Monday, January 23, 2012

Jays Sign Veteran, Extend Flamethrower

The Blue Jays have signed 44-year old INF Omar Vizquel to a 1-year contract, while they have extended SP Brandon Morrow's contract for 3-years. Morrow will be paid $20 million over that span, with a $10 million Anthoption for a 4th year, and a $1 million buyout.

Vizquel is known as one of the best shortstops of all time, winning 11 gold gloves in his 23 year career. he has a career fielding percentage of .985, and a career defensive WAR of 13.3 according to baseball reference. Vizquel, ranks 5th all time in career TZR among shortstops, and will be a huge help defenziveley, if he makes the roster, or if he doesnt. If he does, he will be able to help SS Yunel Escobar, and 3B Brett Lawrie, both young fielders with a lot they could still improve on. If he doesn't make the roster, and Luis Valbuena or Mike McCoy does, then he could spend all of his season in AAA, helping Adeiny Hechaverria with his defense. Chris Woodward held a similar position last year, as he guided Brett Lawrie to the majors.

To put Vizquel's age in perspective, SS Yunel Escobar and 2B Kelly Johnson were both 7 years old during Omar Vizquels rookie year, Adam Lind was 6, and Brett Lawrie was not born.

Barring any further moves from AA, Morrow is going to be the Jays #2 pitcher this year, behind Jays Ace, Ricky Romero. Brandon is always up in the leader boards when it comes to K/9, and has the potential to be much better than Romero. Morrow will be making more than Romero, which is a bold statement by the Blue Jays Front Office, especially because Romero has proven he can be an Ace, unlike Brandon Morrow.

Since Morrow has signed and avoided arbitration, Casey Janssen is the only Blue Jays Player to still need arbitration, although I believe he will sign a 1 year deal with an Anthoption before his hearing in mid-February.

A report from Yahoo Japan says that the Jays are close to acquiring RP Koji Uehara from the Texas Rangers for TBA, but this report has not yet been confirmed by anybody with trustworthy knowledge.

Earlier this evening, a report from a major source said the Jays were one of the four finalists for reliever Francisco Cordero.

What do you think about these deals AA has pulled off tonight, leave your comments below, or on twitter @gideonturk or the offical twitter @Bluejaysplus. Also, make sure to like the BlueJaysPlus facebook page


8:45 PM-Jerry Crasnick of reports that the Omar Vizquel deal is a minor league deal, with an invite to Major League Spring Training.

8:54 PM-Mike Wilner, of Sportsnet 590 reports that the talks between the Jays and Rangers have cooled for Uehara, because the Rangers are demanding too much.

9:10 PM-Ken Rosenthal of Fox, reports that the Rangers and Blue Jays are in trade talks for Uehara, but nothing official.

9:51 PM- Gregor Chisolm, of has told me that "The club has some interest there (Uehara) but nothing official at this point".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“Alex, its Zaun on line 1”

Today on the 6:45pm segment of Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 the Fan, Bob McCowan was asking Gregg Zaun if the Jays should go after Prince Fielder (or should have during this offseason). I was flipping though the stations on a red light and my ears perked up once I heard Zaun’s voice. I think he does great color commentating for the Jays and can’t wait for the next month to fly by so we can hear him on the radio again called spring training games come February.

Ok back to the car ride, Gregg Zaun was expounding on how he thinks the Blue Jays “regressed last year”. I thought “hey if you’re going to say something like that, at least explain yourself.” He did before my light turned green.

(For the smart readers, you will scroll down and see that a month ago I wrote an article explaining why the Jays would not sign Prince Fielder. But I wanted to talk about Zaun’s comments and well you’ll just have to read on.)

Zaun noted that back in November; he looked through the free agent class of 2012, and saw that the Blue Jays had an opportunity to really upgrade. At the expense of the Red Sox and Yankees as well. He saw the two biggest needs for the Jays as a power bat in the middle of the lineup and a closer. He said that the Jays should have (since no one really knows if Alex is in on ANYbody anyways), been in on Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Madson, or even Heath Bell. They did go out and do what Alex Anthopoulos does best – phones the GM of the White sox and make a trade – grabbing and/or stealing Sergio Santos.

