Tagged: Jose Bautista

Toronto Blue Jays: Five Keys To Contending in 2012

Spring Training is over finally! Opening Day is just around the corner.  It is time to really focus in on the upcoming season.

As always, the Blue Jays are in tough this season in the American League East Division.  You have your usual powerhouses of New York and Boston  who are going to be strong again this year.  Then there is the Tampa Bay “Don’t Call Us Devil” Rays coming off a playoff season in 2011 and look to be an improved club in 2012.

There is an extra wild card spot available in 2012 which has raised hopes for Blue Jays fans but even with an extra playoff spot, the Blue Jays will have to have a lot of things go right to be in contention.  Outside the East you have two big teams in the AL West in the back-to-back American League champions, the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Pujols of Anaheim (Angels). Then in the Central you have the home of the hefty infielders in the Detroit Tigers.  In my opinion, these are the six teams that have the inside track at the playoffs (Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Angels).

In all honesty, I don’t see the team making the playoffs this year.  That’s not to say I’m not excited for this team and the 2012 season, I just think they face an uphill battle this year and a lot of things have to go right for the playoffs to be a consideration.   I really this team is built to start contending in 2013 and beyond.  However, I’ve been known to be wrong (ask my wife) and unlike last year I do not have to look at the Blue Jays lineup and see Juan Rivera in right field, Edwin Encarnacion starting at third base, Frank Francisco/Jon Rauch as the team’s closer and a starting rotation featuring Jo-Jo Reyes. The 2012 Blue Jays could possibly avoid being the best fourth place team in baseball and push “The Big Six” for a playoff spot but as I mentioned earlier, a lot of things have to go right.

In my humble opinion, here are the top five keys to the Blue Jays contending this year:

1.       The best players need to continue being their best players: Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero need to perform to their abilities this year.  Any down season for either of these players would be extremely tough to overcome.  I’m not  saying that Jose has to duplicate the monster season he had last year but a season where he has an OPS of 1.000 (.600 slugging, .400 OBP) will be no small feat but that’s the type of production the Jays need from him barring any breakout seasons from others in the lineup.  Ricky needs to continue to be the team’s ace, pitch 200 plus innings and have a WHIP close to his 2011 total of 1.15.

2.       Protection for Jose Bautista: Without any protection in the number 4 and 5 spots in the batting order, teams simply will not pitch to Jose Bautista.  This is taking the bat out of the hands of MLB’s home run leader the past two seasons.  This is not good.  Someone has to step up and provide another middle of the order threat.  Right now the spot light is on Adam Lind who looks to start the season in the #4 slot in the lineup and Edwin Encarnacion who will be in the fifth spot.  Personally, I don’t think Lind is the right fit in the number four spot.  Right now, I think Encarnacion has the most promise in the four spot with Lawrie moving the fifth spot. However, given that Bautista, Encarnacion and Lawrie all bat from the right side,  John Farrell is not likely to have Bautista, Encarnacion and Lawrie grouped together in the lineup so Adam Lind will need to produce.

3.       Brandon Morrow:  We’ve been hearing how Brandon Morrow has the potential to be a front of the rotation starter and has the best ‘stuff’ on the team.  He had an impressive 2010 campaign, his first as a Blue Jay, and was pegged to have a breakout season in 2011.  However, 2011 was a struggle filled with inconsistent starts and early exits from ball games.  Morrow is optimistic about 2012 and has mentioned that he has figured out what his approach should be on the mound. He’s going to focus on being more efficient (i.e. pitching to contact) and lasting deeper into ballgames.  The Blue Jays need him to be a legitimate #2 starter if they have any hopes of contending in 2012.

 4.       Emergence of Young Stars: I’m focussing here on Brett Lawrie and Henderson Alvarez.  Lawrie made a huge splash in 2011 and needs to continue to emerge as an impact, all-star calibre player for the Blue Jays in 2012.  It looks as if he’s ready to do so as he picked up where he left off last September this spring.  Can Lawrie play up to the level he did in 2011 over the course of an entire 162 game season? How well will he adjust to the adjustments AL pitchers are surely going to try and make as they get more familiar with the young Canadian? If all goes well, Lawrie could make a good Blue Jays offense a great one.

