Friday, July 29, 2011

Rosterbation!

A few variations on the theme here.

Logically, the Jays have a player to be excited about at every position on the field for the next 3 years (more at some spots) except 2B. some also mention DH but with four outfielders you want in the line-up, I don't. While it might be true that Thames is headed for a regression at some point - what he regresses to may still be a better choice than some of the other options. More on that when I get to the bit about free agents.

As for the pitching, we now look like the bullpen is going to need some augmentation, particularly in the off-season - but finding relievers is usually not hard. Finding a proper player for the cliche of "closer" is somewhat more difficult.

Looking at the rotation, I see the following depth chart for Opening Day 2012:
Romero
Morrow
McGowan
Cecil
Drabek
Litsch
Villianueva
Mills

It's widely said that the Blue ays need to add an Ace level SP. I'm not at all convinced that is true. Sure, I'd be happy to add Ubaldo Jimenez (or Felix Hernandez or a healthy Josh Johnson) but do I think we are in NEED of such a move? Nope. I really don't. By the time we sort out whether McGowan can come back, or Drabek can solve his setback, we'll be wondering what to do with Henderson Alvarez and Deck McGuire and by the time they get a fair shot we'll be looking at Hutchison and Molina. Unless you are planning on dealing all your young pitchers, they need a path to the majors and so it's not a bad thing to have the opportunity to use the 4/5 spots to work those guys in. if we end up with the offense that seems to be developing, we can afford to not have a Philly-style rotation.

With the trade deadline less than 44 hours away, all seems quiet with the jays (and you know what that means). Here are the players on the major league squad that might yet be dealt this weekend:

Mark Teahen
Jon Rauch
Frank Francisco
Shawn Camp
Trever Miller
Raji Davis
Jesse Litsch
Brad Mills
Carlos Villianeuva

Obviously, alone, none of these is going to bring a head-turning return. but you never know what Alex will turn up.

For my part, in terms of targets, the name I keep seeing that grabs my eye is Koji Uehara. You may recall that last winter i expressed my lust for him on more than one occasion. Rosenthal tweets it's 50/50 he gets dealt, but he's apparently out there and I'd MUCH rather have him than, for instance, Heath Bell as our closer next year. how hard could it be to, for instance, send David Cooper and Brad Mills to the O's for him?

Finally, a day doesn't pass that someone doesn't insist that the Jays need to sign a big money free agent to prove they are "serious" about winning. Never-mind that the landscape is littered with free agents signed to big deal that are not paying off right now (remember when Chone Figgins was the very thing - how'd you like to have him on your team right now? Adam Dunn? The list is quite long).

Mostly people mention Prince Fielder. now I'm not going to raise hell if the Jays sign Fielder, but here's the thing - they won't. There's no way that fits the model of what they are doing here and I, for one, am glad. If we do sign a free agent DH next year, it would have to be the 2011 equivalent of Paul Molitor - and the only guy I see in that mode is Lance Berkman who is probably going to resist the idea of committing to DH.

Just my opinion of course, but don't look for me on the big money bandwagon.

6 comments:

Mylegacy said...

Tammy - I more or less agree. Boring, eh? (the "eh" is 'cause I'm Canadian and drink coffee at Tim Hortons!).

I too think we've got NINE (once Lawrie is up) SERIOUSLY SERIOUS bats - plus Hill. In addition we've at least a bakers dozen of other position players that will threaten - and surpass - some of the incumbents over the next three years.

I also agree with you that the pitchers who are close are close enough to not take away their chance of getting to the show by bringing in an expensive - but not really necessary - arm. I would think both Hutchison and Alvarez are "phenoms" and as such could get to the show by June(ish) next year. McGuire - not as high ended - but very decent - could be up by that time too. With a good spring maybe sooner. Molina is still getting his innings up - after being a reliever - but is also a "phenom" and and I suspect he's more of a 2013 guy. McGowan just might be the bridge to make us respectable enough til the Kiddy Korp get to the rescue. There are so many truly prodigious arms lower in the system it's positively yummy.

