Friday, December 30, 2011

Report: Jays Close to Signing Veteran Reliever

According to a source, the Blue Jays are close to signing LHP Darren Oliver. Oliver is a modified type-b free agent, meaning the Rangers will net a pick in the 2012 draft, but the Jays will not lose one. The pick is currently the 51st pick in the draft, but will likely move, once more free agents come off the market.

Oliver is 41 years old, but had his best season of his career last year while playing for the Rangers. He had an ERA of 2.29, with a WHIP of 1.14. Oliver only pitched 51 innings last season, and will likely not pitch more than that out of the bullpen for John Farrell and the Jays.Shi Davidi, of Rogers Sportsnet said that because of New Years,the deal will not be finalized until sometime next week.If this deal does happen, I like it a lot because his numbers are very strong, and Oliver, adds a ton of experience to the bullpen. Oliver has made the playoffs 6 straight years, inlcuding back to back world series appearances in 2010 and 2011 with the Rangers. AA has fulfilled yet another goal on his off-season check list, and has quickly made the Blue Jays bullpen into one of the best in the AL, from one of the worst in the MLB last year. This is how I believe the bullpen will look come April.

Sergio Santos
Casey Janssen
Darren Oliver
Joel Carreno
Carlos Villanueva
Luis Perez
Jesse Litsch

Make sure to check out @Bluejaysplus on twitter for instant updates. Happy New Year!


5:15 PM: The deal is done, 1 year, with a club option for 2013, Pending a Physical.

December 31st: 7:00 PM: Earlier today the Blue Jays signed LHP Aaron Laffey to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. I expect him to compete with Luiz Perez and Chad Beck for the final Blue Jays Bullpen roster.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Offseason Reality Check

Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista.
Trust me I would love to have those as my 3-4 in the Jays lineup. That would make for the best 3-4 punch in the AL East (better than Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz and the Yanks version of Teix and A-Rod). But it isn’t going to happen.
I sat for days and thought about how great an outfield would be of Lind-Rasmus-Bautista – I think one of the best in the AL as well.

But that’s just not happening.
Alex Anthopoulos just does not work that way. He will not spend a 7 year $125 million dollar contract.

The Jays currently have $70 million set aside for contracts for 2012. They had $78 million in 2011 for contracts. Alex likes young players who will do two things – lower the payroll and have them signed for a number of controllable years. Jose Bautista is the only player making over $10 million dollars (he is making $14 million per year until 2016 – what a great deal). And the next highest player makes less than half what Jose makes – Escobar, Lind and Romero all making $5 million.

Yes Prince Fielder is a good player – his last 3 year avg. stats are – 97 runs, 39 homers and 115 rbi’s. Jose has another year of his good production away from that kind of 3 year split and Adam Lind is another year or two injury-free seasons away. No current Jay has numbers like Prince. But Alex does not work that way – he will not drop $18 million on a player like that – especially not for that long. Alex wants to control his players and build a contender that will last.

I think right now that the Jays depth chart is now something that can compete with the Yanks, Red Sox and don’t forget about the Rays. This year will be a dog fight in the AL east – too be the AL West will be a better fight. The Red Sox and Yanks and both on the decline – they have no pitching. Neither of them are rumored to be in on the Yu Darvish sweepstakes and each are an injury away from falling fast. We all watched from afar as the Red Sox fell in Sept historically, that could happen again in 2012.

I think the team that we as Jays fans should worry about – is the Rays. No – Jose Lobaton, Ben Zobrist, Elliott Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce don’t scare me – and I think Lind, Arrencibia, Kelly Johnson and Bautista are far better but its their pitching that scares me. They still have Price, Shields, Davis, Niemann and Hellickson. All could have an ERA under 3.50 this year. I think that starting rotation is who the Jays should try to emulate.

I like the numerous reports that in a few hours MLB will announce that the Jays have won the Yu Darvish bid.

Part of me says there is no way Alex would waste $50 million dollars on a posting fee with how he handles Rogers’ money. But part of me says this makes sense. Outbid the other teams, you don’t need to take anyone from your current team and you get to add a piece. The only thing that scares me is the effectiveness of Japanese pitchers who have come over to the majors. Matsuzaka was good for his first two years (15-12 and 18-3) but his last three leave little to be desired (4-6, 9-6 and 3-3).

That’s not a good way to spend $51 million in posting fee. Saito, Uehara, Takahashi.. all came over from Japan not much success. In less than 8 hours I would love the Nippon Ham Fighters to announce that the Blue Jays were the winning bid, but the amount of players who have come over from Japan makes me weary of Yu. But I remain hopeful.

Having Romero, Yu, Morrow (still not sure what he is other than another cheaper AJ Bunett), Alvarez, Cecil and Drabek. I know this sounds like 2010 offseason all over again but if these guys all put it together than 90 wins could be insight.

