone may have cost him and his team the game because he eventually was forced out of the game after a 5-pitch walk.

Shawn Camp came in and could not strand the runner. Romero has had a frustrating year when it comes to great pitching performances in losses and no decisions.

Ususally it is his teammates that let him down, but his defence beind him played very well even though they could not score him many runs. Today it was the man behind the plate that didn't do his job. Robot umpires anyone?