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Swab it out! Why do you think we have those expensive swabs?

When they’re not talking about how well the Jays are doing on the field, or the small but significant trade the Jays made yesterday — shedding catching depth, as Alex Anthopoulos seems to love to do so much — they’re talking about the money that’s available to the club, or the lack thereof. John Lott gets to the nut in a piece from the National Post on Monday. “Anthopoulos used to say: Ownership has given us every confidence that the cash is there if we need it. We have to sell the trade as an upgrade for the baseball club, of course, but Rogers has never said no to that kind of deal,” he explains. “When asked recently if he could add payroll, Anthopoulos said he could add players, and players make money, so there. (‘No one plays for free,’ he added, just to erase any ambiguity.) The GM said he is confident the Jays have the “resources” to acquire players at the deadline. In the absence of new money, ‘resources’ is code for players. Toronto can trade players for players.”

As always, it’s more complicated than just complaining about cheap Rogers. Their short-sightedness here is evident, but for once it doesn’t take a whole lot to understand their holding firm on the stance that the payroll is very healthy (10th in MLB), and if the front office has a problem it’s with the way they themselves have allocated that money. That, too, is complicated, as there were surely internal pressures on Alex Anthopoulos to do something major in the off-season between 2012 and 2013, rather than to coast again on false hope while shrewdly rebuilding as the best years of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion went to waste. On the other hand, the front office needed to know better than to have put themselves in this kind of situation, bloating the payroll so badly with added backloaded deals that in the event that ownership somehow wanted to tighten the purse strings — even as they paid through the dickholes for fucking hockey rights — they’d be without the kind of wiggle room they could truly use right now. But let’s not be too soft on ownership here. After all, there’s only one group in this mess who gets what it wants, and it sure isn’t the fans, or the players, or the organization itself.

For all my pissing and moaning, though, we still don’t even know for sure that it’s true that the Jays are resigned to cash-neutral deals heading into Thursday’s deadline, and that they’ll be cut off at the balls when some expensive deals are moved in waiver trades through the month of August. It sure fucking feels like it, and I’m certainly not betting on Guy Laurence riding in on a white horse with a bag of money — a hat for the players to pass around, however, I wouldn’t put past him — but it’s also true that the Jays continue to be rumoured to be monitoring players whose contracts would definitely require more payroll to digest (and please, put away your crackpot Ricky Romero theories away). That at least makes plausible some of the ideas in the excellent guide to possible Jays additions from Ben Nicholson-Smith over at Sportsnet. (Or if it doesn’t, just for a minute pretend these Jays are a team that operates somewhat normally).

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, and speaking of those August deals the Jays aren’t likely to be too heavily involved in (unless it’s for guys at the league minimum — like for whoever they need to scramble to get to catch if one of Thole or Navarro goes down), last week Ben gave us a primer on the trade rules for once Thursday’s deadline passes, which is important, as a lot of executives seem to think there will be just many deals then as there will be this month — especially since it will allow teams more time to assess whether they’re really in a playoff race or not.

Similarly on this theme, over at the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy gives his two cents on why Anthopoulos may be through dealing for the week already, while making some suggestions at guys he could end up targeting anyway, and also looking at the tough roster decisions that will be coming once guys like Adam Lind (who is the closest to returning, according to a notebook post at BlueJays.com from Gregor Chisholm), Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie return to health.

Speaking of guys getting healthy, also in Gregor’s notebook post is a mention of Brandon Morrow, who we’re told is likely to be a reliever when/if he returns to a big league mound this season, mostly because the club doesn’t think they’ll have time to get him stretched out enough to start anyway. Not that they need help in the rotation at the moment — though, of course, that can change quickly.

Back to the Star, Richard Griffin looks at Anthony Gose’s recent run of success, and how he’s giving the Jays a lot to think about as they head toward a roster crunch in the coming weeks, and as they try to clear up their outfield picture for 2015. Meanwhile, Josh Rubin tries to slow down the praise train when it comes to Aaron Sanchez, looking at a number of “can’t miss” Jays prospects who missed (as well as some who hit — either way, no Travis Snider, amazingly), while Zoe McKnight checks into the state of fandom at the Rogers Centre, and specifically hecklers, who have, uh… grown up a bit this year?

Over at the Toronto Sun, Mike Rutsey opines that the Jays missed an opportunity when they let Chase Headley go to the Yankees, because apparently we’re not too big on worrying about injuries likely to be exacerbated by the turf or the fact that Headley had been something on the order of hot garbage at the plate this year.

