Little is happening in the way of news, as clubs have mostly set their sights on the beginning of Spring Training, leaving the winter of wheeling and dealing– or in some cases, not doing a whole goddamn lot– behind them. So, it’s probably a good time to dust off one of the last two Richard Griffin mail bags from the Toronto Star, neither of which of got around to hijacking just yet, and provide a bunch of caustic harangues for our enjoyment. Yes?
As always, I have not read any of his answers.
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!
I am fascinated by the idea that the Rogers Centre’s relatively new turf being replaced with natural grass. In your opinion, how serious was BJ Management and ownership about this? If it did, is the theory that it improves the prospect of getting more seasoned free-agents who are worried about injuries beign aggravated by turf? Does it change the types of players being selected and developed in the minors? Does it change the atmosphere of home games at the Dome?
Dean Germano, Reddin, CA
A quick one: Beeston makes noises about a grass surface at Rogers Centre in the future. As badly as I want this, my gut says there is about 1% chance of it actually happening. This is hardly the first time grass has been mentioned, and probably won’t be the last…and yet the turf ‘lives’ on and on. Am I being too pessimistic?
Tim Anderson, Copenhagen
I think your pessimism is understandable, Tim. But apparently it’s really a thing that that Jays have looked into in a somewhat serious way. There are a couple ways to look at it though: on one hand you could argue that the ugly turf is always going to make the facility look second rate, that it brings down the appeal of the TV product and the brand itself, that it’s a potential injury risk for the Jays’ own players, a deterrent to free agent targets hoping to preserve their health long enough for more paydays, and potentially to homegrown players the club wants to re-sign as well. On the other hand, having a winning ballclub would mitigate everybody’s problems with the turf significantly.
I think it would be a tremendous signal of their seriousness about rebuilding the club if Rogers invested in grass, and it would help the Jays because it precisely addresses a concern of the types of free agents they’re realistically going to be in the market for– the older, complementary players who won’t require deals of more than five years, i.e. the Carlos Beltrans (or the Paul Molitors and Dave Winfields) of the world. There are lots of tremendous reasons to do it, but by no means is it a necessary expenditure, so I’m pretty skeptical too. That said, given the way that the Jays subsidize Sportsnet, and how little, in the grand scheme, non-Jays events contribute to Rogers’ bottom line, it sure as fuck wouldn’t kill them to just give the team the building they bought for a song and let them convert it to a baseball-only facility.
So based on that Monday night event at the Rogers Centre, it’s very clear that the Jays will NEVER ever want or be able to sign star free agents or even type A since Beeston doesn’t want to give out a contract of more than 5 years. Are you kidding me? 10 year contracts are ridiculous but the Angels and the Tigers will have a steady fan base for the next 10 years. Since this fact is known to rest MLB and MLBPA (5 year max) none of them would even consider Toronto. Grass or no grass. That’s a shame since I now know that the Jays will be a mediocre team for MANY years to come with the occasional excitement of being only in the race. Your thoughts please?
Kam H., Richmond Hill
You know dick all, is what you know.
That said, the rule is absurd, announcing it publicy as some kind of face-saving PR gimmick is almost as absurd, and if it was Brian Burke so cockily shooting himself in the tit I’d be laughing my balls off at him. Incredibly long contracts are almost always a fools errand and there aren’t a whole lot of them I’d be comfortable with, but intentionally, unnecessarily removing yourself from the conversation when it comes to acquiring game-changing talent? That’s even dumber. Paul Beeston should probably be fired, I’m not even joking.
Y’know, if he’s serious.
Of course, I fully expect that, if the right situation arises in the future, they’ll allow themselves to bend the rule. It’s going to be a lot easier to explain that away than it would have been to explain this year’s inactivity away without some odd philosophical device. Jesus, they might have had to tell the truth!
Q-With baseball salaries so completely outrageous aren’t teams with scant resources like the Jays now nothing more than farm teams for the more affluent franchises. So is this not the real reason that the Jays did not bother to upgrade this offseason?
William Phillips, Belleville
I have trouble finding stats. on minor leaguers, so I may be wrong here but I don’t think Daniel Norris has thrown a pitch in professional baseball yet. It seems to me that it’s a stretch to rank him as a top-20 prospect in the Jays’ system. A bit too much hype? Your thoughts? Still hoping to say “Hi” to you in Dunedin.
