Archive for January, 2010
Friday, January 29th, 2010
12:40 AM Eastern
I just finished filing all the tape from the annual event back to the radio station, and I’m exhausted from a busy day that began with a sick child, moved along to a root canal and finished up down at the Dome, so forgive me for not going into great depth here.
The things that stood out for me at the Blue Jays’ yearly get-together with season ticket holders were that the fans seemed to love Alex Anthopoulos, his plan and his enthusiasm, but not as much as they love Cito Gaston; Cito really wants Carlos Delgado to be his DH/first baseman next year; and the Blue Jays will play small ball in 2010, because they couldn’t in 2008.
Hitting-and-running, bunting and stealing bases were among the “crazy things” that Gaston suggested his club was going to have to do in the coming season in order to score runs, though a few sentences later the skipper mentioned that the team could have as many as seven 25-homer guys in the line-up, meaning Hill, Lind, Wells, Snider, Bautista, Encarnacion and Overbay. Please note that only one of those seven has ever hit 25 homers in a season more than once, and three of them have never done it at all. In fact, here are the home run totals for each of those hitters in the SECOND-best homer seasons of their careers: Hill – 17, Lind – 11, Snider – 2, Bautista – 15, Encarnacion – 16, Overbay – 19. Wells, of course, has topped the 25 mark three times.
There was nothing really new to come out of the event, except that Anthopoulos mentioned that he’d talked to Johnny Damon’s agent a couple of days ago, but that was mainly to see if he was desperate for a job with the calendar working against him. Damon wants a lot of money, though not as much as he did a month ago, and he wants to play for a winning team. I don’t think there’s much of a chance at all that he’s coming to Toronto. My fear is that if he does, he takes Travis Snider’s job, since Cito loves the idea of having Jose Bautista as his everyday right fielder.
Anthopoulos talked about his tireless pursuit of a young shortstop. Such an acquisition is at the top of his list, and he’s gone so far as to beg other GMs to take six, even eight of his players in exchange for the right one, but he hasn’t been able to get anyone to bite yet. He also mentioned that even in a down year, the Blue Jays still sell more than twice as many tickets as the Leafs or Raptors do. I have made that point several times, and I know the ticket prices for baseball are much lower, but that still makes me happy.
Paul Beeston acknowledged that 2010 could be a tough one at the turnstiles, but said that he’s confident the fans will come back once the team starts winning, and all believed whole-heartedly that the way to win long-term is to build from within and then sprinkle in the odd free agent when the time is right – just like the Jays did in The Glory Days.
The Fieldturf at the ballpark was in the process of being torn up, and there was a tarp covering what used to be the Hard Rock Cafe. It’ll be a shame to see that one go, I can still see Fred McGriff hitting a home run off of it during the Jays’ first-ever homestand at what was then called SkyDome.
There were a couple of missteps by Cito (not knowing the Jays have committed to using Brandon Morrow as a starter, confusing Jeremy Accardo with Casey Janssen, campaigning for Carlos Delgado when the G.M. has already said there’s no interest), but he was basking in the love of the season-ticket holders, and one assumes he’ll be clear on such things when the bell rings in less than a month.
Shaun Marcum is healthy and there are no restrictions on him, Dustin McGowan will throw off a mound for the first time later today (that being Friday) and Jesse Litsch will do the same on Wednesday.
Astonishingly, for the second year in a row, there were no complaints about the food, the concession prices, or the temperature of the water in the washrooms. There were, however, complaints of a disconnect between the fans and the team – people don’t feel as close to the club as they once did, it’s not as out there in the community. Beeston said that there’s a new marketing plan in place and that the Jays have to be more pro-active in that respect, and I think he’s right. Heck, I’d bring back the cross-country caravan if it were up to me.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
10:35 PM Eastern
I know I said that I would post something late last week, after I got home from the Bahamas cruise, but that damn 2,5 got in the way. See, I got a bit of a toothache as the cruise wound down, and figured I’d see my dentist when I got home. But we arrived Thursday afternoon and my guy takes Fridays off, so I had to wait until Monday.