My only concern now is this - lets say we compare our position players to those on Boston (assuming Lawrie is up and Bautista back in RF and Thames is the DH).

LF - Crawford vs Snider. Not really that high on their production at this point. Crawford by a hair?

CF Ellsbury vs Rasmus. Ellsbury in a runaway?

RF Reddick vs Bautista. Bautista in a laugher?

3rd Youkilis vs Lawrie. Track record says Youk - me I'd rather Lawrie thank you?

SS Scutaro vs Escobar. Escobar in a laugher?

2nd Perroia vs Hill. Pedroia in a laugher?

1st Gonzalez vs Lind. Hate to say it but Gonzo in a laugher?

C Salt vs JPA. Close - leaning to the best 9th hitter in the AL - JPA?

DH Ortiz vs Thames. Closer than most might say but Ortiz by a bit?

So we've Three laughers for Boston - Ellsbury, Pedroia and Gonzalez; Two Laughers for the Jays Bautista and Escobar. Four real close.

When you consider we've no answer for Lester or Beckett - and no clear winner over their other three starters - not to mention Baird and Paps...2012 could be longer than we really want...

Our KEY is that at least two of Hutchison, Alvarez and McGuire HAVE to arrive on time, on schedule and on course to stardom by June or 2013 is looking to be our first SERIOUS year of contention.

gabriel said...

I think we tend to overvalue our prospects and think they're likelier to turn out than they really are. But you are right, insofar as we are filling up our rotation with good and okay pitchers, limiting our ability to give opportunities to prospects who may turn into great pitchers. Trading Marcum made sense in this context, as it freed up space to try out Drabek and briefly, Stewart. Going into next season, we have a similar problem, but no similar trade option - Romero and Morrow are probably too young, affordable and good to want to give up for prospects, while McGowan, Cecil and Villanueva haven't demonstrated enough consistency to command returns in trade equal to their talent.

One of our problems is that none of our pitching prospects are truly A-level prospects. Alvarez (and Drabek, if you consider him still a prospect) are probably closest, but Alvarez has to develop an off-speed pitch he can reliably use to get strikeouts, and Drabek has to reliably find the strikezone. Even then, neither is likely to become an ace. Nestor Molina, Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire and Joel Carreno could turn into good starters, but are 2-3 types, rather than potential aces.

Without truly high-upside pitching prospects, it doesn't make nearly as much sense to keep a starting spot open for them. So why trade Cecil to try and add someone to the rotation who has the same potential as Cecil?

One player you omit from your list of trade-bait who should be on there is Edwin Encarnacion. I've always believed his defence can be reasonable; and his bat makes him potentially one of the best 3B option on the trade market. If I were the Milwaukee Brewers, I'd try and catch lightning with EE. However, I doubt AA receives an offer that makes sense with his potential value, both as a trade piece this offseason and next year in-season and to the Jays as (once Lawrie is up) as a platoon DH, backup third baseman and first baseman, and pinch-hitter. That's a very valuable bench player for next season, even if he makes Mark Teahen completely redundant.

The Southpaw said...

well I suppose it depends on how you define an A-level pitching prospect. I believe Law for one considered both Alvarez and Hutchison top 50 guys, and Drabek too if he were on the list (though he said he'd drop him significantly)

Perhaps it's not necessary to project as an Ace in order to be "A level"?

That said, I'm no advocate of moving Cecil lightly if at all and the report that Alex went to get Jackson because he wouldn't deal "any of my starters" presumably includes Cecil.

To me the top three spots are locked up, four if McGowan holds up - and Drabek is the presumptive guy for #5 IF he finds the handle. But he (Drabek) is subject to losing the spot if he doesn't get it together. I'm fine with that, particularly with Villianueva handy for a short term patch if necessary, and there's always the potential that injury provides opportunity.

The Southpaw said...

Mylegacy - I disagree somewhat with your comparisons with the Red Sox.

