Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Survey Time

A couple of quick questions, which I hope get more replies than the usual post or else I won't learn much.


1. If you could buy a 2012 Blue Jays pre-season preview e-book - say something on the order of 4-6,000 words - for something less than $5 sometime in the first half of march - would you? and do you think your fellow jays fans would?

This would have considerably more depth to it than the typical blog material.

2. In conjunction with that, if it happens, I'm considering a name change for this blog - I'm assuming no one has a particular attachment to the current name so if I'm wrong about that, now's the time to speak up!


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Trade Market

So, it seems clear at this point that Alex Anthopoulos is committed to improving the team through trade if possible rather than free agency. I'll note for the record the free agents options, if any, but the purpose of this post is to review the reasonable options to fill his stated goals via the trade route (with very little if any speculation about who might be traded in return as that gets very complex very quickly)

Alex has stated three things he'd like to do - strengthen the late-game bullpen options, look for a early-to-mid rotation starter, and try to find a middle of the order bat. I'll take these in reverse order for reasons that shall become apparent.

Middle of the order Bat:

A quick review of the roster construction makes it apparent that the only places to add a significant bat are, in order: first Base, DH, and LF

Ranking by OPS all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances who could reasonably be described as playing one of those positions, filtering out players we already have and players who are unavailable either because of prohibitive contracts or circumstances (such as being 5 & 10 players) or because of their value to the team (IMO) this is what I come up with (players with an OPS over .800 as befits a supposed "big bat"):

Mike Morse - his 2011 was an incredible outlier from the rest of his career. Although to be fair he showed some signs in 2010 in half as many plate appearances. Something is amiss because the Nationals GM called Adam LaRoche the presumptive 2012 first baseman, it may mean Morse sucks on defense. If true, one wonders if there's any place on the field they CAN hide him. He came essentially out of nowhere at 28, but that's a phenomena the Jays are not unacquainted with. Dude is 6'5" and 230, how it is he broke in as a SS I'll never know. If he can continue to hit like he has the last couple of years, he'd be conceivably a better DH than EE and a better (offensive) 1B than Lind if Lind doesn't rebound to his peak form. The Nats need outfield help.

Carlos Quintin - Had his career year, so far, at 25 and his three seasons since have been much less impressive. He has an .815 OPS over that span and frankly that's not much better than what one might reasonably expect of the in-house options. He'd have to be pretty cheap for me to be interested.

Seth Smith - pronounced home/road splits over his career.

Billy Butler - arguably best is yet to come, and has an .844 OPS over last three seasons. Only has 2 years of control left and will be trending towards costly to retain, but a legitimate target if the Royals think DH is easier to fill than the gaps in their rotation. Price uncertain.

Andrew McCutchen - Pirates have said they will listen, but will be wildly expensive i think. Might set up CF conflict.

I'm going to say McCutchen is too expensive and Quintin and smith are unimpressive. Either Morse or Butler would be intriguing, and Butler would better suit the time frame in terms of age if he can be reasonably extended. One might imagine the Royals would be interested in taking EE to stop-gap the DH position, or maybe they would see something of value in Cooper? Additionally they would surely be receiving a couple of interesting prospect and a filler or two. I'd try to start with Jimenez and see if they liked Jenkins, I wouldn't do the top shelf guys for a DH unless I thought he had David Ortiz ability.

Potential free agents that someone might see attractive (none for me thanks) are JD Drew, Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, Luke Scott, Andruw Jones or Wilson Betimit.

Top-of-rotation SP:
(ranked by 2011 ERA)

James Shields - in division, won't happen.

Matt Cain - some speculate the Giants can't pay him and Lincicum too, but he's a free agent in one year which violate's Alex's "years of control"qualification. would be wildly expensive. Gose would have to be in the deal along with 2 or 3 other really good players, which I can't see doing for potentially just one season.

