Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Not Greinke in Toronto?

One deal AA should explore is the possibility of getting Zack Greinke from KC. Greinke has made no bones about his dissatisfaction with the organization and his team’s inability to score runs for him. How could he not be? He pitched 220 innings, was 10-14, has a nearly 4-1 strikeout to walk ratio and an ERA just over 4.0. Brett Cecil was 15-7 with similar numbers in just 172 innings pitched!

The Royals have got to be thinking they can’t support such comments and might be eager to move him. He’s a #1 pitcher with a bad record because he’s on a bad team. More importantly, the Royals are 2-4 years from having a competitive team and believe me with the plethora of higher level minor league talent on the way they will get there. But without his head in the right place, Greinke's willingness to stay in KC and be part of those winning teams is unlikely.

With the Jays offense he could easily be a 20 game winner. He would likely have won 17-18 games with this year's team and could have helped the Jays push toward 90 wins. Now that would have been an exciting prospect to imagine, playing equal to Boston and pushing Tampa and NY for the Division Crown.

With a constant need for starting pitching, why wouldn't the Royals consider a deal where we would send say Marcum, Zep, and a young pitching prospect for Greinke. We exchange a true #1 starter for a another #1 starter who has shown the leadership qualities you expect from your top starting pitcher - going deep into games, winning after team losses, etc. One thing we do have in the Jays organization is pitching depth. Pehaps it's time to take advantage of this opportunity. It is a win-win where KC moves their development curve along perhaps a year or two and we exchange one #1 starter for another who has already won a Cy Young.

Now imaging Greinke, Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek as a starting 5 and you have a rotation to rival Tampa’s. All of the starters would be capable of winning 15-20 games and would scare any team including Boston, Tampa, NY. I don’t know of any team other than perhaps Tampa and Atlanta that has the pitching depth to offer such a package. This is one of those “under the radar” deals like the Escobar deal, that nobody would see coming and might not be available under other circumstances.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Losing Hoffpauir a Calculated Move

The Jays placed Jarrett Hoffpauir on waivers to try and create some roster flexibility and lost him to San Diego Padres. It was a calculated move on AA's part but one that won't cause much hardship or give AA any heartburn. Why? Because the Jays have a similar player in Brad Emaus already on the roster who is capable of playing both 2B and 3B, has some power, and just above average defense.

Though Hoffpauir had slightly better stats at AAA, he had 2 auditions with the Jays this year and didn't distinguish himself in either. Granted the sample size is small, but obviously the Jays saw enough to decide it would be a minor loss if claimed on waivers. Remember also, that Emaus has had strong spring training performances the last couple of years so after a solid year at Las Vegas, they may be setting him up for a possible audition at 2B if they decide to leave Bautista in RF and move Aaron Hill to 3B as he offered to do.

Though not flashy or dramatic, Emaus is a solid player hitting .298 with 10 homers and an OBP of .395. If you extrapolate his numbers for at bats (Emaus had 40% fewer than Hoffpauir) then the homer and RBI totals are almost identical. The Jays simply didn't need to protect two players of the same type on the roster though they'd have kept Hoffpauir around as insurance in the minors if he had slipped through waivers. Barring an offseason infield moves, Emaus could be competing for the second base job in the spring with Hill playing third.

I don't think anyone including AA thinks this is the ideal solution so I expect some offseason activity, but this is likely the fall back situation the team has in mind.

How Anthopoulos Will Select a Manager

The Jays have a team that is young, inexperienced and likely to get younger as guys like Drabek and Arencibia become a permanent part of the roster. It would seem appropriate that AA would select a manager who can not only relate to the young guys, but could also grow into the job as this team matures and realizes its potential. Someone like Wallach or Sandberg, two highly rated and seasoned triple A managers with some success behind them could be just what the Jays need to mould a young group into a team that realizes it has the talent to compete with the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. Alternatively, they will pick Butterfield or an equivalent coach who is rated as a top managerial prospect already with a major league team.

Rewarding an internal candidate who has risen through the organization (edge to Butterfield) may be a consideration. If you read the August issue of Entrepreneur magazine, this is the strategy the Twins have used to build a loyal, first class, and successful organzization. Someone as analytical as AA will have looked at all the top organizations to determine what the key success factors are. On the other hand, he may regard this selection process as “just business” and pick whoever he thinks fits Toronto best and has the likelihood of greatest success - meaning winning on the field.

