Archive for January, 2012
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
12:09 AM Eastern
It appears as though the State of the French Fries at Rogers Centre is strong. So strong, in fact, that not once did a fan in attendance at the Blue Jays’ annual opportunity for season ticket-holders to engage with the club’s main decision-makers pose a question about concessions or hot water in the washrooms or anything else having to do with the fan experience at the ballpark outside of what occurs between the white lines.
The talk was all about baseball, and that’s a good thing.
It wasn’t all positive, as a few interrogators wanted to know why the Blue Jays didn’t sign Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish or even Carlos Beltran and why they didn’t trade for Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez or Michael Pineda – but the tone in the overall wasn’t angry. And they got some good answers, too!
Why didn’t the Blue Jays sign Fielder? Paul Beeston isn’t willing to offer a free agent a contract that’s guaranteed for more than five years. He feels that it’s the right way to go about the business of building a winning ballclub, and it has worked for the Blue Jays in the past. It seems as though the game is moving in a direction in which such contracts will be necessary to sign elite-level free agents, but so far Beeston isn’t budging. To his credit, Alex Anthopoulos says he will continue to work on Beeston, and that he did get his boss to change his previous policy of no deals longer than three years. Anthopoulos also managed to convince Beeston that giving Ricky Romero a five-year contract (with an option for a sixth!) was a good idea. To Beeston’s credit, most of the seven- and eight-year contracts awarded in the big leagues have been spectacular failures despite there having been every reason to believe they wouldn’t be at the time they were signed.
Why no Darvish? Probably because he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the major leagues and the Rangers are going to pay an average of close to $20 million per year over the next six in order to secure his services. As Anthopoulos said again tonight, the Jays knew going into this off-season that they weren’t likely going to be involved with the big-name, big-ticket free agents, and that includes Darvish.
Why no Beltran? That’s where it gets interesting. Anthopoulos was asked specifically about Beltran, and while he wouldn’t answer specifically, he did say that some players don’t want to play on turf, no matter how much you’re willing to pay them, and some don’t want to DH or switch leagues, no matter how much money you offer. Later on in the evening, Anthopoulos said that there were two free agents to whom the Blue Jays offered more money than they eventually signed for. It would seem those dots are pretty easily connectable, and one can feel pretty safe in assuming that Beltran was one of those two guys. Who was the other? If I had to guess, I’d say Ryan Madson. Just a hunch, though.
As to the idea of trading for a top young starter, in talking his way around the answer to that question, Anthopoulos gave away more information than he ever has to me or any of my fellow media folk. The Jays’ GM mentioned that he could have acquired a big-league starter, but that he would have had to have given up more than just the talent that’s bubbling under the surface – it would have cost him players off his big-league roster.
Anthopoulos said he could have acquired a starter but would have had to have opened up a hole elsewhere (Brett Lawrie for Pineda?) or that he could have given up Henderson Alvarez and FOUR guys below him on the depth chart in order to acquire another starter (Latos?). There were trades available to be made, and Anthopoulos said that he could easily have made a deal over the past few months that would have gotten fans very excited, but come June, those same fans would have been calling for his head.
Other than all of that, which was some pretty broad hinting at great inside info, the two biggest things to come out of the State of the Franchise were mentioned by the president.
Beeston said that he believes the Blue Jays will be in the playoffs “two or three times over the next five years.” He also mentioned that the Jays have been examining the idea of bringing real grass into Rogers Centre to replace the current AstroTurf.
In discussing the playing surface, Beeston acknowledged that some players not wanting to come to Toronto because of the turf is a real issue. He also said that because they’re discussing putting in natural grass doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to do it – or even that it’s possible, given the Rogers Centre’s multi-purposeness – but it was really great to hear. We’ve certainly come a long way from the 1/8- inch thick strip of green carpet that covered what would otherwise have been more parking lot at the Ex, but natural grass is the ideal surface on which to play. They can get it for short stints, like for a soccer game, but can they get it in for 81 Blue Jays games? Would it have to be removed after every homestand? Can they put a drainage system in so it can be watered? Lots of questions still need to be answered.
As for the playoff prediction, well, that had to be music to every Blue Jays fan’s ears. It’s not all about hoarding draft picks and cycling through good players to get more, it’s not all about pushing the “compete” date farther and farther into the distance for rebuild after rebuild, it’s not about wasting years while they have the best hitter in the game – it’s about building a winner, and doing it soon. Of course, Beeston said that even though some fans want the Jays to fast-forward the plan, he didn’t think it was a good idea, and Anthopoulos piped in by saying that with that prediction, Beeston just did press that fast-forward button on him.
Among some of the other interesting things mentioned at the State of the Franchise:
-Beeston said MLB is discussing the idea that interleague games be played with league-opposite rules. That is, A.L. rules in N.L. parks and vice-versa. I’m not a fan of interleague, but we’re most assuredly stuck with it; I think that change would be welcome, and make things much more fun to watch.
-Beeston said that Tom Henke’s name always comes up when the Level of Excellence is discussed.
-John Farrell gave himself a C grade for his rookie season, and also said Travis Snider and Eric Thames will compete “head-up” for the starting job in left field and that defense will be an important part of the decision as to who wins the job.
-Anthopoulos poured cold water on one fan’s ridiculous assertion that Kelly Johnson was indifferent towards being a Blue Jay and often looked as though he’d rather be somewhere else.
-Farrell leapt to the defense of Colby Rasmus, answering one fan who insisted that the Jays gave up too much for their centrefielder by saying “we gave up a couple of good pitchers, but Colby will show that we didn’t overpay for him.” In answering the same query, Anthopoulos pretty much said that the only key piece the Jays moved in that deal was Marc Rzepczynski, who has a “chance to be a very good left-handed reliever”.
-Farrell was asked who he thought could be the 2012 version of Brett Lawrie, and he spent a few minutes gushing about Drew Hutchison before also mentioning Anthony Gose, Travis d’Arnaud and Deck McGuire.
After the fans got their chance to ask questions (the audio of which can be found elsewhere on this fine website and the video of which can be seen at sportsnet.ca), we media types has our shots at the evening’s main speakers. Here, for your listening pleasure, is the audio of those scrums.