Matt Garza - everyone seems to recognize him as the most likely candidate, personally I'd liked the idea much better if we could have been trying to get him and Marshall in a package. There's more to like here but I'm not sure you sell the Cubs on lower level prospects which AA seems to be focused on dealing. Could you do it without giving up Gose or d'Arnaud? Because I'm thinking Alex wouldn't pay that price.

Brandon McCarthy - Oakland is clearing the decks, why not McCarthy too? Here again you are only getting one season, but the price should be much more affordable. Thing is, his 25 starts and 170 IP last year were career highs, which might mean he's made of glass but also might mean he hasn't had a chance to peak yet. Like Gio, his numbers were much more middle-of-the-pack away from that great home park and I'm not sure he's much if any better than the in-house options.

Felix Hernandez - I can't imagine he's actually available at any price.

Wandy Rodriguez - Would AA really commit to $36 million over the next two seasons? For age 33-35 years? My sources say no. if he wanted to do that he could just go on and sign Roy Oswalt to a deal just like it. and get a better value IMO, even before one considers the cost in prospects.

Zach Grienke - probably not available (why would they sign Ramirez if they are tearing it down) and would be very expensive in prospects for one year of service before free agency. An extension would be a massive contract.


IMO, the only POSSIBLE deal here, realistically, is Garza, and that only if Theo & Co. can be persuaded by a package of players below AA ball. Potential FA signings include Oswalt, Rich Harden, Edwin Jackason or Hiroki Kuroda.

Late Inning Relievers :
(grouped by team)

Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton - White Sox are shuffling the deck, Kenny Williams has already hooked up with AA twice on significant deals, Jays really need a late inning lefty (Thornton). Thornton is controlable for three years with the downside that the contract is a tad high and it's his age 35-37 seasons. Effectiveness slipped some in 2011 after three dominant years - start of a decline, or a blip? $12 mil is a lot for them to commit if they are not sure of the answer to that. Crain is signed for two more (age 30-31) at $4.5 each year which is certainly manageable. not sure the cost to get both, or the practicality of essentially buying the whole back-end of the White Sox 'pen, but if you got them both together it would theoretically solve the issue in one deal. (You could also look at bringing back Jason Frasor if better options failed)

Joakim Soria - (deserves separate listing) would set up a re-run of "this is our closer until we get another closer" routine from last year, but would theoretically set up a heck of an 8th/9th combo. Three years of control on the contract at manageable costs. Has turned down impressive offers before. Logically you wouldn't trade a position prospect like d'Arnaud or Gose for ANY reliever, but it might cost that. Rumor has it they like Rasmus but despite Colby's lost year, I'd be scared to death to trade a premium CF upside for a reliever, even a closer. And i doubt they would sweeten their end of the deal.

Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Tim Collins - Okay, Collins . . . I have no reason to think he's available, but given my emotional attachment I figure why not mention him? Holland has been mentioned as a potential target for the Jays, and Wood is another guy in a suddenly deep 'pen.
The royals had six good relievers last year and have added two free agent signings this off-season. someone will get pushed out. and while it's good to have depth, it also makes it possible the shop the guy or guys who're being underused. All these guys are pre-arb, cheap, and have years of control left.

Andrew Bailey - Very expensive, you'd be paying closer premium when you already have a closer (as with Soria above) - if you knew you were getting the guy from his rookie year . . . but are you? Still the very low walk rate is attractive. The very high asking price not so much.

Grant Balfour - No way Oakland hangs on to this guy, and he's much more affordable (in theory) prospect wise than Bailey. He'd fit right in to the back of the Jays 'pen.

Jeremy Affeldt - SF was rumored to be listening to offers for him in a cost cutting effort, would be the ideal 8th inning LH if you want a veteran back there. Can't pay too much for just one year though.

Sergio Romo - no reports that he's available, but would look very good in a Jays uniform.