Meanwhile, last week Bob Elliott took an extended look at some of the Jays’ best prospects, with help from BA’s John Manuel.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at which teams have been victimized the most by good pitch framing from their opponents (as opposed to how they victimize themselves by not always seeming to value their own catchers’ framing skills — well, except when they traded for Erik Kratz and Travis d’Arnaud and Jeff Mathis before, y’know, they traded them away). Um… anyway, the Jays have suffered the fourth-most in baseball this with 97 extra strikes having not gone their way. I’m thinking that being in a division with excellent framers like McCann, Molina, David Ross, as well as the Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park Strike is probably going to make that a bit of a thing.

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, last week Marc Hulet included Taylor Cole among “The Fringe Five,” which is FG’s list of the most compelling fringe prospects. “Younger Blue Jays prospects Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have both been promoted from High-A Dunedin to Toronto’s Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, while Cole remains in the Florida State League — this, despite having recorded the best strikeout and walk figures among the triumvirate,” he explains. “In point of fact, Cole has produced the best strikeout rate and walk rates among any pitcher eligible for inclusion in this weekly column.”

Interesting stuff from the farm, as Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s gives a breakdown of a recent shakeup in the Canadians’ rotation, and a look at a couple of Bluefield Blue Jays he’d like to see move up to the Northwestern League for a spell — including the still-intriguing Matt Smoral.

At ESPN.com (Insider Only), Jim Bowden looks at the trade deadline objectives for each AL East team, checking off the usual boxes for the Jays (pre-Valencia): a starter, a reliever, and a right-handed hitting second- or third-baseman. He doesn’t even seem to suggest that the club could be hampered by the money issue, so that’s encouraging. However, he suggests they flip Jairo Labourt and Alberto Tirado for effing Joaquin Benoit. Seems steep, but I do get it. Those guys are still some serious lottery tickets at this point. Might even be guys to move before the shine comes off them too much after they each had pretty forgettable seasons — at least statistically — that won’t lead to them jumping up on anybody’s top prospect board any time soon.

Lastly, just in case you wanted to know, MLBTR notes that Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSCR-FM tweets that the Jays were interested in Darwin Barney before he was moved, and had kicked the tires on Gordon Beckham as well. He suggests that Beckham’s slump slowed the progress of any deal, which sort of makes one wonder… did they start working on this deal four years ago? Because Beckham has been “slumping” at the plate for about that long.

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A right fucking thumping. That’ll play.

Not sure I care much for how Jose Reyes seems to be feeling a hard swing in his back or his ailing shoulder more than usual, or how he ended up coming out of the game — though he wasn’t the only one of the club’s stars to hit the showers early, he was definitely the first one (however, he stayed in the game after what appeared to be the initial tweak, and ended up swinging the bat again as well, so hopefully this is much ado about nothing). Other than that? Not a whole lot to complain about. Shit, I’m even at the point where if Ryan Goins wants to keep hitting, sure, let him keep hitting (uh… maybe not on 3-0 though). Feels like a thing a lot easier to sign off on when the club has already demonstrated they’ll have a short leash, as opposed to back in the spring, when the plan appeared to be to blow on some magic beans and hope a big league quality bat would sprout somewhere.

#SignMelkyNow

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The Jays have made exactly the kind of trade that you’d have expected the Jays to make — at least a couple weeks ago you would have — flipping a pair of Buffalo Bisons, catcher Erik Kratz and starter Liam Hendriks, to the Kansas City Royals for Danny Valencia.

Valencia is a third baseman, though not a particularly great one according to the metrics, but passable enough to get his bat into the lineup, which will certainly help the Jays, given that he’s a right-handed bat who hits lefties quite well.

In a very small sample (68 plate appearances) he has slashed .354/.386/.492 against left-handed pitching this season. He obviously doesn’t walk a tonne against them, and he’s benefitting from a pretty high BABIP, but those are still some terrific numbers, as are the ones he’s put up if you increase the sample to previous years, when he played for the Twins, Red Sox, and Orioles. Over his last 228 plate appearances against left-handers, spanning 2012 to 2014, he’s maintained that high BABIP (.358), and those sparkling numbers, posting a 138 wRC+, and a .330/.346/.530 slash line, with eight homers and 17 doubles.

Increase the sample to include his entire big league career against lefties and it’s more of the same.

In other words, this is a very nice piece the Jays have just acquired themselves, given that it cost them almost nothing. Kratz was useful enough, but clearly expendable as the third catcher on the depth chart. And Hendriks may have started the Triple-A All-Star Game, with Sean Nolin returning to health, Todd Redmond still available in the bullpen, and Brandon Morrow possibly making an eventual comeback, he could justifiably be considered the eighth or ninth starter on the depth chart, with little hope of moving up the pecking order next year, given that Aaron Sanchez and Dan Norris are expected to be knocking on the door by then.