First, Blue Jays President Paul Beeston:
General Manager Alex Anthopoulos:
And last but not least, manager John Farrell:
It was a fun night, it’s always great to be in a baseball environment in the middle of a late-January snowstorm. I got to meet quite a few of you loyal readers and listeners, which was a treat, as well as a few Blue Jays bloggers, including Drew Fairservice of the late, great GROF and Drunk Jays Fan Andrew Stoeten, whom I’d met before and with whom I formed part of a Triple Play Roundtable last weekend along with the inestimable Rob E. Wong, who was my wingman at the event tonight.
If you’re following me on The Twitter @wilnerness590, you got a lot of the quotes from tonight’s event as they happened. If you’re not, and you’d be interested in such things, then you probably should.
Comments are always welcome – I read them all and respond to most!
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
6:56 PM Eastern
As the denizens of Blue Jays Nation lay snug in our beds following the Brandon Morrow news conference – or at least snug in our lunches or some such – Alex Anthopoulos had one more trick up his sleeve.
Late Tuesday afternoon, word leaked that the Blue Jays had indeed added to their bullpen, making up for the near-miss of Koji Uehara by signing former Reds closer Francisco Cordero to a one-year deal worth approximately $4.5 million. The Jays will announce the signing after Cordero passes his physical.
Cordero, who turns 37 in June, is coming off his best year in a decade. He had 37 saves in 43 opportunities, posting a 2.45 ERA. He had a sparkling WHIP of 1.019, holding opponents to a .198/.271/.320 mark, though lefties (.736 OPS) handled him a lot better than righties (.465 OPS).
Cordero’s year finished in dubious fashion, as he picked up that 37th save in a 5-4 Reds win over the Mets by pitching a scoreless bottom of the 13th in which he walked four and committed a balk. He didn’t actually earn a single one of the three outs recorded in the inning, with a runner being caught stealing and the game ending on a line-drive double play.
Can we expect a lot of that sort of bullet-dodging from Cordero in 2012? The answer is a definite maybe. While he did have great results in 2011, he had the worst strikeout rate of his career, just 5.4 per nine innings. He hadn’t been below 7.3 since his rookie season. However, only twice in his career had he posted a walk rate better than last season’s 2.8 per nine innings, and he posted the second-best groundball to flyball ratio of his career in ’11.
Chances are he’s got one more good year in him, and the Blue Jays are banking on that.
Cordero will work the 8th inning, setting things up for Sergio Santos, and while they’re no Duane Ward and Tom Henke, they’re certainly the best late-inning twosome the Jays have had since then. And if Cordero doesn’t have anything left, then they’re out the cash, but they still have Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen, any of whom I would have been fine with working the 8th anyway.
What this translates to is that, most nights, a team is only going to have six innings to beat the Blue Jays. This appears to be the best bullpen this team has ever assembled, and a great bullpen has the ability to mask shortcomings in the starting rotation.
It’s also economical – Santos, Cordero, Oliver, Frasor and Janssen will combine to make just under $16 million this season, or an average of just over $3 million each. That kind of money buys you about a Hiroki Kuroda and a half, and while the Jays’ fearsome fivesome won’t likely combine to throw 300 innings, they’ll pitch more high-leverage frames than 1 1/2 starters will.
Just as importantly – and maybe moreso – this seems to be Alex Anthopoulos’ way to try to take advantage of the new CBA. You can no longer load up on Type B free agents in order to try to secure extra high draft picks, so what he’s doing now is hoarding late-inning relievers, which is something everyone needs. Last year, the San Diego Padres got two up-and-coming pitching prospects at the deadline for Mike Adams, and the Orioles picked up Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis, two intriguing, but flawed, players with big-league experience for Uehara.
This year, if the Blue Jays are in the race late, they have a shutdown bullpen which is extraordinarily helpful in the playoffs. If they’re not in the race late, they have cards to play in Oliver and Cordero, at least, two guys who would likely be very marketable in a trade deadline scenario, along with Frasor and Janssen. And don’t forget that the Jays used three relievers last July to secure Colby Rasmus in trade – you never know if that kind of opportunity might present itself again.
There will be two spots left in the bullpen, and there are five candidates to fill them: Joel Carreno, Aaron Laffey, Jesse Litsch, Luis Perez and Carlos Villanueva. The likeliest candidates to win those spots, assuming everyone stays healthy (which is rather a massive assumption) are Perez and Villanueva.
Perez has two points in his favour: He’s left-handed, and he’s out of options. Without him, Oliver is the only lefty in the bullpen, which probably wouldn’t thrill John Farrell, and it’s been well-documented that Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t like to let assets go for nothing, which is what would happen if he was forced to put Perez through waivers at the end of Spring Training. Laffey is on a minor-league deal, and Carreno and Litsch have options remaining, which means they’re probably out of luck. Villanueva showed he could do a fine job as a long-ish man out of the bullpen last season and is out of options, so he’s likely safe. But he’s also on a non-guaranteed contract, which means the Blue Jays could release him in the spring and pay just 1/6 of his contract. I’d be surprised if they did, though, given how well he pitched last year. I don’t think after a year like that you can pitch your way into being released with seven crappy spring innings.
So – given that this is probably it as far as off-season moves go – assuming good health, we now know who 24 of the final 25 players the Blue Jays take north from Spring Training will be:
Pitchers (12) – Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor, Casey Janssen, Carlos Villanueva, Luis Perez
Catchers (2) – J.P. Arencibia, Jeff Mathis
Infielders (6) – Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Omar Vizquel, Edwin Encarnacion
Outfielders (5) – Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, Rajai Davis, Ben Francisco and either Travis Snider or Eric Thames.
But don’t put it past Alex Anthopoulos to swing a huge deal out of nowhere between now and Opening Day.
Before I go, a brief comment on the signing of Prince Fielder by the Detroit Tigers. Good for them, as they now have the best 1-2 punch in baseball in Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, though they’re going to have to find a place for Cabrera to play. The Tigers were never mentioned in the Fielder sweepstakes, but they swooped in and gave him nine years and $214 million – he’ll earn a hair less per year than Albert Pujols will with the Angels.
