Archive for December, 2010
Saturday, December 25th, 2010
11:05 AM Eastern
Well, I promised I would give you something to do on the 25th, so whether it’s a merry Christmas, a good Shabbat or just the start of a terrific long weekend, I hope everyone reading this is simply having a wonderful time!
And so here it is – a mailbag full of actual (unedited) letters from actual readers to add to your enjoyment! Keep those cards and letters coming, we’ll make this a weekly thing in weeks in which the Blue Jays don’t make any news worth blogging about (apologies to the “big six”, but Corey Patterson, Brian Stokes, Ryan Budde, Winston Abreu, Mike Hinckley and the return of Sean Henn don’t exactly get many cranks turning – Patterson could be the 4th or 5th outfielder, Budde could be what Raul Chavez was a couple of years ago and there’s a chance some of the pitchers contribute in the bigs if a few guys get hurt, but none is likely to make a splash in the majors, let alone a ripple).
Quick reminder – I’ll be hosting four shows over the next week: Tuesday evening starting at 6:30 pm, Wednesday morning starting at 9:00 am, Thursday afternoon (2010 in movies/sports movies with special guest Norman Wilner, lead film critic for NOW Magazine) starting at 1:00 pm, and next Saturday starting at noon (all times Eastern) , so be sure to tune in!
Now, here’s your mailbag – Stoeten is free to take a shot at it if he wants – hope you have a joyous and meaningful whatever-you’re-celebrating:
Did Scott Downs get signed as a TYPE A free agent by the Angels? If so, does this mean the Jays get something in return?
- Leafs Key Chains
Yes, he did, so yes, they do. The Jays get something in return for their Type B free agents (Buck, Olivo, Gregg when he signs) too, they just get more for the Type As. Downs nets the Jays a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds – just like the other guys – but the Jays also pick up an additional pick for losing him. Had the Angels not finished in the bottom 15 of the league, it could have been their first-round pick, but instead the Jays will get a lower pick. Right now, they have LA of A’s second-rounder, but if the Halos sign a higher-ranked Type A free agent (such as Adrian Beltre, a player they’re rumoured to be pursuing), the Jays’ compensation pick would drop to the third round.
I get that (Adam) Lind is signed for a while longer than EE, but why not go with the best defensive option at 1B?
EE has good hands and quick feet, so would be a great help to the infield defense. We don’t know that Lind has this.
So, Mike: why didn’t the Jays move Lind to DH and EE to 1B?
That may eventually happen, if Lind shows that he can’t handle first base defensively. Thing is, the Blue Jays control Lind for six years and Encarnacion for just two, and they’d eventually love to be able to have that DH spot free to bring in guys like Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, etc. who have little or no defensive value whatsoever. They can only do that if Lind shows that he can play a position, so he’s the guy at whom you have to take a good, long look.
What about the fact that (Encarnacion) is considered to be, for a lack of a better word Lazy (sic). afterall (sic) wasent (sic) he sent down to AAA for dogging it down the first base line?? AA Shouldve (sic) just got (sic) Manny!
Encarnacion was sent down in late June, but both Alex Anthopoulos and Cito Gaston swore up and down that it had nothing to do with attitude or effort. Cito had said a few times that Eddie had been dealing with a sore leg, which explained his apparent laziness in getting down the first base line a time or twelve. Moreso than laziness, Encarnacion was likely sent down for an atrocious lack of production; in the 22 games before his demotion, he hit just .145/.280/.261.
I hope you are enjoying your offseason (such as it is…). I don’t mind the EE re-acquire – perhaps it shows they are going to try to use Edwin to his strengths (offence, soft hands). I suppose my question is more about Tallet then. It seems he was slightly abused last year, but his numbers show that he would be great as a situational lefty (great numbers against left-handers, if I remember correctly). Couldn’t the Jays have resigned him to use him in a more appropriate role? Or would he have demanded too high a salary coming back to the team? Did they have no interest bringing him back, or did he not have interest coming back? Or was it just a case of moving forward for both (ie non-EE situation)?
I think it was more opportunity than anything else for Tallet. Where the Jays could bring Encarnacion back pretty easily due to a lack of suitors, that wasn’t the case with Tallet, who signed with the Cardinals pretty quickly after the Jays let him go. The Jays would have been happy to have Tallet back on, say, a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training, but they feel as though someone like maybe a Marc Rzepczynski can pretty easily step into what his role was going forward. I agree with you that Tallet was misused this past season, and would have made a terrific LOOGY had Cito seen that in him (he was big on checking numbers, not sure how he missed that lefties hit just .176/.228/.343 against Tallet while righties had a 1.031 OPS).
By the way, I’m going to try to have Tallet on as a guest on one of the shows I host next week, he was always a terrific interview.
The Jays quietly re-acquired Zach Jackson (I believe) past year. I think he was a fairly highly regarded prospect before he got traded. Will we ever see him in the big leagues?
If you were to rank Jays pitchers not in the majors, where does he rank?
Thanks Mike. Miss your mailbag.
