Sunday, 11 December 2011

Previewing the Second Half

(pending proof-reading!)

While mathematically, the halfway point between the first day of the post-season and the day pitchers and catchers report (February 19!) is right around Christmas, for all intents and purposes the close of the Winter Meetings marks the beginning of the second half of the off-season. It's time then, as that week draws to a close, to asses the state of the Blue Jays and look ahead to what developments might ensue.

We'll have to speak in broad general terms because, of course, our NGM (Ninja GM) will certainly do something (probably everything) in a manner not even hinted at in my speculations, but it would take all the fun out of it (and kill what little traffic I get) if I conceded that i really have no idea what comes next, so I soldier on as best I can. The best way to anticipate potential moves is to look at still existing needs. also, lets note up front that Alex prefers trades to expensive free agents.

First, let's look at the line-up if tomorrow were February 19:

Catcher: JP Arencibia is locked in, Travis d'Arnaud is at minimum half a season away and almost surely won't be seen before September barring serious injury to JP. Jeff Mathis is locked in as the reserve, and while I fully expect the team to maneuver a situation in which he does not get the amount of money he made last year in arbitration, there's no reason to assume he won't be here.

First Base - Everything AA and John Farrell say about Adam Lind leads one to believe they are committed to bringing him back as the first baseman. That said, if there is a position that's ripe, among hitters, for a ninja move it's first. Prince Fielder is obviously out there, but unlikely to sign on terms the Jays would agree to. The only other really sensible candidate who might be an upgrade on Lind (depending of course on whether Lind does bounce back) is Josh Willingham. Personally, I don't expect a deal there. Looking around the league, there's not an obvious upgrade rumored to be available via trade either.

Second Base - Kelly Johnson is set. There's some possibility - Alex even hinted at it - that he might surprise us with a deal to add a "core piece" to use his terms, and if he can do so - think maybe Gordon Beckham - then you could see Johnson flipped to a team like the Rockies. There's every possibility the will go with Johnson though.

Shortstop - Yunel Escobar. Next question.

Third Base - Brett Lawrie. Next question

Right Field - Jose Bautista. Next question.

Center Field - Colby Rasmus. Next question.

Left Field - open competition between Travis Snider and Eric Thames. Snider is the more talented player, but if he loses he might be "change of scenery" before May, if Thames loses he will be the 4th outfielder and occasional DH, and a good one, or go back to AAA to wait.

DH - Edwin Encarnacion. The only obvious way to upgrade here is via an unexpected trade, or convincing Carlos Beltran to DH, which seems unlikely. If the Jays were tossing aside the future to play for 2012, they'd plug Beltran into LF and push aside the kids, but I don't think Alex will deviate from the long term plan.

On the bench: the aforementioned Mathis, the loser of Snider/Thames maybe (though possibly this person could be in AAA or traded), Raji Davis, an infielder (Vilbuena, McCoy, or some player yet to be acquired - nether of these is an impressive SS) and, for now, Mark Teahen although my guess is they eat his contract before April 1.

Turning to pitching, again, mostly assuming this is what we go to camp with-

AA and JF have both spoken often about needing a top of the rotation starter. I made the case in my previous post for Yu Darvish and he's the one guy known to be available who fits that bill. I don't believe the Jays will pay the exorbitant cost to obtain Gio Gonzalez and I don't think they should. Pretty much anyone I'd be willing to pay that price for isn't on the market. Certainly there's no free agent comparable to Darvish. Roy Oswalt comes closest, and if he would come to Toronto I'd be cool with him if we try and fail on Darvish.

Beyond additions -
#1 - Ricky Romero in a lock
#2 - Dustin McGowan by seniority, and by talent, but if they want to coddle his arm a bit they might slide him to the #5 just so they can skip him occasionally.
#3 - Brandon Morrow seems set here. if they did sign Darvish then Yu would be #2 and Morrow still fits at three.
#4 - Brett Cecil but with a tentative grasp. Farrell reports he's working out this winter and in MUCH better shape than this time last year and if so, may well come to camp and demand this spot. but he's also the guy in this group most likely to fit as a bullpen piece (probably a highly effective guy in the 8th) - if he stumbles and two kids show well, he might lose out.
#5 - Henderson Alvarez/Kyle Drabek- The former has the edge, and it's his spot to lose. but Drabek will have a chance to beat out someone , so if either Cecil or Alvarez stumble in the spring and Drabek looks resolved, then he could steal a spot for sure.

Other candidates depending on emergency need: Potential relievers Villianueva, Listch, Carreno, Perez and minor league prospects Hutchison and McGuire and maybe Jenkins. It's unlikely any of those guys will be used out of spring training except in highly unusual circumstances.

In short, the odds are that it's Darvish, or nothing here. the depth is sufficient that adding a middling guy would be unnecessary and Alex has publicly noted as much.

The bullpen is where it really gets interesting. Alex has openly mentioned he fully intends to add here, and particularly in 8th inning guys.

We know that Sergio Santos WILL close.

We know that Casey Janssen, Carlos Vilianueva, and Jesse Litsch are locks, barring injury, and that Luis Perez and Joel Carreno have an edge on all the other non-locks currently in the organization.

We can also surmise that an 8th inning lefty is a priority and that second to that would be an 8th inning RHP (Alex speaks fondly of having Janssen available in the seventh since he's effective against both left and right handed hitters.

