Alright, so maybe I’ve been using Richard Griffin’s mail bag as a bit too much of a crutch this winter. But you know what? Credit to Griff and his readers: the questions he’s tackled have done a great job of covering the most interesting aspects of the off-season. So… let’s keep at it, shall we, with another dip into the ol’ mail bag that showed up earlier this week 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. I love A.A’s moves. But c’mon you cannot tell me he did not make a mistake signing Edwin Encarnacion when he could have signed a much better bat in either Manny Ramirez or Vladimir Guerrero. I know you are going to say well those guys can’t play defence and A.A. wants to have guys who are not one dimensional and can run etc. But give me a break, these guys are much better hitters and both hit extremely well at Rogers Centre so their numbers would be incrementally better than Encarnacion as a DH/backup 1B.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
I think you might want to check your definition of “incremental” there Jason, but otherwise yes, you’re right, those guys have better track records, Manny still gets on base at a ridiculous rate, and the declining Vladdy had a 2010 at age 35 that would still be better than Encarnacion’s best year. I thought it would be fun as fuck to have Manny here, and even if they wanted to keep E5 at DH, Guererro could have been a great right-handed caddy for the left-hitting Adam Lind.
But– and here comes the off-season’s key refrain– to what end? I don’t think the Jays are willing to give up on Lind’s ability to hit lefties– quite the opposite, I think they want to see what he can do against them this year– and the $8-million he just received from Baltimore is far too much for a platoon DH, so the notion of Guererro in that role is certainly out. And yes, they likely would have got more production out of the DH spot by going with one of these guys over Encarnacion, but it’s not like the gap between them would make the difference between contention and non-contention.
That being the case, there are different concerns that need to be considered. Chief among them, I figure: how can the player aid in the long-term development of the club, and what kind of an asset can the player be turned into– either as a trade chip or with compensation picks.
It’s clear that Encarnacion appeals more than than the other two with regard to the first concern because he gives the club some flexibility to let Adam Lind to be worked in easily at first base. Now, I do wonder just how valuable the Jays really think that is, but given their emphasis last year on infield defence and helping their young pitchers stay in games, I suppose it’s at least possible that’s not complete bullshit.
As for the second concern, there’s enough pop in Encarnacion’s bat that he could make himself a movable piece at the trade deadline, especially if he ever remembers how to take walks like he did in Cincinnati. He could also possibly work his way up to Type-B status. Hypothetically, if he plays well enough to do so you won’t have any trouble offering him arbitration– it wouldn’t hurt to have him accept, and if he declines, you get a draft pick (assuming there are no changes to the CBA that impact the compensation process). On the other hand, a declining guy like Vlad or Manny could very well end up a Type-A or Type-B, but with too much risk of further drop-off to actually make an offer of arbitration feasible.
Does that make Encarnacion more valuable long-term? It’s a bit of a stretch– it’s hard to imagine Manny at $2-million not having more trade value than E5 at $2.5-million since, even though Manny’s SLG dropped over 200 points when he returned from the DL last year, his OBP was over .400– but I certainly think it’s safer to bet on Encarnacion improving on his 2010 numbers than it would to bet on Manny or Vlad. Throw in the stuff about Encarnacion’s versatility, and maybe even the fact that you know he doesn’t come in feeling entitled to play every day, and perhaps it makes sense. At least, that’s how I think they might see it. I’d still have loved to see Manny, personally, but I can’t go as far as calling it a mistake.
Richard Stoeten. I keep hearing the Jays paid the Angels $5 Million in the Veron Wells trade but A.A. doesn’t admit to it. When will the 100% TRUTH come out on this? Doesn’t the commissioner’s office release that type of info or doesn’t it show up somewhere?
Scott Ross, Greenwood
The 100% TRUTH is that I couldn’t possibly give a fuck, and I’m not going to dignify this question by looking up whether or not it’s ever going to show up somewhere. The 100% TRUTH is, it doesn’t make a goddamn difference either way. The 100% TRUTH is, if you’re going to use all-caps with regard to this, like you’re demanding answers to some vital piece of information that the club is conspiring to suppress, you have a little too much fucking time on your hands.