As I said when discussing the Blue Jays’ potential for signing him, I believe this is a contract that will ultimately wind up being regrettable. I certainly don’t want to pay Fielder $100 million over the last four years of that deal to be an injury-prone DH. The odds that he’s worth it over the nine years are far, far slimmer than the man himself. But then, the Tigers could win a World Series or two with him in the line-up, which would certainly make those last painful years well worth it.
There really does seem to be a wide chasm between good teams and bad in the American League right now, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers and Angels on one side and the Orioles, Indians, Royals, White Sox, Mariners and A’s on the other. Only the Blue Jays and Twins seem to be in position to take a shot at the big boys, and only if plenty of things go right for them. There may be six teams in the A.L. that win 90 games this season and six that lose 90. It’s going to be fun.
Please follow me on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590.
Comments are always welcome – there are a bunch in the hopper right now because I have been blogging so much the last couple of days. I’ll get to them and post them tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
1:51 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays officially announced Brandon Morrow’s new contract at a morning news conference at Rogers Centre. The righty, of whom everyone has very high hopes, signed a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $21 million. Morrow will get $4 million this season – which is just below the midpoint of the exchanged arbitration figures of $3.9MM and $4.2MM – and he’ll get bumped up to $8 million in each of 2013 and 2014, with the Jays holding a 2015 club option for $10 million. If they don’t exercise that option, it’ll cost them a million bucks to buy it out.
Morrow did pretty well for himself, even if he did leave money on the table in a best-case scenario. As Alex Anthopoulos said, though, he tells players that he hopes they do cost themselves money by signing long-term, because it will mean that they’ve performed well, and they’ll wind up getting that money back and more in their next contract.
In his two seasons with the Blue Jays, Morrow has been a bit of a tease. He has spectacular stuff, and in August of 2010 threw one of the best games ever pitched; a 1-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays in which he had a no-hitter with two out in the 9th and struck out 17. He’s also had some brutal outings, with two starts this past season in which he failed to get out of the fourth inning and allowed a combined 12 runs on 12 hits, and a blow-up against the Red Sox in which he gave up nine runs on 10 hits in just 4 1/3 innings.
Morrow admitted today that there are some games in which he pitches like Cy Young and others in which he looks like a guy who should be in A-ball, and that he knows that the difference between the great pitchers and everybody else with great stuff is simply the ability to be consistently good.
He also said that he might be too nice a guy. Morrow mentioned that a common thread among great pitchers is that they go to the mound with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. He went on to say that he believes that in one’s demeanour, there needs to be “a certain level of a**hole in order to succeed.” Morrow added that “it pays to be a bit of a jerk out there”. And he’s right.
Think back to Roy Halladay, arguably the greatest pitcher the Blue Jays have ever had. Nice, quiet, soft-spoken guy, to be sure, but out on the mound he was always angry. In 12 years of covering Halladay with the Jays, I believe I saw him smile on the mound only once – when Marco Scutaro and John McDonald made a bit of magic around the second-base bag – but that was it. The other two pitchers who you could argue were the best in Blue Jays history, Dave Stieb and Roger Clemens, were complete, utter, unrepentant a**holes between the white lines (at least).
Morrow said that losing to the Yankees on September 2nd – a one-run loss in which he gave up a two-run Yankee Stadium Special to Brett Gardner – made him mad. So did getting his ears pinned back by the Red Sox in each of his next two outings. After that, he channeled that anger and aggressiveness, took it out to the mound with him, and ran off a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings in his last three starts of the season against the Yankees, Rays and White Sox. Both John Farrell and Anthopoulos said they thought something “clicked” with Morrow in that time, and Morrow said it was that he was bringing out his inner a**hole – being the aggressor on the mound instead of trying to pitch like Greg Maddux.
The Blue Jays, and Morrow, will be very well-served if that chip stays on his shoulder for the rest of his career.
Omar Vizquel wasn’t there, but Anthopoulos touched on his signing a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training, saying that the Hall of Famer-to-be is coming to camp expecting to make the team, not simply to be a mentor or a coach. That said, Anthopoulos also believes that the time that Adeiny Hechevarria will spend with Vizquel during Spring Training, and that Yunel Escobar will spend with him all year, can be nothing but a help to the two young shortstops. If Vizquel makes the team, he’ll earn $750,000 for the season.
Anthopoulos also mentioned that the Jays are continuing to discuss trade possibilities, with the likeliest add being a late-inning bullpen arm. Last night, the Jays got close in discussions with the Rangers about acquiring Koji Uehara, but things fell apart. There are reports that Uehara exercised his no-trade clause to stop the deal.
The next Blue Jays event on the calendar, barring another deal, is the annual State of The Franchise. That’s set for next Monday, January 30, and I’ll be there to fill you in on all the goings-on. Make sure you give me a follow on The Twitter to get it all in real-time, you can find me @wilnerness590.
If you’re interested in following the storymakers of today and last night, go find @2Morrow23 and @VizquelOmar13.
Comments are always welcome – I read them all and reply to most!
Monday, January 23rd, 2012
10:12 PM Eastern
What appeared to be another quiet off-season Monday night got loud in a hurry with the Blue Jays making a pair of moves, signing Brandon Morrow to a three-year contract worth $20 million and giving Hall-of-Famer-to-be Omar Vizquel a minor-league contract with an invitation to compete for the back-up infielder’s job in Spring Training starting next month.
The Morrow signing might confuse a lot of fans, since in his two years with the Jays, the hard-throwing righty has gone just 21-18 with a 4.62 ERA, but look beyond those numbers and you see a pitcher with off-the-charts stuff who has been a full-time starter for just those two years. You also see a WHIP than went down from 1.380 to 1.288 from 2010 to ’11, a K rate of 10.5 per nine innings over those two years, a walk rate that went down from 4.1 per nine innings to 3.5 from ’10 to ’11 and an xFIP of 3.48 in ’10 and 3.53 in ’11.
That is to say that for the most part, Morrow has pitched well, though the results haven’t always been there. His biggest problem has been getting out of the gate. Morrow’s first ten starts in each of the last two years were pretty rough (6.66 ERA, 1.700 WHIP in ’10; 5.63 ERA, 1.491 WHIP in ’11), but he has managed to turn things around very nicely each season. Slow starts are often something that can plague power pitchers, but Morrow really hasn’t been at it for long enough to say it’s going to be a real issue.