Jackson is a one-time hot prospect (former first-rounder) who seems to have had his window in the big leagues, getting a few cups of coffee with Milwaukee and Cleveland. I doubt he’ll get another legit shot. The Jays signed him last year to be minor-league roster filler and he’s since left as a minor-league free agent for Texas.
Do you think either Josh Roenicke or Zach Stewart will be on the opening day roster?
Does Stewart project as a starter or reliever?
- Leafs Key Chains
Two appearances in the mailbag for you – well done! Stewart is a starter for now, and maybe one of the reasons that Alex Anthopoulos could afford to move Shaun Marcum. I can’t see him being on the Opening Day roster, though if you take Alex at his word that Stewart and Drabek were neck-and-neck at the end of this past season, you’d have to say he has a shot. Roenicke remains a project – a great arm that has yet to show nearly enough control at the major-league level. They’d love to have him break with the team, and do so at the back of the bullpen, but right now you’d have to say he’s behind at least Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen, Carlos Villanueva, David Purcey and Jesse Carlson.
Any thoughts on the Grill Room coming to an end?
- Stevie H.
I do – it really is too bad. The Grill Room was a sports panel talk show on SUN TV for the last five years and change, on which I was a frequent guest. I remember finding out about the show from the original host, Jeremy-John Dunton and producer, Ed Milliken, in the press box at Rogers Centre before a game one September. Double-J, with whom I had worked at 680News, told me about the show in development and said he’d love to have me on, and it grew from there. Double-J and Ed eventually left, and Gareth Wheeler took over the hosting duties with Robert Gibson moving up into the producer’s chair, and they did a phenomenal job with it. Gareth and Gibby are terrific guys, great sports fans, reasonably intelligent adversaries in debate and a lot of fun to just sit around and shoot the bull, as it were. I’ll miss The Grill Room, but not as much as I’ll miss seeing (on a regular basis) the people who were involved with the show. I really do hope we can work together again in the near future.
I’ll have Gibby on as a guest on one of the shows I host next week, probably on Wednesday morning.
There you go folks – keep those cards and letters coming!
Thursday, December 16th, 2010
6:25 PM Eastern
Back in Florida, Alex Anthopoulos said that whomsoever the Blue Jays were going to bring in to be their DH in 2011 was going to have to be a guy who could also be Adam Lind insurance at first base.
Who knew he was talking about someone who has made a whopping two appearances at the position over his six years in the majors?
Yes, Edwin Encarnacion is back after having hardly given us a chance to miss him, signing a one-year deal for $2.5 million with a club option for 2012 that’s worth $3.5 million. But don’t panic, true believers, he’s not coming back to ply his trade at the hot corner.
If Lind is going to spend the year basically breaking his maiden as a big-league first baseman, he simply cannot have Encarnacion at third base, firing missiles in his general direction with barely any idea where they’re going to wind up. No, Eddie is coming back to see if he can harness that tantalizing power and, free of the concerns that he may well hospitalize a patron sitting down the first-base line, become a big-time slugging DH.
There’s no question the power is there. We saw it on several occasions, most notably in Arizona back in May and then again in Minnesota at season’s end – he hit 10 of his 21 home runs this season in those two series alone. But thanks to a couple of stints on the disabled list and a trip to Las Vegas, Encarnacion hit those 21 dingers in just 96 games. And all while recovering from a wrist injury! Pro-rated over a full season, that works out to 35 bombs, and that’s what the Jays are hoping they might see from him as a full-time DH and Lind insurance at first base.
And before you dismiss the notion that Encarnacion might be able to be a decent defensive first baseman, remember this – the guy was an exceptional defender at third, he just couldn’t throw the ball. At all. At first base, he won’t have to worry about that, but for some underhanded tosses to the pitcher covering. And hopefully, Lind takes well enough to first that Encarnacion will only have to worry about hitting.
He’s certainly not the guy I expected would be DHing here next season, but it’s a very interesting gamble. Encarnacion is only 27 years old, and will be 28 by Opening Day. He carries a career .790 OPS into this season with an even 100 home runs in 2540 career plate appearances. That’s a higher OPS than Aaron Hill – even before Hill’s crappy 2010 – and more homers in fewer PA’s.
The reason most Jays fans are down on the man you can no longer call “E5″ (he’s no longer a third baseman, after all) is because of the ugly, ugly defensive issues that have plagued him his entire career. He has finally thrown in the towel on third base, much to the delight of the spectatorate and maybe against his will, but however it happened, he could well go from being a good hitter with big-time power to a really good hitter who consistently gets results from his big-time power. It’s only costing the Jays $2.5 million to find out. And hey, he had a .914 OPS against lefties this past season.
I know I’d said I was going to throw together a mailbag, you may have to wait until next week for that. Maybe I’ll put it up on the 25th to give you some xmas reading material if you’re interested, so keep those comments coming. I’ll pick some out to answer in the next post unless the Jays do something else in the interim.