Only Sunday night it felt as though the left side of my face exploded.
One trip to the late-night dental emergency clinic later, I was on antibiotics and a quite lovely painkiller named Teradol (which I wholly endorse, though only under a physician’s care, of course), and I’m booked for a root canal on Thursday afternoon, which could lead to quite an interesting time later that evening at the Blue Jays’ annual State of the Franchise event.
Anyway, I’ve kind of been out of it for the last few days, and I’m still not feeling great, so please forgive the “radio silence”, as it were.
The Blue Jays made a little bit of noise while I was away, and I have already commented on the Jeremy Reed signing from the ship. Shawn Hill is an interesting get, though. The Mississaugian had a terrific right arm, but had a repeat Tommy John last year, so the Jays are really looking at him for 2011 and beyond. They control him through the end of the 2013 season, when he’ll only be 32, assuming he doesn’t get any big-league time this year (and he shouldn’t pitch competitively until after the all-star break, anyway), so he adds to the list of post-hype former top prospects that Alex Anthopoulos has brought in, hoping to unearth a hidden gem. Merkin Valdez falls into that category, too – he’s probably five years removed from that top prospect designation. But they’re all zero-risk moves. Hey, if you sign enough of them, you might get one to break through.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the cruise. It was a fun-filled four days, for sure. My lovely bride and I took part in a lot of the contests on the ship, winning the Sports Trivia (it’s not cheating, there were only three or four baseball questions) and finishing a strong second in the Famous Faces quiz (they give you a sheet with 20 small head-shots and you have to name them). We got 19 out of the 20 in that one, and I’m pretty sure the woman who claimed to have won cheated. Problem is, they let you give your own score based on the honour system, and I know that when Derek Jeter was revealed as one of the answers, I heard her whisper “I put Derek Cheevers, but that’s close enough.” More on Jeter later.
As I alluded to in the previous post, I was pretty disappointed by the 80s-music tribute show, though I should have known I would be since it was called “Far From Over”. Seriously – who names a show after the theme song from a Sly Stallone arm-wrestling flick? And then opens the show with said tune? Though I have to say those scrappy kids probably did a better job with it than Frank Stallone himself did. Still, the songs were good, but there seemed to be a lot of dancing-by-numbers going on – you could almost see them going “1 and 2 and 3 and 4″ in their heads.
One thing that has always bothered me about these shows, and I know they’re supposed to be lounge-y and Vegas-y type things, but really – you have the sheet music, it probably has the lyrics on it. Why are they getting the words wrong? There were four songs on which I recognized that they screwed up the words: Relax (“when you wanna go” instead of come, which may have been cleaning it up for the kiddies, but they didn’t clean up the rest of it), Endless Love (“you’re every move I make” instead of every step), Don’t Lose My Number (“Billy, Billy don’t you…..” instead of will he, Billy don’t you…..) and another one that I can’t remember one week hence. I will never understand this. Sorry for taking up so much of this space on it, but it really bothers me. By the way, after an online search, I’m starting to doubt myself on the Don’t Lose That Number line – but I’ll just say that everyone else has it wrong, so never mind that one.
The highlight of the trip was most definitely Atlantis. The resort/hotel and casino complex/beach/waterpark on Paradise Island in The Bahamas is easily the best resort I’ve ever seen. The lazy river was like riding White Water Canyon in an inner tube, and one circuit took 25 minutes. There are nine waterslides (the biggest one a 120-foot vertical drop), the best of which finishes up in a clear tube in the middle of a shark tank. The aquarium is spectacular. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a winter vacation, though I imagine it’s ridiculously expensive. We spent a day there, on an excursion put together by the ship, and it cost us $150 US each.
The only problem with Atlantis was that we were there on the wrong day. Our day there was Tuesday, which in a vacuum, is just lovely. But that week, Michael Jordan was arriving Wednesday o kick off his golf tournament. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were showing up on Thursday to captain opposing teams in a celebrity softball game. And Jerry Seinfeld was to cap the week by doing a stand-up show Saturday night. Damn timing.