With this contract, the Jays buy out Morrow’s final two years of arbitration and his first year of free agency. The 27 year-old stood to earn about $4 million this season, which likely would have gone up to at least $6 million in 2013, and he then would have hit the open market, where (if he stays healthy) his big 29 year-old arm would have had many teams drooling. It’s unclear as to whether ’13 is an option year for the Blue Jays, and the breakdown won’t be announced until Tuesday’s news conference, but I wouldn’t bet against it being a two-year plus an option deal. Morrow passed his physical Monday in preparation for the announcement.
In Vizquel, the Blue Jays bring in their oldest player since a 48 year-old Phil Niekro fluttered his knuckleball for them for three starts in August of 1987. The Jays lost all three games (10-3, 3-1, 6-5) and lost the division by two games that year, so draw your own conclusion.
Vizquel, who broke into the big leagues in 1989 (the Jays had just one division title in club history), will turn 45 before the end of the season’s first month, and though his best days are far behind him, he’ll be a good guy to have around.
Remember that the other utility infield options the Jays currently have are Mike McCoy, Luis Valbuena and Jonathan Diaz. Diaz is the best defender in that group, but he has never played in the bigs and has a lifetime .228/.363/.296 line as a minor pro (that’s a lot of empty walks). Valbuena is not a shortstop and McCoy is a decent defender, but nothing spectacular. Vizquel gives the Jays a legitimate defensive option at second, short and third – though he’s no longer the player he was in his prime, when he might have been the best there ever was – and he’s a guy you can feel comfortable plugging in to the line-up for two or three weeks if there’s a short-term injury on the infield.
Vizquel can’t play the outfield, as McCoy can, but the Jays are planning to break with five outfielders (Rajai Davis and Ben Francisco on the bench) so that mitigates the need for a utility guy you can send out there.
Add to all that the fact that Vizquel fits in beautifully with Alex Anthopoulos’ stated goal of bringing in as many quality human beings on to his team as possible, and you have a strong signing. Vizquel is a terrific person, and while the need for great clubhouse guys and good team chemistry is often overstated,having someone who commands respect the second he walks into a room and who also happens to be terrific and a willing teacher certainly can’t hurt.
I remember leaving Exhibition Stadium after covering a Jays-Mariners game in 1989 and seeing Vizquel wander out of the players’ exit into the Ex parking lot. He was kind of looking around, sheepishly, when a Mariners’ writer opened the door of his cab and invited him to ride back to the hotel with him. Vizquel climbed in. I don’t know why that made such an impression on me that I still remember it vividly almost 23 years later, but it did. I don’t know that many players now would share a cab ride with a reporter.
Vizquel is 159 hits shy of 3,000 for his career, and having amassed 137 over the last two seasons, he won’t reach that milestone unless he plays in 2013, at least, but he’s going to the Hall of Fame anyway, and will join Niekro, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield as Hall of Famers who have had brief sojourns with the Jays.
To cap off the busy night, there was a report out of Japan that the Jays were closing in on a trade with the Rangers for righty reliever Koji Uehara, who got beat up in the playoffs (earning the nickname “Koji Ue-homa” for allowing three homers in 11 batters faced) but had an incredible regular season – 0.723 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9. Uehara is likely being made available because the signing of Yu Darvish allows Texas to move Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, which would make the 37 year-old (on Opening Day) expendable.
As quickly as I learned that there was actually something to the report, though, I found out that talks with Texas had cooled, so don’t get your hopes up.
The Jays will announce the Morrow signing at a Tuesday news conference, and I’ll have more on this story for you after that, both here, on Twitter (@Wilnerness590 – you can follow Morrow @2Morrow23) and on air on Sportsnet590 The Fan!
Comments are welcome – I read them all and reply to most!
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
8:37 PM Eastern
The deadline for arbitration-eligible players and their teams to exchange salary figures came this afternoon, with the Jays coming into the day having five such players with whom to deal.
The Blue Jays don’t like going to arbitration – they haven’t done so since beating Bill Risley in a hearing back in 1997 -and Alex Anthopoulos has tried to make sure that streak continues by instituting a club policy that states the club will only negotiate on a one-year contract up until the deadline to exchange figures rolls around. After that, it’s a multi-year deal or they’re going to a hearing room.
Last year, the Jays couldn’t come to agreements with both Jose Bautista and Jason Frasor before the deadline, but didn’t get to arbitration with either one of them. Frasor wound up signing a one-year deal with an option for a second year (that the White Sox picked up before they traded him back to the Jays) and Bautista’s hearing was delayed so they could put the finishing touches on his five-year contract.
This year, it’s Casey Janssen and Brandon Morrow who are on the outside looking in, the only two arbitration-eligibles who couldn’t manage to come to a deal before the deadline. Looking at the Frasor and Bautista examples, though, there’s no guarantee that the Jays’ streak of arb-avoidance will come to an end in its 15th year.
I spoke to Janssen this afternoon, and he said he was fine however things go down, that he knows he’ll be a Blue Jay either way. He said he’s looking forward to getting to Spring Training and having the best year he possibly can. Janssen spoke to Anthopoulos this morning and said Alex told him that they like him and they want him, they just need some help getting to a number they’d both agree on. Janssen told him that there were no hard feelings.
If they do wind up going to a hearing – which is to say, if Janssen doesn’t sign for one year with a club option for 2013 – then both Anthopoulos and Janssen said they don’t believe it would be anything but businesslike and amicable. Anthopoulos even refused to use the terms “win” and “lose”, saying it’s not about that, that it’s just a matter of needing a third party to help the two sides settle on a figure.
The odds of Morrow getting a multi-year deal are stronger than those for Janssen, since starting pitchers are more predictable than relievers, but it’s hard to imagine the two sides being able to find common ground on both money and term. Certainly it’s agreed that Morrow has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the game, but there’s no way the Blue Jays are going to pay him as though he is, and he probably shouldn’t give away too much of his potential future earnings just in case 2012 is his breakout year. I can see this one going to a hearing almost more than I can see Janssen’s.
