Archive for December, 2007

Goodnight, Day 2…….probably

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

8:30 PM Central

Happy Chanukah, everyone! Kind of weird to begin the Festival of Lights in a place where every place you turn, you find yourself in a vestibule of lights. This place is xmas-ed up, big time. But hey, at least it’s shiny. Say a shehecheyanu for me, would you?

The probably in the title of this post is because as soon as I go to sleep tonight, the Red Sox will trade Jon Lester, Covelli Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson and Ryan Kalish to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana. Just to mess with me. If the deal goes down while I’m still awake, I’ll update this thing.

One beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeg trade today (so far). I’ll fill you in on what I think before I get to the summary of the J.P. scrum.

So apparently, the Tigers wind up with Miguel Cabrera, and they get Dontrelle Willis, too! Massive move for the Motowners. They’re now in position to get right back to where they were in 2006, and that’s a solid playoff team with a shot at greatness. I have never been a big believer in the Tigers. Those who listened to me back then know I was saying all season long that Detroit would fade, and wouldn’t make the playoffs. I was wrong, though they really did fade down the stretch – allowing the Twins to come back from 12 1/2 games down – but wound up taking the wild card and made it to the World Series.

I also thought the Tigers were overrated going into ’07, when many believed they were the favourites to return to the Fall Classic. I just didn’t think they had enough offence. As it turned out, they wound up six games out of a playoff spot.

Well, they just added a ton of offence in Cabrera, and a still-young lefty in Willis who’s only two years removed from a Cy Young-level season, but at a cost. Florida got the Tigers’ two best young players: 22 year-old lefty starter Andrew Miller and 20 year-old centrefielder Cameron Maybin (.304/.393/.486 – 25 steals in 31 tries in half a season at high-A in ’07, then a ridiculous 20 at-bats in AA before a call-up to the bigs). Also in the deal, Eulogio de la Cruz, a 100-mph throwing 23 year-old righty who allowed 73 baserunners in 66 innings in AA last year before a call-up to the big, a serviceable back-up catcher in Mike Rabelo and two minor league pitchers, Dallas Trahern (righty with good control who doesn’t strike out a lot of people, but had a solid year in AA as a 21 year-old) and Burke Badenhop (tall 25 year-old righty who has a 1.17 WHIP as a pro, but only 18 2/3 innings above A-ball). It hurts me that I won’t get to say “Eulogio” as much on the broadcast this year. I was really looking forward to that.  I also lose a Badenhop.  That sucks.

The Marlins did well for themselves, but I really think they could have done better by splitting up Cabrera and Willis in two separate trades.

Now, onto the J.P. scrum:

-minimal discussions were had on small trades and with some agents, and the team was never close to trading Rios or Glaus, or acquiring Bedard or Lincecum.

I believe it. I think that the Jays would be wise to talk to the O’s and Giants, and J.P. confirmed that there have been talks with San Francisco, but when it comes down to it, Baltimore can get more for Bedard, and I really don’t think San Fran will wind up moving Lincecum without getting a king’s ransom in return. And Troy Glaus is not a king’s ransom. J.P. also confirmed, by the way, that the Rios for Cliff Lee and Franklin Gutierrez rumour was a total load, as expected.

-the Jays have gotten lots of calls on Rios and Lind

Well, why not? Rios is a two-time all-star and under control for another three years, and Lind is a very good young hitter. Other teams should be interested, and the Jays should be interested in figuring out if they can get themselves better by dealing one or both of them. I don’t really expect either one to be moved, unless it’s in a deal for someone like Lincecum.

-J.P. is in the early stages of discussing contract extensions with Rios and Aaron Hill.

No shocker there, we’ve heard before that the Jays were going to try to lock those two up, and why wouldn’t they? So far they’re batting .667 on long-term extensions with pre-free agency players (big wins on Wells and Halladay, not so much on Hinske), and I have faith that Rios and Hill will continue to improve.