These factors eliminate candidates like Valentine, LaRussa, and Torre immediately who would all want jobs with higher profile organizations and more control. AA is keeping a lid on interviews and negotiations as there are multiple teams looking for new managers and several teams vying for the same candidates who may be his favorites. As always, he won't be rushed and we will find that his selection whoever it is, will be based on a specific set of criteria and strong business reasons.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Infield Issues Surface

After watching Bautista last night make a highlight reel play on an Evan Longoria grounder, I may have changed my mind regarding making him our full time third baseman in 2011. My initial thoughts were that losing his superb defense and outstanding arm in right field didn't make sense and that we had lots of infielders to plug the hole at third. However, after viewing last night's outstanding play at third, by Bautista I realized that third base is a much harder position to fill than the outfield and that we have a very competent third baseman already in Bautista. Though our outfield isn't as strong minus Bautista, it is competent if not outstanding with Wells, Lewis, and Snider.

My greater concern recently has been the defensive play uof our shortstop and second baseman. Both Hill and Escobar are capable of gold glove defense at their relative positions yet they've made too many bobbles and errant throws recently to resemble anything of that caliber. Earlier discussions about moving Hill to third base to take some pressure off his defense and take advantage of his power are signs that he's also not doing the job at second base. Other potential candidates to replace him at second such as Brad Emaus and Jarrett Hoffpauir might replace Hills offense and play passable defense at second. This would allow Hill's move to third with an expected improvement in defense at that position. But there's nothing like having a true power-hitting third baseman and Bautista profiles better at third than anyone else the jays could put there.

It's clear that our best option for solid infield defense with above-average power numbers includes a Bautista at third, Escobar at short and Hill at second. Our issues finding a replacement for Lyle Overbay at first are being excluded for the purposes of this discussion, but remain an issue as well. Last night's errant throw by Escobar that resulted in the winning run by the Rays was exactly the kind of play one envisions when hearing Bobby Cox's comments subsequent to the trade in June. Escobar has incredible talent and makes some brilliant plays in the field, but the times he does appear disconnected and make errors on routine plays. He can be frustrating at times since everyone knows his talent level. It's probably best to remember how many years we struggled filling the shortstop position here in Toronto, remembering it's a long season, and just enjoy Escobar's overall play, his above-average defense and solid bat.

Keep in mind, we also have Hechavarria coming with his gold glove defense in the next 1 to 2 years. The Jays are going to have a nice problem trying to find spots for him and Escobar and Hill and a decision of which one will cover third base, until we develop or trade for a prototypical third baseman. So enjoy the ride along the way remembering that Bautista is likely only here for another 1 to 2 years and taking solace in the fact that our future infield without him is still pretty attractive.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rule 5 Draft Preview

Shawn Hill and Robert Ray were called up to the Jays following Las Vegas' final game of the season last night in which Brad Mills had a very good outing. Surprisingly Mills didn't get the call and may be done for the year as Jays already have a sense for Mills from his previous visit to the big team earlier in the year.

Hill is going to get the start on Friday as Jays want to see what he can do in preparation for next year and to gather more information for finalizing their 40 man roster after the season. Ray may get some innings for the same reason. Ray has dropped way down the depth chart but still has the stuff to be a major leaguer likely as a 5th starter or middle reliever like Camp or Janssen. Jays need to know whether to use a roster spot on him or expose him to the rule 5 draft in December and use the spot for another player they view with more upside. With the lack of pitching, either of Hill or Ray would likely be snapped up by a team, like Milwaukee who is in desperate need of pitching.

Perhaps AA is hoping they have some good outings in September which would generate trade interest in the off season. Alternatively they could be used to sweeten a trade deal. It would be better to get something for them then let them be drafted off our roster. Remember, teams don't have to protect players until after at least 4 minor league seasons. So if AA can get a younger player in a trade for someone like Ray, it gives him some roster flexibility as well.

Below is my guess on the 40 man roster come December. With a full roster, the Jays couldn't draft anyone in the rule 5 draft so AA likely will leave 1 spot vacant "just in case" he sees someone he likes. The players I see at risk of being left off the list are, McGowan (depending on medical and workout reports, Robert Ray, Brian Jerolman (likely to be a journeyman backup catcher in major leagues).

