Thursday, 30 July 2015

You tell 'em I'm coming!

For some reason that was the thing that came to mind today in the wake of the Blue Jays' latest blockbuster - looking at the Yankees and thinking of the Tombstone quote, paraphrased for the team pronouns "You tell 'em we're coming! And Hell's coming with us!"

The conclusion here is in line with the consensus in the media and around the league - this team is an odds on favorite to blow by the illusory Twins and focus their sites on the Yankees, seven games off in the distance atop the AL East. I think they can catch them in what may be the most exciting September anyone can remember. The Jays are positioned as well as anyone could ask to be while being a .500 team. Besides the offense and the newly enriched pitching, they are close to a catchable team that they host for 4 next week, have 23 of their next 34 games at home, have 13 remaining games against the team leading their division, who just put their best starter on the DL with a sore forearm (at least).

It's not at all safe to assume Alex is done dealing, at the very least it would be profitable to come up with a "#6" starter to stash in Buffalo in case of an injury (a better one than Felix Dourbront) , but as it stands now, if the bullpen can shake off the inexplicable curse they seem to be afflicted by, it's hard to imagine the team being better equipped to do what needs to be done without imagining something insane (I know I know, the Tulo deal was insane but you can't assume something like that). The Blue Jays have:

The best catcher in the AL
Three first baseman in the AL Top 10 by wOBA
A second baseman second only to Jason Kipnis by wOBA
The best shortstop in baseball
The best third baseman in baseball
Arguably the best RF in the AL (JD Martinez is just ahead by wOBA so maybe 2nd)
A wizard defender in CF with a competent bat who's on pace for a 3 WAR season
A Top 5 DH (in what is for him a down year so far)
And a hole in LF...where the just happen to have their #1 prospect pounding on the door.
One of the ten or so best Ace's in the game
Arguably a Top 5 (AL) #2 starter
A Top 4 closer (by WAR)
and assuming health, no excuses.

If the team decides to start Dickey on 3 days' rest Sunday and push Price's first game back to Monday (which would be very smart) then Price will project to start, assuming the rotation is not further altered, 4 of the 13 games they have left against the Yankees, along with debuting against the Twins and late September games against Baltimore and the Rays.

One thing that no one else seems willing to suggest about Price is on my mind. The general assumption is that the Jays will definitely lose him to free agency this that such a sure thing? Paul Beeston will ride into the sunset after the World Series and, with any luck, take his five year limit policy with him. That's one obstacle aside. Another big issue is the whole "Free agents won't take our money" thing, which is really why I'm writing this paragraph. What have we learned from Buehrle, Reyes, and Donaldson?  That players who initially are reluctant to play for Toronto end up loving it once they are on the team. The hidden benefit of trading for David Price is that he gets a chance to love it before hitting the market, taking that factor off the table.

The cost is another matter, of course, and I don't think the Jays are prepared to match the completely insane deal Max Scherzer signed last year, but is anyone? The last three years of that deal lists him making, between salary and differed signing bonus FIFTY million dollars per year. Is THAT going to become the common deal for the top-of-the-market pitcher?  The next highest paid SP is Justin Verlander (there's a cautionary tale, eh?) who's 7 year deal which began in 2013 totals $180 million and that is, perhaps, a better model. Seven years at $25m plus another 6-10 split between a signing bonus and an option buyout would beat that so that's the neighborhood Rogers would have to consider. But I think they can afford it. There's $59 mil committed to 2016 (assuming Dickey isn't picked up), and something around $21 mil is a reasonable estimate for arbitration. Assuming a $140 million budget (using the 137 in 2014 as a guide for that) then 25 for Price still leaves over $30 million to fill out a team with not many holes.

It gets even better after that. Yes eventually arbitration - or a contract to avoid it - will add big dollars for Donaldson, and re-signing Bautista will cost something, but you'll be out to around 2019 before anyone else starts getting expensive and if you've guessed wrong about your budgets by then (given inflation) you have the option to deal Price if he hasn't pulled a Verlander (and if you are afraid of that you're never going to sign a major deal). Plus, there's the benefit of keeping him off the Yankees and Red Sox. I wouldn't be foolish enough to be optimistic given Rogers' history, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

All that aside, the future is NOW and hopefully this will be the stretch run we tell our grandkids about.