-the move to try to get Troy Percival was so that Casey Janssen could move into the rotation, where the Blue Jays would much rather have him pitch.

Even though Janssen was so good in the bullpen (two awful outings blew his numbers up but good), I have long championed his return to the rotation. I think he’ll develop into a terrific starter, and I’m glad to hear that the Jays want him in that spot, too. It might not happen this year, though.

-Ricciardi doesn’t expect the young pitching to be as good next year

See, this is the thing. When young players have their first really good season, they tend to slide back the next year. So that’s not especially good news for Marcum, McGowan, Janssen, Accardo, Wolfe and Litsch. It’s very difficult to expect them all to pitch as well as they did last season. It’s good that J.P. recognizes this, but we still have to see what kind of moves he’s going to make to address this expectation.

-the Jays are getting calls on Josh Towers

And they still haven’t moved him! This I don’t get. J.P. said the “hits” they’re getting on TJ (Tosh Jowers – get used to it) haven’t been attractive enough for them to pull the trigger. Right now, conservatively, Towers is 8th or 9th on the depth chart for starters – behind Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum, Janssen, Litsch, Chacin and maybe even Wolfe. He’s going to be the 12th pitcher on a staff that should only need 11, and he’s going to make at least $2.4 million. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be actively looking to trade him, and happy to accept any decent offer.

-last but not least, when discussing the Bedard rumours, J.P. said he’d love to have a team full of Canadians

The prospect of a team with Bedard, Rich Harden, Jeff Francis, Adam Loewen, Shawn Hill, Russ Martin, Justin Morneau, Joey Votto, Jason Bay, Adam Stern, Matt Stairs, Jesse Crain, Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne is certainly attractive, though you’d have to have some foreigners to fill it out (damnit), but it’ll obviously never happen. Personally, I want the best possible players, not the best possible Canadians, but it would be nice to have a homegrown superstar. The thing with Bedard, though, is he’s not exactly a big flag-waver. I mean, I’m sure he’s a proud Canadian (who wouldn’t be, BQers aside?), but I’ve approached him a few times to do an interview about the Canadian playing in Canada thing, and he’s declined every time. He’s not a very media-friendly guy, which doesn’t make him a bad guy, it just means he’s closing off a very large outlet for communication with the fans.

I think the Jays will make big plays for the best Canadians when they become free agents, and might overpay for them in trade strictly because of their nationality, but I really don’t think they get all that caught up in who was born where.

E-mail address is wilner590@hotmail.com. Thanks to everyone for the comments and e-mail so far. I read them all, I swear, but haven’t had time to respond.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Tom Cheek is a Finalist for the Frick Award

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

2:30 PM Central

The final ballot for the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence is out, and Tom Cheek is on it.  That’s a great thing. Tom is one of the ten people that will be considered by the voters for the Broadcasters’ Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

This is the fourth straight year that Tom has made it to the final ballot, so hopefully the more often his name is there, the more the voters will learn about him, and eventually, he’ll have a place in Cooperstown where he so clearly belongs.

Tom was placed on the ballot by the Hall of Fame research committee that names the group of seven that joins the top three internet vote-getters. This year, that trio was Joe Nuxhall, Bill King and Joe Morgan.  Nuxhall, a beloved Cincinnati Reds broadcaster (and the youngest man ever to play in the major leagues – he was 15 when he debuted in 1944), passed away last month, and got the most votes in the history of internet balloting for the Frick. In fact, he almost tripled the previous record.  Nuxhall got 82,304 votes – the record, set in 2003 by the Phillies’ Lon Simmons, was 34,705.  Nuxhall was on the Reds’ primary broadcast team for 38 years. King was an Oakland A’s broadcaster, who was equally beloved in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He called A’s games for 25 years. King passed away in October of 2005, and the Athletics wore patches with his name, a microphone and his signature “Holy Toledo” call on their uniforms in 2006, much like the TC patches the Jays wore that year. 