So that takes care of Zaun’s need #2. What was his solution for the power bat? Gregg Zaun laid out his argument for signing Prince Fielder. Bob McCowan put forth the question as to when the Jays would be seen as contenders. In 2012, 2013 or would be 2014? Zaun (as if he could read Bob’s mind) said, “Exactly, even if the Jays don’t contend in 2012, they would still have Prince Fielder locked up for 6-10 years.” This is the one area I agree with Anthopoulos on, and disagree with Zaun. You cannot sign a baseball player who has a larger build than Ray Lewis to a 10 year contract. Its ridiculous. Yes he is only 27, and a top 15 hitter, but you just can’t do that. Now a 6 year deal I would love to see. To get a hitter like this from ages 27-33 is unheard of. Prince could get another deal after, and Toronto gets to see him hit 50+ homers every year for 6 years. I’ll take that all day long.

Gregg Zaun said this signing would solve two problems. Now that’s medium sized thinking. Toronto is not small market (see – population and ownership), nor do they want anyone to think they are big market (see payroll – which is now $70 and a half million, $27 million less than the 2008 payroll – the three years since Alex took over the team). Zaun said this signing would give the Jays a power in the middle of the lineup bat, and solve the mess in left field. No offense to Thames or Snider, but neither of them have put up the Adam Lind Left field numbers (111-34-122 numbers in 800 at bats as a LF).

Apparently Zaun and myself think alike. Sign Fielder and slide Lind over to left. Well maybe Zaun speaks for the thousands of Jays fans who also think this way. Imagine having a 3-4 lineup of Fielder and Bautista. Or a outfield of Lind-Rasmus-Bautista? That’s better than O’s, Rays, Red Sox and pretty close to what the Yankees have on paper in their outfield right now.

Well its still an option. To every Blue Jays fan, well except for Alex Anthopoulos. That is why, I am suggesting that Gregg Zaun ought to call Alex Anthopoulos first thing in the morning and explain on behalf of all Jays fans how this problem of another power bat can be solved.

I know it goes against everything you stand for, Mr. Anthopoulos, but instead of begging fans to buy more tickets and fill up the empty dome – sign someone worth driving down the Gardiner for. Sign Fielder, move Lind to left field. Redeem this abysmal offseason. Compete with the Yankees . Gregg Zaun knows what needs to be done. Every fan does as well.

Thank you Zaun, thank you for telling it like it is and call Alex please.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Can You Not Be Romantic About Baseball?

How Can You Not Be Romantic About Baseball?

That is the ticket to the very first Blue Jays game I attended with my Dad. Wednesday, May 23, 2001. It was given to me this Christmas and was a real highlight for me, for all that it made me realize. Most of all, was that this was the game that cemented my love of baseball, and more importantly, of the Blue Jays. Almost 20,000 people attended that game which, at the time, was easily the biggest crowd I’d ever been a part of. I was 15 at the time and already really enjoyed baseball. I was a big fan of the Blue Jays and watched them on TV and listened to their games on the radio but seeing a game in person is a different experience all together. To this very day, I still love watching games on TV. I learn interesting things from the announcers, I enjoy all the stats and trivia they flash on the screen, and I love that I can leave my seat and not have to wait for a break in play to get it back. But there isn’t anything better than the atmosphere of really being there. That’s what that first game with my Dad showed me. I still remember the atmosphere over 10 years later. In fact, I remember one chant in particular.

David Wells was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 2nd round of the 1982 draft, and then debuted for them five years late on June 30th, 1987, and went on to play in parts of 21 seasons in the majors including two stints with the Blue Jays from 87-93 and again from 99-2000. The Blue Jays traded Roger Clemens to the Yankees for David Wells on February 18, 1999. At the time, Roger Clemens was my favorite player. So I was a little dismayed, but being a kid, I got over it pretty quickly, and David Wells forged two fairly successful seasons with the Jays, including what was likely the best season of his career in 2000 when he went 20-8 with a 4.11 ERA. But then it all turned around, as on January 14, 2001, the Blue Jays traded him to the White Sox in a deal that quickly became mired in controversy.