Hearing that the Jays almost got Mat Latos got me excited. I cant wait for the moves AA has planned. I think Yu will solidify our pitching and will help the Jays move over the Red Sox and Yanks in 2012. Will it be enough to compete with the Rays – offensively yes but pitching I think they are almost there.

All we need right now is a Left Fielder, another pitcher (heres hoping its Yu – that put us into serious contention in the East in 2012) and an 8th inning guy. Heard the Jays were going after Joakim Soria – and a guy like that or Huston Street would anchor their backend for a while to come.

Its exciting to be a Jays fan right now – but the Jays will NOT sign Prince Fielder, Yu will make their pitching a lot more stable and help the Jays compete in 2012. Lets not get ahead of ourselves – Alex has a plan and lets just sit back and watch – enjoy this ride and enjoy booking tickets to see the Angels come into town so we can see Pujols now.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Offense vs Defense - Fielder vs Darvish

Offense vs Defense - Fielder vs Darvish

It’s one of the oldest debates in professional team sports, especially baseball - Offense vs defense. Which is more important? Do you win by not letting your opponent score any runs, or do you win by beating your opponent into the ground? The problem is, is that without context, both are right. So let’s add in some context. What should the Blue Jays add to their team to help them contend in 2012 and beyond, or more specifically, who? This offseason the Blue Jays have been linked to just about everyone, and most of all to Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder. A perfect offense vs defense situation.

The Blue Jays finished 2011 with a .500 record at 81-81, good for fourth in the AL East and ten games out of the Wild Card. So how can we jump into contention? Many believe the Prince Fielder will provide a huge spark to the Blue Jays, by bringing in a very big bat to help boost their offensive numbers, not only on his own, but also by providing some much needed protection to Bautista, and bringing what would likely be the most feared 3-4 spot in any lineup in the MLBs in 2012. However, is offense really the best option? Afterall, many detractors say that the Blue Jays finished 6th in the MLB in runs scored, behind the Yankees and the Red Sox, but quite far ahead of the Phillies and the Rays, who both made the postseason. But beyond that, the Jays also finished the season as a team with the 10th worst average (.249) and the 12thworst OBP (.317). These are very obvious concerns that need addressing, and Prince Fielder would go a very long way in helping those concerns being erased. So there is no doubt that the overall offense needs to be improved. However, those clamoring for Prince haven’t realized all of the upgrades the Jays have made to their line-up since opening day last year. We can all look forward to full seasons from Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson and Colby Rasmus, and hopefully a bounce back year from Adam Lind, and maybe for once, everyone can stay healthy. All of those additions will do wonders to provide a very big boost to the Jays overall offensive numbers, so maybe Fielder isn’t the catalyst he appears to be to so many. But what about the pitching side of things?

The Jays had one of, if not, the youngest pitching staff in the majors last year, and showed tremendous potential, but finished the season with the 6th worst ERA (4.32), 8th worst WHIP (1.35), tied for the 5th most walks allowed (540), and allowed more HRs than any AL team save the Orioles. A lot of this can be tied to the young staff, and a lot of changes made to the rotation throughout the year and a lot of different pitchers were given a lot of time in the rotation as the Jays took a look at what they had, but there is no doubt we have more room to improve with our pitching staff than we do with our lineup. Sure a lot of starts were given to the likes of Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo Reyes at the start of the season, and much like the Jays line-up, the rotation has no doubt improved since opening day last season, even before the possible addition of Yu Darvish. Without him, we have a possible opening day rotation that would most likely go Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil, McGowan. That includes a lot of question marks of course, and is still a very young rotation, but it loaded with potential. You only need to look at Romero’s season last year to show how the Blue Jays pitchers are growing and what they can become. Again, with bounce back seasons from Morrow and Cecil, and if McGowan can recapture his 2008 form, the Jays will have a very solid rotation once more. But does the addition of Darvish provide a greater boost to the Jays than Fielder?

Consider the bigger picture. The case for Fielder is a strong one. Prince Fielder is a very big and fearsome bat, and there is little doubt he can handle the pressure of the AL East and is a proven talent. However, in signing Fielder to a contract, the Jays would need to surrender one of their extremely valuable draft picks, and sign him to contract that, at this point, is likely longer than they’d want to. Not to mention that first base and DH are currently filled and either Adam Lind or Edwin Encarncion would likely have to be traded, in a move that would limit the value of either asset and thus limit the return. So in order for the Jays to grab Fielder, they would have to surrender a draft pick, give up at least one big league talent, and commit to a very large amount of money. Yet the cost of adding Yu Darvish is significantly less, and provides a much bigger impact when you look at the ramifications. Adding Darvish does not cost any draft picks, and will not force a major league talent out of the club. If Darvish does join the Jays, he will join the rotation and most likely Brett Cecil will join the bullpen, but Henderson Alvarez could also be pushed to the bullpen as well. He is an “unproven” MLB level talent, but the amount of risk for this to blow-up is significantly reduced. The worst case scenario for adding either Darvish or Fielder is the always the risk of injury. No matter how much either cost, if both end their careers early due to injury, the cost of Darvish will only be money, where the cost for Fielder could be future All-Stars as well.