Nuxhall and King were in the top 3 last year as well, when the Royals’ Denny Matthews (who wasn’t) won the award.  The fact that Matthews didn’t get the fans’ vote but won is good news for Tom Cheek, but I believe that Nuxhall will win it this year.  People are talking about him more than I’ve ever heard anyone being talked about for the Frick, and I’d like to say unfortunately he’ll probably get it, but how can you root against anyone for this?

The fact remains that Tom Cheek deserves a place among the greats of the game in Cooperstown, and it’s shameful that he’s not a Frick winner yet.  If he had done his work in the U.S., he’d be a legend south of the border.  The fact that he didn’t miss a game in 27 ½ years aside, he was a terrific broadcaster, an immediately recognizable voice, charming, knowledgeable, informative, and he helped make an entire country fall in love with the Blue Jays.

Tom not only broadcast Jays games, he also headed up national broadcasts of all-star games, LCS games and the World Series for years.  Remember, Tom and Jerry used to split up and each be the lead broadcaster for a League Championship Series across what was then the Hewpex radio network, and then get back together and broadcast the World Series across Canada as well, whether the Blue Jays were involved in the post-season or not.

According to the Hall of Fame, voters for the Frick award (14 living past Frick winners and six broadcast historians/columnists) are asked to base their selections on the following criteria:  longevity, continuity with a club, national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games, and popularity with the fans.  It’s obvious Tom hits all those marks, and in spades, so I really believe it’s just a matter of time before he gets in, I just wish they had done the right thing and put him in before he passed away. 

Obviously, I have a personal bias towards Tom.  I grew up listening to him and Early Wynn, then him and Jerry on the Blue Jays broadcasts, and then had the indescribable honour of working alongside him in the broadcast booth for three years.  He became a great friend, a mentor, a teacher and a champion of mine.  He believed in me more than anyone else I have ever worked with in this industry, and for that alone, I owe him more than I could ever have repaid.

Someday, Tom Cheek will be inducted into Cooperstown as a Ford C. Frick Award winner.  That day cannot come quickly enough.

Quick little note about some rumours

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

1:30 PM Central

Sorry that there wasn’t any morning bloggage today, there were some connection problems here at my well-thought-out seating position in the media workroom.

The final ballot for the Ford C. Frick award will be released in about half an hour, and I’ll have something about that, but before, I wanted to give my two cents about the Blue Jays rumours that have been flying around today.

1.  A.J. Burnett to Baltimore as part of a package for Erik Bedard.

This makes absolutely NO sense from a Baltimore perspective.  If they move Bedard, it’s because they want to get some very good, very young, very cheap pieces to build around, and Burnett is none of that (except for very good, if he’s healthy) .  It can seem like there’s a fit with A.J. because his wife is from Baltimore and the O’s wanted to sign him a couple of years ago, but if Baltimore wants him that badly, they can wait until he opts out of his contract after next season and get him without giving up arguably their best player.

Yes, Bedard is Canadian, and would be a great fit with the Jays, but it’s not A.J. that’ll get him.  That discussion would have to start with McGowan and Rios, and I don’t think I’d do that.  I’m not sure the difference between McGowan and Bedard is worth Rios.

2.  Alex Rios to  Cleveland for Cliff Lee and Franklin Gutierrez.

Please.  Let’s move on.

3. Troy Glaus to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain

This one can’t happen either, at least not without the Jays throwing in a couple of their top young players.  McGowan?  Marcum? Purcey?  Lind?  The Giants will trade one of those two great young pitchers if they can fix their offense, and Glaus would be a big step towards doing that, but there’d have to be a lot more, and the Jays would have to eat salary.

4. Josh Towers to San Diego for something

If the Padres are interested, get what you can and make the deal.  Towers really has no place with the Jays, except as deep insurance for the starting rotation, and he has a chance to flourish in a ballpark like Petco.  Otherwise, the Jays carry him for $2.4 million to be their 12th pitcher.