And make sure you tune in to The Fan590 the week after xmas – they’re having me come in to host a few shows. I’ll be on on the 28th from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, filling in for Jeff Blair on the 29th from 9:00 am to noon and taking Greg Brady’s shift on the 30th from 1:00-3:00 pm (all times Eastern). There will be plenty of baseball talk, lots of Blue Jays guests and my big brother will come in to talk about the year in movies (and your favourite sports movies) on the 30th!
Thursday, December 9th, 2010
12:15 PM Eastern
The Winter Meetings are over, everyone is heading out of here with planes to catch, and the last event was this morning’s Rule 5 draft in which the Blue Jays made no selections. Alex Anthopoulos explained afterward that the guy they had really wanted had been taken early, and they didn’t want to take up a 40-man roster spot on someone they didn’t really love, because they’re still going to sign a few major-league free agents over the course of the winter and as a result would have to move someone else off the 40 and risk losing him on waivers just in order to hold onto a Rule 5er they really didn’t want all that much in the first place.
The Jays did, however, get a $50,000 gift from J.P. Ricciardi and the New York Mets – at the cost of Brad Emaus. Emaus will either make the Mets out of Spring Training or be offered back to the Blue Jays for $25,000. I have no doubt that Emaus is going to impress the heck out of his new club in Port St. Lucie, he seems always to have a terrific spring, and he’ll probably stick as a multi-positional infield back-up and bat off the bench. He has a chance to be a solid National League player.
Adam Loewen survived Rule 5, so he’s still a Blue Jay, but another Canadian player was on the move. Scott Diamond, a young lefty from the Braves organization who pitched for Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, was plucked by the Minnesota Twins.
Among the things that Alex Anthopoulos mentioned in his post-draft media scrum was that he’d felt out the market for free agent relievers, but so many guys out there are so similar that he doesn’t feel ready to make a move yet. Since they’re so close, his best move is probably to let other teams make his decisions for him, because as they thin the herd, the prices probably go down, and you’re getting a similar player anyway.
He spoke about the difference between the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays, who had their three-year run and have now lost Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett and Grant Balfour and are looking to trade Matt Garza as well, saying the difference between what the Rays did and what the Jays plan to do is the market. Even when the Rays were winning, they weren’t drawing, which makes success unsustainable since you’re never going to be able to afford to keep your stars when they get too expensive. In Toronto, though, attendance goes up when there’s a buzz in the city about the team – like after the Arencibia and Morrow games, or the Bautista chase late in the season. Anthopoulos and Beeston (and I – and probably you) have no doubt that when the Blue Jays become contenders again, there will be crowds. Maybe only 35,000 or so, as opposed to a sell-out every night, but they’ll be there, and that will help.
Alex said that he wasn’t surprised about the Red Sox’ signing of Crawford, it’s just what they do, but he has to be careful not to react to it and make a move just to make a move or to satisfy the fans who want a 2011 bone thrown their way as opposed to a few 2013 bones. He saying looking for a quick fix is tantamount to wasting a couple of years, and that they have to stick to their “very detailed and very focused” plan that relates to their market, their ownership and their upside and it has to be seen through, because that has the biggest potential to pay off and see the Jays return to where they were from 1985-93. The focus is the World Series, and Alex believes that to get there the Jays have to put together a team where 95 wins is the lower limit. He said that there have been several very good Blue Jays teams since 1993, winning between 84-88 games, but even though that might be enough elsewhere on the MLB landscape, it’s not enough to get the Jays where they need to be. And in order to be a 95 win team in the A.L. East, Alex believes that you need to have a potential all-star at every position – he’s trying to get there and to time it right, and it might not be too far down the road that you have an infield of Lind, Hill, Escobar and Lawrie and an outfield of Snider, Wells and Bautista – all all-stars, with guys like Anthony Gose and Jacob Marisnick bubbling under the surface. Of course, Lind and Hill have to get back to being all-stars, Snider has to get there and Bautista has to stay there, and that’s a lot of ifs. Oh, and the pitching staff has to keep developing and stay healthy, too. But they’re not that far off.
As always, here’s all the audio I sent back to the station in one neat and tidy package for your listening pleasure:
It’s been an incredibly busy four days down here in Orlando, but a lot of fun to be around such a baseball-centric event. I’ll be sending pictures from the trade show down the line later today – mostly about interesting ideas for in-game entertainment that they’re trying to sell to minor-league teams – so be sure to go to the media gallery to check those out. And next week I’m thinking I’ll do one of those mailbag-type things, so start to fill up the comments section and I’ll take stuff out of there into a main post.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
6:22 PM Eastern
No, the Blue Jays haven’t yet made any moves on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t quite a bit of information to pass along to you. In his daily briefing with the local media, G.M. Alex Anthopoulos was about as forthcoming as he’s been to this point on several subjects.
First of all – the Blue Jays want Adam Lind to be their starting first baseman next season. Alex talked about how much flexibility would be added to the roster if Lind could spend the next three to six years at first instead of as the DH, and said that they’re very interested in seeing what he can do. He said that Lind showed that he has soft hands in his brief trial last season, and while he needs to work on footwork and pop-ups, he really didn’t get enough work at the position to improve much.