Richard Stoeten. I enjoy your blogs. I also am a big fan of AA. Last summer, I bailed from Toronto and the G20. The Jays gave up their home series with Philly by having it at their park. Was any thought given to having the series in Montreal? If not, why not? It would make sense given that they have good fans in Montreal and the PR would be terrific. I think the Jays missed a great opportunity there.
Warren Viegas, Toronto
Warren, among fans Montreal was a thought that was out there– as was moving the series to Buffalo, or a number of other sites. All those ideas were more romantic than they were practical. The Big O, for example, would have needed some work before being ready for baseball again– and that costs money. Having the series in Philadelphia not only didn’t incur additional costs, the Jays managed to get a cut of those hefty gate receipts. Yes, maybe it was short-sighted from a business perspective, but I don’t know… it wouldn’t have looked good to have them try Montreal and play to Expos-like crowds either. They played it safe, the Phillies made some extra coin, and MLB agreed to do their best to ensure the Phils would come here in 2011– which they will, during Canada Day weekend– so I think it worked out about as well as we could have hoped.
Q. Describing Chad Jenkins as potential trade bait got me thinking. Two and a half questions:
1. Which Jays prospects would you not trade under pretty much any circumstances and which ones would you say you’d be willing to trade?
2. When will we see Anthony Gose and looking back, do you like the trade of Gose for Wallace?
Marc Oliver, Toronto
Marc, it’s a cliche, but there really aren’t any prospects I’d ever even consider labelling untouchable. I mean, wouldn’t you trade Kyle Drabek for Albert Pujols? (OK, actually, given Albert’s contract situation, maybe you wouldn’t, but you know what I mean.) Obviously I’d be really reluctant to give up the most highly regarded ones, but they could be had with the right return.
The Gose-Wallace question is the more interesting one. By most accounts Gose is still really, really raw at the plate. Keith Law spoke about him on the Fan 590 last week and said that he plays a terrific centerfield already, but at the very least he’ll need to bring either his contact rate or his walk rate up considerably. The upside is still there, but he’s got a long way to go with the bat.
Wallace, though he’ll be competing for a starting role on the Astros, is no sure thing either. For one, Houston has made it clear that they could stick Carlos Lee at first base if Wallace struggles. His tepid .615 OPS in the majors would be cause for more concern if it hadn’t been over a small sample of 159 plate appearances, but there are still those who wonder about his power, his walks, and his strikeouts. I’ve even heard, though I forget where exactly, that some wonder if his giant legs and hips are just too bulky for him to properly rotate when swinging. Of course, it’s not like they appeared overnight, and he’s been a highly regarded prospect for a long time, so I don’t really know what to make of it, and I don’t think anybody else does either.
I do still see the Jays’ perspective on the deal, of course. All along I imagine they suspected that Adam Lind would be an option at first base– DH is a much easier position to fill via free agency, so it makes sense that the still-young Lind, a first baseman in college, would try it, and this has been rumbled about since way back in September 2008, if not earlier– and if they saw Wallace as ultimately more of an Overbay-like “doubles power” kind of hitter, which some do, it’s understandable that they determined he wasn’t in their long term plans, and it seemed reasonable to swing for the fences on a potential impact centerfielder.
Will fans be so understanding if Wallace nails it in Houston and Gose never amounts to anything? I doubt it– nor should they. And that’s an aspect of AA’s trade-happy style we seem to love so much that we’re one day going to have to deal with. Eventually one of these deals is going to blow up in his face– it’s just the nature of the business– and its going to start to erode the goodwill he’s built among fans. That’s no reason for the front office to not do a trade they think makes the club better, but still… it’s gonna happen. And I’m not saying I don’t like the deal, per se– the jury is still way out– but, as long as whatever the fuck it is that keeps souring organizations Wallace remains a mystery, I think there’s a reasonable-to-OK chance this winds up AA’s first big misfire.