As I mentioned, the day started with five Blue Jays who were eligible for arbitration. Three of them came to terms on non-guaranteed, one-year contracts. Carlos Villanueva got $2,277,500, Ben Francisco $1,537,500 and Kelly Johnson $6,375,000. Johnson’s number may seem a little steep, but it’s all about service time. Johnson is in his fourth year of arbitration-eligibility, and his raise from last season is just a touch over $500,000. Francisco is eligible for the second time, and got a raise of just over $350,000 while Villanueva, eligible for the third time, got the biggest raise of the bunch – just over $850,000.
The fact that the contracts are non-guaranteed means that if the Blue Jays choose to release any of them in the first three weeks of Spring Training, they’ll only be owed 1/6 of the total contract. If they’re released at the end of Spring Training, that figure goes up to 1/4. Francisco is the only one who might have to worry about that, though.
Despite the fact that the deadline to exchange figures passed in the early afternoon, those figures weren’t released until the early evening. Unofficially, Brandon Morrow is asking for $4,200,000 in arbitration and the Blue Jays have offered $3,900,000. It’s a tiny gap to bridge, and if not for Anthopoulos’ policy, you’d think both sides would find it easy to settle at the midpoint of $4,050,000.
As for Janssen, the gap is even wider, both on a percentage and an absolute basis. He wants $2,200,000, and the Jays only want to give him $1,800,000. Still, it’s a shame they can’t just meet in the middle.
The Blue Jays took care of another bit of business as well, granting Mark Teahen his unconditional release. Teahen’s contract was necessary for the Jays to take off the White Sox’ hands in order to get the deal done that brought Edwin Jackson over from Chicago, so that they could ship Jackson to the Cardinals as part of the trade to get Colby Rasmus. Teahen never fit in with the Jays, they simply didn’t have a spot for him, and he made 47 plate appearances over 27 games in the two-plus months he was here, hitting .190/.261/.286 with one home run. He was part of Jays’ history, though, as one half of the first-ever Canadian position-player duo to be in the starting line-up for the team. He even hit back-to-back with his fellow B.C. native Brett Lawrie.
With Teahen’s release, the Blue Jays are on the hook for the entire $5,500,000 owed to him in 2012. If he signs with another team, and I expect him to land somewhere since the cost will be negligible, then the Jays only have to pay the difference between what that team pays him and the $5.5 mill. That figure will likely be somewhere in the neighbourhood of five million bucks.
Less than five weeks until pitchers and catchers report!!!!!
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, if you’re not already doing so, you can find me @wilnerness590. You can keep an eye on Brandon Morrow @2Morrow23.
Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!
Sunday, January 15th, 2012
11:35 AM Eastern
Baseball Canada held its annual Awards Banquet Saturday night and, as always, some of the best and brightest baseballists this nation has ever produced came together to celebrate.
2011 was Canada’s best-ever year on the international stage. Having never before done better than winning bronze at a major tournament despite coming tantalizingly close on occasion, Team Canada filled its medals chest last year. Our boys in red and white (with a touch of black) took bronze at the Baseball World Cup, silver at the World Junior Baseball Championships Qualification Tournament, and gold at the Pan-Am Games.
This means, of course, that Canada will be the defending gold medalist, as well as the host, in the next Pan-Am Games, which will be held in Toronto in 2015.
It was also a pretty good year for Canada as far as Major League Baseball was concerned. Joey Votto (who wasn’t in attendance) didn’t repeat his N.L. M.V.P. performance, but still had a hell of a year for the Reds; John Axford continued his incredible run-from-nowhere by helping the Brewers to a division title and finishing the season having converted 43 straight save chances; Brett Lawrie took the big leagues by storm by basically beating the crap out of everything for the 43 games he spent with the Blue Jays; Russell Martin (also not in attendance) was an all-star in his first season with the Yankees; the list goes on and on.
And this gathering was about paying tribute to it all.
The Award recipients were:
Shawn Hill – the former Blue Jays pitcher won the Stubby Clapp Award for showing desire, competitiveness and a never-say-die attitude. Hill pitched for Team Canada at the Pan-Ams and the World Cup.
Jonathan Malo – the seven-year pro, who has spent all that time as a utility player in the Mets’ system, also played in those two tournaments, shone, and was named the Senior National Team MVP.
Ryan Kellogg – the Whitby native, draft-eligible this year, helped pitch Team Canada to that silver medal at the Junior Worlds, and was named Junior National Team MVP.
Adam Loewen – having come all the way back to the big leagues as a position player with the Blue Jays, after starting out as a pitcher (and starting Canada’s victory over the U.S. at the 2006 World Baseball Classic), Loewen won the Special Achievement Award. He’s now in the Mets’ system, hoping to win a job with the big club this spring.
Brett Lawrie – needs no introduction, also won a Special Achievement Award. I believe it was specifically for tearing Edwin Encarnacion’s arm directly from its socket in giving him a high-five after hitting a Grand Slam against Oakland.
Rene Tosoni – the Toronto native made his major-league debut this season, playing 60 games for the Minnesota Twins. The 24 year-old outfielder hit just .203/.275/.343, but showed some pop with 13 extra-base hits. The 36th-rounder won the Baseball Canada Alumni Award.
Ernie Whitt – the former Blue Jays player and coach managed two Teams Canada to medal performances – their historic gold at the Pan-Ams and bronze at the World Cup, and for his service to Baseball Canada through the years, Whitt has become just the fourth person ever elevated to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence. He’s the only one up on the wall who isn’t there because of his achievements as a player, joining Larry Walker, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto.