The total package was David Wells and Mike DeWitt for Kevin Beirne, Brian Simmons, and a prospect named Mike Williams, and the centerpiece, a starting pitcher named Mike Sirotka. Gord Ash, the GM for the Jays at the time, hadn’t made the deal contingent upon the passing a physical (practically mandatory today) and the result was that Toronto acquired a starting pitcher who was already injured, and would never play in the majors again. The mistake ultimately cost Gord Ash his job and the Blue Jays basically gave up David Wells, the all-star anchor of their rotation - for nothing, and Blue Jays fans knew it. So on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2001, the Blue Jays fans finally got their chance to get some of that disappointment out of their system, and it all fell on David Wells.

Some nicknames can go two ways. David Wells was nicknamed Boomer, and during his time in Toronto, the Blue Jays fans embraced it, and used it as a rally cry during his starts. However, once he joined the White Sox rotation for nothing, it quickly turned the other way around. “BOOMER!” became “BOOOOOOOOO-MER!” with a great deal of emphasis on the Boo. There may have only been 20,000 people at that game, but it felt like the place was sold out when they were jeering Wells. It may have been the sound of those 20,000 jeering fans, taunting David Wells, raining down “BOOO-MER” chants that did it, but after that day, I was all baseball, all the time. Hockey took a backseat, and as any Canadian kid can you tell, that’s a big deal. It was all baseball, and all because of a game that my Dad and I enjoyed together. The Blue Jays won that game 9-6 and David Wells took the loss. He pitched 5.1 innings and allowed 8 runs (7 earned) while giving up 13 hits.

Strangely enough, those tickets were gifts from my Dad’s brother. He got them from the company he works for, because they had season tickets to the Jays. I believe that he and my brother may have also come along, but all I remember is my Dad and I. Funny enough, as fate would have it, in late 2008 I joined the very same company, and have access to those very same seats, for any game I wish. Like a lot of things, I owe my love of baseball to my Dad. So if you are a fan of baseball thanks to your Dad, let him know. If you enjoy these articles that I write, thank David Wells and my Dad, and let me know!

Let's hear about some of your first game experiences in the comments section!

You can follow Brandon on Twitter @Bam_86

Monday, January 9, 2012

Offseason Update

Happy New Year! Its 2012, and the time has come to look at the Toronto Blue Jays offseason so far. Toronto entered the offseason needing a second baseman, backup catcher, DH/first baseman, a bullpen, and a top three starter. Let’s see how they did.

Second Base

Kelly Johnson surprisingly did not get any significant offers from any team, and was one of the three players who accepted arbitration this year. With Johnson, the Jays got the best second baseman available, without giving up prospects, or overpaying.

The Verdict – A

Definitely a win for Toronto, despite the potential draft pick Johnson would have netted had he signed elsewhere.

Backup Catcher

It was widely accepted that Alex Anthopoulos would not re-sign Jose Molina. Molina, who had been a solid backup and a good veteran presence, was a type B free agent, meaning that he would net the Jays a supplemental round pick if he signed with another team. Alex loves collecting picks, so it was no surprise when Molina signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays quickly filled the hole, bringing in Angel veteran, and Mike Scioscia favorite, Jeff Mathis, for lefty pitcher Brad Mills. Mills did not figure in to Toronto's plans, as he was buried in a Toronto system filled with young, talented, high-upside arms.

The Verdict – C+

I’m calling a win here. The draft pick is nice, Mills was expendable, and Mathis is a very solid defensive backup. He doesn’t need to be a great hitter, as he does not project to start often. If Arencibia does get hurt, it will be D’arnaud, not Mathis, who starts.