Based on his spring results and what we saw in late 2011, Henderson Alvarez appears to be poised to have an impressive 2012 campaign.  If he does that will go a long way in solidifying the Blue Jays rotation giving them a solid top three (even if Alvarez is technically the #4 starter).

Although I focussed on Lawrie and Alvarez, the Blue Jays feature a number of young players who could take the next step forward in their development and contribute significantly a strong season.  J.P. Arencibia is coming into his second full season as the Blue Jays’ starting catcher and if he can figure out how to reach base a little more, he can build on the impressive power numbers he put up in 2011.  Kyle Drabek seems to have learned from a disastrous 2011 campaign and appears to be back on track. He possibly could be a mainstay in the rotation in 2012 given the door has swung wide open for him with Brett Cecil being sent to AA New Hampshire. Of course there is also Eric Thames who is the Blue Jays starting left fielder to start the season.  He seems to have a mature approach at the plate and clearly is in great physical shape. Can he consistently produce? Or if he doesn’t, does Travis Snider finally establish himself as an everyday big leaguer?

I should also mention the much maligned Colby Rasmus who seems to have been labelled by an alarming number of Blue Jays fans as a bust and a malcontent despite only a brief time with the club in 2011.   If Rasmus can find his 2010 (and early 2011) form, he can put up some big numbers and endear himself to the Blue Jays faithful.  Of course if he goes 0 for 4 on Opening Day in Cleveland, fans will start asking when the Blue Jays are going to call up Anthony Gose which I find absolutely ridiculous.

5.       The Bullpen:

The bullpen, especially the back end of the bullpen was much maligned in 2011.  Exit stage left: Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp. Enter: Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver and Jason Frasor (again). Add to that the incumbents, Janssen, Villenueva, and Luis Perez and Blue Jays fans should see a much improved bullpen.  Now a good bullpen on paper doesn’t always guarantee performance but if this bullpen performs, it will go a long way to the Blue Jays improving on their win total from 2011.  Sergio Santos bringing stability to the closer’s role will be key.

In conclusion:

There, of course  will be other factors that I’ve not included such as the ability of the team to stay healthy and consistent performance from the back end of the rotation (4,5 starters) etc. that will also determine the Blue Jays success in 2012 but the above represent solely what I think will be the most significant factors in the success of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.  Now can we watch some real baseball please???

What I’m Listening To: As a recurring feature in my blog posts, I like to let the readers know what music I’m listening to while writing my blog.  This week it’s Chris Cornell’s Songbook. This is a live acoustic album from recorded on his 2011 tour of the same name.  Cornell is best known as the lead singer for the recently reformed Soundgarden as well as the former lead singer for Audioslave.  The album features acoustic versions of some Soundgarden hits, his other solo releases, covers and even a Temple of the Dog song.  I consider Cornell one of the best rock/alternative/grunge vocalists of his time and this album did not disappoint.

Who will be the Fan’s Whipping Boy in 2012?

For this week’s post, I had planned on doing a piece on what spots on the roster were actually still undecided besides left field.  I noticed on Twitter that an surprising number of people were posing questions to the likes of Sportsnet Radio’s Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) , and well known bloggers Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) and Drunk Jays Fans (@drunkjaysfans) regarding the chances of certain players making the opening day roster.  Questions such as:

What are the chances of Anthony Gose making the team in 2012?

Why don’t the Jays put Snider in centre and Thames in left?

I don’t see why the Jays don’t just move Escobar to second and play Hechevarria at short!

Can Snider or Thames play first base?

The first two questions  to anyone who follows this team closely are quite easy to answer. Colby Rasmus is the Blue Jays’ centre fielder in 2012. Gose will be spending his 2012 in Vegas.  Why people think Gose is a better option in centre having never played an inning in the majors is beyond me. Yes he’s fast and a plus defender but he’s at least a year away from being ready for the Show.  Barring injury, you won’t see Gose playing for the Jays this summer. He’s a prime candidate for a September call-up but the Blue Jays have no need to rush him and remember that Colby Rasmus fellow???