Most of the attendees were available to the media, and I got a chance to speak to a whack of them – that audio is here, for your listening enjoyment:
We’ll start with Axford, the Brewers’ closer:
Jeff Francis, who went 6-16 with the Royals last season despite decent peripheral numbers (4.82 ERA, 1.437 WHIP) and is still looking for a job on the free-agent market:
Here’s the word from the gold- and bronze-medal skipper, Leo Ernest Whitt:
And the man about whom all of the above rave on a regular basis, Baseball Canada Grand Poobah Greg Hamilton:
Finally, I present for your listening pleasure a lengthy scrum that a bunch of us reporters held with Justin Morneau. The Twins’ first baseman has been trying to fight his way back from a couple of concussions, the first of which was suffered on July 7, 2010 when he broke up a double play at Rogers Centre but was hit in the head by John McDonald’s knee while sliding into second. Morneau would miss the rest of that season, but make it back for Opening Day of last year. He clearly wasn’t himself in 2011, though, hitting just .227/.285/.333 over just 69 games in a season that saw him undergo surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck, play through wrist, knee and foot injuries and continue to suffer symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. Here’s our long conversation with the former MVP:
It’s always great to be at these Baseball Canada events – as much as I grew up a die-hard Blue Jays fan, there’s nothing like watching your fellow Canadians take to the field and play for the glory of your country. The Junior Nats will be down in St. Petersburg for a couple of weeks during Spring Training, and will host the Blue Jays on March 13th – if you’re thinking of making your way down to Florida, pick that week and head to that game. It was a blast last year, and should be again.
Please give me a follow on The Twitter if you’re not already doing so, you can find me @wilnerness590, and you can find our National Team Program @BaseballCanada.
Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
10:38 PM Eastern
For the last couple of winters, the Blue Jays have brought some of their best and brightest young up-and-comers to Toronto as part of their Rookie Orientation Camp.
There’s a group of seven that’s made its way up here this year – three pitchers, two infielders and two outfielders – and the kids are getting a taste of the city, a chance to check out Rogers Centre, and some information about the ins and outs of life as a major leaguer.
It’s an opportunity, if not to demystify life in the big leagues, to at least show these minor-leaguers where to go, what to do, who to talk to, basically what happens as far as the minutiae of life at the ballpark is concerned.
This year’s crop is comprised of pitchers Evan Crawford, Drew Hutchison and Chad Jenkins, first baseman Mike McDade, infielder Jonathan Diaz and outfielders Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra. This doesn’t mean all seven will be in the bigs at some point this year – Travis d’Arnaud was part of last year’s group of minor leaguers – but it certainly means that they’re on the Blue Jays’ radar and could wind up spending some time with the major-league club in 2012.
Members of the media were given an opportunity to chat with the kids in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse – which is an awfully impressive place out in which for minor-leaguers to hang, since it’s probably as big as some of the fields they have played on, and intrepid reporter Kayla Harris and I were there to elbow our way through some of the scrums and talk to them.
We split the room in two – I drew Hutchison (see what I did there?), Crawford, Diaz and Sierra, while Kayla spoke to Gose, Jenkins and McDade.
Of the entire group, Crawford was the only one I hadn’t met. The lefty, recently-added to the 40-man roster, was an 8th-round draft pick in 2008 who moved from the rotation to the bullpen in 2010. He raved about his experiences as part of the Eastern League Champion New Hampshire Fisher Cats this past season, and had nothing but great things to say about getting to learn from Sal Fasano and Pete Walker. Crawford was the surprise addition to the 40-man this off-season, the guy who had the least buzz about him – but the one who held that title last winter was Joel Carreno, and he managed to do pretty well for himself.
Hutchison, about whom the buzz has been off the charts this winter, seemed sort of oblivious to it all – but that may have been him trying not to get too excited, which is probably the right move. Like all the young players there, he was very pleasant, modest almost to a fault and absolutely thrilled to be here in Toronto getting a chance to see what goes on up here. It’s Hutchison’s first trip outside the U.S. and he, like Crawford, was very surprised not to see the entire city covered with snow when he arrived.
Frankly, I have lived here for over 40 years and I’m also surprised that the city’s not covered in snow right now. Five degrees and raining on January 12th? Seriously – what the hell have we done to this planet? But I digress…..
It was interesting to get a chance to talk to Diaz, who is someone on whom to keep an eye this year. He’s been referred to in the past as a John McDonald clone – an excellent defender with not much of a bat – and that spot is certainly open on the 2012 Blue Jays with Johnny Mac himself plying his trade in the Arizona desert. Diaz at least has shown that he can get on base – his career minor-league OBP is .363 despite a .228 batting average – but he’s never going to have a career in the majors on the strength of his offense. His glove certainly plays, though. Sound familiar?
For his part, Diaz didn’t want to get caught up in the McDonald comparisons, but they’re not unfounded. His competition for that back-up middle infield spot consists of Mike McCoy and Luis Valbuena, and Diaz is easily the best shortstop of the bunch, at least. He was limited to just 92 games last season because of a pretty awful car crash in which he and his then-fiancee (now wife) were involved in the summer, but he says he’s completely recovered and is looking forward to heading to Dunedin to try to make this team.
All the audio is included here for you, starting with my conversation with Drew Hutchison:
Here, for your listening pleasure, is Jonathan Diaz:
And here’s your chance to get to know Evan Crawford a little bit:
Moises Sierra, the big-armed, big-raw-power outfielder whose game has drawn heavy comparisons to Raul Mondesi’s, doesn’t speak any English, but he was happy to speak in a scrum with me, Shi Davidi and John Lott of the National Post with Jonathan Diaz handling translation duties:
Finally, here’s Anthony Gose, in conversation with Kayla Harris:
Next order of business is Saturday evening, when some of Canada’s best and brightest baseballists get together for Baseball Canada’s annual Awards Banquet. Among the scheduled attendees are Justin Morneau, John Axford, Jeff Francis, Rene Tosoni, Chris Leroux and, of course, Brett Lawrie. It was a phenomenal year for Canada on the international baseball field, with a gold medal at the Pan Am Games, a silver at the Junior Worlds and a bronze at the World Cup, and the key architects of those teams, including Grand Poobah Greg Hamilton and National Team skipper Ernie Whitt, will be there as well. I’ll talk to as many of them as possible, and get the audio up for you right here and on Sportsnet590 The Fan.
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590. A couple of the minor-leaguers who are here at the Orientation camp are on Twitter as well – you can follow 2009 first-rounder Chad Jenkins @jenknutz and 2010 R. Howard Webster Award winner (Dunedin) Mike McDade @MacDizzleMan.
Comments are welcome – I read them all and reply to most!