DH/First Base

By picking up Encarnacion’s option, Anthopoulos made it clear that he was happy with his first base and DH tandem of Edwin and Lind. Many Jay’s fans are disappointed that Toronto did not pursue bigger names such as Pujols and Fielder.

The Verdict: B-

The decision to stand pat was neither a win nor a loss. I am not a Fielder or Pujols advocate, as I believe the contracts necessary to lock them up would have been damaging. Contrary to popular belief, the Jays are not looking to spend a bundle of cash, and if they were, I would rather it be spent on a premium position. Give Alex credit for standing pat. Lind and Encarnacion are poised to have very good seasons, at a great price. Still, it would have been nice to see a sure threat along with Jose in the middle of the order.


Alex’s first big move of the offseason was the acquisition of Sergio Santos for Jay’s top pitching prospect, Nestor Molina. The deal allowed Toronto to add a closer who is young, talented, and controllable, with a high ceiling. The only downside was giving away Molina, a very talented young arm. In addition to Santos, Toronto signed veteran lefty Darren Oliver, and brought back Jason Frasor, also from Chicago, for a couple of low level prospects. The three of them will be in charge of the late innings, along with Casey Janssen. They represent a solid upgrade over last year’s back end, Fransisco, Rauch, and Dotel. Toronto also received two type B picks when the Mets signed two of last year’s trio.

The Verdict – B

Santos should be a fixture for years. Toronto still lacks a setup man, but looks solid. The draft picks should make up for the loss of the prospects, and the team should see an improvement in the bullpen after it blew 25 saves last year. Oliver was a bit pricey, but the Jays desperately needed a lefty. The only thing preventing me from saying that this was a huge win is Santos’ lack of experience.

Starting Pitching

The teams that win are the ones with the best pitching. After a tough year that saw Cecil take a step back, Drabek fail to stick, Jo Jo Reyes, and Morrow unable to take the next step, Toronto was in serious need of a top tier starter to stabilize the rotation. Toronto has been linked to just about everybody, Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Matt Garza, and Yu Darvish. However, they were unable to get a deal done, and in the case of Yu Darvish, were outbid by the Texas Rangers. As of now, Toronto’s projected rotation for the coming season is: Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Alvarez, and McGowan.

The Verdict – F

I wouldn’t have liked the price it would have taken to acquire any of these pitchers, and I think Garza is stupendously overrated. That being said, Toronto NEEDS a starter. If it meant posting more for Darvish, or making a legitimate offer to Edwin Jackson, or giving up an extra prospect in a trade, Toronto needed to do it. If they enter the season with the current projected rotation, Alex will have failed to fill his team’s biggest need. However, in Anthopoulos’ defense, any acquisition would have meant overpaying. Perhaps the best strategy is to wait for the plethora of young, talented pitching prospects to reach the majors. But the facts remain. Toronto is not a contender with its current rotation.

Final Verdict – B-

Although the Jays did not have the exciting offseason that many predicted, they filled most of their needs well. If Morrow steps up his game and Drabek rebounds, we could be watching this team in October.

Agree or disagree with any of my assessments? Leave a reply!

Q and A with the Newest Blue Jay, Darren Oliver

Today, Monday January 9th, the Blue Jays announced the signing of LHP Darren Oliver. I had the pleasure of interviewing Oliver this past week, and you will get to see that interview after this brief introduction. In order to make room on the 40-man Roster for Oliver, the Blue Jays DFA'd Utility Man Mark Teahen, which means the Jays now have ten days to release him, trade him, or send him to the minor leagues. Oliver,41, is entering his 19th season in the MLB, but has posted his 4 lowest ERA's in his career, in the past 4 years, all in order. AA signed Oliver to a 1 year, $4 million deal with an Anthoption for 2013 worth $3 million. For those of you who do not know what an anthoption, it is the club friendly options added to almost every player contract AA signs. Now for that interview.

In 2008, at age 37 you transformed from being a mediocre relief pitcher, to being one of the best in the game. How did you do it, was it a change of mechanics?