The second question is also an emphatic NO!!! Again, this Colby Rasmus fellow who everybody was thrilled to see the Blue Jays acquire last season is the Blue Jays’ centrefielder.  Yes both Eric and Travis are having fine springs but one of them is going to start the year in Las Vegas.   It’s probably going to be Travis but I discussed that in my last post so I won’t go into any further detail as to why I think this to be the case.

As for the third statement, similar to Gose, the Blue Jays have no reason to rush Adeiny Hechevarria. From all accounts, Hechevarria is already an elite defender and major league ready with his glove. However, he is very much a work and progress at the dish.  He’s improving at the plate and is apparently much stronger this spring then he was at the end of the season last year but he still needs time to develop.  Again, the Blue Jays have a shortstop and second baseman in place for 2012; Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson. 

Again for the fourth question, the answer is ‘NO’.  It’s not that Snider and Thames can’t play first base it’s just that the Blue Jays have Adam Lind slated to play first.  If that fails then you’ll see Edwin Encarnacion try his hand there and if E5 turns into E3 then you’ll likely see David Cooper get a shot.  There is no chance the Blue Jays would throw Snider or Thames at first in 2012.  It is conceivable I suppose that the Blue Jays might consider converting one of them to a first baseman in 2013 but I find that rather unlikely.

This brings me to the main subject of this post and that is who will be the Blue Jays fans’ whipping boy in 2012? In 2011, the Vernon Wells trade presented us Juan Rivera on a silver platter.  His struggles at the plate and his total lack of speed did nothing to help Mr. Rivera’s cause and mercifully, the Blue Jays dealt him to the Dodgers in June.   The fan’s ire then shifted fully to the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen where Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco drew heat for a multitude of late inning meltdowns. 

Given the fan’s attention in Spring, I think it’s pretty clear that the prime candidates for whipping boy 2012 are, in no particular order: Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson and Adam Lind. 

I don’t get why some fans have given up on Rasmus already.   My best guess is that these are Blue Jays fans that watch the Blue Jays and only the Blue Jays and see Rasmus as a player with an attitude problem who only batted .173 with 3 homeruns as a Blue Jay.  They don’t see the five-tool player with a huge upside who had an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .859 and 23 homeruns in 2010 as a 24 year old.  In 2011, the kid got run out of St. Louis by Tony LaRussa who then proceeded to throw him under a bus after the trade to Toronto.  He got to Toronto and then dealt with a wrist injury and only got in 35 games.  Hardly time to give up on a player this young and with this much upside. That being said, if Rasmus gets off to a slow start, you’ll see fans calling for the Jays to play Snider or Gose in centre.

Kelly Johnson was another player who had a really rough 2011 season and has Blue Jays questioning whether he should be the team’s second baseman.  However, given that the previous everyday second baseman for the Blue Jays who the Jays traded to get Johnson was having an equally bad 2011 (and a brutal 2010 for that matter), a change of scenery could bode well for both Johnson and Hill.  Johnson is only signed to a one year deal so fans won’t resent him for his contract but again may be the target of fan’s ire simply because some fans don’t want to wait for Hechevarria. 

Then there is Mr. Adam Lind.  Lind had a great 2009 season. A breakout year for Mr. Lind.  Then came 2010 where as the team’s DH, he struggled mightily with an OBP of a mere .287.  Some writers pointed to the fact that he was a DH at such a young age and had to dwell all game over his failures at the plate as a reason for such a drop-off from 2010. The 2011 season was supposed to be a comeback season for Adam given that he was back to a full-time defensive player.  Despite a promising start to the year, he again put up horrific numbers batting .251 and an on-base percentage of .295.  He did put up 26 homeruns and 87 RBIs but given first base is generally a power position, these numbers don’t hold water.   This kind of production is also not acceptable for a team’s #4 hitter who is supposed to provide protection to one of baseball’s premier power hitters in Jose Bautista.  There is a reason why Bautista led the majors in walks last season.  If you want to really put how bad Adam Lind’s numbers were in 2011, just look at his Wins Above Replacement of 0.7 and compare that with those players that played 50% of their games at 1B last season and had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. He ranks 18 out of 20.  To me, this is the guy who is going to be your whipping boy for 2012 Blue Jays fans.  He’s had two consecutive bad seasons, he’s the player who is supposed to be providing protection for the Jays’ best hitter and he’s the guy who was quoted this spring as saying that he’s ‘not much of a workout guy’ and still doesn’t like it but now knows he has to work out and is willing to put in the twenty minutes a day he believes is necessary.   Maybe he’ll return to his 2009 form but all signs are pointing to another rough season.  I just hope that if he does struggle, John Farrell has enough sense to take him out of the lineup or at least move him down in the order. 