Monday, January 9th, 2012
5:45 PM Eastern
The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 has been announced, and now it’s time for everyone to get all indignant and stuff and talk about what an awful job the voters did, so let’s get right to it!
Before all that, though, I want to commend the writers for not granting Jack Morris entry into baseball’s most hallowed shrine. Not because he was a jerk (he was), but because he wasn’t good enough. ”But he was the best pitcher of the 1980s!” some will scream. He sure was, except that his ERA was a third of a run higher, his WHIP was 0.35 worse and he had one more start but pitched seven fewer shutouts than some guy named Dave Stieb.
“But he was an awesome playoff pitcher!” they’ll argue. Indeed, except that he had an ERA over 6.50 in three of the seven playoff series in which he pitched, an overall post-season ERA of 3.80 and WHIP of 1.245 (lovely, but hardly spectacular). He did have that one great game, though – but he would have lost that if Lonnie Smith could run the bases.
Anyway, no Jack Morris is a good thing, but he leapt up from being named on 53.5% of the ballots to 66.7% (you need to be named on 75% to get the call to the Hall). With two cracks left, it seems apparent that he’ll make it in either next year or the year after.
What’s not a good thing? No Tim Raines, no Jeff Bagwell and no Mark McGwire.
Bagwell and McGwire are in the same boat, though they shouldn’t be. McGwire may have saved baseball – with Sammy Sosa doing an equal share of the lifting – with the home run chase of 1998, which we now know was fuelled by various and sundry illegal performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire has admitted as much, and has since deflated from his previous Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man body type. Over the course of his 16-year career, Big Mac hit 583 home runs (an average of 50 per 162 games) and posted an on-base percentage of .394. His career OPS of .982 ranks 10th on the all-time list.
There’s no doubt that from the numbers McGwire put up – remember, he won a Gold Glove too, for what that’s wort – he’s one of the best to ever play. Voters still have to get their heads around the fact that he was on drugs – though the playing field was pretty level. He was one of the best of his era, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, though his plaque should note the fact that he was an admitted steroid-user.
McGwire continues to be actively punished by the voters – his percentage dropped for the second straight year, though by only 0.3% this time. He was named on a pathetic 19.5% of ballots.
As for Bagwell, the problem with him seems to be that he looked like he was doing steroids. He may well have been, only he knows, and most of the players from his era were, so he certainly could have been. But he was never suspected, never implicated in anything, no one ever suggested that Jeff Bagwell might be dirty. But all of a sudden, writers are now pretty sure they know that he was. There’s really no other way to explain how a guy who hit .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs in a 15-year career (60% of that career with an absolutely horrendous home ballpark for hitters) isn’t in the Hall of Fame. In the strike year of 1994, Bagwell hit .368/.451/.750. Oh, and he won a Gold Glove, too.
Now, though, a lot of writers seem to think that he did steroids. These are mostly the same writers who didn’t break any stories about any players doing steroids during the actual steroid era because they didn’t have enough proof to make the stories stick. Now, still without that proof, they’ve decided they suddenly have enough proof to keep Bagwell out of the Hall – or at least make him wait a while. In his second try, Bagwell was named on just over half the ballots cast.
As for Raines, really the only argument against his candidacy is that he played for the Montreal Expos for the majority of his career. Yes, he was an admitted cocaine user – but so was Paul Molitor, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Made it on the first ballot, too. Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, and Raines had to play in his shadow, but there’s not much doubt that Raines was second on that list. A career .294/.385/.425 hitter over 23 big-league seasons, Raines stole 808 bases while being caught only 146 times. That’s a 162-game average of 52 steals while being caught just NINE times. The numbers are certainly Hall-worthy, the voters just have to smarten up, and it seems as though they are. He was named on 48.7% of the ballots cast, up from 37.5% last season.
Next year, the ballot will include Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. It’ll also include 3,000-hit man Craig Biggio and bloody sock hero Curt Schilling. I wonder who will get in.
Before the votes were revealed – and by the way, major congratulations to Barry Larkin, no doubt a very worthy Hall of Famer, indeed – Alex Anthopoulos spoke to the media about the Jays finally officializing the signing of reliever Darren Oliver.
Alex said the usual stuff about needing a good lefty in the bullpen, especially in the A.L. East, but he also made sure to point out that Oliver has a reputation for being one of the best – if not THE best – clubhouse guys in the entire game. As far as being a good teammate, as far as character and work ethic, Oliver is at the top of the list, and that’s of major importance to the G.M. of a young team. Anthopoulos said he might be finished with off-season acquisitions, but he continues to constantly work the trade phones and is hopeful of being able to get some more things done.
He also took a minute or three to rave about Drew Hutchison, the Jays’ top pitching prospect. The 21 year-old was a 15th-round pick out of high school in Lakeland, FL in 2009 and burst onto the scene with a strong emergency start in a Grapefruit League game last spring against the Phillies in which he faced a few of the N.L. Chanps’ regulars. Anthopoulos said that he saw Hutchison in his final start for Dunedin before his call-up to AA New Hampshire, and that he’d taken a quantum leap from that Spring Training start. By August, Hutchison could touch 95 miles per hour with his fastball, his hard slider had gotten even harder, and his command remained terrific. Anthopoulos believes that Hutchison will be a factor for the Blue Jays in 2012, noting that he’s ahead of where Henderson Alvarez was a year ago, and what he and Alvarez have in common is impeccable control (Hutchison has walked 2.2 batters per nine innings as a pro). He specifically said “He’ll come quickly. Great command, very good stuff, great composure. Very high ceiling.”
Just remember, though, 21 year-olds very, very, very, very rarely have immediate success at the major-league level. Hutchison will start at New Hampshire, where he made three starts last season (0.80 WHIP, 1.20 ERA, 21 K/15 IP), along with Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins. All of them are expected to at least knock on the door of the big leagues this year, health permitting.
If you’re already following me on The Twitter, thank you! If not, well, you would have gotten a lot of those Anthopoulos quotes a lot earlier if you were, so please come find me @wilnerness590.
I read all your comments and am happy to reply to as many as I can!