Comments are welcome, and e-mail is wilner590@hotmail.com

Jason Magder attended the unveiling of these snazzy new threads. Well . . . what do you think of them?

The New Logo The Text That Will Across The Road Logo We’ll be seeing this old friend again!
Vernon Wells in the new road uniform Wells shows us the back of the new road uniform
Roy Hallladay in the Retro Vernon Wells in the Retro Wells shows us the back of the Retro

Goodnight, Day 1

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

7:20 PM Central

I’m not going to wrap up all the day’s events in this (likely) final post, because you can just read today’s earlier stuff if you want to find out what happened and what I think about it, so first, my comment on the uniform changes, and then a wrap-up of the end-of-day media scrum with J.P.

Count me in on the return to the baby blues for Friday night home games.  I think it’s fantastic, reminds me of the really old days.  It’s even better than I thought, because I had heard they were going to bastardize the old unis and make the new ones button-down instead of pullover.  They’re also going with old-style numbers and no names on the back.  Shame they’re not going elastic-waist with the pants.  Still, I couldn’t be more excited about this (in relative terms – one can only get so excited about a piece of clothing, though some may beg to differ).

I don’t know about the new road grays, though.  I think it’s strange to create an entirely different script for the front of the jersey, but keep the name and number the same as they were before.  But then, what do I know about fashion?  So we give the baby blues a 12 and the new road grays a 4.83 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now, to the J.P. scrum:

-The front office spent most of today brainstorming among themselves, trying to think of ways to make trades, perhaps even a blockbuster.

I like this, it’s the way they should be thinking.  There’s a big trade vibe going around this place, and the Jays should try to insinuate themselves into any conversation they can if there’s a possibility of making the team better.  And if there’s a blockbuster to be made, do it!  At least it’ll be fun to talk about.

-J.P. is reluctant to trade A.J. Burnett, because he doesn’t think he’ll be able to get pitching in return.  And besides, no one has approached the Jays about him.

I have said this before, but I think that A.J. has never had more incentive to have a good year than he does right now.  If he goes out and has the season everyone thinks he’s capable of, he’ll make ridiculous money on the free agent market a year from now.  I wouldn’t move him unless I was blown away by the offer.

-The Jays took Ty Taubenheim off their 40-man roster because they wanted to make room for Thursday’s Rule 5 draft, in which there are two players in whom they’re interested (dangle that participle!).

First of all, I can’t believe that Brian Barton is available in the Rule 5 draft (look him up, I’m not doing ALL your homework for you), but he’s not a guy the Jays would be able to get, even if they were looking for outfielders who are really, really good at getting on base.  So who might they want?  Dusty Hughes?  Stuart Pomerantz? Carlos Guevara?  Leyson Septimo?  Please let it be Leyson Septimo, I wanna say that name 170 times next year.

-Free agent stuff:  The Jays wanted Troy Percival to add a veteran arm to the bullpen, but wouldn’t offer the two years that T-Bay did; they’re in on Matt Clement, but won’t get into a bidding war; J.P. gave me a very non-denially denial when I asked him about interest in Kenny Lofton.

Why Percival?  Are they not sure about Jeremy Accardo holding the fort until B.J. Ryan is ready?  Are they not expecting Ryan to be ready all that soon?  I think the answer to both is no, but that they’d love to have Casey Janssen in the rotation and would have liked to have Percival there to help out with the 8th inning until Ryan is back in form, which could easily not be until June. Clement is a good arm, a Brad Ansberg guy, and the Jays have wanted him for years.  If they can get him cheap, with an incentive-loaded deal, he could be a terrific 5th starter.   At the very least, he’d be a low-risk gamble who would probably work out better than Victomohn Zamohkason did last year.  And Lofton?  You know how I feel about Lofton.  PERFECT fit.

-J.P. is talking trade to get a back-up catcher, as well as talking to free agent Sal Fasano.