Bruce Spurrier, Courtenay
You’re right that a player with less pro experience has had that much less opportunity to fail, but different evaluators use different ways to measure prospects, and while some place a premium on closeness to the Majors, a lot don’t. The idea, I suppose, is that talent is the primary interest of such rankings, and that loading lists with a bunch of guys who are close to MLB, but will top out somewhere between replacement level and league average, doesn’t really serve the purpose of identifying the most talented guys with the highest potential. There’s a lot of room for interpretation, and talent relative to a player’s peers says a whole lot, so I don’t have a problem with a guy like Norris being ranked highly.
Long-distance need for your insight. After all the hoopla about Adeiny Hechavarria, he’s fallen from a top 100 overall to being ranked #16 amongst our own prospect base by mlb.com… even though his Las Vegas numbers offered hope his hitting was coming around… I know these lists are arbitrary and all, but wow. Is the kid a keeper?
Richard Elton, Melbourne, Australia
The knock on Hechavarria was always his bat, and it was a gamble for the Jays to have signed him knowing that, but he is so good with the glove the even getting a little bit of production from his bat could make him a Major League regular, they say, and as is he could at least be a defensive-replacement type backup. That’s not a great return on $10-million, but it’s not quite nothing, either. Especially when we’re talking about a 22-year-old with just over 1000 plate appearances as a pro. There is still time for him to get to where he needs to be to become a productive Major Leaguer, and only time– and especially not stats from Las Vegas– will tell. Would be hard to bet on him at this point, but it’s not difficult to understand taking the risk when having just an average bat would have made him practically a star at short.
I’m a long time Blue Jays fan in the UK and I was wondering about AA’s ‘disappointing’ offseason so far. As fans, we want to know the details of the organization’s game plan, but it’s not in the organization’s interest to broadcast every last detail for everyone to read about, so we have to accept some things will remain hidden until the time is right. The Jays made an unsuccessful bid for Darvish which would have kick-started the Jays’ bid for the 2012 post-season, but this wasn’t to be. Do you think that the relative silence from AA this offseason could be due to a bid for Votto next offseason, with the aim of success in 2013?
Paul B., Bristol, England
I think that the Jays, like any team, have to be salivating over the possibility of Joey Votto hitting the market– he doesn’t hit free agency until after 2013, it should be pointed out– but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually naive enough to make his acquisition one of the main planks of their grand plan. There are just too many variables between now and whenever he becomes available– if he even does!– for a club to be too serious about such a thing. Maybe it’s in the back of their minds– it should be– but I wouldn’t read into it any more than that. The Jays are too smart.
Q-I beg to differ from all the doom and gloom out there that 2012 is going to be a lost season. With Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow continuing to mature as starting pitchers, I am also expecting Brett Cecil to rebound from his poor record last year. With Dustin McGowan and whoever else who make up the 4th and 5th starter, I do not think it will be too far-fetched to think that the starters alone can win 4 or 5 more games than last year. When you consider the much improved bullpen and continued even marginal improvement of Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson, they should be able to win another 4 or 5 games, which will push them close to 90 wins and contender territory. The above, of course, is premised on not too many serious injuries to the key players. Mark my words, the Blue Jays will contend this year, particularly if they are still in the mix at the trade deadline so AA can pull off a trade for another bat or a blue chip starter.
Harry Ng, Qatar
I don’t think you’re wrong that the Jays can be a lot better this year than people are giving them credit for, but I don’t see how “close to 90 wins” makes them better than a Yankees team that won 97 and improved its rotation, a Rays team that won 91 and will get full years of Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings, and probably won’t lose Evan Longoria for 30 games again, or a 90-win Boston team that played at a 99-win pace for five months and had 83 wins by September first. A lot would have to go right, and while it’s not impossible, this just isn’t the kind of division where “not impossible” flies.
Q-Trade Proposal: Roy Halladay for Anthony Gose, Travis D’Arnaud, and Kyle Drabek…which GM says no? This trade actually make sense again for both teams. The Jays need a veteran #1 starter to anchor their staff, and the aging Phillies badly need an injection of youth to a team that may be out of it in two more years. What do you think?
Darren Low, Toronto
How. The fuck. Does this make any goddamn sense for a Phillies-team in win-now mode?
Ask again in two years.
