UPDATE – 1:15 PM Eastern
OK, it was really late and I got Cecil Fielder in my head and forgot that Prince hits left. That’s been fixed below, sorry.
1:15 AM Eastern
So I changed my mind.
Earlier this month, I put forth a plan to save the Blue Jays simply by bringing in free agents Chone Figgins and Orlando Hudson and – because the Rogers people seem to want to – Jason Bay. Also trading for J.J. Hardy. But upon further consideration, I have decided that a different course of action would be better.
Now, some would say that that makes me a flip-flopper. There are those who believe that changing one’s mind is an awful thing, that one should make a plan and stick to it. The “where’s the plan” contingent of the Ricciardi haters would be happy now if the left side of the Blue Jays’ infield was still comprised of Russ Adams and Eric Hinske, because that would have been J.P. sticking to his plan. But things change, people change, opportunities arise, you have to be malleable.
And here’s the thing – the Blue Jays, so the rumour mill says, are considering raising payroll for next season in order to try to field a contender. The easy way to use a payroll bump is simply to pour money into free agents, but a better way to go about doing things is to combine that with using the additional monies to pick up established players on other teams whose salaries have become too high for their current teams to bear (or whose salaries might become that high soon). Especially in a thin free-agent market.
Right around the end of July, when the Roy Halladay frenzy was becoming all but unbearable, the story came out that the Seattle Mariners were considering dealing Felix Hernandez and that the Red Sox made a late run at him, but fell short. A couple of days ago, there was another Felix-to-Boston story, this time talking about the Red Sox trying to pick him up in the off-season.
If Felix Hernandez is on the market, he should be the main target in the Blue Jays’ off-season remodel.
I’m thinking you package “local” folk Travis Snider, Scott Richmond and Lyle Overbay (paying some of his freight) and toss in Brett Cecil and an additional prospect-type (Justin Jackson? Brad Mills? Daniel Farquhar? Reider Gonzalez?) to pry King Felix away from the Mariners. That’s one.
Another name being thrown around in such talks is Prince Fielder. You’ve blown away half your farm system already for a King, why not get rid of the other half for a Prince? Now, Fielder plays for the Brewers, and the original Edwin Encarnacion for J.J. Hardy trade I suggested a few weeks back still makes sense, so now you have to open up the package. It now becomes Marc Rzepczynski or David Purcey, Casey Janssen, Edwin Encarnacion and one of those additional prospect pitchers that didn’t move in the Hernandez deal for Fielder, who will be a free agent after 2010, and Hardy, who will be a free agent after 2011. That’s two and three.
It’s a high price to pay, especially for just one year of Fielder, but we have to rehabilitate the image of a franchise, as well, and he’d be a big part of that.
Fielder will make $10.5 million next season. Hernandez is arbitration-eligible for the second time, so the idea would be to try to buy out two years of arb and two years of free agency – he gets offered a four-year deal worth about $52 million. If he accepts, mark him down for $13 million against the 2009 payroll. If he doesn’t, he’ll earn $7-8 mill on a one-year arbitration-avoiding contract. Hardy and Encarnacion are a wash, salary-wise.
Having made a couple of trades, it’s now time to dip a toe or three into the free agent market. Figgins remains a big target, as does Bay. You pull in Chone on a three-year deal for about $25 million, Bay gets four years and $55 million. Having seen the Hernandez and Fielder trades and knowing that the team will sustain a $120 million payroll, Bay would come.
What’s left? Well, there’s no right fielder, nor is there a catcher. Behind the plate is easy, Rod Barajas can play one more year, with the incredibly cheap Kyle Phillips backing him up. Barajas works well with the pitchers, throws and blocks the ball well, and despite his abominable on-base percentage, has some pop from the nine-hole.
As for right field, there are a few ways to go – Buck Coats could get an honest shot at a big-league job (remember, we’re only looking for a guy to hit 7th or 8th). You could go for defense and sign a free agent like Mike Cameron, Marlon Byrd or Randy Winn, hoping they’d wind up in centre, pushing Vernon Wells to right. You could go reclamation project and sign Xavier Nady or Rick Ankiel, and of course, Reed Johnson will be a free agent, but I prefer the trade route once again.
I would take a shot at Mark Teahen, who is out of a job with the Kansas City Royals with the return of Alex Gordon and the emergence of Alberto Callaspo. Before the Royals started throwing Teahen all over the field, looking for a place to play him, he had a couple of very nice offensive seasons. He’s a left-handed hitter who will take a walk, who has a bit of pop and who is a tremendous defensive outfielder with a great throwing arm. He’s arbitration-eligible for a third time, and will probably earn close to $5 million next season. I’ll deal Brad Mills for him.
Our shopping list is almost complete – I also want to sign Rich Harden to a low-base, incentive-laden contract to be the 5th starter behind Halladay, Hernandez, Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum. I fully expect him to break at some point, of course, but I’m hoping that by the time he does, either Jesse Litsch or Dustin McGowan will be ready.
The bench is filled out with John McDonald (who comes back because he’ll be guaranteed a chance to actually play once in a while), Randy Ruiz (who plays the Kevin Millar role), Phillips and one of Joe Inglett or Coats. I like the speed of Coats and his outfield defense, but ideally I’d like to find someone to platoon with Teahen, so I might have to keep looking for that 25th man.
With all this done, you’re left with a five-man rotation, as mentioned, of Halladay, Hernandez, Romero, Marcum and Harden, with McGowan, Litsch, Purcey or Rzepczynski, Robert Ray, Fabio Castro, Luis Perez and, later on, Zach Stewart, Chad Jenkins and Henderson Alvarez waiting in the wings. The bullpen has Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Brandon League and Jeremy Accardo at the front (one of them is the closer) and three of Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson, Brian Tallet, Josh Roenicke, Brian Wolfe and Dirk Hayhurst with the rest of them waiting in the wings.
The farm system has had a chunk removed but is hardly destroyed.
As for the line-up – Figgins, Hill, Lind, Bay, Fielder, Wells, Teahen, Hardy, Barajas is pretty solid. I’d rather have overpaid for Justin Morneau than for Fielder, but I’m guessing the Twins see him as an almost unmoveable piece as they go to the new ballpark and try to extend Joe Mauer.
Your total payroll? Glad you asked: For the 25-man roster mentioned above……..$119.5 million. I saved yo half a mill, you’re welcome.
Of course, I would want my team to go out there every night with the best possible chance to win each game. That means bringing in a new manager.
Tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk was a good one – we were visited by the Jays’ first-round pick this past June, Chad Jenkins, as well as short-season A-ball MVP Sean Ochinko. They hung around for a bit and the phones were solid before and after. Here it is, for your listening pleasure:
And since I missed Thursday night’s, here it is:
Make sure you tune in Saturday for the pre-game show (and the pre-pre-game). During the network portion of the broadcast, I’ll have an extended sitdown with Vernon Wells to talk about his year and everything that’s gone on with him. For the noon pre-pre only on the Fan590 and this very website, I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do, but I may reveal the winners of the post-season awards for the ’09 Jays, voted on by the players, coaches and front office staff. And hopefully interview some of those winners.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!