After a week of being far too lazy (as usual), and after having missed the last one, I finally kinda feel like I’ve caught up on most of the stuff going on with the Jays at the moment– so it seems like the right time to dip again into Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star.
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers. Also, if there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Q. Much has been made of the budgetary implications of the Vernon Wells deal for the Jays. However, the Jays have a lot of draft picks this year, and signing them appears to be a priority for A.A. What is the team’s budget for signing its draft picks, and is the team going to use the Wells savings to partially offset the cost of signing its picks? If they plow a ton of money into signing all their picks, then I can tolerate their spending less on the major league club.
John, I couldn’t tell you what the specific draft budget is, but you can rest assured that they’re going to do exactly what you suggest here. To give you an oversimplified explanation of what I think we’re witnessing, I expect them to operate like Tampa– which they’ve begun doing over the last year-and-a-half– until the club gets to the point where they feel they can generate enough revenue to sustain moving to a Boston-like model. There is a ceiling to the Tampa market that is far below Boston’s, and far below Toronto’s theoretical ceiling, which forces them to operate on a shoestring budget. Boston is similarly strong when it comes to drafting and developing talent, but the Sox can keep their payroll high, can retain their star players, and can afford to make mistakes with their money. That’s not because a benevolent ownership has been willing to piss away money on a hope and a prayer, but because they squeeze every possible dollar out of their park, because of a wealth of TV revenue, and because they’ve cultivated a strong pipeline of talent to complement their purely financial acquisitions, which ensures they’ll always be competitive or will have the pieces to trade to keep them competitive. The Jays can get there, and with prudent investments– and now a bunch of “team generated” money in the form of the Wells savings– should be able to shortcut the process a little, but I don’t expect Rogers to put the cart before the horse. Didn’t they already try that with the last GM?
Richard Stoeten. What do you think John Farrell is thinking? The team has traded its opening day pitcher and all star centre fielder from last year.
Probably something like, “Fucking awesome! This winter we put ourselves in a great position to be much better long-term, my pitching staff probably won’t even be much worse off than last year thanks to the prospects we have coming up, and now I don’t have to worry about upsetting our ‘star’ by having to explain to him why it’s best he doesn’t play CF anymore, and why he has no business being in the middle of our lineup! Tits! Big fucking beautiful tits!”
(Note: I’m working from the assumption that John Farrell really likes tits.)
Richard Stoeten. Does Brett Lawrie actually have a shot of making the team this year? I would imagine a lineup with Lawrie at 2B, Hill at 3B and Bautista in right is better than the alternative which would include Juan Rivera in the OF as an everyday player. Has A.A. hinted at anything?
First off, you’ll never convince me that anybody named Cornelius actually lives in Haliburton. Never. Second, I truly don’t understand what everybody’s preoccupation with rushing Brett Lawrie is. I don’t think the Jays are going to hold him back– its not they won’t be able to find a spot for him if he forces their hand– but a lot of people seem to be OK with the notion of just handing him a Major League job right now, before the club has even had a chance to work closely with him. It’s not going to happen. And it probably shouldn’t happen. In fact, it’s probably fucking crazy. Yes, he was one of the best players in the AA Southern League last year, but he was also one of the youngest. Yes, he’s a talent, but… for shit, people, most think Travis Snider was rushed and he didn’t reach the majors until the end of his third season as a pro– Lawrie has only had two. He looks like he’ll be a good one (once he finds a position) and I understand wanting to reap some immediate return on the Marcum deal, but let’s simmer the fuck down a little bit here, OK?
Q. In light of the recent Frank Francisco deal, can you shed some light on who goes where in the Jays bullpen. This acquisition coupled with the signings of Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch really look like A.A. has no confidence in some of the cheaper, younger Jays (Casey Janssen, David Purcey, Zach Stewart, Shawn Camp, and even Jason Frasor) stepping up and grabbing the ninth inning role.
Jason, yeah, probably, but I don’t think that assessment is quite right. For one, part of the appeal of guys like Rauch, Dotel and Francisco is that they each have solid chances to bring the Jays compensation picks if they leave the club at the end of the season having declined the Jays’ offer of arbitration. Anthopoulos has been keen to exploit MLB’s compensation rules, and while all three guys might not turn into picks, I understand the thinking there, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a reflection of the club’s opinion of the other relievers. For two, it’s not like these guys are Mariano Rivera. I mean, if a Janssen or a Purcey is lights out and deserves the opportunity to move up the pecking order, I don’t think the Jays are beholden so much to Octavio effing Dotel that they can’t let it happen.
Richard Stoeten. I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions or comments about Vernon Wells this week, but I’ll add one more, just for fun. I have a sneaking suspicion that Vernon will have an enormous year for the Angels, and that may reflect playing the season on grass rather than turf. My question: How do you think the artificial turf at SkyDome (ok, Rogers Centre) has affected Vernon over the past couple of years, and will it make a difference?