We spent the day before hanging out at the beach in Freeport, which was really nice and relaxing. I spent a good amount of time in the shallower waters stalking what I believed to be a blue eel, but now that I’ve looked at pictures of actual eels, that’s likely not what it was. It was something, though, skinny, blue, almost transparent. Weird. Off the beach, there was a guy with a synthesizer that was trying to sound like steel drums, and it seemed like every reggae/calypso type tune he was playing was one that I knew only because it had once been parodied by Allen Sherman. Very strange experience, indeed.
There were also plenty of good times at the onboard casino. I played in two poker tournaments, finishing second once and tying for second another time, and I made it to the final table in the blackjack tourney as well, though I fell short there.
The lowlight of the trip? Easy. Some drunken pseudo-Romeo pounding on our door at 3:15 one morning, looking for Jennifer, the newly-found love of his life. I don’t know who I hate more – the guy for demanding entry to the room after being told there was no such woman there (I mean seriously – even if you met a girl and think you got her room number, if a guy answers the door at 3 AM, isn’t that enough of a hint to get the hell out of there?) or the girl for giving him my room number to get him to go away. After our initial exchange, he said he would just wait outside the room. He knocked again about five minutes later, and after I once again explained that she wasn’t there, and that he might have the wrong floor, or room number, he looked as though he was lost in thought for a bit, completely perplexed, then totally dejected as he slunk away. Poor guy. Idiot.
Overall, a solid trip, though again I would heartily recommend Princess over Carnival (those being the only two cruise lines on which I’ve been). Princess has better food, more variety, a far nicer presentation, just better in general.
So now I have two weeks at home before heading off to Whistler to take part in our coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games – that should be a blast. After that, home for less than a week before heading down to Spring Training to help fill you in on all the goings-on down there.
The next you hear from me will be after the annual State of the French Fries, featuring Paul Beeston, Cito Gaston and Alex Anthopoulos. I will likely be heavily drugged, though – just letting you know in advance.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
8:00 PM Ship’s Time
I had been planning that my next blog post would be more of a travelogue than about too many things baseballic, but then I got a phone call from The Fan’s Zack Cooper while I was wandering around the casino at the incredible Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. Evidently there was a rumour swirling around that the Blue Jays had signed Carlos Delgado, which had to be false. It took me about five minutes of Bahamian texting to confirm that there was nothing to it, but even without that, enough stuff happened today that I thought I should throw something on between the dinner buffet and the evening Movie Music Trivia contest.
Late last week, Alex Anthopoulos went public with the Jays’ new policy on signing players who have filed for arbitration – basically it was that there’s a dateline in the sand, that if you get to the point where you’re going to file numbers, you’re going to a hearing. Lo and behold, it worked, with the final group of players getting their names on contracts today (I’m not going to go into much detail – I’m paying 40 cents a minute for internet access here). The Jays also signed free agents Jeremy Reed and Steven Register to minor-league contracts with invites to Spring Training.
Reed I have liked ever since he hit .400 in Double-A – I think it was for the White Sox but, again, 40 cents a minute. It was a while ago, though, and the shine is definitely off his bat, but he is a very good defensive outfielder and will definitely give Joey Gathright a run for his money in the race to either platoon with Jose Bautista, be the fourth outfielder or be the fallback in case Travis Snider has to start the year at AAA. I like Reed over Gathright, basically because the former has been known to take a walk, even if his offense hasn’t really translated well to the majors. Register is another depth arm – the Jays have added a couple of those recently.
I’ll have something else for you on Thursday or Friday. We’re spending tomorrow at sea on the way back from Nassau to Cape Canaveral, then coming home on Thursday. Suffice it to say that Atlantis is incredible, Carnival Cruise Lines leave something to be desired, relative to Princess (on which the family cruised last winter), Rob Pizzo would be very happy with my performances so far in the onship poker tournaments (the Blackjack tournament is tomorrow) and although I was very excited to see the ship’s Main Show last night – since it was a tribute to the fantastic music of the 1980s- the fact that the show took its name from the title song to an extraordinarily forgettable Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling flick should have been a clue as to the quality of what I was about to see.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome, but they, along with the 25 or so in the hopper, won’t be answered until Friday at the earliest.