5 Years – $65M???

The news broke last night that the Blue Jays had reached agreement on a five-year, $65M contract with Jose Bautista.  Although, it hasn’t been formally announced yet, given that multiple sources are reporting this, it’s likely a done deal. It is expected to be announced sometime today (Thursday).

I’m not sure what to think about this deal.  It’s risky that is for sure. I was hoping the Blue Jays would aim for a 3 to 4 year deal for about $10 to $12M per year but five years. The $13M per year is on the higher end of the spectrum but it’s not Jason Werth money thank goodness.  It’s in the neighbourhood of Dan Uggla’s deal with the Braves and that appeared to be the benchmark that both sides were working from.  Uggla, of course, has a larger body of work to judge his value from than Mr. Bautista but is definitely not paid for his glove. Jose Bautista is a fine defender with a plus arm who can play several positions well.  

As I mentioned in a previous post, if Bautista hits near the mid-point between his previous career high of 16 homeruns or his 2010 total of 54 homeruns  (about 35HRs) and drive in 100+ RBI’s a year, this deal will turn out to be a relative bargain for the Blue Jays. He’s not getting Vernon Wells money and he is certainly nowhere close to getting Jason Werth money ($126M over seven years). 

It’s a risky deal but it’s not going to break the bank for the Blue Jays. Not only did Bautista have a break out year in 2010, he emerged as a clubhouse and on-field leader and was superb defensively. I personally think he’s better in right field than third base but given the Jays’ depth in the outfield, and lack thereof at third until Mr. Lawrie is ready for the show, he is best positioned to help the team in 2011 at third. 

My biggest fear is that Jose tries too hard to live up to the contract and pushes too hard and ends up struggling at the dish.  That will bring out all of the negative Nancys and boo-birds at the Rogers Centre and stir up more talk about PEDs.  The PED talk is nonsense if you ask me. One, he’s not a big guy and his appearance didn’t change from one year to the next. Second, if he was able to use PEDs last season and not get caught, then why would he not continue to do so in 2011 and put up the same numbers?

Regardless it will be an interesting 2011. The Jays’ lineup has the potential to be a very potent one if Adam Lind and Aaron Hill bounce back from a rough 2010, Bautista produces and Travis Snider is able to have a breakout season.  J.P. Arencibia will be interesting to watch. He has the potential to put up numbers in the neighbourhood of John Buck’s last year but as a rookie, he may also struggle while he faces major league pitching and tries to manage a young pitching staff.

 

 

 

It’s All About Sharing The Risk

News came out yesterday that the Blue Jays had postponed the arbitration hearing with Jose Bautista in order to continue to negotiate on a long-term contract with the slugger.

Bautista and his agent notified the Blue Jays late last week that he would not negotiate a new contract after the date of the arbitration hearing.  This seemed to spur the Blue Jays into action as now both sides appear to be actively working to get a deal done.

To me this is all about sharing risk.  Until last season, as we all know, Jose Bautista was a part-time player who had never hit more than 16 homeruns in a season. Last season he exploded for 54 homeruns.  What does 2011 and the future have in store for Jose Bautista? Who knows? There is the uncertainty and the source of risk.

At the one end of the spectrum, 2010 could have been a fluke season where everything went right, he got in a groove and the ball flew out of the park. 2011 could be a return to his previous form with pitchers adjusting their approach to Bautista and the loss of Vernon Wells in the lineup as protection. At the other end, 2011 could be a repeat of 2010 with Bautista hitting another 45-55 homeruns and drive in well over 100 runs.  

