Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Pujols or Not to Pujols: That is the Question.

There are a few names casual Blue Jays fans are clamoring over right now, hoping that their team will be the team to make the big splash and land a whale on the free agent market. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, CJ Wilson, hell some of them are even clamoring for the Blue Jays to sign David Ortiz. Most of these fans have never heard of Yu Darvish, don’t have a clue what WAR is, and most likely aren’t going to read this article. However, if you are reading this article, you likely know that Yu Darvish is a Japanese phenom, WAR is a fantastic advanced statistic, and the Blue Jays are on the rise.

I’m not Alex Anthopoulos, and we all know I’m not about to sit here and predict his next move, but let’s look at the one move we all know he’s evaluated, and reevaluated, and is probably as I write this article, really thinking it through.

Albert Pujols was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001 and has since gone on to have one of the most prolific baseball careers ever, and is widely considered the best all-around player of this generation, but he’s never really made the money, he’s probably deserved as he’s never reached free agency. Now, ten years later, he wants his big pay day and free agency is here. Early last season, the rumor was that he wanted to hit a contract worth $300 million, and the Cardinals wanted a discount, and offered something in the $195-$210 million range. At first glance, it looks like the market would explode when Pujols became available. Teams would be jumping in left and right to catch the big fish and put him on display. The Miami Marlins have already tried putting him on display without getting him, and that’s helped elevate them a little bit, but who is really willing to step out and give Pujols the money he’s after. Some say the Blue Jays are a perfect fit for Pujols, but is he? I personally, am 50/50 on the topic. I like Adam Lind, and I think there is room on the Jays for both of them, but up until Monday, when I heard that Pujols’ agent was coming to town, I was good with the Jays not pursuing him, but that is starting to shift. So, I’ll explain my 50/50 stance.

At first, I was okay with Jays staying away from Pujols, and I was even against them going after him at all. I love everything that Alex Anthopoulos has done so far, and his strategy has been great. The team has a very capable first basemen, and talent in the minors behind him (David Cooper, Mike McDade) that would say we have little need to splurge on a 1B, when we have more pressing needs, especially at second, now that Kelly Johnson is a hot commodity, not such an easy fill. AA’s strategy to build the team from the draft and international free agents, and use the free agent market to fill gaps when the team is close to contending has worked well so far, and after last season I figured we were on pace to compete in 2013 or 2014, so it didn’t make sense to me, to take on what might become the biggest contract in baseball history, when you are still 3 years away, as it could really impede your moves, and we all know AA likes to move. After a thrilling end to the 2011 season, I wanted AA to secure a second basement (I am still okay with Johnson over a full season, to really check him out, but 2 picks are good too), I wanted Farrell to create some stability in the pen, and AA to work his usual magic. In my mind, throwing money at Pujols or any big agent (Fielder, Reyes, etc) would be a foolish decision. But then the new CBA was announced.

Gone are the days when AA could use Rogers’ money to manipulate the system, and grow the minor league system into a wellspring of future all-stars, and welcome another wild card team to the postseason, and all of a sudden, maybe the Jays are competing in 2012. Maybe the CBA really has sped up AA’s schedule, and as a result, Dan Lozano is coming to Toronto a week later. Now this is all just a rumour for the time being, but does Toronto have a real interest in Pujols now? Well, there has been a lot of talk over the past year about the Blue Jays not operating under a specific budget, and they have the money to make any moves they wish, not to mention the shedding of a few “bad” contracts, and the Jays would appear to have the ability to sign him, but did the CBA really change AA’s strategy? At face value, I’m going to say it has. The ability to draft top talent has toughened, the rewards of having a top scouting team scouring the globe have shrunk, and it’s not often that a player like Pujols come along. So maybe AA alters the strategy to fit Pujols in. Even if what Paul Beeston has said this year about avoiding 7 or 8 year deals for players is true, there are ways around that, or maybe Pujols is the exception, or maybe that was all a smokescreen and this has been the plan since Vernon Wells become an Angel. So there are two ways the Jays could land Pujols.

Option 1: What Beeston has said it true, and they won’t go about say 5 years. Before the Jays have said they would rather overpay on a short-term contract, than go with the 7,8,9, even 10 year contract. This works out well, because maybe Pujols would settle with being the highest paid player in baseball for the next five years, even if he doesn’t break the record for biggest contract ever. I think it would be tough to turn down an offer from the Jays of $28-$30 million a year for 5 years, which gives him that recognition he is after, the big pay day, and allows the Jays to effectively limit some of the risk of him being an aging player, plus they can spell him from 1B with the DH. Not to mention it does give Pujols some freedom with the end stage of his career, if he would like to stay in Toronto, go back to St. Louis, or explore another avenue. For Toronto the five year option has benefits as well, it limits the Jays risk, carries them through to the next CBA, when who knows what will change, and brings in a star player, and elevates the team. This is my favorite option, and if I’m believing Paul Beeston, I think this is the most viable option for the Jays.