I love Sal, but he hasn’t ever proven that as a hitter he can do much more on a regular basis than beat up on the occasional lefty.  He does have a cannon for an arm, and he’s like an extra coach in the dugout and on the field, so I’m all for bringing him back.  If not, dealing for Javier Valentin from the Reds is something I have suggested before.  Another very good fit, and the Reds are dying for pitching, any kind of pitching.

Tomorrow – the Frick ballot comes out, and the trade show opens!

Feel free to make e-mailic contact at wilner590@hotmail.com

4:15 pm Central

As we head towards the dinner hour in Music City, two small trades have been consummated on Day One of the Winter Meetings.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have shipped outfielder Carlos Quentin to the Chicago White Sox for first baseman Chris Carter, and the Tampa Bay Rays cut bait on outfielder Elijah Dukes. He goes to Washington for a minor-leaguer to be named later.

Dukes was a problem in Tampa, but a very talented one, and good for the Rays for taking the high road and getting him the hell out of town. He hit .293/.401/.488 with 10 homers and 9 steals in half a season of AAA as a 22 year-old in 2006, and he plays a good centrefield. But he has also had restraining orders filed against him by two women (one a mother of one of his children, the other a mother of two of them – he has two others by two other women), has served probation for domestic battery, and allegedly threatened to kill his wife this past summer, reportedly sending her a text message with a picture of a handgun. He’s a bad, bad man. But he’s very good at playing baseball, so Jim Bowden is taking the chance that he’ll turn his act around enough to be a contributor in Washington.

It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll fit in in D-C alongside Lastings Milledge and Dmitri Young. And by interesting I mean it’ll be impossible to look away, though it’ll only be safe to do so from a distance.

The other deal I love, because I’m a big Quentin fan, and he had to get out of the desert. Look at these ridiculous numbers: .357/.443/.533 in half a season of AA at 22; .301/.422/.520 in his intro to AAA at 23; 13 doubles and nine homers in 57 games in his big-league debut in ’06. He’s a monster. But he’s a monster who had shoulder problems last season, fell on his face with the big club (.214/.298/.349) and got passed by Justin Upton. When Zona gave Eric Byrnes a long-term deal a couple of months back, Quentin was done.

Quentin is still just 25 years old, and a career .312/.427/.526 in the minor leagues. Those numbers are ridiculous, and he will give the White Sox a hell of a 3-4-5 with Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye once he’s recovered from shoulder surgery.

In return, the D-Backs get Carter, a slugging 1b who turns 21 in two weeks. He played a full season at low-A in ’07, and mashed to the tune of .291/.383/.522, but he’s a ways away. If Carter doesn’t wind up being something really special, the D-Backs made a big mistake. They did anyway – you should NEVER trade someone at the low point of his value.

Also, and I don’t mean to sneak this in at the bottom, but I just found out that the Blue Jays have lost The Element, Ty Taubenheim, on a waiver claim to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ty is a terrific guy, and I hope he does well as a Pirate. He wasn’t going to have a spot on the Jays this season, or maybe next, seeing how he was behind the big 4 as well as Janssen, Wolfe, Towers, Chacin and probably Banks on the starting rotation depth chart. Thus endeth the Toronto tenure of The Element Taubinium, number 48 on the periodic table.  His departure also openeth a spot on the 40-man roster, now at 39, just in case the Jays see something they like in Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft.

The Meetings Begin

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

11:45 AM CST

The first day of the Winter Meetings tends to take a while to get rolling. The morning is about taking the three-mile walk from the hotel room to the media workroom, picking up the media credential, finding a spot in the workroom and catching up with people you haven’t seen in a few months.

The workroom is a huge place, just like everything else here at the Opryland. There’s a set-up for news conferences at the front, a whiteboard on the back on which trade and free agent signing announcements get posted – there’s a table beside the board for the actual press releases. And in the middle, about 50 tables, each of which can sit six or seven reporters.