From Jose Bautista’s perspective, you would think he’d want to lock into a long-term deal this year rather than wait until free agency.  Given he has never put up numbers that were even close his production in 2010, the likelihood of him topping a season like that in 2011 are relatively low. Also, the risk of him returning to his previous levels of production given that there will be more pressure on him in 2011 and pitchers will be focussed on him and trying to pitch around him if possible, is signficant. If he gets a one-year contract through arbitration, he bears all of this downside risk.  That being said, if he puts up a productive season with 35+ homeruns and 100+ RBI, he’ll reap the rewards next off season as a free agent and thus keeps all the upside potential.

From the Blue Jays perspective, the opposite holds true. A one-year arbitration award, limits the team’s risk of 2010 being an aberration and Bautista returning to his old level of production.  If this occurred, they could simply let Jose walk as a free agent or try to re-sign him at a reduced salary.  However, if Bautista produces, he becomes a free agent and either the Blue Jays either have to pay market value on a long-term deal to retain him, trade him if it becomes clear he does not want to re-sign with Toronto or lose the heart of their line-up to free agency with nothing in return besides a draft pick.

I think it makes sense for both sides to sign a long-term deal now. Bautista can get the security of a 4-5 year contract in the neighbourhood of $10-$14M a year (this is just me guessing as to what he’d accept) in exchange for possibly losing out on top free agent dollars if he has a solid 2011 season.  A long-term deal for the Blue Jays exposes them to the risk of 2010 being a fluke and getting locked into a long-term deal with another player who does not live up to expectations (see Vernon Wells, Alex Rios) but also gives the team some upside by possibly locking up Bautista for the long-term at below market value if he does continue to produce at or near the level of 2010.  

To me, the Blue Jays and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy should know better than anybody what adjustments Bautista made in 2010 to turn his career around. Also they should know what type of clubhouse presence/leader Bautista is and make a reasonable forecast of how he’ll perform in the next few seasons.

From my perspective, although I’m nervous about this whole situation, I think signing Bautista to a long-term deal at this time makes the most sense.  One, he’s not a one dimensional player. He has a plus arm, can play multiple positions, has decent speed, is an intelligent player and, as he showed in the last month of 2009 and throughout 2010 has a lot of power.  So if he does tank at the plate in 2011 the Jays would be paying more than he’s worth but at least the player can contribute in other ways. As I mentioned above, if he continues to rake in 2011, the Jays get to pay him at what will turn out to be below market value and not risk losing him at the end of this year.  Of course I’m gun shy on this one given the Jays recent history with inking players to long-term contracts but then again, I don’t have to pay Bautista’s salary.

On a final note, what the heck is Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star thinking? In today’s Star he write a column about the on-going negotiations between Bautista and the Jays but then at the end of the column he blows all his credibility by stating that:

1. Bautista is slated to play right field in 2011 (in reality, he’s pegged for 3B)

2. Encarnacion was re-signed to play third base (in reality, he’s pegged for DH/1B) and Juan Rivera acquired to play 1B (in reality, Lind is slated to play 1B with Rivera in right)

3. He makes a strange point that Scott Posednik is still available and that he’s more experienced as a lead-off hitter and base stealer than Rajai Davis (so the Jays should sign Posednik? That would give the Jays Rivera, Davis, Snider, Posednik in addition to supposed right fielder Bautista)

4. Maintains that despite any possible roster moves in the next few weeks, the Jays  priority will be to keep Bautista in RF (this could be true if Bautista was actually slated to play right but everything being said thus far is that he’s slated to play 3B on opening day barring any moves to acquire an actual 3B not named Encarnacion)

 Zwolinski’s article in the Toronto Star 02/15/11  

It’s almost offensive to Blue Jays fans that this was even published. Clearly Zwolinski has not done his homework or been paying any attention to what has been going on this offseason. I hope the Star didn’t send him to Dunedin with Richard Griffin as he’d likely spend more time golfing than actually reporting on what is going on with the team. 

A Lot Has Happened

Well since my last post last week regarding rumours that Carlos Pena was a target of the Blue Jays, a lot has happened.