Carlos Marmol - Cubs are rumored to be moving every valuable asset. Marmol has value but that walk rate worries me more than a little, even with all the strikeouts. it's trending in the right direction, but do you want to gamble that both he and Santos keep getting better in that department? Depends on the price in prospects I imagine.

There's enough fluidity in this market that I'd hate to make a prediction - but I'd be kinda surprised if one of these guys didn't end up on the Blue Jays roster by spring. Potential free agent alternatives include LH Mike Gonzalez, Darren Oliver and Damaso Marte, and RH David Ardsma, Taylor Buchholz (though not a proven late inning guy, his ratios were pretty good), Juan Cruz, and Dan Wheeler.

Thoughts?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm Over Yu


So, there's that then.

It will be interesting when word comes out how much the jays bid on Darvish. The report indicates that the Ranger's winning bid was $51.7 million. The amount of the jays bid will tell us much about the whole thesis that they were willing to make an exception to”they plan” for a special player. One thing is for sure, you should make NO mistake about this: neither Prince Fielder or Carlos Beltran will be wearing a Blue Jays uniform in 2012.

Just to go on the record – any narrative riffing on “Rogers is too cheap to play with the big boys” is under-informed until we find out what the Blue Jays bid actually was (assuming it leaks out). If they bid $49m it means something completely different than if they bid $19m.

There does, however, remain a distinct possibility that there is a big trade or two yet to be made. While it's true that the team has mentioned the need to acquire a big middle of the order bat, very very few of the hitters who'd be thus described are available (by my estimation, among qualifying hitters who were .825+ in OPS in 2011, only Paul Kenerko might be available) but Alex is hardly predictable. On the other hand, there are a number of candidates which might be targeted under the category of “mid-to-upper rotation starter” although personally, there are very few of these guys I'd pay the price for if it were me – I list them only to be complete.

1.Felix Hernandez – not reportedly available, but between the Angels and Rangers recent upgrades, the M's are insane if they believe they can be competitive within the years of control they have on king Felix. Unless they have made up their minds to pay nay price to extend him, then the smart play is to reap the biggest haul ever to move him. Of course, if that buyer is Toronto then they have to believe that they will be in the hunt within the next three years as well, because the price will be exceedingly high. Start with d'Arnaud and one of the CF prospects (Gose or Marisnick) and throw in ant least two of the young stud pitcher plus a couple of more marginal guys. Think something like d'Arnaud/Gose/Hutchson/Nicolino/Jenkins.
2.James Shields – simply won't be dealt in-division.
3.Gio Gonzalez – control issues are worrisome, price said to be exorbitant. Four years of control left. Probably the most likely target on this list.
4.Matt Garza – Two years of control means more manageable price, but less likelihood he fits the long term plan. If you could get Sean Marshall in the deal with him, this gets more interesting.
5.Wandy Rodriguez – not a fan of the idea, much older than the others and not a cheap contract.
6.John Danks – only one year of control is big negative.

The thing is, the more I look at that list, the more I like the guys we've got. The only deal I'd enthusiastically make her is for Felix. As for the rest, I'd be very happy to send out a rotation of -

Romero
McGowan
Morrow
Cecil
Alvarez
(with Drabek, McGuire, and Hutchison on the farm, and Villianueva, Litsch, Carreno and Perez for emergencies) and wait and see if they need to upgrade in July.

Stick to the plan, IMO. Richard Griffin tweeted the Jays NEED to send this money on a pitcher like those listed above, and Beltran. I couldn't disagree more. Darvish was the exception that proves the rule – NOT an indication there's $50m lying around that you can spend like it's shore leave. Besides, if you are wrong about the internal options, just look at this list of pitchers, all free agents a year from now.

