A Peek at the Future Blue Jays
Oustanding article this morning in the Toronto Star by Richard Griffin about building the Blue Jays over 3 years the way Dave Dombrowski did the Tigers when he inherited the GM job there in 2003.
Remember AA connection to Dombrowski when they were with the Expos and Dombrowski's subsequent success in rebuilding the Tigers. "We had to stay the course," Dombrowski recalled of those '03 Tigers. "If you're giving up any part of your future to win four or five more games then that's when you get yourself in trouble. Because then you're veering from the plan a little bit, which you really shouldn't do." You can see the pattern developing here with the actions Jays GM has already made. Every move has been calculated with 20011-2012 in mind. The players being acquired have high upsides from a talent perspective knowing they won't be major league ready for 2-3 years. Think of Drabek, d'Arnaud, Hechevarria and you get a picture of a flood of talent ready to hit the field for the Jays in 2012.
Another comment which was particularly telling came from Pat Gilling "They went through the whole (building) process because they knew they were going to have to be really good in order to win because they had such a strong division, they never shortcut anything." All the discuss about baseball realignment aside, the Jays have to build knowing they have to beat out 3 of the top teams in baseball in the Yankess, Red Sox and Rays. This means they have to plan on winning 95-100 games to win the division or even be the wildcard as there are likely to be 2 teams from the AL East make the playoffs in the foreseeable future. Such performance isn't going to possible with just average players. Look at the significant investment AA has made in scouting in preparation for this draft and you see that it speaks to Gillick's comment.
AA hasn't ignored the current Jays roster knowing that even if the fans buy into the long term plan, you still have to put a decent product on the field. The Brandon Morrow trade is a good example of building on your weaknesses by using using your strengths is the way to put a decent team on the field. This is why I also believe Anthopolous has continued to add pitching which cost him practically nothing (Eveland, Merkin, Zinicola, Jackson, Register, Shawn Hill) knowing that teams never have enough pitching and are going to need to add to their rosters as the end of spring approaches. This is why I believe AA is going to pull off a trade or two before the season begins using addition by subtraction - taking from our strength (middle relief and first base) to add to our weaknesses. His likely additions will be OF or 3B prospects with an upside, even if they are at A ball because their ETA in Toronto is 2-3 years making the timing perfect for 2012.
I believe that the Jays will surprise a lot of people this year though they will finish 4th or 5th in the division. Though young, they have some very talented players at least one of which will likely have a breakout season such as Travis Snider, Ruiz or Dopirak if given a chance to play regularly. I also believe one of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Edwin Encarnation will have a comeback season which we will need because I don't think Aaron Hill will hit 30+ homers again. We would all be ecstatic if he hit 20 homers with 80 RBI's and played outstanding defense.
The Jays rotation is starting to take shape with Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Rzep, and Tallet as the placeholder until Dustin McGowan is ready to show he's fully recoverd, likely in May. The bullpen to me is uncertain with the possibility of AA trading some chips for future talent, but as it stands now it likely is Frasor, Downs, Gregg, Janssen, Camp, and my favorite to make the team thus far Dana Eveland. I don't know how you keep him off the team if he continues to pitch as he has so far. Jesse Carlson likely starts on the DL along with McGowan. Steve Register has pitched well so far and our rule 5 pick Zinicola has shown he might be a keeper. Roenicke has done about the same job he did last year. These 3 guys would likely be the fill ins should AA pull off a deal for Frasor or another reliever, and I don't see our team being weaker for it. The wildcard in all this is the transformation of David Purcey to a potential reliever by limiting him to fastballs and sliders so that he can throw more strikes. This would give us an additional lefthander in the bullpen and could spell trade or minors for one of the other candidates listed above.
I could see the season playing out as follows:
Marcum/Romero - 30 wins between them
Morrow - 12 wins
Rzep/Tallet/McGowan/other spot starters - 15 wins
Bullpen - 20 wins
The Jays bullpen the last 2 years has won about 16-18 games. The Dodgers had around 30 wins from their bullpen, so 20 isn't out of the question. So I make it 77 wins which would be a repeat of last year. I would be glad to see a 77 win season in the first year of rebuilding post-Roy Halladay.
The Washington Nationals have apparently released Elijah Dukes rather than put him on waivers or try to trade him. An outfielder with outstanding talent, Dukes was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft by the Rays and joined the Nationals by trade in 2008. Just like Delmon Young in Minnesota, this guy has power to burn and can steal a base as well. With our system devoid of OF talent at the upper levels, is he a project AA and the Jays want to take on? Tabbed with a reputation for a bad attitude and with a history of poor judgment in his off-the-field behavior is this guy ready to mature at the age of 25 or is he just a bad apple who might upset the harmony Jays are building within their organization? The Nationals say his release had nothing to do with off field issues. Why then just release him? What are they not saying between the lines? Another low risk/high reward opportunity is at hand.