(Note: in the next few days I'll do a brief update to my mid-season list of prospects now that the crop has been thinned a bit)

Addendum: This is a bit off topic from the above but it fits directly into the context of this weeks events. One of the refrains that was beaten to death in the early part of the year by the sports media was that this was the "make or break" season for Alex Anthpoulos after a mere six seasons (compare that to JP's 8 futile seasons).  Nevermind that the Royals were in fine shape with a GM that didn't get his team over .500 until his 7th season for just one easy example. The real problem with this notion is that AA had packed out the farm system with talent despite having spent considerable prospect capital two winters ago in an attempt to leverage a talented team into the playoffs (an attempt that was derailed by a string of key injuries) while still laying the foundations for success in the majors through uncanny trades and usually strong development.  Impatience was in danger of costing the team dearly if the rumors were true.

The irony of all that is that what we've seen this week is exactly what Alex told us he intended to do in his first year on the job. While I've been unable to find a link to the exact quote, paraphrased what he said was that great pitching was very expensive and hard to come by, but you could always trade for and sign good hitters. In another moment he said his goal would always be to have an all-star caliber talent at every position, even if that might not be realistic.

So we have before us a man who - along with his scouts and development staff - who has drafted (or signed as an IFA) and then dealt for major league help:

Noah Syndergaard
Asher Wojciechowski
Justin Nicolino
Sean Nolin
Joe Musgrove
Kevin Comer
Daniel Norris
Anthony DeSclafini
Matt Boyd
Kendall Graveman
Jeff Hoffman
Jario Labourt
Jesus Tinoco
Miguel Castro

And there's still a dozen or more pitchers of similar quality still in the system from Marcus Stroman down to Justin Maese.

Because of those young pitchers the current teams has 3/5 of it's starting rotation and the left side of the infield manned by two men who are the best in the game at their respective positions.  Pitchers from that list put Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in a Jays uniform this week. This scenario is EXACTLY what Alex said he intended to do six years ago.  It simply takes time to execute a master plan. Executives, and some fans, need to appreciate that reality - and their GM.

Oh, and that other comment? If you count Encarnacion as 1B, he's 5/9 of the way to nailing that one too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Southpaw,
Read your articles due to their depth. My comment to you today is about Price.
Price is the #1 SP the Jays require for the next 1/2 decade similar to Doc, a Kershaw /Scherzer contract of 7/210 is viable.
If you wish to provide the signing bonus at $10 Million and defer $25 Million over 5 years (which Jays dont do) I dont see Price accepting.
However, being realistic, lets look at the revenue side -MLB has been remitting monies to all teams based on National Tv Contracts for $50 USD, plus revenue sharing of 34% of the pool regional tv earnings which in 2013 totaled 550 Million dollars (18 Million were distributed) to all teams this increases the Jays USD regional Tv Revenue Stream to $43 Million dollars. Additionally, the team receives monies for MLB royalties and net monies that are set aside from purchasing and selling the Expos which total about $18 million a year a team. This totals $111 Million USD a year.

The MLB contracts are fixed, however the Regional Tv Deals have continued to increase per annum with escalator clauses for teams such as the Dodgers, Yankees and Phillies of 5% per annum, just these three add almost .6 Million a season for each team. There are many new Regional TV contracts that double to triple regional tv contracts in the next two years including Arizona, St. Louis and Cincinatti, Colorado. This would increase the annual take by another $ 3 Million for the Jays.

This may not seem like a great deal but for 2016 revenues could be as a high 115 Million USD and an increasing per annum.

So escalator clauses built into Price starting at $25 Million a year increasing $2 Million per annum for 7 years gives a 7/217 million. The increasing monies from the Regional Tv Contracts and Licensing Revenue will cover the annual $2 Million dollar bump.

If Price wants to stay in Toronto, his taxes will be less than playing in NYC and any team in California, and his personal home residence is in Tennessee no state tax nor county tax, so that the tax rate will be competitive.

The Jays Roster keeping Price and signing Dickey or Buerhle will be $131 Million and if you keep both for one more year it will be $144 Million including Thole as your backup catcher.