Cole Hamels
Zach Grienke
Matt Cain
Francisco Liriano

Am I disappointed? Oh hell yeah. I'll be more so if word comes out the Jays' bid wasn't serious. But I'm not crying. The Plan continues, the future is bright. It's just not going to come to fruition in 2012.
------------------------------

On another note, Baseball America released their Blue Jays Top 10 prospects list today, it looks like this:
(number in parenthesis reflects my ranking)

1. Travis d'Arnaud (1)
2. Anthony Gose (3)
3. Jake Marisnick (2)
4. Daniel Norris (8)
5. Justin Nicolino (7)
6. Aaron Sanchez (9)
7. Noah Syndergaard (6)
8. Deck McGuire (11)
9. Drew Hutchison (4)
10. Asher Wojciechowski (20)

The obvious difference is Woj, who I really do like by the way, it's a depth thing. It's kind of remarkable to see seven consecutive pitching prospects in the Top 10. In the post-list chat, it was revealed that:

*Nestor Molina wouldn't have made the top 10 if he were still in the organization - that's a big difference from me, I had him tied for 4th.

*There are indeed good reports on the improvement in Hech's bat, but more data is needed.

*Sanchez's control improved after the promotion to Vancouver (I was impressed they still ranked him slightly ahead of Syndergaard)

When someone lets me know what the Top 30 looked like, I'll pass that along as well.

Looking at the system reminds us of the most important thing to remember tonight - look FORWARD, not back.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ode to Yu!


Yu Darvish, along with being a very talented ballplayer, a very sexy man, and the darling of two whole countries, is also the man who lost a thousand twitter puns.

In that spirit, a musical interlude (and you are an uncultured boob if I have to tell you "to the tune of..."



What we want, you've got
And it might be hard to handle
But like the flame that burns the candle
The candle feeds the flame
What we've got's a full stock of thoughts
and dreams that scatter
You pull them all together
And how, we can't explain - oh yeah
Well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true(
Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well yeah.

On a night when Yank games become a screamer
They're not messin' with the dreamer
I can laugh it in their face
Twist and shout - they're out
And Boston they can't stand us
'Cause we ain't the way you found us
We'll never be the same - ah yeah!
Well 'Cause Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
oooh yeah
Listen to this!

We're done with the daydreams
Oh That sleepwalk should be over by now I know!
Ah Yu! Yu make-a our dreams come true" (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)

I been waitin' for waitin' for you man, Yu make our dreams cone true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
I been waitin' for waitin' for you man, Yu make our dreams cone true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
I been waitin' for waitin' for, waitin' for waitin' for... (you make our dreams)





I could have done this basically without changing anything but the coda where the word "girl" pops up ...

And yes, I know, even if we got him there's still Brett Lawrie and a host of other players to be excited about - but none of those are pun machines!

fingers and toes crossed!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 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!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Re-stating the case for Darvish

I find myself compelled to address again the Yu Darvish speculation. Based on a number of comments and observations, particularly over the last week, several prominent members of the local Toronto media and apparently most fans have concluded that the team will not be serious players for Darvish, while national (American) media figures persist in listing the Jays among the obvious fits.

With typical Jays related negativism on full display, seemingly thousands of voices reacted to some off-the-cuff comments from Alex Anthopoulos about having "payroll parameters" to jump to the conclusion that the Jays were - as long expected! - defaulting back to the "Tampa Bay Model" (the clock is ticking until someone, likely Richard Griffin, invokes the word "Montreal") which is, in my estimation, a wild over-reaction. The logical implication, of course, of that reaction is to assume Darvish is too expensive for the poor pitiful Jays and their tightwad skinflint owners.

Nonsense I say.

Let's examine some of the things we've been told since Paul Beeston returned to leadership with the team:

1. The Jays are a major market team and can be expected to act like one
2. When the time is right, the Jays will be perfectly able to play in the same salary nieghborhood as the Red Sox (Say the $120-150 mil neighborhood).
3. Alex doesn't have a set payroll figure and if he thinks a specific signing or trade makes sense value-wise for the team, he can approach Beeston and make his case. If he succeeds the money will be there.