Option 2: If what Paul Beeston said doesn’t apply to Pujols, or that was a smokescreen, then the Jays do offer the long-term contract, starting in the $215-$225 million range, but maybe ending up in the $240-$250 range. It’s a lot of money, but if all the talk about Rogers have no budget, and practically unlimited resources holds any value, this is the guy to use them on. The benefits to have Pujols as a Blue Jay don’t end on the field with his performance. He is a clubhouse leader, he is a lightning rod for fan support and adoration, ticket sales would explode, and merchandise would fly off the shelves, and Toronto would become a destination for players. Again, in this situation he would play first base, and spend some time at DH, and perhaps the only casualty would be Edwin Encarncion, as he would become a bench player, or trade bait.

Of course, this is all just speculation and it’s entirely likely that AA is really just doing his due diligence, and there are far more layers to this than I’ve examined, least of all is AA surrendering one of his (more valuable than ever) draft picks, and the impact on the long term plans, and the strange desire to have Bautista as the highest paid player (more on that later). The fact of the matter is, in the eyes of the casual fan, which is the vast majority of the Toronto Blue Jays support, this works, and they want it. For other fans, they see it as the risky move it is, and are understandable apprehensive. Whatever happens, I know that Alex Anthopoulos has examined it from every possible angle, and I believe that whatever direction he chooses to go, is the best direction for the team.

You can follow Brandon on Twitter - @Bam_86

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Off-Season Notes

It has been a quiet couple of day when it comes to actual moves in Free Agency, but there has been plenty of rumors involving the Blue Jays, so here are a few of them, as well as some signing and waiver acquisitions that have occurred.

- Free Agent Closer Francisco Cordero told MLB Network that six teams were interested in him, 1 of which was the Blue Jays.
- The Blue Jays have been rumored to be one of the six teams interested in Rockies reliever Huston Street.
- Ken Rosenthal of Fox reported hat the Blue Jays asked for Clay Buchholz as compensation if the Red Sox wanted to hire away Manager John Farrell from the Blue Jays. This ended the talks immediately
- After losing C Brian Jeroloman to the Pirates off of waivers, the Jays have re-claimed him and is now once again part of the Blue Jays 40-man roster.
-The Blue Jays offered arbitration to four players. Frank Francisco(B), Kelly Johnson(A),Jose Molinsa(B), and Jon Rauch(B). They did not offer arbitration to reliever Shawn Camp.
- Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina signed with the Rays today, ending his two year career in Toronto.
-The Reds are listening to offers for highly touted 1B prospect Yonder Alonso. They are rumored to be asking for a Closer(which the Jays do not have), or a #2 starting pitcher. A Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie deal is the type of deal which could get between the Jays and the Reds, but instead would involve Alonso and Brandon Morrow or another pitcher in the Jays massively deep pitching depth chart.
- The Jays have acquired 25 year old second baseman Luis Valbuena from the Indians for cash. Valbuena has the potential to be like Yunel Escobar, but I see him as a solid middle infielder off the bench, just like John McDonald.
- Albert Pujols' agent will be coming to Toronto on Tuesday to meet with the Blue Jays.
- The Rays have granted the Astros permission to negotiate with "The Extra 2%" GM Andrew Friedman.
-The Hotstove will likely heat up next week when the annual winter meetings begin in Dallas.

For up to date news on the Blue Jays, follow @Bluejaysplus on twitter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to fix the MLB MVP award

Ryan Braun.

Justin Verlander.

Both great players, really good actually. Both young stars of the game and have bright futures. Hall of famers more than likely. Deserving of being heralded as the best players in their league for 2011? Sure why not.

But could there have been better choices, were there more valuable players on other teams?

(I actually prefer most outstanding player, since valuable is so objective).
What if there actually was a way to get a MVP award that more people agreed on.
I think there is and Ryan Braun told me so.