Lind thinks, with an entire Spring Training at first, that he can develop into a big-league first baseman, and so does Alex, and this is the year he’s going to get the chance. Another reason to feel comfortable giving Lind that shot is the absence of Edwin Encarnacion – or at least, the presence of Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista, neither of whom should need to be bailed out by their first baseman on a regular basis.
Further to the Lind discussion, Anthopoulos also told us – without mentioning any names or speaking specifically about any players out there – that the Blue Jays aren’t interested in having Manny Ramirez as their designated hitter in 2011. He said the ideal DH, who would likely have to be brought in from outside the organization, is someone who would be able to be moved to first should Lind not be able to handle the position. That might be a veteran who has played first full-time in the past, or it might be some sort of hybrid multi-positional type who could spend most of his time DHing but could also get out in the field every once in a while. Manny, as much fun as he’d be to have around and as good a job as I believe he’d do at the plate, can play left field only by the strictest definition of the term and has never played first base. So he’s out.
Anthopoulos also didn’t deny interest in free agent catcher Russell Martin. Again, he didn’t directly comment on Martin himself, but said that the Jays would have to have interest in that type of player, if he could be brought in with the team still being able to develop J.P. Arencibia. That may work out as a direct split of the catching duties, with Arencibia doing a little DHing and Martin playing a bit of third, or Martin may be brought in to share time with Rajai Davis while Jose Bautista shuffles between third and the outfield to replace whichever one isn’t playing that day. That said, I don’t believe that Martin’s bat plays at third base – at least not the bat he’s brought to the table the last couple of years.
There were updates on Scott Richmond (he’ll compete for a job in Spring Training, stretched out as a starter but aware that there may be a spot for him in the bullpen), Jesse Litsch (Alex absolutely believes Litsch will be healthy and ready to go at the beginning of Spring Training) and Dustin McGowan (playing catch right now, pain-free – no one is getting their hopes up, but so far, so good), and an explanation that Shawn Hill was let go because he had a “flare-up” in his final regular season start, and as much as the Jays like him and his stuff, they just don’t believe that he’ll be able to stay healthy enough to stay on the mound on a regular basis.
Tomorrow morning is the Rule 5 draft, in which players with four or five years of pro experience who are not on 40-man rosters are available to be plucked by any team, the caveat being that the drafting team must keep the player on the active roster for the entire following season or offer to return the player to the team from whence he came for half the price they paid to draft him. The Blue Jays have had a long and storied history with the Rule 5 draft, picking up players such as George Bell, Kelly Gruber and Manny Lee, among others (Lou Thornton, Willie Canate, Cory Thurman, etc.). Other famous Rule 5 picks include Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton and the great Bip Roberts.
The Jays have three open spots on the 40-man roster to use, and Anthopoulos said that he has an eye on three players, at least one of whom he doesn’t expect to be available when they pick. As I mentioned yesterday, I see Fu-Te Ni as a possibility – the 28 year-old lefty held left-handed hitters to a .113/.211/.258 mark with the Tigers in 2009 before flaming out last year. Adam Miller is also attractive, a first-round pick of the Indians in 2003, he’s missed the last couple of seasons with a finger injury. Baseball America had him as a top-30 major-league prospect in ’05, ’07 and ’08.
Among the players the Jays left unprotected, who could be claimed tomorrow, are Brad Emaus and Adam Loewen. Emaus, I’m assuming, because the Jays see something in him that they don’t think will play in the big leagues, despite his success in the minors, and Loewen, as Anthopoulos explained, mostly because he’s out of options and if the Jays had put him on the 40-man roster (to protect him from Rule 5) he’d have had to have made the team out of Spring Training or face going through waivers, so it’s either risk losing him now or risk losing him then. The risk of losing Loewen is much lower now, because even if he gets taken, he’d have to make whichever team selects him out of Spring Training or the Jays get him back.
Finally, I broke the news of Dave Van Horne winning the Frick to Alex just as the media briefing began, and he was thrilled. As a Montrealer, Van Horne was to Anthopoulos what Tom Cheek is to us, and Alex couldn’t have been happier for him, immediately recalling Van Horne’s signature “up, up and away” home run call and of course, the famous “El Presidente, El Perfecto” as Marquis Grissom squeezed that Chris Gwynn fly ball in deep centrefield at Dodger Stadium to complete Dennis Martinez’ 1991 perfect game (full disclosure – I had to look up the fact that it was Gwynn and that it was ’91, but I distinctly remember watching Grissom catch the ball). Alex said that he remembers Van Horne and Ken Singleton as the Expos’ team – those of us with a little more mileage think of Van Horne with Duke Snider beside him. I remember thinking as a kid how strange it was that Snider broadcast Expos games even though he was a famous ex-Dodger. I wasn’t sure how that worked.