More recently we were told, from several sources:
1. the Blue Jays believe they need to add a front of the rotation starter to take the next step
2. the Jays believe they need to get more innings from their rotation
3. the Jays believe the cost of such a player as a free agent is far too high given you are getting a guy past his peak and in decline
4. the Jays believe obtaining such a player via trade is almost impossible (since such players are seldom traded) and the cost to the farm system would be exorbinant (Just today he mentioned the cost to deal for a 2B would be higher than he liked).

Still more recently we heard Alex comment, in the context of a rumor mill that had the jays as serious players for Prince Fielder and several others, that he did not have an unlimited budget and he had to work within "parameters" - a comment easily understood when he explained later that he was faced with agents coming to him and basically saying "since you have all this money, why are you not giving us some?"

There is no logical reason, when everything that's been said this week (not only by AA but by Beeston) is considered in it's logical context to assume the Jays have - as many have theorized - reacted to the new CBA by going into small-market mode. Nothing they said implies that, and it's out of touch with reality. A CBA which severely hamstrings the amount of money a team can spend on acquisition of amateur talent has pretty much nothing to do with how much a team spends on the major league payroll, if anything it makes it more likely that figure will go UP, not down.

It's true that the CBA phases out the revenue sharing money the Jays had been receiving, which if published estimates of the Jays cut of that pie are correct, mean a drop in that revenue stream of ~$7-8 million each year starting in 2013 through 2016. This is not a crushing loss and if the team wins, would easily be offset by increased revenues from other streams. It's most assuredly not enough to take a team which had anticipated spending $120m plus down into the $50m range (i.e. the Tampa Model).

It is upon this falicy that everyone from Mike Wilner to Shi Davidi to Gregor Chisholm and a host of anonymous commenters across the interwebs have concluded the Blue Jays will probably cheap out on Darvish. Now, with due respect to the possibility that these gentlemen are privy to off-the-record insider knowledge which supports this conclusion, I dissent.

I've made the case for Darvish before, now let me do it again with enthusiasm. Consider these points in relationship to what we know from what we've been told before (as listed above)

1. Darvish is a potentially transformative player. Both on the field, where he is unanimously considered to be better than the best of the free agent market for pitchers (and the best North American FA pitcher, CJ Wilson, just signed for almost $80 mil) and off the field where he brings pretty much every last one of the intangibles which mark a player as a "rock star" presence.
2. He's a full six years younger than the aforementioned Wilson. the team who get's Darvish gets his prime years, not his post-prime years. that essentially NEVER happens with a pitcher, and really has only happened in recent memory with two other players - A-Rod and Ichiro.
3. Darvish regularly delivers 200+ innings and is ready now to step into a major league rotation.
4. Darvish will cost nothing in prospects as a trade for, say, King Felix would.
5. There is no other player known to be available by any means out there which the Jays could attempt to obtain (except arguably Prince Fielder - whom the Jays have said they will not go beyond five years on) who could have even half the impact on the teams fortunes that Darvish could have.

In short, if you were to sit down and create an imaginary player would would perfectly meet the parameters of the kind of player the Blue Jays management has specifically said they need, that guy would still not suit the description as well as Darvish does.

"But," you say, "he will cost $100 million, maybe more! how can a team like the Blue Jays invest $20+ million a year in an untried pitcher? It's madness!!"

I'll tell you how - because you have misunderstood the nature of the cost. Do you remember that the CBA has severely limited the amount of money teams can spend on international free agents (except those from Japan!)? and also but a pretty harsh limit on draft spending? what happens to that money for a team like Toronto which had been investing a ton of money in both markets? Back into ownership's pockets? Keep in mind that this money did not and does not count against the major league payroll. Beeston was specifically ask if his talk of $120m or more included the cost of amateur talent acquisition and he said no, that it was a description of major league payroll.

So where does it go? I mean sure you can do some things around the margins like provide better food and medical staff to the minor leaguers but nothing very expensive. I submit to you that Alex understands that he now has several million dollars in-hand to re-direct, and has to decide where it will best be used. Several million non-payroll dollars.