Last night on the FAN 590 (or I suppose sportsnet 590 the fan), Doug Melvin, GM on the Milwaukee Brewers, was speaking to Bob McCowan.
Side note - this was a bad interview, it was entertaining and good questions were asked. However Doug was on to talk about Prince (or Cecil as Bobcat says) Fielder. To talk about Ryan Braun and his Winnng the MVP. But bobcat was stuck on the news of a new collective bargaining agreement; the new restrictions on players with chewing tobacco and trying to get an opinion from Melvin about HGH. Which concluded with Doug admitting to nothing to add to the HGH conversation.
So instead of getting some insight into how a small market team goes into free agency (kinda like how the Jays run their team), Bob spends 3/4 of his time talking about the good ol days when you could bring a tin of tobacco on the field with you in your back pocket.

I am not trying to write an article ripping Bob McCowan, my kids know his voice since
he’s on in my car or home so much. But there was one thing that the "managing general" of the Brew Crew did mention that caught my attention. Doug Melvin quoted Ryan Braun regarding his thoughts on winning the MVP. According to Braun, he felt Matt Kemp was more deserving of the MVP award. He said that Kemp's numbers were better and lineup didn't have the same weapons as did Milwaukee's.

Surprisingly all of that is true.
Ryan Braun was deserving of the award, but said that Kemp should have won.
Kemp had higher numbers in all major offensive categories – Runs, Home Runs, RBI and SB, even OPS. Kemp was just shy of the batting title, and the Triple Crown. One home run shy of a 40-40 season. What more did he have to do. Could Braun have won if he was a Dodger, would Kemp win hands down if he was a Brewer. Was Jose Bautista better than Ellsbury or Verlander – would Verlander have won playing on the Jays and racking up 25 wins. Just imagine the numbers JoeyBats would put up playing on the Tigers.

Anyways, in case you missed the answer – we fix the MVP voting system, by letting the players decide. Instead of getting baseball writers (all of whom have their own agenda), to cast their lot as to who should win the award, the players should vote. They know who the best player is. They will all first say their own name, because great players know they’re great – right Brett Lawrie? But they see their competition, they know what great numbers look like – apparently unlike baseball writers who voted for the MVP in each league.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Closing the Gap From Within

With the Jays in desperate need of a closer, and the consistency of the Blue Jays ownership saying that they won't waste money on something the team doesn't need, the question needs to be asked if there are any suitable candidates on the Jays roster. There are a few options that could fill the role, but I am just going to look at Joel Carreno today.
Last August a starting pitcher for the Las Vegas 51's was called up to pitch in the bullpen for the Toronto Blue Jays. Joel Carreno was put into the pen, and never looked back.His stats after he was called up were ridiculous, yet he got no attention from anybody. Joel had a WHIP of .957, and a ERA of 1.15. His greatest stat from last year in my mind was his ERA+. An average ERA+ is 100, Carreno's 2011 Major League ERA+ was 378,a silly number. There are only two problems that make his stats faulty. The first is that he only pitched in 11 games, with 15.2 innings pitched, and the second is that he didn't pitch in high leverage situations. His aLI, which measures how high a leverage of a situation he pitches in was only .3, with a normal leverage situation being 1.0. So given that he didnt pitch in high leverage situations very much, is he a good fit for the Toronto Blue Jays closing roll in 2012 and beyond?

Carreno is a great middle reliever and spot starter, but would he be able to face the pressure of pitching in the ninth inning?I still think that Casey Janssen is the best player fit for the job who is currently with the Blue Jays, but the possibility remains that AA signs a closer, or pulls off a trade for one.

Comments are appreciated below, or on twitter where you could find and follow me on @Bluejaysplus.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blue Jays Off Season Transactions:Part 1

The first week of the off-season has come and gone, and the Jays have made some important moves regarding their front office, and their players. Here is a list of all the transactions that have happened since the Blue Jays season ended.

- Dewayne Wise,Rommie Lewis, Chris Woodward,Shawn Camp,Frank Francisco,Kelly Johnson, and Jose Molina filed for free agency
- Blue Jays claim RHP Jesse Chavez off of waivers from the Kansas City Royals
-Blue Jays pick up Edwin Encarnacion's team option, his salary for the 2012 season will be $3.5 million
- Blue Jays decline Jon Rauch's option, making him a free agent
- Blue Jays outright Adam Loewen, and Jesse Carlson to AAA Las Vegas 51's, making them minor league free agents
- Blue Jays sign 16-year-old Venezuelan RHP Jesus Tinoco
- Blue Jays hire former Tampa Bay Devil Rays GM, Chuck Lamar as special assistant to amateur scouting
- Blue Jays trade cash to the Oakland A`s for Canadian RHP Trystan Magnuson