First, Pena signed with the Cubs.  Again, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Pena but he would have been a big upgrade over Lyle Overbay.  However, since then the Jays signed a familiar face in Edwin Encarnacion today as a DH/1B option.  I would have definitely preferred Pena and possibly Overbay to Encarnacion but more on that later in this post.
The two big moves were Carl Crawford signing with the Red Sox and Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies. Crawford to the Red Sox was not a huge surprise on its own but when you consider the Red Sox made a splash just days earlier with the trade for Adrian Gonzalez it was a bit of one.  Either way the Red Sox look incredibly strong heading into 2011 as it stands now.  Once the Crawford move went down, everyone’s eyes turned to Cliff Lee and the New York Yankees.  Personally, I thought it was just a matter of time before we saw Lee sign with the Yankees. They would offer more years and more money just because they could and I thought Lee wouldn’t be able to turn it down.  
I also thought, like many, that if for some reason the Yankees didn’t sign Lee, it would be the Texas Rangers. The Nationals were also interested but I didn’t think they were ever considered by the Lee camp. What I did not figure on was the Phillies coming in, after dealing Lee just a year earlier to make payroll room to sign Roy Halladay, and making an offer worth $30M less than what was offered by Yankees and Lee accepting! 
I was overjoyed by this news.  Not really for the Phillies getting Lee but because the Yankees did not get Lee.  To be honest, even with Lee, I thought the Red Sox would still have an upper hand on the Yankees (barring any other moves) in 2011.  I just think their lineup is now superior to the Yankees with the Yankees having to pay big money to aging stars like Jeter and Posada and the Red Sox pitching will be improved this year with Beckett and Lackey returning to their former selves or at least bouncing back a little from 2010.  However, the Yankees are not finished and they’ll make a big splash before April or they’ll pry a front line starter from a smaller market team sometime mid-season.  
There was an interesting column in the Toronto Star this morning by Richard Griffin with regard to how teams sometimes play obstructionists in other teams dealings to prevent rivals from getting players. For instance, it was postulated that the Blue Jays were willing to deal Marcum to the Brewers to keep the Brewers from pursuing Zack Greinke from the Royals of whom the Blue Jays are also interested in.  In this same vein, it is rumoured that the Red Sox indicated to the Phillies that they are willing to take on Joe Blanton’s salary which led to the Phillies being able to sign Cliff Lee, keeping Lee away from the Yankees.  It will be interesting to see if, in the coming weeks, we see Blanton head to the Red Sox.  Given the Red Sox probably rotation of Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz and Matsusaka (and Wakefield in the pen), I don’t see where Blanton fits.  This seems a little far fetched if you ask me but that still doesn’t take away from the point Griffin makes in his column.  
From a Blue Jays perspective, Lee signing outside the division was good news but other news that the Yankees signing Russell Martin wasn’t great news.  It was rumoured that the Jays were interested in Martin as a 3B/1B/DH/C option.  However, he went to the Yankees.  
Now it was known that the Blue Jays were looking at having Adam Lind as their primary first baseman in 2011 and looking to sign a player who could DH and also play first base to either spell Lind or swap places with Lind if he is unable to adapt to the new position.  So who did this player end up being? None other than Edwin Encarnacion.  Now Encarnacion is known as “EncarCRAPcion” in some circles…well…my circle mostly as I watched him repeatedly air mail balls into the seats from third base the past two seasons.  I was happy to see the A’s claim him on waivers and thinking he was gone from my life.  However, they non-tendered him and now Jays fans will find him back in the line-up in 2011.  At least it won’t be at third base! 
Encarnacion does have some pop so he’s not a horrible solution as a DH.  He had some health problems in 2010 and fell out of favour for awhile after not running out some ground balls and of course the defensive lapses at third. He was even designated for assignment but then was called back up when it was determined that Jarred Hoffpauer was not an everyday solution.  Some friends of mine just asked why they wouldn’t just re-sign Overbay as at least Overbay was strong defensively and has a comparable bat to Encarnacion.  Well from what I hear Overbay wanted to be an everyday first baseman, which he wouldn’t have been in Toronto, and got his opportunity in Pittsburgh.  Now one can argue whether the Pirates are actually a major league team but that’s a subject for another blog post!
So with Encarnacion and barring any other moves, here is the Jays projected opening day starting lineup.
1. Davis LF
2. Escobar SS
3. Wells CF
4. Bautista 3B
5. Lind 1B
6  Encarnacion DH
7. Snider RF
8. Hill 2B
9. Arencibia C
Now to be honest, I don’t know how the order will shake out and could very well look quite different than what I listed above but those are the nine starters you would see as of now.
However, Jose Bautista has expressed his preference to play right field over third base so whether the team complies with this wish or not is the big question.  If Bautista is to play right field then two “problems” arise. One is who will play third base? The other is where will Davis play? Would he platoon with Snider or be used simply as the fourth outfielder.  I have no issue with Davis as the fourth outfielder but if he’s not in the line-up do you bat Escobar lead-off and move Hill back to second in the order? 
Who knows? I have a feeling that Mr. Anthopolous has, as he calls it, some irons in the fire still and we’ll see how it shakes out. Perhaps Snider is on his way out of town in a deal for Greinke? Perhaps an everyday third baseman will become available.  Who knows?