So, let's break it down. We'll assume for the purpose of this exercise that bidders for Darvish will expect to bid more than the Red Sox paid in posting for Dice-K. A team which acquires Darvish will hold his rights for six years, so if you amortize the posting fee, that's the term - so if we assume the winning post fee is $54 million (Matsuzaka was a bit over $51m) then that works out to $9 million per year over the six years you control him. Then of course, you have to sign him. Let us assume that it's a point of pride for him to be the highest paid pitcher this offseason, that means in round figures you have to pay him ~$80m over five years.

For a total of $134 million in all. Or an AAV (IF it were all payroll) - discounting the $9m we've accounted to the sixth year - of $25 million a year. And it's THAT figure everyone blanches at. But that $25 million is NOT accounted against the major league payroll. the posting fee is the equivalent of the bonus paid to someone like Adonys Cardona, or indeed, Daniel Norris - it's a different budget item than the major league payroll. That $9m a year will be made up in large part of the money that the CBA forces the team to not spend on other players. Again, the posting fee does NOT count against the major league payroll. whatever amount it is, it is spread over six years of player control for accounting purposes and is an entirely reasonable cost for the value received. In short, Darvish sets you back $9 mil a year over the next six years (in amortized posting fee). laying aside the benefits of interest and so forth as too complex for the discussion, the fact remains that a very great deal of that amount in any given year - possibly all of it - can be covered by the money the team would have otherwise spent in amateur player acquisition.

That leaves you with a five year deal which would probably look something like 12-14-16-18-20 in terms of how it's structured. An easily affordable deal for a team which projects right now to have a 2012 payroll of !$70 million.

Even if you insist on looking at the total cost, the Jays would be on the hook for a cost that, were it all salary, would rank 17th on the list of all time biggest contracts. Yes, admittedly he's a less proven player than those who have bigger contracts, but he's also only 25 and most of those deals were signed with players in their 30's. We know that the Jays can afford it (easily), we know they are willing to go big on the right guy (or else we just assume everything is a lie) and we know all it takes is for Alex to see the value and make his case.

Look, if you want to argue that the Blue Jays should never take big money risks - that they should consider the "Tampa Bay Model" the ideal to be emulated - fine, I respect your right to that view. But if you are one of the folks who goes into every off-season insisting the Blue Jays chase Prince Fielder or whoever his equivalent is in that year, I defy you to argue against signing Darvish. This sort of opportunity comes along once a decade, if that.

More to the point, I don't believe for one second that Alex Anthopoulos doesn't see it. the Jays might not end up outbidding the Rangers (I'm convinced they are the main competition) but I think it is utterly foolish to assume they will not be among the 2-3 highest bidders.

Time will tell if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BAM!!!


Sergio Santos for Nestor Molina - WOW! I love me some nestor Molina but this is A win by every measure:

1. Molina now becomes the White Sox top prospect, easily
2. His upside is as a very good mid-rotation starter
3. However, pitching prospects, even the best ones, can ad do fail - the Jays just traded away that risk
4. further, in the very deep pool of potential starters in the Jays organization, Molina had the highest probability in the group of ending up relieving. In that sense the jays traded a probable reliever (just based on roster management) and the Sox acquired a probable starter (given the weaker depth chart) so they got more value than we dealt.

5. Jays acquired a player that they would control for just as many years (potentially) as they would have controled Molina
6. the acquire a player who's quite possibly filling the same role as the player they dealt would have likely filled
7. Said player has already made the leap to the majors successfully and does not come with that "pitching prospects often fail" caveat.
8. The Jays get the "young, cost controlled, long term, dominant closer" that Molina might have been a year or two from now - and they get him now.


My feelings can best be described by a brief musical selection:



Big grins right now!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Meeting preview!