One of the early keys is getting a good seat, because that’s likely your base of operations for the next four days. It’s kind of like a restaurant. You want to be far enough away from the door, not so close to the stage or the mlb.com enclave (nice group of people, but come the Meetings, they run off and hide in a cordoned-off corner of the room, emerging only to eat and make fun of Spencer Fordin).

I got a solid seat – mid-room, beside a bunch of Baltimore guys (who can also take shots at Fordin), and surrounded front and back by two brilliant writers – Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe and Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

The question you hear (and ask) most often at this thing is “what are your guys gonna do?” Until anything is officially announced, it’s all about gleaning as much info as you can from people who tend not to be terribly interested in sharing what they know. Unless, of course, the team you cover is expected to be a big wheeler-dealer, in which case everyone wants to talk to you. Twins reporters are rock stars this year, until Johan gets dealt.

Blue Jays reporters? Not so much. Which makes us work even harder.

For now, it’s still hurry up and wait mode. The only announcement so far today is that five executives and managers have been voted into the Hall of Fame under the new “Veterans Committee” rules. Congrats to Dick Williams, former Expos manager, ex-Commish Bowie Kuhn, former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, former Cards and Braves manager Billy Southworth, and Walter O’Malley. O’Malley owned the Dodgers from 1950 until the short-lived Rupert Murdoch era, and I doubt you can say his name in Brooklyn without having someone spit on the ground in anger.

The only real news so far is that Andy Pettitte has told the Yankees he’ll be back next season, for the $16 million that he declined last month (he wanted time to think).  Pettitte had an OK season for the Yankees last year.  Not great at all (1.43 WHIP, but he pitched better against RH hitters than lefties), but with the Yanks’ offense, it was good enough to go 15-9.  He certainly can’t be expected to improve at 36, but only has to be the 4th starter with Wang, Chamberlain and Mussina or Johan ahead of him.

E-mailic contact: wilner590@hotmail.com

OK, We’re Here – Now What?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

In my last post, I mentioned that once I got settled here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, I would fill you in on what the Blue Jays should be doing at the Winter Meetings, as opposed to the nothing that they say they plan to do.

I will, but first some things I wanted to mention about the trip so far.

I had an almost surreal experience in the airport in Toronto last night. As I was checking out potential places to grab some dinner before my flight to Atlanta, I could have sworn I saw the one and only William Daniels talking to some airport guy about something. That’s right, William Daniels. The voice of KITT, Dr. Craig from St. Elsewhere, the principal dude from that show with The Wonder Years’ guy’s little brother.

So I start thinking that maybe Dr. Craig will be on my flight to Atlanta, and how cool would that be? I mean, there are only 7 other people on the flight anyway, we could be buds. Maybe I’d get off the plane with a free Hasselhoff CD, or get him to say something mean about Ed Begley, Jr.

But a few minutes later, he wandered over to me, still looking very much like Dr. Craig, and very shyly, in a thick German accent, asked if I knew where he could find a Tim Horton’s. Never before has so glorious a dream died such a quick and brutal death.

Some highlights from the road trip – Atlanta to Nashville:

-Driving through the Great Smoky Mountains was outstanding. None of this dead-straight highway for 12 hours like on the way to Spring Training. Looking at sections of the inside of mountains where they’d blasted through 50 years ago to make a clearing for the interstate was pretty fantastic.

-Can’t get a better or more filling five-dollar lunch than at Waffle House, and you can’t be in Tennessee and not go to a Waffle House.  I like ‘em scattered, smothered and covered.
-Lastly, the final 10 miles of my drive were through a freakin’ monsoon that kicked up out of nowhere, and as I drove past one of those “tune here for traffic advisory” signs, its lights were flashing to indicate an emergency, and that one should tune in immediately, so I did.

Kudos to the great state of Tennessee and its efficient way of dealing with emergency conditions on its roadways, I guess. When I tuned into the station (I copied this down at a red light, I’m not insane), I got the following information on a loop: “This is the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s highway advisory radio station. Tune to this station when yellow lights on the highway signs are flashing for important information.” That was it. Brilliant. It was like the government-sponsored version of writing “Billboard advertising works – you just proved it” on a billboard.

