Thursday, November 18, 2010

Important Days

A few things on my mind tonight.

Tomorrow at midnight, 40 man rosters have to be set to protect young players frm the Rule 5 draft. Among those who need to be protected if the jays don't want to risk losing them are the following (It's possible I don't have everyone, particularly among non-drafteee signings):

Adam Loewen
Brian Jeroloman
Alan Farina
Brad Emaus
Darin Mastroianni
Moises Sierra
Joel Carreno
Henderson Alvarez

That's eight candidates (that I've identified) and there are eight open spots on the 40 man roster. If you are wondering why someone like Shawn Hill was dropped, there's your answer. also, given that there's always the potential for free agent signings or trades to go down, some current roster members are still potential cuts (looking at you Luis Perez).

We'll find out soon which of these guys, if any, will be exposed (My guess is they will gamble on Jeroloman and Farina and protect the rest).


On another subject, there's much speculation about Justin Upton. I won't wax verbose about the idea except to say that very much approve of pursuing that possibility. Of course it's possible to overpay, but within reason - you have to try.



One final note: I don't wish to make a habit of cross-pollinating my blogs, but this being a special occasion - I'm go9ing to make an exception tonight. If you only ever read one example of my other blog - make it this one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Assurance

By now you know - Farquhar and Magnuson for Rajai Davis.

This sort of thing is easy to over-analyze because we are so early in the off-season that the music is still playing and we don't begin to know who will end up in what seats. on the most basic level, we dealt a couple of guys who were, at best, n the fringes of the top 30 on anyone's list. I find Farquhar intriguing but he's not a rare talent. Mags is a fungible part, even if he hits his ceiling. So there's no real loss, per se. On the other hand Davis is 30 years old, and other than being a very fast and very efficient baserunner, he doesn't impress you with his offense. He a competent to good defender in CF, and can play all three positions. He's an almost ideal 4th outfielder, which will likely be his role. if he starts, he's gonna provoke Otis Nixon flashbacks.

There are other side points to note - does this make Lewis a sure bet to be out of town within the next couple of weeks? - would Davis have been non-tendered by the A's? could he be non-tendered by the Jays? - Would they seriously consider moving Wells out of CF for a gy like this (answer: very doubtful)? and does that mean Bautista goes to 3B if he does (answer: almost certainly)?

But honestly, it's useless to get to strident right now. When mid-February rolls around we can look at all the moves as a set ad have a better idea. in the mean-time, Davis gives us some assurance against being caught with our pants on the ground in a few different ways.

Meanwhile, we could address a lot of this if we'd just go out and get Justin Upton!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Obligatory Comments

I've long since abandoned the illusion that you are likely to get your NEWS from this site when something happens. If you are an aware Jays fan you know who to follow on Twitter, you know about MLBTR, and so forth. So I do not rush to the keyboard to comment on every roster move. Often, I can speak to a point better with a day or two to reflect and digest a number of other reactions and opinions and most of all, to hear what the team personnel have to say about it.

After a couple of days though, there's been no real new information coming from the team regarding the roster moves this week. So, before the story gets too cold, or trumped by a newer one, my reactions are these-

No one really is worried about Wise, right? He did reasonable work as a fourth outfielder but there are so many options for that job it would be exhausting to discuss them all. As for Brian Tallet, YES he was aces against LH hitting, and yes, contrary to some comments I've seen, the $2 mil-ish he'd be due to make if he'd stayed is not out of line for that skill set, BUT . . .

There are a number of ways to fill that need, from in-house options like Carlson, Mills, and Zep to trades to free agents to even bringing Tallet back at a lower price. A lot of people have a low opinion of Tallet right now but that has much more to do with his having been pushed beyond his competency level the last couple of years than it does his not having any value at all.

As for Encarnacion, one must admit up front that we don't have all the information available to Alex & Co. It has been hinted at in the media and inferred by what we can observe that there are . . . personality issues involved. The sort of things that are sometimes referred to as "difficult to coach." Such things are not spoken of by wise front office people in public but they no doubt factor into decision making. That's not to say that EE is a "cancer" or any such thing, just maybe stubborn. Jose Bautista has admitted in interviews that he took a long time to accept that his swing needed to change. It happens.