In brief - none of us have any idea what AA is gonna do.

Full stop.

His public comments suggest:
1. a trade is much more likely than a free agent
2. he's almost certainly not going to sign either Pujols or Fielder
3. If a reporter tell you he's "in on" someone, he's almost certainly NOT.
4. if they tell you a deal is basically done, it probably is.
5. he's much more likely to move on a pitcher than a hitter (albeit someone has to play 2B

My predictions, laughable though it is to try to predict his moves:
(some of these might not be finished at the meeting)

1. he'll bring in a 2B, either Prado, or a former hot young guy fallen on hard times (Beckham, Stewart, for example). also, in a potential surprise move - someone is going to draft Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 - i wouldn't be stunned if that team immediately flips him to the jays for something we can spare.

2. He'll make a significant move for a relatively big name closer. My favorite target is Houston Street, Andrew Bailey is another oft-mentioned trade possibility. It might also be some guy you didn't know was available.

3. He'll add other established relievers. Guys like Holland from KC have been mentioned and while it might not necessarily be him, it will be a guy that will make you take notice. i would not be surprised if he took a guy with a higher contract in order to get a good late inning lefty. Jeremy Affeldt would make mama happy!

4. He will work all week on a #2 starter type, but I'm not sure if a deal will get made because the prices are so high. Jair Jurrigans is madly overpriced and he's not even especially great. He might spend some money on Bedard, Harden, someone like that - risk enough to keep the term down, but good enough to play that role if healthy. otherwise, he will asses the landscape and the go out and try to land Darvish when he's posted.

in fact the one prediciton i'm most confident in - if the jays have no added a very significant SP within the next week, they WILL go all out on Darvish. They have said far too much pulbically about the need to add a pitcher not to.

Oh, and as a final thought, one caveat on Fielder: it has been pointed out on Twitter that if Fielder were to sign a five year deal (instead of the 10 years he wants) and plays well over that period, he will be a free agent again at a younger age that Pujols is listed at right now. and the odds are VERY great that he can sign a much more lucrative deal for the 5 years that follow that date then than he can now.

For instance:

Sign a 10 year deal now for, say, 22 per year AAV. $220 mil in all

OR

Sing a five year deal now for, say, $25 mil per year ($125 mil in all) and then sign one then for (lets suppose a deal similar to what the Cards offered Pujols in length) eight years at $27 mil per (a very modest raise after five years of baseball inflation) for a total of $216 million, and a total earnings over 12 years of $341 million

YES, he runs the risk of career ending injury (think Albert Belle for an example of an unexpected health issue) or a decline in production. but he doesn't lose money unless his deal five year hence is less than $95 million (which is considerably less money five years from now than it is now - see my old report about baseball inflation from a couple of years back)

Can Alex convince Boras that risk is worth taking? if he can (and it's a MASSIVE "if") then those Fielder rumors might be right. but only in that circumstance.

By the time I drag out of bed tomorrow he might well have done something big - some reporter tweeted tonight that Alex had said he "had something on the five yard line" - one presumes he did not mean his own five.

All I know is, it's the most wonderful time of the year! (unless you made the playoffs of course)



Edit to add: My only comment re Jeff Mathis is this - either he will be flipped, or he will agree to a big pay cut before the non-tender deadline, or he will be non-tendered with a much lower salary on the table for him to accept if he wants.

(the trade-off for Mathis is this - go to arbitration and get virtually no raise, say make $2 mil at best, and risk that expensive BUT non-guaranteed deal getting him cut in late March and he walks away with 1/6th that amount (which is less than the minimum salary) OR sign a guaranteed contract for , say, $900k - or risk being non-tendered and finding some other team out there who will pay him more than a million to play for them after the Jays non-tender him)

The one thing that WON'T happen, in my view, is that mathis suits up for the Jays in 2012 with a guaranteed contract paying him more than $1.5 million (and i'd be pretty surprised if it were even more than $1 million)