Rajai Davis and John Buck

Well Mr. Anthopolous has made a deal for Oakland’s Rajai Davis.  This deal didn’t make me jump for joy but I think it was another good pick-up for the Blue Jays.

I’m not quite sure the exact impact Davis will have on the team as it’s not clear what Davis’ role will be. Will he be an everyday outfielder with Wells and Snider and bat lead-off? Or will he be the team’s fourth outfielder ala DeWayne Wise? Either way this is a positive addition for the Blue Jays because of Davis’ speed.

The 2010 Blue Jays lacked speed, that was clearly evident.  Fred Lewis provided some speed and guys like Bautista, Wells, Hill and Snider aren’t slow on the basepaths but there was no player who would, when on base, really provide a clear base-stealing threat. Davis will provide that.

If Davis is a starting outfielder on opening day, then Jose Bautista could become the team’s everyday third baseman.  Not terrible as Bautista plays a decent hot corner. However, you lose Bautista’s arm in right. 

If Davis is the fourth outfielder then there is still a hole a third base that will need to be filled.

Speculating at this point as to who will play third, or first next season is really fruitless as the offseason has just begun and AA has not finished making moves for 2011 so I will not elaborate any further.

We do know one thing and that is John Buck is no longer a Blue Jay.  I liked Buck behind the plate last year and he did hit 20 homeruns but am glad the Jays did not re-sign him.  The Marlins signed Buck to a reported 3-year, $18 million contract which is extremely high in my opinion. As was the case with Marco Scutaro last off season, it was best to let Buck go as there is little chance the Jays would get full value for the salary they would have to pay to retain him.  The Jays have Jose Molina under contract for 2011 and it is hoped J.P. Arencibia can step into the starting catcher’s role. 

I must say, I was a little frustrated in September when Cito kept inserting Buck into the line-up everyday so that he could reach 20 homeruns when Arencibia was left to rot on the bench.  It did nothing for Arencibia’s development and left a bigger question mark as to whether Arencibia is ready for a starting catcher’s role at the big league level.  Now Alex Anthopolous has to decide whether to hand the reigns over to Arencibia or go out and sign a guy like Miguel Olivo to platoon with Molina behind the plate.

 

I’m Back – My Thoughts on the 2010 Season

It’s been a long time since my last entry, a really long time!  What can I say, I lost my will to put the time into making this a quality blog.  I found I was either going into too much detail about non-baseball related issues or getting too emotional after a Jays’ loss and ranting and/or calling players, coaches managers out for plays or decisions I did not agree with.

My wife also gave birth to my first child sixteen months ago and I found that between work and being a new parent, there just wasn’t enough time to make this a worthwhile blog. 

But I’m inspired again and so I’m going to start posting.  Where to begin…

The 2010 Season

I must say that despite the fourth place finish, I loved watching the Blue Jays this season.  The team took a new direction with Alex Anthopolous at the helm and the team was exciting to watch again.  We, as fans, knew the Blue Jays were not going to be playoff bound and the organization did nothing to try and heighten expectations in efforts to sell tickets which was refreshing. 