So what is the best path? Do the Jays contend in the tough AL East by hoping to improve their potent line-up to go head-to-head with offensive juggernauts like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, or do they boost their rotation with more top-tier pitching talents and shut down their bats before they become an issue? I suppose it’s a personal preference in the end, but I also think it wouldn’t be unlike Anthopoulos to do both. Only time will tell now.

What are your thoughts? Offense vs Defense? I’d love to hear them, so add some comments below or feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Bam_86) and let me know that way! Big thanks to @BlueJaysBatBoy and @BlueJays_Giants for the twitter debate that inspired this article!

Interview with Former Blue Jays Outfielder, Frank Catalanotto

This past week I conducted an interview with retired MLB player, Frank Catalanotto. Frank played for 5 different teams throughout his career, the Rangers, the Blue Jays, the Tigers, the Brewers, and the Mets. While playing for the Jays from 2003-2006, he never batted below .293, and eclipsed the .300 mark twice. His best season of his career came in 2001 while playing for the Texas Rangers, when he batted a dazzling .330, with an OPS+ of 128. He finished his career with a batting average of .291 and an OPS+ of 107. Catalanotto also played for Italy in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.

When asked what he thinks about the new Blue Jays jerseys unveiled on November 18th, Frank responded like many of us Blue Jays Fans would.

I love the new jerseys. I think it's great that they are bringing back some old school flavor.

Just like most professional baseball players, Catalanotto gives credit for his baseball career to two people who greatly impacted his career.

Two people were very influential in my baseball career. My dad had the biggest effect on me learning the game and getting me the the opportunity to get drafted. He taught me the game at a young age and worked with me all the time when he would get home from work. When I got into the minor leagues, former major leaguer Larry Parrish helped me make the adjustments to pro ball. He taught me the mental part of the game which allowed me to take my game to the next level.

Since he played for 5 teams throughout his major league career, I asked Frank which team he enjoyed playing for the most, and his answer is perfectly suited for Blue Jays fans.

I enjoyed playing with the Blue Jay teams that I played with from 2003-2006. We had a great group of guys that meshed very well. Just about everyone got along and we had a lot of fun.

Catalanotto is from Italian Heritage, so he played for the Italian team in the WBC in both 2006 and 2009. I asked him if he wants to play again for them in 2013, and he answered like this.

Playing for team Italy in the WBC was definitely a thrill for me. I would love to be able to play in the 2013 WBC but I think I will coach instead.

Although Frank had a lot of great moments in his career, Frank chose the one that almost every player who makes it to the MLB gets to celebrate as his favorite.

I had a lot of great moments in my major league career but I'd have to say that getting my first major league hit would have to be on the top of the list. It was an RBI single at Tiger Stadium against Texas Ranger Rick Helling. I will always remember the hit because I had always dreamed about getting that hit and it made me feel like I had finally made it.

When asked what his stance was on PED's in baseball, and if Ryan Braun should keep his MVP, Little Cat made his opinion very clear.

I feel like Ryan Braun should keep his NL MVP award. I think MLB has done a great job cleaning up the sport. You really don't see many players failing drug tests.

Having played against Albert Pujols before he retired, I asked Frank what he felt about Pujols leaving St. Louis to go to the Angels for more money.

Albert Pujols obviously had his reasons for leaving St. Louis. Whether it was for the money or not we may never know. That being said I would never blame a player for going to another team to get paid more money. People in the real world do it all the time. It shouldn't be any different for professional athletes.

Since this a Blue Jays blog, I asked Catalanotto if he thought Justin Verlander deserved to win the MVP, or if Jose Bautista should have won the award. His answer may surprise some of you.

If I had a vote for the AL MVP I wouldn't have voted for either Bautista or Verlander. I would have voted for Miguel Cabrerra. I don't believe in giving it to a pitcher. They have their own award in the Cy Young. And I wouldn't have given it to Bautista because I do think that it should go to a guy that is on a playoff team. I know there are a lot of people that disagree with that but I have always felt that way.

After Professional baseball players retire, a big portion of them get into coaching jobs when the time is right. Frank is no different than other players.