Speaking of next year, Valencia, who makes just $532.5K this year, he’ll still be under team control then. And the year after. And the year after that, as well. Yes, this winter will be his first crack at arbitration, meaning that the Jays hold his rights for three years after this one — though, according to an MLBTR piece from the spring, he is out of options, so who knows if he ever actually manages to stick around that long.

He didn’t have much of a future in Kansas City, with former top pick Christian Colon getting moved up to add some depth to the Royals’ infield, and Mike Moustakas getting a vote of confidence, according to Andy Martino of the Kansas City Star. As for what the future holds here, Valencia fits very well with the current roster and its many platoon situations — and Alex Anthopoulos, via a tweet from Mike Wilner, suggests that he’s a guy that they’ve looked at for a while now.

The Jays will hold off on announcing a corresponding move until Valencia reports, and one wonders what it might be. With Esmil Rogers being D’d FA over the weekend to make room for Reimold, the club is down to seven relievers, and you’re not going to see them go down to six. Anthony Gose has been seeing a lot of time lately, and has been doing well, but he has options and is somewhat redundant with four other outfielders now on the roster — though Colby Rasmus would be the only one left over who is capable of playing centre for an extended stretch. If a Gose demotion ends up being the move, on the 3B/2B/1B/DH front the club has a spot for all of their current pieces, with Kawasaki, Goins, Francisco, and Johnson going against right-handers, with Valencia, Tolleson, and Reimold going against lefties, with a giant, Edwin Encarnacion-sized hole in that particular configuration (though Johnson doesn’t have a particularly large platoon split). However, if Gose stays, Bautista can move to first against right-handers — as he’s been doing from time to time — until Edwin is back, with Kawasaki, Goins, and Francisco handling 3B/2B/DH, with Johnson being made the redundant part. Unless! You could also use Johnson at DH and Francisco at third, with one of Goins or Kawasaki being demoted.

Goins and Gose both have options, while none of the others do, so I could see it coming down to that. However, the Jays certainly seem to like the defence they both bring and have been playing them a lot lately to good effect. I could see them erring on the side of keeping whatever depth they can. Would be nice to be able to keep a Kawasaki around for the balance of the season, and Dan Johnson, too, one supposes, but with Edwin, Lind, and Lawrie on the mend, some tough decisions are going to have to be made sooner or later — and for someone maybe tomorrow, when Valencia likely arrives, will be “sooner.”

We shall see. What we already know, though, is that this team is better now than it was yesterday, and that it cost them pretty close to nothing.

I can live with that. I can so fucking live with that.

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The Jays face the Red Sox, and R.A. Dickey squares off with Clay Buchholz, for the second time in less than a week, but in a wholly different atmosphere. No, not just because this one goes at Fenway, but because the Red Sox are increasingly being rumoured to be in sell mode — most notably when it comes to free-agent-to-be Jon Lester, who the Sox are being “hit hard on” (along with John Lackey), according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, who also indicated that other teams in the AL East are involved.

Meanwhile, we have a trade!

Around 6:30 PM ET, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News noted that Erik Kratz had been pulled from the Bisons’ lineup, with no reason given. Twenty minutes later, Shi Davidi tweeted that Liam Hendriks had been dealt to the Royals, then not long afterwards, Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan told us that both Kratz and Hendriks are bound for Kansas City, with no word yet on what the return will be (though the early money seems to be on a bullpen piece of some order).

Ben Nicholson-Smith adds that Kratz is expected to contribute in the big leagues for the Royals, so they like him to at least some extent. So… we’ll see.

I’ll update this post as soon as we learn anything new.

Oh yeah, and baseball!

Update:

It’s 3B Danny Valencia who will come the Jays’ way in this deal. Full post upcoming!

Scuttlebutt

MORE SCUTTLEBUTT FORTHCOMING! (Maybe).

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:10 PM ET @ Boston

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
DH Jose Bautista (R)
1B Juan Francisco (L)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
3B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
C Josh Thole (L)
2B Ryan Goins (L)
RF Anthony Gose (L)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Boston Red Sox

CF Brock Holt (L)
2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
DH David Ortiz (L)
1B Mike Napoli (R)
LF Daniel Nava (S)
RF Shane Victorino (R)
SS Stephen Drew (L)
3B Xander Bogaerts (R)
C David Ross (R)

RHP Clay Buchholz

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Scheduled Conflicts

The Jays truly are the masters of their own fate right now, as the schedule-makers have made things very intriguing down the stretch for the club — not that they had too much choice, given the huge number of intra-divisional games each team needs to play. Here, in order of most total games remaining against (with the home/road breakdown in brackets), is what the Jays schedule looks like until the end of the season:

Baltimore (6H/3A), Boston (3H/6A), New York (3H/4A), Seattle (4H/3A), Tampa Bay (3H/3A), Houston (0H/4A), Detroit (3H/0A), Chicago (AL) (0H/3A), Chicago (NL) (3H/0A), Milwaukee (0H/2A).