What A.A. did was develop a plan for making this team perennially competitive. Now, given the former GM of the Blue Jays, I’m wary of any so-called ‘plans’ and the ability of a GM to stick to said ‘plans’.  Where I think AA is different from his predecessor is instead of spending a lot of time talking about his plan, he got busy implementing it and building the team through the draft and trades rather than free agency.  This is the only way to get high-end talent that can be controlled for up to six years given the current free-agency and arbitration rules under the CBA.  When the team is a contender, you can use free agency or a trade deadline deal to fill some holes in your lineup.  All and all a great approach in my humble opinion.  I expected nothing less from a fellow McMaster Economics grad!

I loved the League for Morrow trade the minute it was made and I’m being honest, seriously.  I wish I could find the e-mail I sent to my friend, Greg when this trade was made as I was very enthusiastic about this trade. One, I was not a big fan of Brandon League. I had grown impatient with him and didn’t see him developing into a closer like people were projecting him to be. I just don’t think he has the mental make-up to be anything more than an effective late-inning reliever or set-up man. His control and consistency just aren’t there to be a closer. That being said, I thought being trading a reliever for a starter was brilliant even if Morrow had struggled to find a place in the Mariners’ rotation.  Now Morrow looked to be a top of the rotation guy and possible Ace of this staff.

The starting pitching was the big question mark going into the season and well we all know it turned out to be the team’s strength.  Shaun Marcum had a strong season coming off Tommy John surgery and was the leader of the young staff. Ricky Romero continued to develop as a top of the rotation guy and seems to have the mental makeup to pitch in big games.  Brett Cecil was phenomenal given the fact that he didn’t even break camp with the team. I mentioned Morrow’s success earlier.  The only hole in the rotation was the number five spot.  Jesse Litsch struggled to return to form after off-season surgery and was never able to stick in the rotation and then was shut down after hip injury required surgery.  Brad Mills made a few starts and had some success but he doesn’t appear to be in the Jays’ long-term plans.  Kyle Drabek, the Jays top prospect, showed in September that he may be ready to step into that role in 2011.

The bullpen was for the most part a disappointment. Jason Frasor, who now mysteriously as a free agent is being called by most “one of the Jays more reliable bullpen arms” was a train wreck coming out of Spring Training as the team’s closer. He never really regained his form from 2009 but was still marched out there regularly by Cito. Kevin Gregg put up some save numbers as the team’s closer but he by no means made it look easy. Many a time I had to turn the channel for a few minutes because I could not bear to watch Gregg struggle through another 9th inning to eek out a save.  Brian Tallet was horrific this year in any role they used him in. Scott Downs was his usual self so no complaints there.  He has his usual ups and downs (excuse the pun) but was reliable. Casey Janssen also struggled for most of the season and was reduced to spot duty most nights unless one of the late inning guys couldn’t go.  Shawn Camp and David Purcey were probably the nicest surprises of 2010 in the Jays bullpen. Camp was consistent and reliable and Purcey seems to have found his niche after control issues seem to put his career as a starter to an end.   To me this is an area the team must upgrade for 2011 and this could be done through a few strategic signings/trades.

The offense hit bombs and more bombs but couldn’t hit for average or get on base consistently.  It was pretty one dimensional but still fun to watch as baseballs flew out of the park on a regular basis. However a key players from 2009 like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind struggled for much of the year. Travis Snider struggled out of the gate and then when he started to heat up, he got injured.  Lyle Overbay also struggled mightily at times. Vernon Wells had a bounce back season but even he struggled through some slumps at key points in the season.  Jose Bautista came out of nowhere and led the major leagues in homeruns. This was impressive but what was more impressive was the fact he did this while being bounced from the infield to the outfield and back again throughout the season but all the while playing stellar defense.  He also emerged as a leader on the field.  He showed a lot of fire and refused to be intimidated or back down from pitchers throwing inside.  It was great to watch and I hope Jose can put up similar numbers in 2011 to avoid the talk of him being a ‘flash in the pan’. Unfortunately the stigma of PEDs will not go away I’m afraid but I for one think Jose is legit and don’t have any reason to think otherwise.