Anyway, I checked in to the Opryland, and I now sit in my room at basically the four-mile mark of the place. It’s huge. A testament to the best and worst of American excess, but mostly the worst. Bastian’s room is about 20 minutes closer to the front door, but I think I might be a little closer to the media workroom, which will serve me well this week. Not that it matters, though. The only time that will be spent in this room the next five days will be spent sleeping. There’s way too much standing around and waiting to do at the Winter Meetings, but when something breaks, it’s tremendous.

Right – the Blue Jays! I was going to say something about what I think they should do this week. Well, I exchanged pleasantries with J.P. Ricciardi as he checked in and I waited behind him. I told him I was set to have nothing to cover, and he said to tell him if he actually does anything, so suffice it to say, the Jays aren’t expecting to do much, if anything. Yes, they’re kicking the tires on Matt Clement, who they threw over $20 million at a few winters ago. He declined, signing with Boston and having a reasonable 2005 before going 5-5, 6.61 (115 baserunners in 65 IP) over 12 starts the next two years. He is only 33, though.

So the Jays plan not to do much. But what should they do? Well, that’s an entirely different proposition. So here you go.

First, I say the Jays make a run at Johan Santana. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of everyone simply handing over the best available commodities on the trade market to the Yankees and Red Sox just because they have the money. Yes, the Yanks and Sox do have better prospects than they’ve had in a few years, especially the Yankees, but if you’re dealing Johan Santana, who would you rather have? Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Masterson, or Dustin McGowan and Alex Rios? I know what my answer is. The Jays can put together a better package. Yes, I know that Rios is farther along than any of the other guys, and already into his arbitration years, but Robinson Cano, Coco Crisp and Chien-Ming Wang are also all arbitration-eligible, and all have been talked about in the past as centrepieces to this deal.

Of course, the question has to be asked – can the Jays afford to pay Santana? Conventional wisdom says that whosoever trades for him has to give him a six-year, $120 million contract extension in order for him to approve the deal. But the Jays can afford to do it.

Remember, the extension wouldn’t take effect until the 2009 season, and in ’08, Santana makes a more reasonable $13.25 mill. Trade Frank Thomas (bear with me) and let Tosh Jowers go, and you free up $11 million for this year. Remember, too, that Vernon Wells takes a $5 million pay cut this season, and there you go.

In 2009, Santana goes up to $20 million. But Thomas is gone, so that frees up $10 mill (he has a VERY easy vesting option – only needs just over 300 plate appearances for it to kick in), and A.J. Burnett is going to opt out, so that frees up another $12 mill.

In 2010, Troy Glaus is gone, freeing up his $13 mill, and there’s another $12 mill from A.J.

In 2011, you have B.J. Ryan’s $10 mill as well. Of course, you have to find some money to re-up Roy Halladay, but that’s four seasons down the road, the money will be rolling in with Johan Santana joining this ballclub and helping pack Rogers Centre once again thanks to his contributions to a winning team, right?

OK, so maybe I haven’t figured it out beyond 2010, but that’s three years, and that’s when Ricciardi’s contract is up, and you can win now if you not only grab Santana, but also keep him from the Yankees or Red Sox.

So, now that the Jays have a starting four of Halladay and Santana (arguably the two best pitchers in the league), Burnett and Shaun Marcum, what else do you do?

Kenny Lofton. As a 40 year-old, he hit .313/.386/.452 against righties for the Rangers and Indians, and stole 23 bases in 30 tries. He is a free agent, a PERFECT fit atop the Jays’ line-up, and could likely be had for a one-year deal worth about $3 million. He plays left.