Right now I am helping coach the Italian National Team with Mike Piazza. I don't do it full time but every so often I meet up with them and help out. I would love to get back into pro baseball at some point but it won't be until my four girls are older. It's nice to be home with them and watch them grow up

To end our interview, I asked Mr. Catalanotto if he likes the direction the Jays are going in, and his answer was just the same as mine would have been.

I do like the direction the the Jays are going in. They have some good young players and a stud in the middle of the line up. I'd love to see them make a big splash and sign a big time free agent like Prince Fielder though. I think the time is right since the Red Sox are in a little bit of disarray and there is that extra wild card spot. Alex Anthopoulos is doing a great job and I'm confident the Jays will be a perennial playoff contender.

I would like to thank Frank Catalanotto for partaking in this interview, and if you want to follow him on twitter, his twitter handle is @fcat27.

The BlueJaysPlus online radio show has been delayed, and the new date will be announced soon.

Follow me on twitter @Bluejaysplus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why the Blue Jays Should Sign Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder is currently the number one free agent in the MLB. The Jays have been rumored to be the top contender for his services, although this is probably false. Most of us fans believe the Blue Jays should sign Prince Fielder, but the entire Toronto media has opposite views. The media's reason for not signing Prince, who grew up in Toronto, is because he isn't that much better than Adam Lind. Why should the Jays sign somebody for a lot more money then there current first baseman, when he doesn't produce significantly better numbers. This is a valid reason, unless you understand that the value of having Prince Fielder isn't about his numbers being better than Lind's.

Jose Bautista led the league in Home Runs for the second straight year in 2011, while still being walked over 130 times. The reason why he was walked 132 times in 2011:Pitchers don't care to pitch to Adam Lind with a runner on. Why give Bautista a pitch to hit when you can pitch to a batter who hit under .200 in the second half of the season last year. With Fielder serving as protection for Bautista, his walk numbers will likely go down, giving him more fastballs and pitches in the strike zone. Bautista will be able to hit close to 60 home runs if he has more pitches to swing at, and Fielder can make that happen. With Fielder batting in the four hole, that makes the Jays easily have the best 3-4 combo in the MLB, something that pitchers will have to think about when pitching to the Jays 1 and 2 spots in the lineup. If the Jays get Prince Fielder, that makes Adam Lind expendable, but the Jays could also keep Lind. Lind has the ability to be a Designated Hitter, or a Left Fielder. His ability to play left field is huge if the Jays want to upgrade there pitching situation. I'm not the best at making up trade offers, but here are a few that AA can make if both Eric Thames and Travis Snider don't have jobs on the team. The Jays can also move Snider or Thames to DH, and combine Edwin Encarnacion in a trade package with Snider or Thames. So here are a few possibilities.

1.To the Jays: Matt Garza
Lendy Castillo

To the Cubs: Eric Thames
Edwin Encarnacion
Deck Mcguire

2.To the Jays: Wade Davis

To the Rays: Edwin Encarnacion
Chad Jenkins
Michael Crouse

Again, I am horrible at making trade offers, and knowing if they are fair, so please comment below, on twitter (@bluejaysplus), or on the Bluejaysplus facebook page.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yu Know Who!

Yu Know Who!

So the Winter Meetings are over and done. The Angels and Marlins made headlines like never before, and baseball as a whole is on track to spend close to $1.3 Billion this offseason. However, while many expected that this was the offseason the Blue Jays would break out and spend big on a free agent, and that really hasn’t been the case. Not yet at least. While the Blue Jays did managed to make a great trade to obtain their new closer, who should become a core player of the Blue Jays, they haven’t really been players for some names that many fans would’ve liked to have seen become Blue Jays – Prince Fielder for example. You can check out to see how badly some fans want a big name. These fans feel that in order to win, you need to spend, and everybody knows that the Rogers own the Blue Jays, and could quite possibly be the richest owners in baseball, so why not spend? Anthopoulos has said that the money is there if he needs it, but has also gone on to say that he does have specific “payroll parameters” to work within. Sounds contradictory, but in reality, it isn’t.

While the Jays have been making great strides forward since Alex Anthopoulos came on board, they still have so much room to improve, which is amazing when you consider how much they have improved since this time last year. Brett Lawrie is now everyone’s favorite new Blue Jay, we can look forward to a full season of Colby Rasmus in centerfield, and we have Kelly Johnson back to solidify the middle infield. No doubt that without the flux these positions went through last year, a solid presence will immediately benefit this team. But fans want the Jays to spend and the Jays have said payroll will rise as attendance rises. A real chicken and egg stagnate. So now with Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, CJ Wilson, and Mark Buehrle signed on with their new teams, and the with market for Prince Fielder essentially being reset, that could very likely explode at any time, and then the Jays will truly be out of the Fielder chase. So that means there are no big free agents left for the Blue Jays to sign, right? Yu gotta be kidding me.