Q-Travis Snider is an enigma, but exactly the guy AA would be trying to trade for. I say you play him every day during spring training and give him at least three at-bats. If his swing mechanics are not correct, you’ll be able to evaluate him and get rid of him before the end of spring training without burning his one remaining option. I think the Jays should give him the opportunity to play the entire season regardless. You’d be trading him at his lowest point right now and quite frankly the only way he maximizes overall value to the Jays is if he is on the Jays. If he can’t make it this year then we all know it, and he’ll be worthless anyways. I don’t like how the Jays use him as a human yo-yo and continually send him down as soon he starts to struggle.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
He has an option left, so it’s next year when he has to either make the MLB club or be exposed to waivers. I think his potential is/was so great that there’s not a whole lot of sense trading him for nothing. Realistically, the Jays aren’t likely to let him take Thames’ job based on his performance against the kids and shitballers and veterans working on one pitch who populate the Grapefruit League, so they’ll send him to Vegas, let him get himself straight, wait for an opportunity, and when the time comes, hopefully finally fucking grab the bull by the horns. It’s probably for the best.
Q-When will the Jays retire Carlos Delgado’s number?
Sean Martin, Toronto
It’s getting to be about that time, isn’t it? I’d love to see Carlos come back and be treated like the franchise icon he really was.
Love the blog. But I disagree with your recent criticism of AA. When he took over from Riccardi, AA said something like: we’re going to rebuild, take the time to do it right and resist pressure to make a big move before the organization is ready. It’s the same way Pat Gillick built the team, the same way Montreal competed all those years. The Jays’ farm system is full of potential stars still one, two or three years away. Is it really worth it to trade them now, only to still be mired in mediocrity three years from now? I want the Jays to compete every year, not mortgage the future again to make a run that falls short. You don’t do that by trading your prospects for players. And what’s the sense of paying a free agent $22M a year to help you finish third?
As a longtime Maple Leafs fan, I can tell you I’ve been waiting for a GM to come in and actually build the organization from the bottom up, rather than trade 1st rounders for stars past their prime. Waiting two or three more years is nothing compared to the lows Leafs fans have endured since 1977. I would hate to see AA bow to media and fan pressure, make moves under these unfavourable circumstances, only to be criticized later by those who pressured him into dealing. Sometimes not making deals is the better move. Remember how happy we were when JP re-signed Vernon Wells? I say let AA keep playing the long game. Once the farm system begins to produce stars on a regular basis, that’s when you blow $200M on a superstar free agent. And if it looks like trading Bautista makes more sense, then do it. Maybe for a top-of-the-rotation starter. Some fans will melt away, but strong TV ratings mean the Jays will go on. And once they start competing, even if it takes another three years, fans will come back to the park. Especially if they bring in real grass. About time!
Darren MacDonald, Sudbury
The fan base seems to be souring on the Jays’ offseason moves, but with the doors of spring training swinging open soon I think there is room for some optimism. The biggest hole from last season was filled (8th and 9th inning relief) and the team returns a pretty good offensive lineup. I know everyone would love another top-end arm to go with Romero and Morrow but I am glad AA didn’t overpay for a marginal guy like Gio Gonzalez or Matt Latos. Am I being too sunny or should the Jays be significantly better overall this season?
Ryan Hanchett, Goldsboro, NC
I wouldn’t call Mat Latos “marginal,” but otherwise I can’t disagree. The Jays will be a much better club in 2012 than they were in 2011– even if that’s not necessarily ultimately reflected in their record (yes, cock cheese, that’s possible). Full years of Lawrie, Rasmus and Johnson will help the offense, as will the possibility that Encarnacion turned the corner once they took his glove away, and the fact that Snider and Thames can be interchanged as their productivity ebbs and flows. A similar thing should happen on the pitching side as well– no 30 starts to Jo-Jo Reyes and a struggling Drabek. There will be lots of guys at the back end of the rotation who can step up and give it a try until they pitch their way out of the job, and I really felt good about how Morrow ended they year too. The bullpen improvements go without saying.
I’m not suggesting it’s going to be enough to make the Jays contenders this year, but they have enough talent to get by when some of their players struggle, and to be able to tinker with things until they find the right mix. It could wind up working really well, and if they make it to the All-Star break in good shape, they certainly have the resources to improve the club from there on the trade market. Either way, it’s going to be an interesting, instructive year, with only better things to come.