I'll give them Crawford easy until either (a) Snider steps up to be what we expect or (b) Crawford proves to be in permanent decline. Snider CAN be better when he peaks (which should be long before Crawford is out of work) but it's difficult to predict when he steps to the next level.

In center Elisbury is no sort of runaway over Rasmus. Colby has every bit as much talent (except for the speed) and elsbury basically is what Rasmus projects to be with more speed (and a better BA as opposed to a bit more power for Rasmus). Now, it's true that Elsbury has "arrived" at his peak and Rasmus hasn't, but Rasmus last year wasn't far behind what Elsbury has done in his breakout year. And Elsbury is three years older.

Gonzo is not a laugher over Lind, but he has an edge until Adam avoids the lengthy slumps.

As for an answer to Lester and Beckett - Romero is every bit a match for Lester and Morrow is just a bit of consistency away from catching and passing Beckett - both jays pitchers have a higher ERA+ than the Red Sox pair.

Cecil loses to Buchholz, at least for now, but how good does the #4 have to be to be an answer to Matsuzaka, Wakefield or lackey? Hell Litsch can handle THAT challenge. Developing another guy who can (assuming you don't want to count Villianueva) can't be that hard. All our candidates would have to fail pretty hard to be that bad.

It's true we can't match Papelbon and Bard but that challenge is halved when Papelbon leaves this winter.

Now YES it's true that Snider, Rasmus, and Lawrie have to continue on the growth track that's projected and Thames can't regress too much - it's true Morrow needs to find his top gear and Cecil consistency...so there ARE "ifs"

But assuming those occur, the Jays could be as good as or better than Boston (the current version - who knows who they will add) as soon as next year and certainly by 2013

gabriel said...

It all depends, I suppose, if we were to go all-out next year. Our top five of Romero/Morrow/Cecil/McGowan/Drabek is probably not going to be good enough to get us past New York and Boston, given the uncertainty associated with the last three starters, and the overall talent level. So if we want to make a push, we'd probably want to acquire a strong starter (C.J. Wilson probably makes the most sense), which means a top 3 of Wilson, Romero and Morrow (in whatever order you prefer) and competition for the 4 & 5 spots between Cecil, Drabek and McGowan. That leaves no room for Litsch or Mills, barring a couple injuries, and so we'd probably be wasting assets in AAA. If we kept such a structure going for 2 years, we'd start to block capable prospects, probably McGuire and Alvarez at first, then whoever continues to advance among Molina, Carreno, Hutchison and Wojchiezowski, then perhaps Sanchez, Nicolino, Syndergaard, Murphy, and Taylor.

If, on the other hand, we want to continue to build and accumulate assets, the pitching staff is the place to do it, particularly the rotation. Such a strategy means that we try to accumulate top talent in the 1-3 slots in the rotation, while using the last 2 spots for "value building" for our graduates from the minor leagues. Once some consistent success is seen, you trade these types of pitchers - Brett Cecil is probably the best example on the staff. He's probably a useful and valuable 3rd starter when he finds success; but since AA is trying to accumulate studs, you trade him to a team in another division weak on starting pitching - just like we did with Marcum, and move in the next value project (Litsch or Mills or McGuire or whomever). Some of our prospects will fail, some will become useful starters that don't fit into "the plan", and on occasion, we'll have a true stud come up, who moves into the top three. This method would, I think, maximize our long-term returns from our plethora of starting prospects; but would also mean that we might be further away from the postseason than we'd like.

I note that this comment barely fits with my first comment. To explain myself, I think I was assuming a win-now strategy in my earlier comment.

The Southpaw said...

I don't think the two are exclusive and I think our overall talent level is close enough to do both, particularly with a second wild card.

I'd happily go into 2012 with Romero/Morrow/Cecil/McGowan/Drabek (assuming Drabek eventually finds what he's missing) with Villianueva in reserve and knowing there are guys in the minors I could call on in an emergency.

It's a better set than what either of yanks or Red Sox have this year.

Admittedly McGowan has a high possibility of blowing out and no one can fully predict what a rookie will do. but the talent level is there.