More crucial was the problem of where he plays defensively. If he had stayed with the Jays, he'd have pretty much had to have been the DH. the $6 mil or so he would have made to do that might not have been too much, but the dent he puts in the team's flexibility if you put him down for that role is huge.The Jays can get similar offense from a new player, almost certainly for less money, and they don't have to have their hands tied before even the GM meetings to do that.

It's too tempting, when addressing this subject, speculate about the future of 3B. I can't pass up the opportunity.

Stating the obvious - Bautista or Hill might end up there, depending on the potential to import an outfielder or second baseman - preferably one with top-of-the-order offensive skills. This I've discussed before and will again, but laying that aside . . .

The field of potential acquisitions at 3B is not deep, but is possessed of some intriguing names, of which I submit these four names for consideration (all rumored as potentially available according to MLBTR)

4. Dan Uggla: Oldest player on this list, most reliable, and most expensive to acquire and to pay. Down side is that he's only under team control for one more season, and he's nothing like a lead-off option (but none of these suggestions are). You'd have to be REAL confident you could extend him if you were going to make a run at him.
EDIT: I made a comment here about his OBP but it was in error - looked at the wrong column or something.

3. Alex Gordon: Often discussed on Jays blogs and forums, and opinions are sharply divided. I confess I've been obsessed with Gordon since his college days so my objectivity suffers. It is rightly observed his last two season have been a mess, but there's also a solid possibility that the Royals created that mess. The upside is that Gordon is a hitting version of Brandon Morrow, the downside is that he's just another of those high draft picks who failed to live up to the clippings.

He did have a very solid season in 2008 at age 24, so the foundation is or was there. In my opinion, the potential upside in acquiring him for what would be presumably a reasonable price (Mills and Sierra, for instance?) and hoping that a change of scenery and coaching unlocks his former talent is worthwhile.

2. Gordon Beckham: I'm a bit shocked to hear that the White Sox might listen here, and in no position to speculate as to the cost to acquire him, but the availability can't be ignored. He was a more-or-less competent 3B in 2009 with above average offense at age 22 - and that after less than half a season in the minors. At first glance, it would appear he slumped badly in his sophomore year - but a closer examination reveals something quite interesting: From July 9 through the end of the season, his OPS was .911 in 1/3 of a season's worth of at-bats. I cannot say, of course, with any authority whether or not there is a big negative we can't see. But given what I can see, I'd pay and pay pretty handsomely to install Beckham at 3B for the Jays for the next 4 or more years. Kenny Williams loves to deal, hopefully the Jays can find something he finds irresistible. Also here, if you think the D would be better with Hill at 3B and Beckham at 2B, you could do that too.

1. Pablo Sandoval: One of the best hitters in the NL in 2009, he dropped off massively in 2010 while surounded by questions about his conditioning and work ethic. He was lightly used in the playoffs as a result and while it's unclear whether he is actually available, the dilligent GM (and Alex is nothing if not that) will certainly seek to take advantage of the reversals to see if he can be obtained. it's not without risk - you'd have to be convinced you could get him back to his 2009 levels. but there's obviously something there for which to strive.

One other thought, if you really want to light it up - trade for Sandoval for 1B and Beckham for 3B. That will take a big bite out of the farm system but you'd potentially make a huge improvement in the major league club

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A modest proposal

We all know the Free Agent class is weak, particularly in terms of the thing the Jays need most - on base percentage. It is true that Alex has indicated he thinks the trade market might be more inviting but, alas, we can't begin to presume what he might pull out of his hat in that regard.

So let me suggest something that is a bit outside that box - Go after Tsuyoshi Nishioka. According to Tim Kurkjian, the 26 year old middle infielder from Japan will be posted this week.

Nishioka won the Pacific League batting title this year with a .346 average. He scored 121 runs, stole 22 bases and had 206 hits, the most by a player in that league since Ichiro Suzuki in 1994. Nishioka, a switch-hitter, batted leadoff for the Marines and his team recently won the Japan Series.