I sat in on Van Horne’s news conference later on, and he had tears in his eyes on several occasions, especially when he talked about pulling his 10 year-old daughter out of class to tell her the news. Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jeff Conine were there, and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star and Bob Elliott of the Sun were too, a couple of guys with long Expos histories, and it was a great moment for all of them. Van Horne said then, as he did to Jeff Blair on the air with us this morning, that he firmly believes Tom Cheek deserves to be in the Hall of Fame with him, and will get in there. The one thing that might not play well in Montreal was when Van Horne was asked, jokingly, if he’d go into the Hall as an Expo or a Marlin and he didn’t hesitate in saying “Marlin”. Of course, broadcasters don’t get caps on their plaque, but Van Horne said that although he spent 32 years in Montreal and loved every minute of it, he has so much respect for the people with whom he works in Florida, like Jeffrey Loria, that the Fish would be his choice. Could that be a veiled shot at Expos’ ownership near the end? Maybe.
As always, there’s plenty of Anthopoulos audio to be had – 18 clips from today’s briefing. Here they are, for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow – the Rule 5 draft and a trip home!
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
2:10 PM Eastern
Another year, another Ford C. Frick Award, and still Tom Cheek waits on the sidelines. He may well be looking down upon us from heaven, but the Hall of Fame seems to be intent on keeping Tom in purgatory. Or is it limbo? (I need to watch Dogma again, I think).
It really is too bad that Cheek was passed over yet again, despite once again winning the fan portion of the balloting and by a huge margin – for that, by the way, I thank you all so much and I ask that you be ready to heed the call again when voting opens next year, even though it really does seem as though we’re all collectively banging our heads against a wall. One of these years, it will work.
Then again, it’s tough to be too upset when Dave Van Horne is this year’s winner. Van Horne was the voice of the Montreal Expos on radio and television, and he’s the guy under whom Tom Cheek broke into the MLB broadcasting business.
I’ve only spoken to Van Horne once – I interviewed him earlier this year for one of the Blue Jays Pre-Game shows – but his unmistakeable (and very Cheek-like) voice, style and delivery brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it. I remember hearing Van Horne’s call of Rick Monday’s home run (please don’t make me go into further detail) while I was in the orthodontist’s chair as an 11 year-old. I remember hearing him and Ken Singleton doing Expos games on TSN for so many years. Van Horne is most assuredly part of the fabric of baseball in Canada and is certainly a deserving recipient of the award.
It’s nice that he’s still around to enjoy it, too, and still active, broadcasting Florida Marlins games to a community that appears to be thoroughly disinterested in big-league baseball.
The silver lining in this, for those of us who are invested in getting Tom Cheek his due recognition, is that as a Frick winner Van Horne now becomes a member of the Frick voting committee in the future. That can only help Tom’s case, even though one would think that the Hall of Fame would be loath to put in iconic Canadian broadcasters in consecutive years.
Hearty congratulations to Dave Van Horne, his family and all his fans. Anything that helps keep the legacy of the Expos alive is a great thing. And here’s to a future that sees Tom Cheek’s name beside his in Cooperstown.
In other news, the media lunch with John Farrell was as lovely as it was off the record, so no info about that here. It was a casual thing, though, so it’s not like a whole bunch of newsworthy stuff was discussed (PROTOCOL BREAK! Jamie Campbell talked about a Ben Affleck movie he watched last night). Right now I’m going to head downstairs to check out the trade show – I’ll snap a few pictures to give you a feel of what it’s like, it’s really something else.
Alex Anthopoulos will address the assemblage at 4:30 this afternoon, I’ll have the wrap on that for you this evening and, of course, will keep you posted on any other Blue Jays news that might come up throughout the day.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
7:15 PM Eastern
After yesterday’s frenzy of activity, today was bound to be quieter and tomorrow will probably be quiet, too. BlueJayically, anyway. Not a single announcement has been made at the podium here on Day 2 as I write this, and though the rumour mill continues to spin fast and furious with names like Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford on the high end and Gregg Zaun and Jeff Francoeur on the low end, none of those rumours involve your Toronto Blue Jays.
That, of course, may mean that something is up, because whenever the Jays are talked about as an involved party in a negotiation, nothing happens. The deals Alex Anthopoulos makes almost always come out of nowhere.
Alex addressed that when he gave his daily briefing to the assemblage late this afternoon, just before he went on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown (did he say hi to Bob for me like I asked?). He explained that he’d rather not be completely quiet and not comment on anything, that he knows the hot stove league is a big part of the fun for the fans, and that if he were a fan he’d want to know what his team was up to and in whom they were interested. The problem is that he’s seen first-hand trades and signings that were close wind up falling apart because other parties get wind of the negotiations and stick their noses in. He’s done it himself. The only way he can ensure that no one else is going to get gum up the works is if no one else knows what’s going on, and he can’t pick and choose on which scenarios he comments - so it’s complete radio silence.
That said, we did glean a few nuggets from Alex today. Among them, J.P. Arencibia is very, very likely to be the starting catcher in 2011. Arencibia has spent two years at AAA and is coming off an MVP season in Las Vegas, so it’s time to see what he can do at the major-league level. Anthopoulos would like to have some insurance in case J.P. doesn’t stick – because how many young players reach the majors to stay the first time they’re given an opportunity – but it’s not a priority and not something for which they’re actively looking.