So four established slots, two potential "gets" and the last spot will go to Perez (second lefty) if he doesn't throw it away. Barring Cecil moving in of course.

So what are the options? as free agents, the top of the list (such as it is) would be:
LHP - Mike Gonzalez, George Sherril, Damso Marte (if healthy) and Tsuyoshi Wada (if you can sell him on relief instead of starting)
RHP - there all pretty mediocre guys, frankly.

So you kinda have to turn to trades - this sort of thing is tricky to predict because Alex tends to surprise, but some names that have been mentioned include Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants (probably as good a choice as you will find), Sean Marshall of the Cubs, Greg Holland of the Royals (very good, pretty young, years of control), Tim Collins of the Royals (okay, only I am mentioning him - but if they are wiling to deal Holland, we could ask about Collins), Koji Uehara of the Rangers (no idea why there's talk but you have to like him), Matt Thornton of the White Sox (really, pretty much anyone on the White Sox - except Chris Sale - including Jason Frasor), and pretty much anyone in the A's 'pen - Grant Balfour would probably be a good target.

So in summation:
1. Take a run at Darvish
1a. Failing that look in on Oswalt or maybe Rich Harden
2. restock the bullpen likely via a series of trades.
3. find a reserve infielder who plays a good SS and handles the bat at least to McDonald levels
4. keep your eyes open for a chance to add a core player
5. pay attention to Fielder and Beltran until they are off the market just to be prepared for surprises.

That should do it!


Anonymous said...

Chris Sale and Drew Hutch were high school teammates

Anonymous said...

Should be interesting to say the least. I feel like this team is not that far away. Sure there are question marks at 3b ( will Lawrie actually be able to do it oGver a year), 1b ( is Lind the guy from pre or post all star break), cf and lf. But I am confident that most of these will work favourably in 2012.
My hopes are that we land Darvish we can then use some of our surplus arms and Lind for a 1B.

You are probably the one person who is talking about Drabek. What a difference a year can make. I still think he is a top of the rotation type of guy and I'm glad that someone is still looking at the possibility that he can put it together and come into camp able and ready to win a rotation spot.

How would you resolve this dilemma? Assuming we get Darvish; Cecil/ Drabek bounce back and we McGowan is healthy.
Darvish- assuming we get him
Drabek/ Cecil/ Alvarez
McGowan- healthy to go every 5th day

Earlweaverfan said...


Very fine work, comme d'habitude!

I would really like them to go for a shutdown, lockdown bullpen. If they could swing a deal for each of Thornton and Holland, I like the two of them as 8th inning LH and RH. Add Santos, Janssen, Carreno and Villanueva. Would any bullpen be stronger?

Meanwhile, if Cecil could come back to peak form and Darvish could be snagged, I like the Jays chances, even with no other upgrades in a position player slot.

My fingers are crossed.

The Southpaw said...

if we signed Darvish and both Cecil and Drabek rebounded well then you pretty much have to either shift Cecil to the pen, or find a team willing to trade you good value for him (on the theory that a starter for someone else is worth more than a reliever for probably have to send Alvarez back down to allow Drabek to show he's got it - but you are steadily looking for an opportunity - likely to get an offer you can't refuse for a trade.

It would break my heart to hold back Alvarez if he's really completely ready, but you HAVE to give Morrow a chance to step to the next level, you have to allow Drabek to blossom if he can, and Romero/Darvish would be set.

that only leaves one spot in play and for me, if I'm forced to say who start in 2012 of McGowan, Cecil and Alvarez - I have to go with McGowan. He has too much upside, still, and has worked too hard.

Either he will get hurt again - which opens the door for Alvarez - or he leaves as a free agent next Winter (much as i love his story, the crowd will just bee too thick to resign him at that point)

All this depends on ST of course.

If I could be absolutely certain that Morrow, Cecil, McGowan, Drabek, and Alvarez would all pitch to their potential, I'd be arguing long and loud that it would be insane to sign ANY starting pitcher - because all other things being equal, i'd rather watch the guys we have than any we could bring in.

Except I'm intrigued by Darvish and experience says someone always disappoints.

Earlweaverfan said...

Today's moves are really interesting, because they make everyone's spidey sense tingle, but without giving away what is coming down.

Part of me says the Francisco acquisition heralds a trade with the A's, because then maybe Rajai Davis is not needed, and he goes back to Oakland. While I am not a fan of Glo Gonzalez, that might be part of what's happening.

Another part of me (a very suspicious part of me) says AA is trying to send a signal to Texas that he is about to land his #2 starter from Oakland or some team like that, so that the Rangers will bid lower for Darvish, which might mean he could steal the latter for a more attractive price.

Oh, and P.S., I admire your willingness to stick so strongly with Drabek, but I don't share it. I am in the camp that he has never justified his hype, so even if he comes back on track, that will not be great.

So, I see Romero, Darvish, Morrow, Cecil and either McGowan or Alvarez, with the other going to the pen. Or, as you say, someone will disappoint.

George said...

One guy nobody mentions is Carlos Villanueva. He was our most effective pitcher for most of last year, and he's going to come to camp stretched out and trying to win a spot in the rotation. He ran out of gas last year, but if he can start as well as he did last year, our staff could look like this:
Romero, Morrow,Villanueva, Alvarez,McGowan.
Santos, Janssen, Litsch,Carreno, Perez, Cecil, Drabek