Enter Yu Darvish, who was posted today from the NPB, the Japanese version of the MLB. In the NPB he owns a career record of 93-38 (a .710 winning percentage), 18 shutouts, and an ERA of 1.99 and a WHIP of 0.98 over 7 professional seasons. In 2011, his ERA was 0.83 compared to a league average of 2.95. In short, he is a phenomenal young pitcher on the rise. Many people like to compare him to Daisuke Matsuzaka (Dice-K) from the Boston Red Sox, but a scouting report from May 2011 has this to say.

Darvish’s most contemporary Japanese comparison has been Boston Red Sox starter, Dice-K. The comparisons between the two pitchers should stop after “country of origin.” Dice-K’s tumultuous major league career is not an indication of the kind of potential Yu Darvish possesses. Major league teams knew exactly how good Dice-K could be. His talent was not on the rise when he made the jump to the major leagues. He was a legend in Japan during high school, and had a solid professional career. By the he switched to the majors, he was a crafty veteran with a well-documented scouting report.

High words of praise, which likely reflect their workloads, and not necessarily their careers as they were both be 26 when they made their MLB debuts. Still others go on to state that a comparison to the original Japanese legend, Hideo Nomo, would be more apt. In my own view, Yu Darvish is a young, controllable player, in a high impact position, with an incredibly high ceiling, and I get the sense he has only touched his potential. Also known as Alex Anthopoulos’s ideal acquisition.

For the Blue Jays, this represents a rare opportunity. They have the chance to acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter, with low miles on his arm, who has had a history of success (even against MLB players), who can be controlled for the next four, five, even six years, and they won’t have to give up any draft picks or any valuable prospects to make it happen – only money. A lot of money. Which begs the question – Will the Blue Jays really put forth a serious bid to obtain Yu Darvish. Thanks to the current system in place, MLB teams have to bid for the rights to simply negotiate with the Japanese players, and then get to sign a contract from there. Dice-K’s winning bid from the Red Sox was more than $51 million dollars, and then signed a contract that was also worth more than $51 million, bringing the total cost of acquiring Dice-K to almost $103 million, and Yu Darvish is expected to top that. We all know that the Blue Jays have the money to make a serious run for Darvish, but there are so many questions beyond that. Is the money available? Do the Blue Jays view Darvish as being worthy of such a large investment? Will they be contending soon enough to make such a large investment worthwhile?

For his recent openness, Anthopoulos has been characteristically vague. When asked how Darvish compared to Dice-K, he replied: “I wouldn’t get into specifics about how good I think a player is going to be or isn’t going to be. Maybe after players are signed and things like that I would be a lot more (open) to commenting about abilities and things like that. But there’s no doubt it he’s a very talented player.” For those unaware, Anthopoulos made a trip to Japan earlier this year to scout Darvish, and it’s hard to imagine he didn’t love what he saw in him. He has every quality Anthopoulos covets, unlike the free agents available in the US, and as previously stated, unlike free agents in the US, can be obtained without losing precious picks or players.

So what are the Blue Jays to do? Well, I am no GM and I may be a little trigger happy, but I can’t see any reason why the Blue Jays shouldn’t make every effort to make Yu Darvish a Blue Jay. The Blue Jays have been big spenders in the international free agent market the last couple years, spending $10 million to obtain Adeiny Hechavarria, and were short on obtaining Aroldis Chapman despite offering $23 million, not to mention all of the spending the Blue Jays have done on the draft in recent years, which thanks to the new CBA will be severely cut down. So the chances of the Blue Jays finding an international free agent of this quality again, likely won’t be happening soon, which is why the time is right, and the time is now. I will say it again. The Blue Jays should make every effort to obtain Yu Darvish. Forget Prince Fielder, forget trades, forget everything. For the next four (business) days, the Blue Jays efforts should be spent making sure that their bid is the winning bid.

If you aren’t sure, just YouTube "Yu Darvish." I'm sure you'll get plenty of results.

Or should I say "YuTube?" Yu decide.

Yu can follow Brandon on Twitter @Bam_86

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Lines

During this week’s baseball meetings in Dallas, Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has been more open than usual and while he hasn’t said anything specific, he has managed to say a lot. Contrary to previous reports and beliefs, the Blue Jays do have specific parameters to operate in financially – meaning there really is a budget. He also has made it known that nothing will be leaked from his office, and that if a team is publically attached to player, they probably aren’t in reality. And if you’re hearing a deal is done, be ready to welcome a new player to the Blue Jays (Welcome back Mr. Santos!). But you can hear all of that anywhere, what you might not pick up on, is everything that was said between the lines and how Anthopoulos AKA Mr. Stealth has become a master of using the media just as the media has been using him.