Aaron Hill is not moving off of second base unless the Jays can acquire a piece significant enough to make them move him, and Brett Lawrie is not that. Not yet, anyway (though Lawrie’s future is probably at third, or in the outfield).
Anthopoulos would like to address the back end of the bullpen, and he’s not necessarily going to try to wait out the free agent closers who are on the market now and grab the one who’s left standing when the music stops, as he did with Kevin Gregg last year. That doesn’t mean he’s going to make a move on a closer right now, but signing Gregg when he did last winter wasn’t planned, he just happened to be out there, affordable and a fit. The same thing could happen again, unplanned again. Alex talked about Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp as the ones who have had the most experience and success at the back of the bullpen, and then added Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva into the conversation. He also mentioned David Purcey, but didn’t mention Josh Roenicke.
I asked him if he had any offers out there to any agents or G.M.’s that, if someone called him back with a “yes”, would be done deals. He said he doesn’t work that way. His predecessor did – J.P. Ricciardi often talked about offers that were out on which someone was sitting. Anthopoulos prefers not to let an agent or G.M. sit on a deal for a couple of days or a week or whatever, and part of that is because that enables them to shop that offer around to other teams to try to do better.
We also got something out of him about the Carlos Pena rumour that was so hot yesterday and about all the Zack Greinke talk. At least I think we did, he didn’t mention any names.
Alex said that there was a rumour yesterday that had the Blue Jays very, very interested in a player, and a few hours after that rumour began spreading, Alex got a phone call from that very player’s agent asking if he wanted to discuss signing his guy. That was Pena. That’s also kind of hilarious.
As for the Greinke thing, that was a little more abstract. Anthopoulos mentioned that there are a lot of really good players he’d love to acquire, but the asking price is too high and the club doesn’t get better because of what he’d have to give up. He said he’d inquired on a lot of players that he’d really love to have, but based on the asking price he thinks the Blue Jays would wind up worse off for the acquisition. That could well be a reference to the whole Drabek and Snider for Greinke thing, but who knows if those names were ever actually discussed.
The Jays may very well be done as far as making moves here in Orlando, though they could grab somebody in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft (Adam Miller, anyone? Fu-Te Ni? Mark Hamburger? How could you not want Mark Hamburger?), but there’s still groundwork being laid for future moves. Anthopoulos mentioned that while he didn’t do anything in Indianapolis last year, he made major strides towards the eventual Halladay and Morrow deals.
Ten Anthopoulos clips are in the hopper at the radio station, and here they are for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, there will probably be a live blog, I’m thinking at about 10:30 AM Eastern, so show up here with your questions and comments. Then it’s the off-the-record lunch with John Farrell, followed by the announcement of the Ford C. Frick Award winner. If there’s any justice in this crazy world, Blue Jays fans will be celebrating a date with Cooperstown for the second time in three days. Go Tom Go!
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
3:40 PM Eastern
The main news conference stage here at The Dolphin has only been used once so far today, and it was for a ceremony celebrating the contributions of four managers who retired following the 2010 season. Bud Selig MC’d the appreciation of Cito Gaston, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox, who had to leave Orlando yesterday because of a family emergency.
Between them, the managers own eight World Series rings (four for Torre, two for Gaston, one each for Cox and Piniella), and the argument could be made that all four of them are Cooperstown-bound. I think Cox and Torre are shoo-ins, and Piniella probably is, too. Cito believes that his status as the first African-American to manage a World Series winner will get him into the Hall as well, albeit post-humously. (I shouldn’t have to do this, but please note that’s not a shot at Cito or a subtle way of saying he’s arrogant – he stated that with a laugh and a smile on his face, as opposed to some defiant stance. I don’t hate the guy.)
The news conference was swell, and showed what a small world baseball is. Cito was a minor-league teammate of Cox’s and a major-league teammate of Torre’s, and when Gaston took over the Blue Jays in 1989, he was thought to be keeping the seat warm for Piniella – the guy Pat Gillick really wanted, but George Steinbrenner wouldn’t let him go.
Everyone had lovely things to say about each other, their careers and the game – you can hear the full remarks of all three managers who were in attendance right here:
After the formal part of the ceremony, the assemblage got a chance for some relative alone time with Cito, and he opined on several subjects. The biggest surprise to me was that Cito thanked the recently-deceased Sparky Anderson for pushing him to take the Jays’ job full-time. It’s a famous story that Gaston was only hired to replace the fired Jimy Williams on an interim basis in 1989, and that he didn’t even want the job, but the 12-24 Blue Jays surged to six wins in their first eight games under Cito, and he took the full-time gig despite his initial misgivings. Today, Gaston said that Anderson, who had been his third-base coach for a year in San Diego, really twisted his arm to get him to take the job and see what he could do with it. What he did with it was become just the third manager in the post-expansion era to win four division titles in five seasons, joining Earl Weaver and Sparky himself.