Sunday, January 10th, 2010
4:55 PM Eastern
It appears as though the Blue Jays’ efforts to sign Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman have fallen short, with the story this afternoon that Chapman will sign with the Cincinnati Reds – a deal that could be worth as much as $25 million and could lock up the youngish lefty for as long as six years.
I’m thinking that amount would probably go beyond what the Blue Jays believed to be “within reason” though the term, if it’s that long, would mitigate the cost quite a bit. We’re still in the rumour stage, but several Cincinnati sources say they’ve confirmed that Aroldis is a Red.
There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the Jays lost out on a guy who may well turn out to be an elite-level, front-of-the-rotation pitcher. The good news is that the Jays were likely one of the three finalists for Chapman’s services.
It’s funny – J.P. Ricciardi often got criticized for saying that the Jays weren’t in on any free agents. It seemed the fans just wanted him to say that they were (even if they weren’t), and then when the player signed elsewhere, they’d take solace in the fact at least the Jays had been in there slugging. That’s what happened here – though they were actually in it. The Jays missed, but by being in the running, they’ve shown the fans that they’re willing to spend significant money to improve if the planets are sufficiently aligned.
It doesn’t mean they’re going to throw $25 million at a Jon Garland-type to lock him up for the next three years, but it does mean that if there’s a special talent who is young, who can be controlled for a while, and whose only cost is money, then the Blue Jays will get involved. This augurs well for the Jays’ re-entry into Latin America, and maybe even for a serious entry into the Pacific Rim (with apologies to Ken Takahashi).
Should the Jays have coughed up the extra $5 million or so that could have locked Chapman up?
Well, firstly, that assumes that money was not only the main factor in signing Chapman, but that he was going to the highest bidder regardless. That may be the case, but it may not.
But let’s say cash was king – ought the Blue Jays to have ponied up? The Jays saved a grand total of 25.7 million 2010 payroll dollars simply by divesting themselves of Roy Halladay, Alex Rios and Scott Rolen. Kick in another couple million and get Chapman? If I was convinced of his talent, I probably do that. On a six-year deal, though, he wouldn’t necessarily pay for himself, depending on how quickly he got to the big leagues. I know the Jays see Chapman as someone who is very, very raw but who is a very, very special talent.
Is he really 22? Or he is 26? 28? It’s impossible to know. There is plenty of suspicion that he’s older than he claims to be, and unless you cut him in half and count the rings, there’s really no way to know.
If it comes down to a yes or no, would I have made sure I was the highest bidder if I was Alex Anthopoulos? Honestly, I don’t know. If I thought I was going to sign a guy for about $21 million, would I let myself be pushed to $26 million? That’s about 25% more than I was originally willing to pay, and that’s pushing it, at the very least. Given the Jays’ seeming abundance of young pitching, I’d likely have said no, too. But it’s still a terrific gamble for the Reds to take, and it means that while there’s now one thing off AA’s front burner, there are still plenty more burners a-burnin’.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
8:00 PM Eastern
My jaw dropped when the Hall of Fame inductee announcement came out this afternoon. I was at the offices of SUN TV, getting ready to tape tonight’s appearance on The Grill Room, when I learned that Andre Dawson was the lone writers’ inductee to Cooperstown this year, that Roberto Alomar had fallen eight votes short and that Bert Blyleven had fallen just five votes short.
It was the first time in history that two players had fallen short by fewer than ten votes each. Never mind the other three names that would have been on my ballot along with Alomar and Blyleven – Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire and Tim Raines – who finished well up the track. More on them later.
It’s insane to me that Roberto Alomar isn’t in the Hall of Fame right now – far more insane than that Dawson is.
Alomar may have been the greatest second baseman ever to play the game. He hit .300 nine times and finished a career .300/.371/.443 while being clearly the best defender at his position in the game. He was top six in the MVP voting an astonishing five times, given that he only topped the 20-homer mark twice. I’m not getting into the 12 all-star games and 10 Gold Gloves, because I think those are both minefields, but there’s no question that Alomar was the dominant player at his position during his career, and there’s no doubt he’s Hall-worthy.