A lot has been said about the relationship between the media and the Toronto Blue Jays, and most of it has centered around the Blue Jays being used as a “go-to team” for rumour mongering, as the team’s policy of not commenting on potential trades or free-agent signings makes them the easy throw-in to any discussion. However, have the Blue Jays been using the media for their own gain as well? There have been some musings, although quiet, that leading up to the days the trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox was finalized that Nestor Molina’s profile was being bolstered. A day before the trade was announced, several people on twitter commented on how they hadn’t heard much about Nestor Molina all year, and now all of a sudden, he is everywhere they looked, bragging up his skills, abilities, and potential. This is rather convenient if you are attempting to sell that player for the biggest return, which is, arguably, what the Jays got in Santos – a young, controllable, high-ceiling impact player. Now I don’t know if this is tied to Anthopoulos at all, and I seriously doubt it would have impacted Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams decision in any serious way, but the coincidence is intriguing. The biggest effect the added Nestor Molina content probably had is giving White Sox fans easy access to a profile of what exactly was good enough to trade away their closer, who was credited with having the best out pitch in baseball in 2011, a very nasty slider, which is built up by his 4-seam fastball that sits around 95 mph - A tough pill to swallow, especially when your team’s GM follows it up with a confirmation that they are now in a rebuilding mode.

Further to Anthopoulos’s uncharacteristic openness, he shared that he felt the team would not be a player in the Prince Fielder chase because they would not go past a five-year commitment to him. This says a number of things, and I’m surprised this hasn’t been expanded upon yet (although maybe it has, I just haven’t seen it yet). Initially it appears as if Anthopoulos is going against his policy and saying that they are not interested in Fielder, which is how some have taken it, but what most see, and what I also see, is that Anthopoulos is saying that if Fielder’s market does become depressed enough that Fielder would be interested in a five-year deal, then the Blue Jays would be in. GREAT! Except that no, no it’s not. What most seem to be missing is that the reason the market for Fielder is slow right now, is for two reasons. 1. Albert Pujols is still available and 2. Fielder’s price and demands are still VERY high. So if it were to get to the point where Fielder is considering five-year deals, his market will explode, especially if Pujols is officially off the market, and at that rate, I can’t see the Brewers not stepping back in and matching/beating offers. I’m sorry Blue Jays fans, but Prince Fielder will not be a Blue Jay come opening day.

You can follow Brandon on Twitter @Bam_86. Hope you all enjoy the new banner!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AA Gets His Closer, But at a Cost

AA has filled another goal of the Blue Jays off-season today, when he traded RHP Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for RHP Sergio Santos. Just like Molina, Santos is a converted position player, and he also used to be in the Jays minor league system. Santos came over in 2006 in the Troy Glaus deal with the Diamondbacks, but left the club after two season with the Jays organization.

Santos is a very good pitcher, with only one obvious fault in his stats. He strikes out batters at a very high rate(almost 1.5 per inning), but also walks a ton of batters, at 4.3 per nine innings. Sergio already talked with the Toronto media today, and was very happy about the trade, especially because he is friends with so many of the Blue Jays players.

As mentioned by one of our writers in the article before this titled "Who to Trade", Nestor Molina was listed as a "If the Price is Right" player. According to AA, and I also agree, the price was right for Molina. This winter was likely the highest price you will get for Molina in his career. He is a prospect with a ceiling of a #4 starter. In my mind, he will be a good setup man, or maybe a decent closer. AA pulled the trigger at the right time, because if he waited any longer, the price the White Sox would be asking for would have probably went up, as more free agent closers will sign with teams, and as closers available for trade get traded.If I were to say which team won this trade at first look, it would be the White Sox. But once you look into Santos' contract and his more in depth stats, it becomes a clear win for the Blue Jays. Of course nobody knows how Molina will turn out, or how Santos will do as a Blue Jay, so the real winner of this trade, just like every other trade, will only be determined in a long time.

With the Closer hole filled, the Jays just have to fill there hole at second base to fill out there roster, although a #2 starter is also coveted by the Jays right now. Kelly Johnson has until Midnight on Wednesday to accept or decline arbitration, telling us if the Jays need to get a second baseman or not.

Feel free to comment on the post below, or on twitter @Bluejaysplus. Also, I hope you like the new Banner logo for the site.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Who to Trade?

With the winter meetings under way in Dallas, many fans are waiting for Alex Anthopoulus' next big move. There has been a lot of speculation about the Jays signing a big free agent, such as Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Ryan Madson or even Japanese star Yu Darvish. Unfortunately for you "win now" and "break the bank" fans, this probably will not happen this offseason. Alex has very clearly stated that:

1) He will not overpay a player until the Jays are on the cusp of contention, which is clearly not the case.
2) He doesn't like long the long term contracts that the big names are seeking.
3) The posting system is not something he likes.
4) He likes making moves via the trade. Alot.
5) The Jays have a ton of prospects.