Matt Stairs moves to the DH spot, for the traded Thomas (more on that later) and needs a platoon mate. A dip into the free agent pool yanks out a Mike Sweeney, a Reggie Sanders, a Jeff Cirillo. Cheap lefty-killers all. Hell, even Sammy Sosa if you want him around.

The reins in right field are handed to Adam Lind. He’s got to show whether he can play in the bigs at some point, and he did finish with a relatively strong September (except for just two walks). Regardless, he only has to hit 8th, so he can afford to have some more growing pains offensively.

Still need a back-up catcher, and I’m a big fan of Javier Valentin in that position. He’s a switch-hitter with power and a strong throwing arm, and he’s been known to take a walk or two. A career back-up with the Reds, he’s behind Dave Ross and could be available. Maybe the Reds would take Gustavo Chacin or Towers for him? Sounds nutty, but they did sign Mr. Flyball himself, Eric Milton, to pitch at their launching pad for a big bunch of money.

All that’s left is to find a platoon-mate for Lofton, and lo and behold, there’s Reed Johnson sitting right there!

Actually, all that’s left is to trade Frank Thomas. Obviously, there will be a minimal number of suitors – he can’t go to the National League, the Red Sox, White Sox, Indians and Tigers have firmly ensconced DHs, and the Devil Rays and Twins won’t spend that kind of money. But there’s potential in sending The Big Hurt back to Oakland, or maybe the Angels, Rangers or Orioles could be interested. There’s likely a deal to be made, and the return doesn’t so much matter as much as clearing the contract to make room for Santana.

Why Thomas? There’s a ready replacement in Stairs and whoever he platoons with to take over Frank’s numbers. Not like the Jays will get close to Glaus production out of Marco Scutaro if they trade that big, scary bat.

So how does a healthy line-up of Lofton/Hill/Wells/Stairs/Glaus/Overbay/Zaun/Lind/McDonald look against right-handed pitching? Good enough, I think, with the pitching the Jays have, to do some major damage.

Of course, none of it is really going to happen.  Shame.

As always, comments are welcome, and I continue to be able to be reached e-mailically at wilner590@hotmail.com

Beating The Weather

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

I write this to you now from beautiful Atlanta, Georgia! Not exactly a usual stop on the way from Toronto to Nashville, but this was all about beating the storm that hit T.O. early this morning.

I had a hard time deciding whether to drive or to fly into Music City for the Winter Meetings that begin tomorrow morning, but the forecast took the driving option away from me. Tried to fly out to Nashville last night, but it turns out that Air Canada offers a morning and an afternoon flight to Nashville every day of the week but Saturday, when they only fly out in the morning.

I even thought about flying into Chicago and taking the train from there, but that thought REALLY didn’t last all that long, so I ended up taking a late-night flight to Atlanta, spending the night at the Marriott, and I’m about to hit the road for the 3-4 hour drive up to Nashville. Flight was great, a 50-seater had 9 passengers in it – the flight attendant almost finished her book, with all the work she didn’t have to do.

It was the right call, by the way – this morning’s Toronto to Nashville flight was cancelled.  I wonder how many baseball officials in the way of this thing will be late arriving to the Meetings.

I’ll be arriving in Nashville around 6:00 or so, and will get settled in my room in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, and then go take the lay of the land. I honestly believe that I won’t set foot outside the hotel from that moment until I leave on Thursday afternoon, after the Rule 5 draft.  Then again, the place is so damn big, I might not even get all the way through it in four days.  There is actually a river that runs through this hotel.  People take boat tours!  I guess that’s more exciting than going to a Preds game, but I digress.

When I get there, I’ll post again, because I’m going to spend the drive up both listening to football on the radio (I assume) and figuring out a way to get the Blue Jays over the top. I have espoused the idea of signing Kenny Lofton to a one-year deal to play left field and lead off, but I haven’t really gone any farther than that. Believe me, I will. There are some decent ideas floating around in here – and a few of them are even better than trading Vernon Wells straight up for Tike Redman!

And, by the way, who says the Jays can’t get in on Johan Santana?

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