I must admit, I felt kinda bad when I teased about dipping into the ol’ Griff Bag last week, and then didn’t follow through. So this time, I decided to get started on it early, and keep plugging away at this tortuously-long edition until I was done. So here we go with another hijacking of Richard Griffin’s mail bag from the Toronto Star.
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s 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 want to get an understanding of the McGowan’s contract. Kudos to him for showing such determination and “no quit” attitude. Did AA sign him so that he wouldn’t possibly botch or pull a Ricciardi like losing Chris Carpenter? Also, with the guaranteed contract can he still be sent down (options)? That’s what I really want to know. When and if Dustin makes his first start this season I’ll be there to give him a standing O!
Kam H, Richmond Hill
The McGowan contract is certainly not indefensible, but it’s more than a little bit odd– even at such a low figure– that the club chose to extend a player who has experienced so many injuries, and hasn’t yet given any indication that his body can hold up to the rigors of pitching every fifth day. He threw only 21 not-great innings in the Majors last year, and 35.1 between Dunedin and New Hampshire, and why they felt that, plus what they saw this spring, was enough– especially with the deal being finalized after he sustained an injury that we now are hearing will keep him out until May– to justify a contract like this, I don’t know.
Fans seem to love the deal, because they want to believe in McGowan’s great comeback story, and because of all sorts of absurd, quaint notions about rewarding his determination– as though the $1.97-million he made from 2008 to 2012 wouldn’t have done that– or making a statement to players and agents around the league that the Jays take care of their own, not grasping that the other side of such a statement– that the club willfully mismanages resources for the sake of being nice– isn’t quite so attractive.
Again, though, it’s a tiny portion of the budget, and it’s not like there isn’t a chance that the deal works out well for the club, it’s just that that chance could have been far better gauged, in my view, with data accumulated as McGowan’s 2012 season progressed. And I would have been fine with the club paying more if he had shown he could stay healthy and perform.
That said, it’s potentially money that, in one view, would have otherwise been unused thanks to the spending limits on draft picks and international free agents in the league’s news collective bargaining agreement with the players, so it’s hard to get too worked up about– y’know, unless people start twisting themselves in knots trying to escape the fact that if the Orioles had done a deal like this we’d be pissing ourselves laughing at them over it. Then it’s real easy.
McGowan is out of options, and would have to pass through waivers to be sent down, FYI.
Why has there been no movement on MLB Network coming to Canada? It would be such a benefit to the popularity of both MLB and the Blue Jays here in Canada… and would be especially great for those of us who don’t want to sit through 25 minutes of hockey coverage to see a few minutes of baseball highlights on the major sports networks. I know there are CRTC regulations to consider, but the NFL Network has been able to make its way here. When will they show us baseball fans the same respect?
Ian Murray, Toronto
Rogers has the rights to put the MLB Network on air, but they either don’t want to, or there’s some kind of issue with shoehorning can-con into it. I’m not a cable TV person, so I really haven’t bothered thinking about it more than that. You can get highlights on the internet now, I’ve heard.
Should we be worried about Colby Rasmus’ spring? BTW, I can’t help but notice a change in your optimism. You know it’s just spring training, but the kid in you seems to think this team may just compete!
Ryan B., Toronto
Q-If Colby Rasmus continues this spring as he did last year, will he be the Jays’ centre fielder for the whole season? Would Anthony Gose be ready to replace him?
Tom Lurvey, Winnipeg
Rasmus will be given a shit-tonne of rope, as he absolutely, unequivocally should. For shit sakes, Adam Lind has gotten away with being terrible for two seasons and fans are ready to Rasmus out of town after a couple listless months. I don’t know for a fact that he’ll be fine, obviously, but the odds are still in his favour, given what he was able to do at age 23 in 2010. Even if he’s the same guy he was pre-trade last year, and he’ll be providing above average production for a CF.
I can’t wait for Gose either, but by all reports there’s still a lot of refinement needed there– with his two strike approach, in particular. He sounds exciting as fuck, but he’s still raw, and I can’t imagine him being up before the All-Star break, even if Rasmus is all kinds of awful.