"He is a good player, he is a talented kid," said ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who managed Nishioka in Japan. "If he had been a college kid four or five years ago, he would have been a first-round pick. He runs faster than a lot of people. He can get a hit. He can steal a base. He can bunt. He is still developing physically and mentally. And this year, he stayed healthy all year. He has style issues, positive and negative: he likes to be noticed. How he develops will depend on what team signs him."

Now, I'll go ahead and acknowledge that Fangraphs is only mildly impressed, but i think this might be a good place for AA to throw Rogers' financial muscle around and address a need. There's not a history of Japanese imports losing their batting eye in the U.S., just of seeing their power moderate. But we don't need power, we need a lead off hitter. Here we have a guy who's an excellent defender, with tremendous range (and a 2B arm) who gets on base at a high rate (.366 career, .423 in 2010) and has good speed and a taste for the spotlight. Sounds like an ideal top-of-the-order spark to me.

Newman (at Fangraphs) says he might be a "Ryan Theriot/Chine Figgins" type which is weird since Figgins is a wildly better player. But if you could get a 26 year old Figgins at a reasonable price, that's a fine acquisition.

Do this, and move Aaron Hill to 3B which in turn allows you to go Snider/Wells/Bautista in the OF and you have a better lineup and a noticeably better defense as well.

What's not to like?

***

On an unrelated note, I want to take advantage of the chance to nod in the direction of the coaching hires. I have to say that the announcment brought a big smile to my face - the only thing I can think of that would be better is word that Rick Langford will stay in the organization, either at Vegas or roving. Having Pat Hentgen on the major league staff is very happy-making. Wakamatsu bringing experience to the bench, and a great reputation to his special assignment as a coach to JPA is very good news, and Tory Louvello brings a great reputation as well. I venture to say we may now have the finest collection of coaches in the majors.

***

Also there was chatter today that a Boston writer includes the Blue Jays on a list of teams looking at Victor Martinez. My thoughts? First, not gonna happen - there's no way the jays pay what it will take to sign him AND give up a first round draft pick, the report is either wrong or AA is just doing due diligence. Second, I agree with that outcome. Martinez is a player primed to decline in value, IMO, and he's hoping to get a contract for 4 or more years. While it is true that he fits into an open spot on our roster (1B) and brings some value (the ability to catch if JPA flops horribly) that's a short term situat8ion and doesn't warrant a long term deal. Pass.



Friday, November 5, 2010

Baseball America's Top 10

By now, those of you paying attention have seen BA's Top 10 list, but here it is if you haven't:

1. Kyle Drabek, rhp
2. Deck McGuire, rhp
3. Anthony Gose, of
4. Travis D'Arnaud, c
5. Zach Stewart, rhp
6. Asher Wojciechowski, rhp
7. J.P. Arencibia, c
8. Carlos Perez, c
9. Aaron Sanchez, rhp
10. Jake Marisnick, of

My initial reactions . . .

McGuire at #2 surprises me - not sure if they think he's really good, or if it's just a deference to his draft position. Possibly some combination.

Stewart at #5 (instead of #2) is a mild surprise but reasonable.

Wojciechowski in the top 10, instead of Alvarez was totally unexpected.

Otherwise, It's probably much like most every top 10 that comes out this winter will look. The obvious questions all flow from the names not there: "what about Thames? What about Adeiny?" but I could tell you, and the BA writers said as much during the chat, that this isn't an illustration that the missing players are lacking, but that the system is deep enough to have more than 10 worthy prospects.

BA's write-up is jealously guarded for subscribers, as is the chat, but in very general terms here's what Nathan Rode had to say: they are really impressed with Drabek's curve and their 2014 projection lists him as a #1 starter ahead of Romero and Morrow; they really like McGuire's slider, he has a good change and his curve is his rawest pitch; Gose is described as the best defensive outfielder, and fasted baserunner but Marisnick is called the best athlete.

Travis d'Arnaud is described as the long-term answer at catcher, due to excellence on both side of the game which would presumably dictate position switches (or trades) for the other highly ranked catchers; Stewart was rated as having the best fastball, and though they agree with his continued development as a SP, they also project that they Jays will have enough better options by 2014 that he'll be the closer; Woj was said to have similar stuff to Stewart.