This probably means that Pujols or Fielder will not be wearing Jays uniforms come spring this year, which is fine. There is good reason to avoid long term commitments (and I like Lind a lot). More importantly, a focus on trading means that ANYONE could be coming to Toronto. Alex could trade for an obvious candidate like Andrew Bailey, or he could shock us all and get Brandon Phillips. I eagerly await his next move on the trade market, as so far, he has been sensational. Escobar, Morrow, Rasmus, Lawrie, and Vernon's salary being paid by someone else are all products of trades. Given the fact that AA also has some very good prospects to work with, and that the new CBA has increased prospect's value in general,this could be an exciting few months that will set the groundwork for Toronto's first playoff appearance in 19 years.

The question is, which prospects should the Jays trade, and which should they hold on to?


Deck McGuire - McGuire is very talented, and just about MLB ready. But he projects to be a third starter at best. To compete in the AL East, you need top starters in the whole rotation. Given how crowded the Jays rotation already is, and the higher upside players around him, he is a good candidate to be traded. The former first round pick will have a lot of value on the market, and should be traded.

David Cooper - Can't play defense, has little power, and is stuck behind Adam Lind. Enough teams will want the doubles champ, especially given his former first round pick status and high batting average, but he is of little use to the Jays.

Adeiny Hechavarria - The young Cuban defector plays gold glove defense. But can't hit and is stuck behind Yunel Escobar, an above average player on both sides of the ball. This is the last year he can be sent to the minors to open the season. The Jays should capitalize on his late season outburst in AAA, and trade him while his value is still high.

Chad Jenkins - Another innings eater. His status is the same as Mcguire's.

Eric Thames - Strikes out too much, and his offensive game doesn't make up for it enough. Has improved greatly on defense, but is still bellow average. I think Snider can be better. Also, the Jays need space in the OF. With Gose almost here,it is getting crowded.

Do NOT Trade

Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek - Both player are young, and highly talented. The Jays rushed both, and suffered. Currently they have low trade values, so it would be in Toronto's best interests to hold on to these guys, at least till their stock goes up.

Raw, High Upside Arms - Such as Daniel Norris, Noah Syndergaard, and Justin Nicolino. These guys have high ceilings, but will need time to develop. They have the talent to be aces, so the Jays should hold on to them at least till they are close to MLB ready. These are the kind of guys you want in your future rotation.

If the Price is Right...

Travis D'Arnaud - The Jays have a good catcher in Arencibia in the majors, and lots of depth behind D'Arnaud in the minors. He is a great player. He will be very productive, if he can avoid injuries. However, if the Jays get a piece they really need for him, I'll live.

Nestor Molina - Top arm, but needs to be stretched out more before he can pitch at the top of a rotation. He could net a ton, and given the pitching depth behind him, it would be ok if he was traded, but only for a boatload.


I can guarantee that at least one, if not more, of these players will be traded within the next month. That's fine. Not all of them will pan out, and there certainly isn't room for all of them on the team. Hopefully, we get the players who will take us to the promise land soon, without draining the farm too much.

Feel free to post comments/questions bellow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Alex Anthopoulos’s Holiday Wishlist for the Winter (Wonderland) Meetings

For many GMs in baseball, Christmas comes twice a year: December 25th, and then the Baseball Winter Meetings, this year being held in Dallas on from December 5-8. And much likes Christmas, some get coal and some get diamonds. Anthopoulos has a knack for getting diamonds. In 2009, he traded away Roy Halladay for a trio of top prospects and managed to suppress many fans rage at losing the best pitcher in baseball, a very impressive first big trade. Last year at the winter meetings, he shipped off Shaun Marcum to the Brewer’s for everyone’s new favorite Blue Jay, Brett Lawrie. But its Christmas time again, what does Alex Anthopoulos want this year?

His most immediate needs are obvious. Fill the holes at second, backup catcher, and in the bullpen left by departing free agents. Those are the easy ones, but what does AA really want? Like a lot of what Alex Anthopoulos does, it’ll be hard to predict. Rumours have attached the Jays to just about every free agent available and every top trade target, which means either the Blue Jays have been very active (they have) and/or agents have caught on to the Blue Jays new policy of not commenting on any deal and not denying any rumours attributed to them. Every agent can use the Blue Jays to drive up prices now, and I would expect all of them will. As a fan, this can be frustrating, even frightening at times (thank you Marlins – saved from the Bell) but it certainly hasn’t been boring. So digging through the rumours, what should we believe he’s after? It’s obvious. Alex Anthopoulos covets young, controllable, high-ceiling talent, so there is little doubt that is what he’s pursuing, but which trade targets and free agents does that include?