It helps to be on a winning team like I have been on the past 6 years. The older you get, the wiser you get, I study the game a lot more now because I don't have the same stuff as I did 10 years ago.

What do you think of the new Blue Jays jerseys?

I haven't looked at the uniforms up close just yet, but I'm sure they're nice.

Which number will you being wearing for the Jays in 2012?

As of right now it looks like #38, the number I wore with the Angels from 2007-2009

You were brought in by Alex Anthopoulos this off-season, along with two other fantastic relief pitchers. These three moves have quickly transformed the Blue Jays bullpen into one of the best in the game. What team in your career have you been on that has had the most dominating relief corps?

It is hard to judge bullpens from year to year. Usually if the team has success, the bullpen is pretty much good. Most of the bullpens I have been a part of have had really good guys that made the season fun!

Was Texas being the number one hitting ballpark in the MLB a major reason why you decided to come to Toronto instead of going back to Arlington?

No, it wasnt.

What was it like growing up with a father who played in the Majors?

It wasn't a big deal to me. Not like it is today. Players back then did not make much money and the media exposure was minimal. I just looked at my Dad being my Dad, just like my kids!

What is your secret for being able to continue to play when you are 41, an age that is considered old when it comes to baseball?

I have a friend who is a doctor and he always tells me to pick your parents well. Got to have good genetics I believe.

Are you good friends with anybody on the Blue Jays?

I played with Jeff Mathis for 3 years in Anaheim.

Is the biggest plus about pitching for the Jays that you don't have to pitch against Adam Lind, a player that absolutley destroyed Ranger pitching, or is it that you don't have to pitch against arguably the best player in the MLB in Jose Bautista?

There are a lot of good players besides Lind and Bautista... lets just say I am happy they are on my team.

Many players do not want to sign with Toronto because they do not like the city, was this a factor in your contract negotiations?

Toronto has always been one of my favorite cities! Good food, clean city, friendly people... I also get to go to my favorite restaurant now too! (Barbarians Steakhouse)

Stay tuned to BlueJaysPlus, as hopefully I will be able to conduct more interviews with players throughout the season. Comments are welcomed below, or on twitter, where you could find me on @BlueJaysPlus

Monday, January 2, 2012

Is Kenny Williams on AA's Speed Dial?

Jason Frasor is coming back. Frasor was traded back to the Jays on Sunday for two minor league pitchers. The all time leader in relief apperances for the Jays, Frasor was trdaded to the White Sox in July, which was part of the trade that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto from St. Louis. The two minor league pitchers that were sent to the Sox were Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb. This is AA's third trade with Kenny Williams, the GM of the White Sox, since July 27th, when Frasor was originally traded. The second trade occured last month, when the Jays sent pitching prospect nestor Molina to Chicago for Closer Sergio Santos.

Before being traded to the Sox in July, Frasor had a sub 3.00 ERA, but stuggled in Chicgao, as he posted a 5.09 ERA with a WHIP of 1.755. Jaye pitched in Bluefield last season while posting a 3.22 ERA, with 49 K's in 54.0 innings. Webb piched in Bluefield and in Lansing in 2011, and put up horrific numbers. He had an ERA of 5.48, and allowed 14.2 baserunners per 9 innings.

This is yet another relief pitcher added to the mix in the Toronto bullpen, which was absolutley horrible last season. AA picked up Darren Oliver off of the free agent market last week, traded for Santos last month, and now has gotten Frasor back. Don't be surprised if the Jays new revamped bullpen is in the top 5 in the MLB next season, because it is made up of 7 pitchers that mesh perfectly. This was an amazing trade for the Jays, and this is what the I believe the bullpen would look like, if Opening Day was today.

Sergio Santos
Darren Oliver
Casey Janssen
Jason Frasor
Joel Carreno
Carlos Villanueva
Jesse Litsch

This was yet another acquisition made by AA, that nobody saw coming. Frasor, along with Oliver, Janssen, and maybe Carreno, will likely all act as setup men for Sergio Santos.

Feel free to comment below, or follow me on twitter, @Bluejaysplus.