Sanchez was described as having a steadily improving fastball (touching 95 in instructionals) and the Jays are said to be even more excited about his ceiling now than when they drafted him.

Other players mentioned but not on the list include Brad Emaus being described as having the best strike-zone discipline I the system, and Drew Hutchison has the best control among the pitchers (on a side note, Pat Hentgen, in an interview at BluebirdBanter, spoke very highly of Hutch). Hechavarria was described as JUST missing the cut; Eric Thames also was a near miss, he was called very strong and expected to be an average LF (I wonder if there will be George Bell comparisons?).

When asked about Jenkins, Rode didn't respond with negatives - no reason to be concerned; he was asked about Sam Dyson and said he'd just had TJ surgery and would miss all of 2011 - I can't find a report of this elsewhere; Henderson Alvarez, he said, didn't miss as many bats as you'd like to see but given his age and level, that's likely part of the process - projects as mid-rotation starter still. Kellen Sweeney was highly praised ("really really good") but missed the top 10 because of system depth (my guess is he's in their top 20).

Rode also said on a couple of occasions that the Jays had arguably a Top 10 system, and that there was a lot of talent in the low minors which would stand them in good stead even when they graduated Drabek and JPA. The implication was that the system would be near the best in the majors for the next few years at least. In terms of looking at my own list, every player in my Top 20 got some kind of praise except AJ Jiminez, and the two top 10's had 8 players in common.

Speaking of prospects, John Sickels' Prospect list for the Jays should fall sometime in the next week, and he mentioned briefly yesterday that he saw Eric Thames in Arizona and had glowing praise for him (as has everyone except Kieth Law). Good days to be a prospect junkie!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Major Announcment

To me it's major anyway, and no I'm not talking about Kevin Gregg's option.

This is, at a minimum, the most unexpected entry you'll ever read on this blog. I have debated for well over a year now whether or not I should ever write it, but the time has come to get off the fence and either do, or not do – so I've chosen to write it.

Many, if not all of you, are aware that early this year I was giving very serious consideration to closing up shop here. After the main part of the off-season activities were past, it seemed a reasonable time to make the break – especially given the end of the Halladay Era was an obvious transition point. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't because the results of the 2010 season have re-energized my enthusiasm for the Blue Jays' future. Nevertheless, the issue I had then remains, and so either that solution must still be applied, or another one instead.

I am not, at this point, really willing to just shut it down and walk away – although the eventual fallout might lead to that (I'm not expecting that but it's possible). I do not want to make assumptions about my friends and readers that would have been wrong and unfair to make. However, this is a tremendously difficult thing to do. It is something which seems, on the surface, to be antithetical to the whole culture of sports fandom.

You might ask why I feel it's important to do – without drifting too far afield from the theme and purpose of this blog, I can't even begin to answer that question – all I can say to it is that unless you have gone through this situation, you don't have a frame of reference to properly appreciate why it's important.

So – I beg your indulgence to humor me a bit as I take care of a bit of business which has nothing to do with the Jays, or with baseball, but which for my personal state of mind needs to be done.

I've been writing this blog for, if memory serves, some four seasons now (with some partners in the first year) and been a fixture around various Jays related message boards for some years before that. The subject I'm discussing tonight predates all that by decades, in fact, it predates the first time I ever saw a baseball game. But for various reasons which it would serve no purpose to go into here, I felt it necessary to repress and conceal that matter. Just over two years ago, I ceased to do that.


*DEEP BREATH!*







I am transsexual. For one full year now I have been living full time as a female and I have adopted the name Tammy.

I hope that I may continue to be a part of the ongoing virtual conversation about the Blue Jays (though I do understand that it is difficult for any acquaintance, no matter how “virtual” to make the mental adjustment) but even if I find that's no longer possible, I had to speak up. One of the things that comes from spending so much of your life hiding your true face is that you develop an obsessive distaste for masks of any sort. I'd rather risk rejection than be false in any sense – even a mostly anonymous on-line persona. It is my hope that my worries in that regard are unfounded.


We'll see how it goes.


(One note – if anyone wishes to offer comments or questions they'd rather not post in public, write me at thesouthpaw.blog@gmail.com and if you want to know more, ask for the address to my transition blog)