Cito said that 1989 team was the most fun of all the clubs he managed, because he had a different relationship with the players since he’d moved into the big chair from having been a coach. He liked all the weapons they had, with great pitching from Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and John Cerutti (who led that team with a 3.07 ERA), power from league home run leader Fred McGriff, and speed from guys like Nelson Liriano, Tony Fernandez and the duo of Tom Lawless and Mookie Wilson, each of whom was 12-for-13 stealing bases that year. And of course, Duane Ward and Tom Henke were down in the bullpen to finish things up. Cito said that team had nothing left in the playoffs after recovering from that 12-24 start to win the division.
His biggest disappointment was the 1991 ALCS. Gaston was classy enough not to name names, and to say that he faults himself for the Jays not winning that series with Minnesota – a team they beat 8 out of 12 times in the regular season – but if you happen to see a bus today, take a look underneath it for Tom Candiotti. Gaston says he blames himself for the loss in ’91 because he “started the wrong guy.” That’s a direct reference to late-season pick-up and league ERA runner-up Candiotti getting the start in the opener of the series and, for some reason, refusing to rely on his knuckleball. Candiotti didn’t make it out of the third inning in Game 1 and got roughed up again in the Twins’ clinching Game 5. Jays fans still wonder why Candiotti basically abandoned the knuckleball and so, apparently, does Cito.
Gaston also talked about how much he loved Shaun Marcum, and that if he hadn’t been traded, he’d have been his choice to start Opening Day next season (not that that’s Cito’s choice anymore, but you get the point). He believes, though, that a healthy Jesse Litsch could go an awfully long way towards replacing Marcum’s production, reiterating the fact that Litsch was every bit as good as Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett down the stretch in 2008.
He says that the San Francisco Giants just proved that great pitching can shut down great hitting, and therefore the Blue Jays aren’t all that far away from being a great team, and laughed when he was asked how much “senior advising” he’s been doing in his new role. Evidently, Cito will be paid for the next four years to try to not get in the way too much.
Gaston welled up when he spoke about what he had to go through as a young player, working his way through the minor leagues in such places as Greenville, South Carolina, Shreveport, Louisiana and Richmond, Virginia in the 1960s, and said that winning the “Mr. Jackie Robinson Award” was every bit as fulfilling as winning the World Series.
He also welled up when he spoke about Tom Cheek – we find out tomorrow afternoon if Cheek won this year’s Ford C. Frick Award and will join Pat Gillick and (more than likely) Roberto Alomar in Cooperstown next summer, by the way. Unfortunately, it won’t be a clean sweep, as Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun was beaten out for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award despite being a finalist for the second straight year.
Cito and Cheek were great friends, and just this week Gaston was out golfing with longtime Blue Jays’ clubhouse manager Jeff Ross in Florida when they were reminded of Tom, who always used to warn them that even though it doesn’t look like there’s wind on the 185-yard par-3 eighth hole at East Lake Woodlands, there always is. He beamed when recalling the story and when he thought about what winning the Frick Award would do for Tom’s wife Shirley, the entire Cheek family and Toronto as a whole. Keep your fingers crossed!
I sent 20 or so Cito clips in to the radio station, you can listen to them all right here:
In about an hour, Alex Anthopoulos will meet with the assemblage to give his daily report and we’ll find out about all the things that he’s not able to comment on, and maybe some of the things that he is! I’ll sum it up for you all right here later this evening, make sure you check back!
Monday, December 6th, 2010
8:40 PM Eastern
One is supposed to ease into the Winter Meetings, a slow and leisurely first day, gathering steam on Day 2 and exploding in a frenzy of activity on Day 3 before wrapping up with the Rule 5 draft on the morning of Day 4. This year? Not so much.
There were all sorts of moves made, from the Diamondbacks completely redesigning their bullpen by acquiring David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio from the Orioles in a deal that sent Adam Dunn-lite Mark Reynolds to Baltimore and then signing J.J. Putz to the Red Sox finalizing the Adrian Gonzalez deal, but a lot of the news was Jays-centric.
First, as I wrote about this morning, Pat Gillick found out that he’s the first known member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011. Second, John Farrell did his one-on-several long-form meeting with the media (the Jays’ manager usually speaks on Day 3) and third, Alex Anthopoulos and Doug Melvin took to the podium to officially officialize the Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie trade.
To Farrell first. In about a 40-minute session with a couple of dozen media members, mostly from Toronto and Boston, the Jays’ new skipper touched on a multitude of topics. The session came before the announcement of the trade, so he had to speak in hypotheticals about certain things, though we all knew what was going down.
Among the notes gleaned from the chat:
-Farrell first talked about a starting four (sans Marcum) of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek, then quickly changed course and stated that both the fourth and fifth spots would be up for grabs, that there was no guarantee Drabek would break camp with the team. He’s certainly in the lead for a spot, though, and it appears Jesse Litsch is the clear favourite to take the 5th spot.
-Ideally, a bullpen would be constructed from the closer out – the anchor being the most important piece. He wouldn’t get into details about who that might be, but he’d like a balance of lefties and righties to facilitate late-game match-ups.