The Unrealistic

As everyone knows, Alex has blown the baseball world away with the deals he has pulled off, and it isn’t impossible he blows us away again. He doesn’t have any more “untradeable” contracts to shed, and doesn’t have to find the best deal for the best pitcher in baseball, so the best way to blow away the baseball world this year is to acquire someone believed to be untouchable. The early rumours said that Joey Votto was available, but lately Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty has said the Reds will not trade away their best player. Votto grew up a fan of Toronto, and as a native Ontarian, he would likely welcome a chance to “come home.” He fits the mold of Anthopoulos’s dream player: Young, under control for 2 more years, and a proven high-ceiling talent who can still improve. What’s more is that the Jays should have the stuff to get a deal done, but I believe that Walt Jocketty would have a tough time selling this trade to the fans, and I can’t see it getting done. Sorry guys, but Votto really just isn’t going to land in Toronto this year.

The Unexpected

There are a host of new GMs coming to this year’s Winter Meetings who are looking to make an impact with their new clubs and could provide an unexpected option for Alex Anthopoulos via his preferred trade route. Alex Anthopoulos has acted very quickly before when the right deal has been presented, and if an unexpected deal that lines up with what AA is looking for, we could all be blown away with another patented Alex Anthopoulos announcement from the Winter Meetings. Keep in mind that the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, and the Houston Astros all have new guys in charge, and everybody wants to make an impact in one way or another. All of them have been charged with taking a team that missed the playoffs and turning them into a winner. Deals will need to be made and things can happy real fast when everyone is gathered together.

The Rumoured

According to Shi Davidi, the search for bullpen arms has become more real than ever after Anthopoulos was prodded by Paul Beeston and confessed to examining free agent closers and closers available through trade, stating “We’re looking at free agents and trades. We’re legitimately looking at both options.” Although he gives nothing away, one can extend this to believe that they likely have been discussing options such as Papelbon, Madson, and Bell, but that options like Andrew Bailey or Huston Street are most likely. Another popular rumour is the Jays looking to acquire front-end starters, and names like Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, and Wade Davis have all been floated around, but I have to believe that Gio Gonzalez likely tops Anthopoulos’s wishlist and I could see a deal involving both Andrew Bailey and Gio Gonzalez commanding a high price, but one that AA and Billy Beane would both walk away from happy.

The UnRumoured

What has probably surprised me most is the names that haven’t been attached to the Blue Jays yet. There are free agents out there right now that would be fantastic additions to the Blue Jays, at a reasonable price and would help the Blue Jays win now, but the biggest one of all is Mark Buehrle. His resume speaks for itself in how he could help the Blue Jays. Every season since 2001 he has logged over 200 innings, he has a career ERA of 3.83 to go along with a WHIP of 1.282, he is an incredible defensive pitcher, and is the veteran the Blue Jays could use to mentor a young rotation, while saving innings from a bullpen that was really overworked last year. Not to mention he has averaged 15 wins a season over his career with the Chicago White Sox. I could go on. The question that needs to be asked is: How much does Buehrle want? He made $14 million a year the last three seasons with the White Sox and is likely due a raise from there, but how much and for how long? If I’m Anthopoulos, I’m buying Buehrle’s agent (Jeff Berry of CAA Sports) dinner at the Winter Meetings and finding out. I would imagine that a 3 year deal at $16-$18 Million should get it done. Throw in an option year, and I think Buehrle is a great addition to the rotation. But there are reasons the deal probably won’t happen. As a veteran, Buehrle would likely want to go to a team that can compete for a World Series now, (which the Blue Jays could) and would likely ask for a full no-trade clause, and I doubt AA wants his options limited. However, the biggest drawback and really the only negative is that the rotation is already one of the Blue Jays strong points, and they have even more talent waiting in the minors, not to mention that Yu Darvish (if he is EVER posted) is probably the preferred target (young, controllable, HIGH-potential).

The Waiting Game

Anthopoulos also has to fill the gap at second base, and there is a big question mark beside Kelly Johnson’s name. He has until December 7 to decide on whether or not to accept arbitration from the Blue Jays, and until then, the Blue Jays don’t fully know the situation they are in. I personally wouldn’t mind having Johnson back at second for one year contract with an option for a second year, but Anthopoulos probably would prefer the two draft picks, as they are more valuable than ever, but with such a thin pool of available high-quality second baseman, I think that AA should forego the draft picks and lock up Johnson now. This allows him to focus on other opportunities that may not be around for long, and jump during an opportune time at the Winter Meetings.

This offseason is flying by, and pretty soon we will all find out what the Blue Jays got in their stockings, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not a lump of coal. Sorry about that Angels fans. What do you all think? What does your wishlist look like? Let's hear what everyone thinks in the comments or let me know on Twitter.

You can follow Brandon on Twitter - @Bam_86