Some voters (members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with at least 10 years in the club) seem to believe there’s a separate wing of the Hall of Fame for players who get in on the first ballot, and they wanted to make sure Alomar wasn’t so honoured, even though they’ll vote for him next year. Ridiculous. Was it because he fell short of 3,000 hits? Was it because he spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck – a disgusting act of petulance and immaturity? Maybe. But a lot of those same writers are of the opinion that the numbers aren’t the most important thing, that you can “know a Hall of Famer when you see one”. I can’t believe, then, that any of them saw Alomar play. I’m pretty sure you only had to watch the guy once to know that he passed the Hall of Fame Smell Test.
After all, the “Smell Test” is why Andre Dawson is in and Bert Blyleven isn’t, right? Dawson looked like a Hall of Famer to enough people that 420 writers voted for him. Congrats to The Hawk, by the way. I wouldn’t have voted for him, but he’s not a guy like, say, Don Mattingly – someone who I believe absolutely doesn’t belong. Dawson was on the bubble for me, and the reason I would have left him off my virtual ballot was a simple one: He got out too much.
I know there are many baseball fans, analysts and reporters who don’t have a lot of time for people who feel that on-base percentage is really, really important. They believe that batting average, home runs and RBIs tell you all you need to know about a hitter. They’re wrong. The most important thing a player can do with his time at the plate is not get out, and Dawson got out a lot. Injuries beat the hell out of him, so Dawson only finished in the top 10 in plate appearances once in his career. However, he finished in the top 10 in outs made four times.
Dawson’s career on-base percentage was .323 – it’s the lowest of any outfielder in the Hall of Fame by OVER 20 POINTS. And it’s seriously inflated by the amount of intentional walks he was issued. Nearly a quarter (24.3%) of the walks Dawson took in his 21-year career came when the catcher stood up and held out four fingers. Take those away and his career OBP drops to .317. That’s only six points higher than Vernon Wells’ OBP was this past season.
Dawson has a lot of things going for him – he has to to even be on the bubble with a .323 career on-base. But in my mind, there’s not enough to be a Hall of Famer. Still, he’s a better choice than Jim Rice was.
I can’t believe more writers haven’t come around on Blyleven’s candidacy, either. Yes, he fell 13 wins short of 300, playing for teams that were generally mediocre at best. Have we not become enlightened enough to realize how little of an effect a pitcher has on his wins total? Blyleven completed over 35% of his starts, and threw 60 shutouts. He allowed 10.8 baserunners per nine innings over the course of his 22-year career. He won more 1-0 games than any other pitcher in history. But he couldn’t squeeze out an extra 13 wins, so he has to wait 15 years to make it into the Hall. Some writers won’t vote for him because they feel that the way he has campaigned to make it to the Hall in recent years has been unseemly, which is a ludicrous reason to punish a guy.
Edgar Martinez is the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to post a career batting average over .300, a career on-base percentage over .400 and a career slugging percentage over .500 and not be in the Hall of Fame. I know he didn’t play defense, but they’ve named the outstanding DH award after him, for the love of Pete!
Tim Raines was a better hitter and a better basestealer than Lou Brock, and he compares very, very favourably to Tony Gwynn. But he didn’t get 3,000 hits. Brock did, but Raines reached base 144 more times than Brock – in almost 1,000 fewer plate appearances. Raines also reached base 22 more times than Gwynn, though he had 127 more plate appearances. Thing is, a lot of Raines’ work came via the walk – a weapon neither Brock nor Gwynn had. And walks don’t resonate too well with a lot of Hall of Fame voters.
The McGwire argument is a whole other kettle of fish. Yes, we’re pretty sure he was dirty. But we’re also pretty sure a lot of the other stars of his era were dirty, we just don’t have as strong a feeling about some of them, so they’ll get in and he won’t. What a load.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome. But if you’re Richard Griffin, you should know that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
12:40 AM Eastern
Well, more correctly – you did it, and thank you.