-He’s wary of giving a young player like David Purcey or Josh Roenicke the reins as the closer and seeing if he’ll sink or swim. He doesn’t want to overexpose anyone, particularly a young player who they like long-term.
-Jose Bautista’s position will depend on the hole that the Jays fill, whether they bring in a third baseman or an outfielder. Farrell said Bautista told him he’d rather play right field, to better take advantage of his throwing arm (which is the same thing he told all of us on The Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show back in October), but that he’ll play wherever the team needs him. He added that he doesn’t expect Bautista to hit 50+ homers again next season, but he does expect him “to go out and take the same approach that he did each and every game last year.”
-Farrell wants the Blue Jays to run more, to be more aggressive on the basepaths and take more chances. Rajai Davis is a key weapon in this philosophy, but they haven’t decided whether he’ll be a 4th outfielder/platoon type or an everyday player.
-J.P. Arencibia needs to know that his job is to lead the pitching staff. His offensive contributions are secondary – he has to make the pitchers believe in him, make sure they know he’s well-prepared and ready to take them where they need to go. It didn’t seem as though Farrell said that as if to say Arencibia didn’t do that last season, but just to illustrate that that’s what’s expected of him. It seems that the way is paved for J.P. to be the everyday catcher in 2011.
-Adam Lind will be used wherever Lind feels the most comfortable. If it’s as the DH, then it’s as the DH. He’s still a work in progress at first base, but he’s definitely a candidate to play there next season. The key, though, is to get the bat back to where it was in 2009.
-Manny Ramirez is one of the top three or four right-handed hitters in the history of the game, works hard and prepares well. It remains to be seen whether or not Ramirez fits for the Jays; Farrell wouldn’t say that he’s at the top of their list of preferences for a right-handed bat.
Finally, Farrell saw Terry Francona as an island of calm in a tumultuous sea in Boston this season when it seemed as though the Red Sox were losing a regular to injury almost every other day. As a result, people rallied around Francona and instead of an atmosphere of doom and gloom, there was one of “who’s going to step up tonight?” and the Sox still wound up with 88 wins.
Farrell was friendly and accommodating, and seemed to be very careful with his choices of words. Well thought-out, non-cliche type answers are a wonderful thing, and I’m looking forward to dealing with him on a regular basis in a less formal setting.
Lastly, we spoke with Alex Anthopoulos and his Wisconsinite counterpart, Doug Melvin, about the Marcum for Lawrie trade. Anthopoulos said it was the toughest trade he’s ever made, even moreso than the Halladay deal, but he’s absolutely crazy about Lawrie’s skills and ceiling. He didn’t want to trade Marcum, but sees Lawrie as a big piece of the future puzzle that, when put together, has the Blue Jays as a contending team year-in and year-out. He said that Lawrie has a rare combination of power, speed and work ethic, and that he’s so athletic that he can play anywhere on the field. He spent last season at second base, and the Jays are likely to try him at third in Las Vegas in 2011.
Anthopoulos has been trying to get Lawrie ever since he got the job last fall – he was one of his major targets, along with Brandon Morrow. He couldn’t even get Melvin to discuss Lawrie until recently, so he felt the window to make the trade might be very small. He likely feels as though he overpaid slightly, but as he said, you can’t get these kinds of players once they become all-stars, you have to gamble on them early on.
Anthopoulos said that this trade doesn’t necessarily set up another move – Lawrie wasn’t picked up to dangle in a Zack Greinke deal -and that Marcum wasn’t traded because of any unwillingness to sign or offer a long-term contract. It’s about putting together a core of young players with high ceilings and timing them right as far as age and service time are concerned. It’s about dealing from an area of strength to address an area of weakness.
I reminded Anthopoulos that the last time two Canadian General Managers got together to make a trade, an established pitcher was dealt for a young infield prospect, and that prospect wound up a six-time all-star and I asked if he figured that lightning would strike twice. He laughed, and made sure to mention that in that trade, the GM who picked up the prospect and “won” the Michael Young/Esteban Loaiza trade was the same GM to whom he’d just traded Shaun Marcum.
Anthopoulos also had some terrific things to say about Pat Gillick, that Gillick is the one everyone else tries to measure up to, that he regrets never having had the chance to work directly with him, that spending time with Gillick is like going to Harvard for GM’s.
It was a long day one, and I wound up filing 28 audio clips back to the Fan – 18 from Farrell and 10 from Anthopoulos. Here they are, in one neat little package, for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow – Day 2! Will the Blue Jays make another move? I doubt it, but you never know. At the very least, we’ll have a ceremony honouring Cito Gaston, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, so that’ll be fun. There will probably also be another live chat, so stay tuned for details!
Monday, December 6th, 2010
4:22 PM Eastern
Here’s the transcript from this afternoon’s live chat. There will still be at least one more blog post this evening, summing up the scrums with John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos, that’ll probably be up around 8:00, unless the Jays do something else between now and then, like officially announce the Marcum for Lawrie trade.