So a tonne of games against the Yankees, Orioles, and Mariners — the three teams they’re in the biggest fight with — thirteen of which are at home, with ten on the road. Add in four against the Astros, three against the White Sox, and three against the Cubs — not to mention none against the A’s, or Angels — and you start to not feel so bad about the road ahead. That is, as long as they Jays can take care of business against the AL East.

How about their competition? The Yankees’ have their most remaining games against Baltimore (4H/6A), followed by Boston and Tampa (3H/6A each), then the Jays and Tigers (4H/3A each). They have three game sets with Texas (away), as well as Houston, Cleveland, and the White Sox (all home), with four games against the Royals (3H/1A) thanks to a make-up date from a June washout.

As we’ve established, Baltimore has ten against the Yankees (6H/4A) and nine against us (3H/6A). Beyond that it’s seven against Tampa (4H/3A), six with Boston (split evenly), one make-up game at Nationals Park, then a bunch of three-game sets: Anaheim, Cincinnati, Seattle, St. Louis, and Minnesota at home, Cleveland and both Chicago teams on the road.

They control their own fate too, I suppose.

A Win In The Bronx

Not just a single victory, but a series victory! It feels fucking great for fans, and undoubtedly in the room, too. I mean, as much as it ought to be easy to slough those sorts of utterly irrelevant anomalies of futility — for fuck sakes, the Jays’ first three losses in the streak at Yankee Stadium came at the end of 2012, when John Farrell-led club’s most-used starters were Romero, Morrow, Villanueva, Alvarez, Laffey, and Happ, so it’s not like what they were doing means anything about what you’d think the current rotation might do — it surely isn’t, and it surely doesn’t stop the “here we go again” feelings that we’re all too familiar with (there are, after all, still ghosts in Tampa that the Jays would do well to extinguish before this season is through).

Arden Zwelling has an excellent piece up at Sportsnet on yesterday’s roller coaster ride, looking at it — and its win expectancy graph from FanGraphs — as a microcosm for an up-and-down season that once again feels like its moving in the right direction.

Just like Sunday’s game, a baseball season is a back and forth thing, with its intoxicating ups and depressing downs. Take the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that was widely written off in late June when it was staggering on its feet with a 33-49 record. They went on a run (the Rays have lost just five times in July) and are now quietly lurking in the AL East weeds, just 4.5 games out of the playoffs.

So, yes, what the Blue Jays have done since the all-star break — winning seven of ten — is very, very good. And what they did leading up to it — losing eight of ten — was very, very bad. But as tempting as it may be to forecast and predict, neither of those two runs are going to make or break the season.

It’s baseball. You try to win more than you lose because that’s really all you can do (And seven games against the lowly Red Sox and Astros to close the current road trip sure seems like a good opportunity to do that).

But as the Blue Jays celebrated under the sun at Yankee Stadium, it really felt like Sunday’s triumph was meaningful. It felt significant. Even though it was just another mid-summer ballgame.

That’s the rub.

Prospecting

Aaron Sanchez got his first big league win, but also gave up his first run and looked at least somewhat human-ish in his second inning of work. The velocity was still there, and according to his Brooks Baseball page he ditched whatever that 93 mph offering he was using in his first start, though they’ve identified a sinker at 98 in addition to a four-seamer at that speed that he was throwing, along with a curveball he only managed to get one batter to offer at in six tries (though he did also get two strikes from it).

As far as bumps in the road go, it wasn’t the biggest.

Despite the impressive appearances in the big leagues, Sanchez has generally seen his stock continue to sink on the various prospect lists — including the one that was updated over the weekend at MLB.com. He checks in at number 40 on Jim Callis’s latest list, behind Dan Norris (29) in a group of Jays that also includes Dalton Pompey (95) and the just-drafted (and just-surgery’d) Jeff Hoffman (97).

The somewhat low rankings doesn’t mean that Callis doesn’t like what the Jays are doing, though, as he wrote a piece ranking teams based on the talent they acquired in June’s Rule Four draft, and thanks to the Astros’ fuckup with Brady Aiken, it’s the Jays who end up at number one.