Thanks for getting out the vote for Tom Cheek for the Ford C. Frick Award in the month of December. Tom finished first in the fan balloting with 38.2% of the vote, outpacing former voice-of-the-Expos Jacques Doucet, who had 33.4%. The late Joe Nuxhall, of the Cincinnati Reds’ broadcast crew (and the youngest major-leaguer in history) was a distant third, garnering 8.8%.
Our work is done, and you all did great work, so now it’s up to the voting committee. The 15 living Frick recipients plus five other “baseball historians” will now cast their ballots. Hopefully the fact that Tom won the balloting and has finished in the top three every year that it’s been going on (save for one, I think) will finally push him over the top. It’s well past time. Mrs. Cheek would look pretty good standing next to Roberto Alomar on that dias in Cooperstown this summer.
However, judging from the Associated Press story about the Frick ballot, a lot of people south of the border still need to wake up. Here’s the story in its entirety:
“COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Cincinnati’s Joe Nuxhall, Montreal’s Jacques Doucet and Toronto’s Tom Cheek have been voted finalists for baseball broadcasting’s Ford Frick Award for the second straight year.
Cheek received 5,930 votes, Doucet 5,183 and Nuxhall 1,363, the Hall of Fame said Monday.
They join seven broadcasters selected by a Hall of Fame research committee: Billy Berroa, Skip Caray, Lanny Frattare, Graham McNamee, Jon Miller, Herb Score and Dave Van Horne.
Nuxhall, a 135-game winner during 16 major league seasons spent almost entirely with the Reds, died of cancer in 2007. Miller and Van Horne are the only active broadcasters on the ballot.
The winner will be announced Feb. 1 and inducted in July.
Tony Kubek won last year’s award.”
Seriously – that’s the AP story. Nice of them to mention Tom.
Again, though, thank you so much for helping to rock the vote.
There are two other Blue Jays-related stories on which I should take a minute or six to comment – Edwin Encarnacion’s face and Aroldis’ Chapman’s good left arm.
First, to Eddie, who was burned by a New Year’s firework that his brother lit and shot into the third baseman’s jaw. Luckily, Encarnacion was unhurt, save for some first- and second-degree burns. There were no fractures, no serious injuries, no permanent damage and he won’t need surgery. He’ll be fine for Spring Training, though maybe he should bring his brother along to Dunedin so that Brian Butterfield can work with him, too.
Second, and much bigger, is the Chapman thing. An ESPN.com report says the Jays worked out the 22-or-so year-old Cuban defector in a private session on New Year’s Eve and then sat down to discuss the financials with his new agents, the Hendricks brothers.
I haven’t been able to get a confirmation from the Jays’ camp, but I haven’t gotten any denials, either.
Chapman is a left-handed starter with a rocket for an arm, and though he’s awfully, awfully raw, he is EXACTLY the kind of player the Blue Jays should be going after, and very hard.
He hit 97 on the gun for the scouts who saw his well-attended workout earlier in December, and has been clocked at over 100 miles an hour. Again – he’s awfully raw. This isn’t Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has dominated an elite-level league for years and is ready to step into a big-league starting rotation. This is a young kid, albeit one who has a few years of high-level experience behind him already. He hasn’t dominated in Cuba, though, nor did he dominate at the World Baseball Classic. But that’s OK. He’s 22.
Rumour has it that the Red Sox offered him a $15.5 million deal in November, so the thinking is that his price tag would be even higher now. Remember, though, that this is NOT a per-year sort of thing. If the Blue Jays were to come in with a $20 million offer, that would be $20 million OVER THE COURSE OF FOUR OR FIVE YEARS, which is a terrific investment.
According to the Yankees’ senior V.P. of baseball ops, Mark Newman, Chapman has a huge fastball (heck, I could have told you that, and I’ve never seen the guy pitch), but spotty command and inconsistent secondary pitches. Once he works on that command and those other pitches, he’s going to “take off”. And again – he’s apparently 22. Hat-tip to my P.F. Chang’s Indianapolis dinner-mate Chad Jennings, of The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. for getting the Newman comments.
