Monday, 15 September 2008

Sometimes you make me want to say so long...

I'm not quite yet prepared to offer my comments on the weekend series that effectively ended the Jays season, so let us make do with a MLBTR report (via Jerry Howarth at The Fan) that Brad Arnsberg figures AJ Burnett WILL re-sign with the Jays. Not resign like Richard Nixon, but re-sign.

Commence total plagarization NOW:

Arnsberg's heart says Burnett will stay in Toronto. Burnett's wife loves it there. Arnsberg had multiple heart-to-heart conversations with Burnett discussing the pitcher's future, and leans toward Burnett returning. Arnsberg speculates that it could take another year on the contract to bring him back.

If this is indeed true, it would put JP/JP's successor in a very difficult position because an offer from the AJ camp to have him stay in exchange for a third year would be rather magnanimous considering what he could get from scoundrel Hank Steinbrenner on the open market. That said, I don't necessarily think it's a good idea to reach an agreement on those terms.

Prefacing the following with this:

* AJ is a very talented pitcher who has been superb this month with the team on the fringes of a playoff race
* the Jays will be worse off without him unless they find a replacement outside the organization, and there really isn't a free agent equivilant available in his price range
* I like him as a personality on a team that's otherwise pretty square (looking at you, Lyle Overbay)

Ok, now...

Remembering the maxim that you don't pay a player for the season he just had, it's worth noting that with his next start AJ will almost certainly establish a career high for innings pitched after already posting his best single-season strikeout and win totals. As much as I hate saying it, this was after all only the second fully healthy season (both contract years) of his career. You just can't bank on getting anything like this from AJ ever again.

While his overall numbers this year are very good, but there was a considerable degree of Jeckyl and Hyde-ism: he had two horrid months (April and June), one mediocre one (August), two solid ones (May and July), and it looks like he's on his way to a superhuman September. Every time I hear someone say they saw signs of maturity in AJ this year I kind of wonder what he might've done out of the gate had he not wrecked his fingernail in his car door after what I've always assumed was an offseason temper tantrum.

I really, truly want to see the good, but can't overlook the bad.

Back in February I had a look at AJ's most similar pitchers at baseball-reference and found a depressing list of once-promising power pitchers who flamed out spectacularly in their early 30s (AJ will be 32 going into next season). I'd reckon mightily that whichever team chooses to lock him up through his ages 35/36 seasons is going to see very little--if any--return on their investment towards the end of the deal.

Could AJ help the Jays in '09? Most likely yes, but not so much that a team with limited resources should run the risk of locking him up long-term. At some point in the coming weeks we're going to do a comprehensive, omnibus look at what we think the Jays should do going forward, but I'm coming to the opinion that JP/JP's successor needs to make a big splash this off season (a la 2005/2006) or just batten down the hatches and wait for an infusion of youth (Arencibia, Campbell, Cecil most notably) in 2010.

I'm gonna have to say punt on AJ now, keep those tasty draft picks, and try to patch up the rotation next year with a a cheap one-year turd blossom. (The Oracle likes Carl Pavano, who has pitched very Scott Richmond-ily since coming back from an assortment of faked injuries in August.) But no, I won't celebrate the news if this is what ultimately ends up happening.

-- Johnny Was


The Southpaw said...

I would not be displeased if we bring him back, because I have faith that rogers won't strangle us on payroll if someone fails utterly - nor would i mourn if he leaves because I think we CAN handle it (Purcey, since joining the rotation full time, has virtually identical numbers to AJ's season totals and there's Dusty coming back to consider too).

My pick for the stopgap is Pedro (I've been refraining from trumpeting that because I wanted to throw it into the post-season roudntable but whatever)but if we didn't sign any starter at all I wouldn't feel hanstrung.


dave said...

If A.J. did comeback would that completely shutdown the chances of signing a big bat?

Jays2010 said...

If I were JP (and yes I assume he is coming back) then I think I would basically trade the equivalent of the two first round picks that we'll get as compensation to try and acquire AJ's replacement.

I've tossed out Matt Cain's name and even though it does not seem like he is going to be traded, maybe a Litsch/Campbell/Cooper (as a PTBNL) package would entice SF, considering that they get a solid replacement in Litsch (who has five years left before becoming a free agent), and 2 positions prospects (which they desperately need).

Also, perhaps Scott Olsen could be had for something like R Romero and Jeroloman (another player may need to be included). There are rumblings that Olsen will be traded and he has similarities to Burnett including good upside (though his low SO rates are worrisome).

I'm torn on AJ - I know that it isn't a good risk, but I can't ignore the fact that he has been excellent in the 2nd half of each of the 3 seasons he's been here and I do think he may take a slight discount to stay here. Plus it gives us the pitching ammunition to acquire a hitter...

SP said...

As has been pointed out, we can essentially replace Burnett with Purcey (or McGowan, however you wanna look at it). It would just be foolish to bring him back at 11 million AND give him an extra year when we all know he will not repeat this success. He just won't.

We need that 11 million this winter to make a splash since it doesn't look like Rogers will raise the payroll further.