Richard Stoeten: A question. Why not leave E.E. at third base? I know he makes errors on routine plays but we have also seen him make very difficult plays as well. There still are some capable free agent D.H.’s out there (how about Vladimir Guerrero?) that the Jays could acquire.
Marv Rose, Toronto
Vlad is off the market now, but you make a good point, actually. I understand the Jays not wanting to go with an infield that includes a very green Adam Lind at first, a poor defensive catcher in JP Arencibia, and our old friend E5. I also understand that the 95 games he played last year doesn’t make for a great sample size when considering defensive metrics, but it sure looks like Encarnacion was a much improved player last year. His Total Zone rating of -1 destroyed the -8 he put up in 2009, and his UZR of -1.5 was far better than his career norm. Granted, that still makes him below average in the field, but he hits well enough to compensate for it.
Honestly, I’d say that I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Edwin play some third once the club gets a little more comfortable with Lind’s ability to handle first, but perhaps the club will try to avoid reminding fans that they had a reasonably capable 3B on the roster all along, which could have allowed them to do exactly what you suggest. Plus, in that scenario, who’s the designated hitter?
Fun fact: the Elias rankings, which determine whether a free agent is Type-A or Type-B, separate players by position, with the free agents among the top 20% of all players at their position being Type-A, and players in the 21-40 percent range being Type-B. A player’s “position” for the purposes of the rankings is where he’s played the most over the last two seasons. Encarnacion played all of his games at third last year, so– if I understand this all correctly– if they keep him from playing over 95 games at any one position next year, Elias will have him in the 2B-3B-SS pool, which should make it easier for him to attain Type-B status than if he was in the 1B-OF-DH group– and don’t think that’s not exactly what they intend to do.
Q. Probably been asked this already, but after Hawk, will there be another Expos cap in Cooperstown? Rock? Vlad? Walker? Pedro?
jonah_n Jonah N, via Twitter
It’s an interesting question, Jonah, because you have to wonder how keen MLB and the Hall are on bringing up the whole Expos debacle more than necessary. That said, I feel confident in saying that there will definitely be another Expos cap in Cooperstown. Tim Raines has seen his percentage of the vote jump by over 7% each of the last two years, and while he was only at 37.5% in the last round of voting, the argument for him is just so goddamned compelling to anyone with a lick of fucking sense in their head that I truly believe he’ll get there, especially as more progressive writers start to hit the 10 year mark in the BBWAA, which is when they begin to get get ballots.
Walker is pretty borderline to even get in– especially because of the Coors effect– but if he does, his best years were in Colorado and he played there longer, so I don’t think he wears an Expos cap. Pedro is even more clearly not going in as an Expo– only one of his best six seasons was in Montreal.
The real curious one will be Guererro. He wasn’t yet in Anaheim when the Angels won the World Series, so they don’t have that going for them– though being the key cog on playoff teams there might help. He played more games in Montreal (1004 to 846), more seasons (six full plus parts of two more, compared to just six in Anaheim), and he had more home runs, hits, and a better OPS and OPS+ in Montreal. He won an MVP with the Angels, which might tip the balance, but if it were up to me he’d definitely go in as an Expo, though it’s hardly as clear cut as Raines.
Richard Stoeten, I was wondering if you have heard anything about how many games are going to be broadcast on Sportsnet One?
Shawn Stirling, Burlington
Hey Shawn, no clue yet how many games the fucking greedheads at Rogers are going to use to blackmail Jays fans into subscribing to their shitty and completely unnecessary home of poker reruns, but if the number is more than zero, it’ll be too fucking many. Cogeco has picked up Sportsnet One, for those who want to pay for it, so I guess that’s a good thing, but I’m sure there will be a number of times this year when fans will be seething over this shit.
But hey, let’s give Rogers a break here, at least they’re not trying to pretend the Jays are anything but a pawn in their little “let’s become the most gigantic grotesque hated ubiquitous corporate fucking behemoth possible” game.