Now, the ranking is a little bit warped because it includes the make-up pick the Jays got for not signing Phil Bickford last year, so naturally they’re going to get more of an infusion of talent than most, just like last year they got less. Still, though!

Beyond the big two — Hoffman and number 11 pick Max Pentecost — Callis likes that the Jays “also grabbed a pair of projectable high school pitchers in righty Sean Reid-Foley from Florida ($1,128,800) and lefty Nick Wells from Virginia ($661,800) in the second and third rounds, and they moved enough money around to land athletic Tennessee prep outfielder Lane Thomas for $750,000 in the fifth.”

He didn’t like Wells or Thomas that much, though, as neither shows up on Callis’s updated Jays top 20 list. Reid-Foley does, however, ranking tenth for Callis, behind D.J. Davis and ahead of Sean Nolin, Dawel Lugo, Matt Dean, and others. Hoffman jumps immediately to number four, just ahead of Roberto Osuna and Pentecost, who are themselves just ahead of Mitch Nay and Franklin Barreto.

“Hoffman hasn’t fully grown into his lanky 6-foot-4 frame, yet at times he works in the mid 90s and hits 98 mph with his fastball,” we’re told. “His big-breaking curveball can be equally devastating and his changeup can be a plus pitch at times. He throws a decent amount of strikes but will need to refine his command to become a frontline starter in the big leagues.”

That’ll play. That’ll make it hurt a whole lot fucking less if the Mets manage to get Tulo for a package centred on Noah Syndergaard, too (not that that necessarily has legs, but still… yeesh!).

Today In MLBTR: Monday, July 28th

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The non-waiver trade deadline hits Thursday, and there is all kinds of chatter, big and small, out there regarding the Blue Jays and everyone else, so let’s check out what’s going on over at the invaluable, fantastic, and comprehensive MLB Trade Rumors and see what we’re hearing as the hot stove gets close to its boiling point… 

A large, awesome Jays-specific piece will require several paragraphs here to cover:

- Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun writes that the Jays could have had Chase Headley, with San Diego paying the freight, if they’d traded Juan Francisco and two “not big-time prospects.” It may seem bizarre to some that the Jays wouldn’t do this, especially those whose minds are broken by strikeouts, as though they’re some sin infinitely worse than any old other out (they’re not, though yes, they’re worse), but I can see it. First, it depends on who the prospects are. Second, as MLBTR points out, even with the recent struggles, Francisco is having a much better season than Headley so far. Third, Francisco doesn’t come with injury concerns that would only be exacerbated by playing on the Rogers Centre turf. Fourth, if the performance from Headley wasn’t there, you’d maybe wonder just how easily he’d take being held out of the lineup, especially as a free-agent-to-be trying to rebuild some value as he heads towards a payday. Francisco, I don’t think, would pose an issue in this regard — though to be fair, I certainly can’t say the same about Headley with any knowledge either, I’d just maybe have wondered.

- A piece from Shi Davidi at Sportsnet tells us that the Jays are being scouted beyond just “the usual suspects,” as he notes that the Phillies took a short trip down the road to Dunedin to look at a rehab start from Sean Nolin, while the Rangers have had scouts in Vancouver, looking in particular at Franklin Barreto, Miguel Castro, and Jairo Labourt. It could just be due diligence, or these clubs having a look at these guys just so they know better what they may want to ask for in the future. But I don’t know… though we heard last week from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that the Jays (as well as the Yankees) are cool to the idea of A.J. Burnett, that could be a thing — though he’s certainly not the only intriguing body on their roster. And the Rangers have some pieces that could move too, including Alex Rios, who the Jays are rumoured to be interested in – though Ken Rosenthal tweeted yesterday that their interest was fleeting.

- Kenny Ken Ken also tweets that free-agent-to-be Asdrubal Cabrera is “an option” for the Jays, which… is he? He’s been worth nearly a win-and-a-half this year, but thanks mostly to the fact that he plays shortstop, which he’d be moved off of if he came over to the Jays, moving back to second base, where he played a bunch from 2007 to 2009. He doesn’t play great defence (according to the metrics) at short, and has a .303 on-base over his last 970 plate appearances. And his platoon splits aren’t terribly pronounced, either. Against right-handed pitching, where he’s hit best, over that span the switch hitter slashed .249/.315/.407. At this point I’d take Munenori Kawasaki and his .295/.351/.352 line against right-handers, thanks. And I’d certainly take Steve Tolleson and his 174 wRC+ against lefties. Second base hasn’t even really been that big a problem for this team, frankly.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The dumb streak is over. Thank fuck. Now we never have to hear about it again.