I don’t think it makes a difference, and I know there’s no possible way we could say it did anyway. I mean, Vernon went from being one of the absolute worst regular players in baseball in 2009 (7th lowest WAR among all 154 qualified) to being one of the best CFs in the game in 2010 (9th by WAR among CFs), and he spent both those years playing on the same turf. So… if anything changes, I don’t see any reason to think the turf makes a difference.
I should add, I truly hope Vernon has a monster year this year– that would change nothing about how fantastic this trade has been for the club, and I hope (though I don’t exactly expect) most fans would understand that.
Q. Two Questions:
1. With the Napoli trade how would you handle the catching position for 2011?
2. I thought Chad Jenkins was being groomed for the closer position, am I wrong or have they changed their minds?
1. JP Arencibia and Jose Molina will be the club’s catchers, and that’s fine. It might be nice if they had a third option somewhere, which was why Napoli seemed a fit for the brief moment he was here, but this is also the PCL MVP we’re talk about, and a season in which the club is willing to experience some ups and downs. They might as well give him a shot.
2. You’re probably thinking of Zach Stewart, but in either case, the prevailing philosophy seems to be that if a guy can potentially start, keep him as a starter until he proves he can’t do it (see: Purcey, David). Makes sense, no?
Griff Stote – what a trade!!
AA is the toast of the town and must be building quite the reputation. While I applaud the move, what is concerning is the potential for a porous defense this year. Is Rajai the answer in CF or is AA going to tinker some more?
Mauro, I hate to single you out for this, because you’re hardly the only one who does it, but… holy fuck, why does it matter??? Rajai Davis is neither “the answer” in CF, nor is Anthopoulos necessarily going to tinker, because… Davis should be fine until they either find someone better or some of their prospects develop. “Fine” is all they’re really looking for. Davis is a stopgap– albeit one with a very intriguing upside in the form of the 91 bases he’s stolen over the last two years, and the very solid .305/.360/.423/.784 line he put up in 2009. Maybe he becomes the leadoff threat and centrefielder they’re looking for, but if he doesn’t, it’s not like they’ve invested so much in him that they can’t easily go another way.
Is there a lesson to be learned regarding Lawrie’s introduction to the Blue Jays from the time past Expos’ decision on then prospect Michael Barrett? The Expos had a decision to make with Jose Vidro, keep him at second or move him to third. Barrett would assume the open spot. The Expos kept Vidro at second and sent Barrett to third, where Barrett failed defensively. Would it be safer to play Lawrie at second instead of third?
I’m not sure I exactly follow. Yes, Barrett failed at third and ultimately became a catcher, but… did that destroy his career or something? I know he had some awful years in Montreal as a young player, but are you suggesting the positional uncertainty had something to do with it? I just don’t buy it. No, it’s probably not the best idea to constantly be moving a player around the diamond, but the Jays need to play Lawrie in the spot where he’s got the best chance to succeed– they can’t be afraid to move him to a position where he better serves the club. Many think his future is ultimately going to be in the outfield, and I don’t expect a transition like that will be an issue– and don’t forget, he came up as a catcher and was moved to second at the start of 2009, so… I completely don’t see the worry here.
Q. Is there any truth to the Jays seeking Vlad Guerrero for DH this year? Or even Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder for next season? It is sounding like a Paul Molitor type of signing when the Jays were going for it in the early ’90s. Thanks for all your insight.
The Jays don’t appear to be in the market for Guererro, half because of his cost, half because they seem content with giving Edwin Encarnacion a try, and half because they want a DH who can spell Adam Lind at first base if necessary. As for Pujols or Fielder, it’s a nice fantasy, and it doesn’t hurt that typical suitors like the Yankees and Red Sox are already set at the position. Buuuuuut, being set at short didn’t stop the Yankees from getting A-Rod, and I’d be fucking stunned if St. Louis somehow fucks it up with Pujols– and I’d be triply stunned if there was the slightest chance he’d come to Canada.
Fielder makes a little more sense, but since they say he’ll be looking for a deal in the $200-million neighbourhood, I don’t fucking see it. That’s a lot of money over a long time for a guy with a body that you can’t possibly expect to age well. He’s a great fucking hitter– the kind of hitter you need if you’re going to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox– and an AL team will have the advantage of being able to stick him at DH, but… jesus, that’s a lot of money. A lot can change from now until he hits free agency (if he even does), but I certainly wouldn’t be betting on it.
Also let’s not forget that the Jays had started getting good in 1983, and it wasn’t until 1992 that they really started bolstering their their largely home-grown and traded-for club with elite free agents like Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. Of course, that was a vastly different era of free agency, and I’m not saying I expect it to be nine years before the team signs a truly elite free agent again, but as easy as it is to point to a move like the acquisition of Molitor as setting up the team’s early-90s success, a less flashy but hugely important ingredient was Beeston and Gillick’s ability to build from within throughout the mid-80s. I wouldn’t be so quick to overlook that aspect of the club’s original run of success, or how the current front office may be looking to it for inspiration.