Saturday, January 7th, 2012
4:40 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays kicked off their 2012 Winter Tour with an afternoon Instructional Camp at Rogers Centre that was attended by hundreds of wide-eyed youngsters who had the chance to learn first-hand from current players like Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen, Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia, and former big-leaguers like Duane Ward, Paul Quantrill, Pat Tabler and Adam Stern. Baseball Canada head honcho Greg Hamilton – the most underappreciated human in the baseball business – was in attendance as well, as was Jays’ manager John Farrell.
It was a great day for the kids, and the Jays will now trek east, starting with a couple of days in the nation’s capital.
For us media-types, it was a chance to get some face time with Farrell and the players, and get an update on Blue Jays’ goings-on as we sit about seven weeks away from the opening of Spring Training. I spoke to Farrell and Romero as part of larger scrums, and got one-on-one interviews with Arencibia, Janssen and Lawrie, and they’re posted below for your listening pleasure.
Farrell said that the two biggest keys for the Blue Jays in 2012 – much like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind in 2011 – are Brett Cecil and Colby Rasmus. He felt (and Romero and Arencibia agreed) that last season was a wake-up call for Cecil, and that he’s rededicated himself to getting in shape both physically and mentally and will come to Dunedin ready to erase the memories of his rough 2011. Right now, Cecil is penciled into the fourth spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation, behind Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. As of right now, Kyle Drabek, Aaron Laffey and Dustin McGowan will compete for the fifth spot, with Carlos Villanueva also getting stretched out in the pre-season in case he’s needed.
As for Rasmus, Farrell believes that his transition period is done and the drama that forced him out of St. Louis is behind him. The skipper thinks there’s no reason to believe that Rasmus can’t get back to the form that saw him be one of the top young centrefielders in the game as recently as last May (he was hitting .304/.393/.462 on May 19th when he went into a tailspin that saw him hit .199 over the next two months, until he was traded).
Farrell again spoke of what he felt was a shortcoming of his in his rookie season as a manager, his handling of the bullpen. He thought that he would too often shy away from relievers who weren’t pitching well, and he has to learn to ride hard times out in the coming season. He thinks he’ll be helped, too, by the fact that he has a Capital-C Closer now, as opposed to last season, when he went in with four guys who had legit big-league closing experience and had to figure out how to distribute the late innings.
Romero spoke highly of Cecil as well, saying that he’s most excited to see him and Drabek in the spring, knowing they both have the stuff, the talent and the ability to succeed in the major leagues. Romero says he’s spoken to both of them this winter to remind them of that, and to share his own story of overcoming struggles – though Romero’s happened in the minors, as opposed to the majors.
Ricky also said that he’s thrilled by the additions of closer Sergio Santos and relievers Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver (whose signing will be announced soon, they promise). Romero felt as though the Jays didn’t have a true closer in 2011, jumping from one guy to another all season long (though Frank Francisco had the job securely throughout the second half) and he loves the look of the reworked bullpen. Santos played shortstop with Romero on the 2007 New Hampshire Fisher Cats, hitting 20 home runs that season, and Romero said that while he never imagined him pitching, he knew he had a cannon of an arm. Santos told Romero that he could get up on the mound and throw 95, but Ricky laughed it off. He’s certainly not laughing now.
Arencibia, Janssen and Lawrie all had wonderful things to say, too, and you can hear them right here!
And last, but certainly not least, Brett Lawrie (who is not eligible to win Rookie of the Year in 2012):
If the Blue Jays don’t do anything in the next few days that warrants a blog post, look forward to next weekend, when Baseball Canada holds its annual awards banquet. The best and brightest of Canada’s baseballers always come out for the party, and I’ll be there to talk to all of them and bring the audio back to you!
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590!
Sunday, January 1st, 2012
3:11 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays continued to tweak their roster by pulling off a New Year’s Day deal with the Chicago White Sox, raiding the Pale Hose’s bullpen for the second time in a month.
This time, Alex Anthopoulos took advantage of the Sox’ desire to dump salary by bringing back the Jays’ all-time leader in both pitching appearances and minutes-per-pitch-thrown, Jason Frasor, in exchange for minor-league pitchers Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb.
Jaye made nine starts for the rookie-level Bluefield Blue Jays last season, and was the Jays’ 17th-rounder in 2010. Webb was picked in the 18th round that year, and split last season between Bluefield and low-A Lansing – old for both levels at 22. Both of them are so far down in the minors that they’re lottery tickets, at best.
We know all about Frasor. He’s the little guy with the big arm who looks neither tough nor intimidating, but with the exception of three or four big blow-ups per season, always goes out and gets the job done despite taking 20 minutes or so to do it.
He’s one of those rare non-closer relievers who is consistently good year-in and year-out, and he gives the Blue Jays another option late in games along with Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver to get to Sergio Santos in the 9th.
For his part, Frasor was as overwhelmed as the soft-spoken righty could be in speaking to reporters on a conference call. He said he was thrilled, his Toronto-born wife was thrilled, it’s great and that he can’t wait to get into those new Blue Jays uniforms.
Frasor also raved about Santos, who played shortstop behind him in Syracuse and whom he set up in Chicago at the end of last season when Santos was the White Sox’ closer. He said that Alex Anthopoulos told him that he’s now comfortable with the back end of the Jays’ bullpen with Santos, Oliver, Frasor and Janssen in it.
Interestingly, Frasor heard from both Anthopoulos and Blue Jays’ VP of Communications Jay Stenhouse before he even knew about the trade. He hadn’t heard from either his agent or the White Sox yet. When asked why he thought Anthopoulos was calling him, Frasor said “I don’t know, I thought he wanted to talk. He’s a talker.”
The candidates to fill out the rest of the ‘pen include Jesse Litsch, Carlos Villanueva and Dustin McGowan (if they’re not in the rotation), Joel Carreno, Luis Perez and Aaron Laffey. There are three spots open if everyone stays healthy, and you’d assume one of them will go to a lefty.
The next step for the Blue Jays continues to be what the next step was before they made this trade – they’re looking for a top-flight starting pitcher and a bat for the middle of the order. They’re looking to acquire those things via trade, and I can’t imagine they’re done yet.
Please give me a follow on Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590. If you’re following me, you got Frasor quotes from the conference call as it happened.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome – and Happy New Year!