Basically, Chapman has the kind of arm over which scouts have been known to drool small bodies of water. As Newman added, “if you don’t like (Chapman’s stuff), you need to be in another business”.
So, should the Jays take $20 million and hand it over to this kid? Absolutely. Will he take it? Maybe.
First question first. Yes, Chapman is no Stephen Strasburg, but Strasburg has been talked about for a couple of years as the Second Coming – and THAT’S the guy who seems to be Chapman’s closest comparable. Heard anybody compare him to Matthew Hobgood, the next pitcher taken in the 2009 draft? Nope. Because he’s in a different conversation. Chapman may not be one of those once-in-a-lifetime young arms, but he could be close. And all it would take for the Blue Jays to bring him in is money – and less money than they would have paid to Scott Rolen and Alex Rios in 2010. Fork that cash over, and you get Chapman for a LONG time.
See, the thing is, once he’s in the system, he’s in the system. I’ll grant you, whoever signs this kid is going to have to give him a major-league contract right away, which takes away some years of control. But if the Jays do sign him, and use all three of the option years they’d get in one form or another, Chapman could be theirs through the end of the 2018 season. If he works out the way everybody thinks, they’d have to pay him some serious dough over the last two or three years of that, but that’s what we’re talking about. Adding another elite-level talent for nothing but money that’s just sitting around.
What’s the downside? His arm explodes, he never finds his control (or it doesn’t click in until after he’s gone, a la Randy Johnson), he’s a disappointment and it’s $20 million down the toilet. I don’t see that as enough of a downside not to try to sign the guy. Again – it’s $20 million (theoretically – it could be $17 million, it could be $23 million) over the course of four or five years. EASILY worth the investment.
So, would he sign? Well, there are plenty of reasons for him to do so. A lot is being made about the fact that he lost out on a bunch of money by not signing with a U.S.-based team before January 1st, as though that gave the Blue Jays an advantage. It didn’t. It merely took away an advantage that a U.S.-based team had – the playing field, cash-wise, is now merely more level.
I’m thinking that the Florida Marlins may be the Jays’ biggest competition here. There’s a massive Cuban population in Miami – he won’t even have to learn English if he doesn’t want to – and he’ll feel right at home. Also, Florida has no state income tax, so that’ll help.
What’s the advantage the Blue Jays have? Well, for one thing, Cubans are allowed to travel freely to Canada. The U.S.? Not so much. Although the government can’t be happy with Chapman for defecting, being in Canada could be a big help towards him being able to bring family over. There’s really no measuring that benefit.
Another edge the Jays have is the Hendricks brothers’ relationship with Paul Beeston. They got together way back 13 years ago to bring Roger Clemens to Toronto, and the brothers’ respect for Beeston is sky-high. That can’t hurt.
So, would Chapman come here? Probably. Should the Jays do everything they can to sign him? Yep. Will they? Within reason.
I don’t think the Jays want to get into a huge bidding war that drives the price into the stratosphere. Then again, this is no ordinary free agent. He’s young, he’s close to ready and he’s controllable beyond the years on the initial contract. It’s like signing a draft pick, only there’s more than one suitor, which raises the price tremendously.
Alex Anthopoulos has done a fantastic job of bringing in upper-echelon young talent so far in his short tenure, adding Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Brandon Morrow (they also really like Travis d’Arnaud, but the other three are something else). Chapman would be another piece to that puzzle, and give the Jays a potential killer top 4 in the rotation in years to come along with Drabek, Morrow and Brett Cecil. You could pick from Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, Marc Rzepczynski, Henderson Alvarez, Luis Perez and Chad Jenkins to be your fifth, and that’s a tasty menu from which to choose.
It makes sense, it fits with what they’ve been doing, and again, the cost of FIVE years of Chapman is about equal to the cost of the ONE year of Rolen and Rios that the Jays shed in August. Hopefully both Alex and Aroldis feel the same way.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome. And Happy New Year!