Players like Drabek, Stewart, David Cooper don't yet have to be put on the roster unless they make it to the big team.

1B Mike Jacobs
2B Aaron Hill
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Shawn Bowman
C JP Arencibia
C Jose Molina
C Brian Jerolman
DH Adam Lind
INF Mike McCoy
INF Brad Emaus
INF Jarrett Hoffpauir
SS Adeiny Hechevarria

LF Fred Lewis
CF Vernon Wells
LF Travis Snider
RF Jose Bautista
CF Darin Mastroianni
RF Adam Loewen
RF Moises Sierra

SP Shaun Marcum
SP Ricky Romero
SP Brandon Morrow
SP Brett Cecil
SP Shawn Hill
SP Jesse Litsch
SP Mark Rzepczynski
RP Brad Mills
RP Jesse Carlson
RP Kevin Gregg
RP Casey Janssen
RP Josh Roenicke
RP David Purcey
RP Shawn Camp
SP Luis Perez
SP Dustin McGowan
RP Jo Jo Reyes
SP Scott Richmond
SP Robert Ray
RP Ronald Uviedo
RP Alan Farina

Jays have several players who could be taken in the rule 5 draft. Obviously, this list would need to be updated after the actual 40 man rosters are set prior to the draft. By then Baseball America has a list of the best talents available in the draft. However, I list my preliminary thoughts for discussion.

Of Aaron Matthews
1B Brian Dopirak
OF Adam Calderone
SP Reider Gonzalez
RP Adrian Martin

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gregg Will Close in 2011....but Who Will Close in 2012

Great article about Kevin Gregg on Jays website today.

Gregg's option for 2011 makes him an affordable closer and we really have few other options within our system other than Frasor who is likely to sign elsewhere and Accardo who’s relationship with the Jays has soured and will be moving on. It’s unlikely the Jays would try to use one of their options at double AA like Farquahar, Farina or Magnuson and trust this difficult task to a rookie. They do have Roenicke who has the stuff to be a closer but would have to throw more strikes. As you know, it’s not just having the stuff to close but the mentality to do it as well and often takes a year or 2 to grow into it like Henke and Ward.

Potential free agent closers include:

Octavio Dotel (37) - $4.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Frank Francisco (31)
Brian Fuentes (35)
Kevin Gregg (33) - $4.5MM club option for '11, $8.75MM for '11-'12
Trevor Hoffman (43) - mutual option worth $7-8.5MM; buyout at $500K-1MM
Chad Qualls (32)
Jon Rauch (32)
Mariano Rivera (41)
Rafael Soriano (31)
Billy Wagner (39) - $6.5MM option vests with 50 games finished
Kerry Wood (34) - $11MM club option

None of these guys is any better option or has a better record other than Soriano and I think the Rays will resign him. I believe Jays will pickup his 2011 option to keep things stabilized for next year and take their chances on free agents and re-evaluate in-house options at the end of next year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Peek Into the Future

If you wanted to get excited about the Jays future, all one would have to do is to look at the minor league box scores tonight.

In Auburn, Sean Nolin, Brandon Berl, Sean Shoffit, and Drew Permison combined on a 2 hit shutout striking out 9 though they did walk 7. Three of the four were draft choices this year while Shoffit was drafted in 2005 as an infielder. Shoffit was never able to put it together at the plate though he always had an exceptional arm. Finally this year the Jays and Shoffit decided it was time for him to take a shot as a pitcher and after a rough start, his results improved as the year progressed. In rookie ball he struck out 23 in 20 innings while walking only 5 prior to his elevation to Auburn where, including tonight's performance, he has pitched 5 scoreless innings. Perhaps we can catch lightning in a bottle again as we did with Dave Stieb. We will know better next year as Shoffit is moves up a level or 2 and faces better hitters. With a similar arm to Shoffit, third baseman Kevin Ahrens could be the next candidate for such a move to the mound if he doesn't hit successfully next year.

At Lansing, Drew Hitchison and Casey Lawrence who both started the year in Auburn combined on a 9 inning 6 hit, 1 run victory striking out 9 and walking only 2. Both pitchers were dominant before being promoted and are showing they may be too talented to start next year in low A ball. Just a reminder that Lawrence was a free agent signing this year after the draft. What a find!