Q-What year did the Blue Jays have their last winning Grapefruit League season? Please tell me it was in the early 90′s, if you catch my drift.
Ronnie Lucas, Belleville
Hope this isn’t a dumb question but I’ll ask it anyway does the current spring training record mean for the Jays with respect to the regular season? Are they peaking early or is this a good thing and what are the benefits? I asked my buddies the question, it has us all scratching our heads.
Alex Glowach, St. Albert
Spring Training records mean next-to-nothing. I can’t quite say “nothing”– there have been a couple interesting blog posts this spring exploring the topic, coming to the conclusion, as far as I recall, that there’s a minimal correlation (good teams do tend to win games, exhibition or otherwise)– but… it’s meaningless. Forget it.
Q-Long time reader, and I will throw a few short thoughts to you.
If Lind isn’t the guy at first, why not move one of the two catchers over a la Delgado, then you wouldn’t have to lose either and both can become integral parts.
Adeiny should get a look with the big club if Johnson stumbles in April, let him have a month and see if there is anything he can adjust in June in Vegas.
Good to limit the innings of the kids in the minors so that they have bullets, will they do this for Kyle as well?
Snider or Thames? Who will be a Jay in 2013 if you only keep one.
Ian Serota, Thornhill
Oh for crying out Jesus. There is absolutely no way that Hechavarria, who has never shown he can hit his way out of a paper bag, should be up any time soon, and Johnson should have infinitely more rope than the end of April– look at his numbers from 2007, 2008 and 2010. He’s a nice hitter.
As for moving a catcher to first base, I hear a lot of this, and it’s ridiculous. JP Arencibia has nice power, and over time should cut down on his strikeouts and improve his walk rate, but he just has such a long way to go to even be an average first baseman– or a DH, with Edwin Encarnacion moving to first– that it just isn’t a realistic possibility.
The median wOBA among regulars at both positions last year was .350. Arencibia’s .309 would have ranked him ahead of only Hideki Matsui at DH, and Aubrey Huff and Juan Rivera at first base. The decent guys at those positions are 50- and 60-points of wOBA ahead of him or more.
The Jays could do better on the field, and they could better manage the asset that is Arencibia by trading him. The offensive bar is set far lower for catchers, and a guy with his bat, and the years of team control left, would be useful to a lot of teams.
Just got back from Tampa after spending 4 days there watching the Jays, getting some sun and the occasional adult beverage (the 99 cent beers at the Tilted Kilt is no joke). Even saw you a couple times and was thinking I should say hi, but decided against it. Hard to believe someone has to work in that stadium when it is so amazing just to be a fan.
Is Rasmus going to pick it up? He seemed to be the only guy who wasn’t hitting the ball the past 4 days, and as we sat there and watched him he reminded us of Rios, seems like he has potential, but has defintiely not put it together. Any chance he flames out this year and the team makes a move, to either Gose or someone else to fill the gap? Love your writing, thanks,
Bryan Chandler, Ottawa
Rasmus has looked shitty, yes. It’s Spring Training. It’s nothing to worry about. Jesus.
And holy shit, the beers in Florida. I was in Daytona like a year ago and stumbled upon a bar whose Thursday night special was Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys for 75 cents. SEVENTY FIVE CENTS! The mind boggles.
Love the blog! Two questions. First, I loved the way Snider and Thames performed this spring, and I’m sure the brass was too. Everyday I check the papers thinking that I am going to see one of them traded. I’m even more worried that it will be Snider. Is one of these guys trade bait right now? Second, I also love the McGowan signing, but is this more of a reward for the work he has put in during comeback, or his he really poised to be a contributer over the next couple of years?
Colin W, Ottawa
I don’t think Snider is going to get traded while his value is so low, so I wouldn’t worry about that. The Jays seem to want to keep him, and stick him in Vegas working on the mechanical adjustments he made this spring, waiting for an opportunity.
What’s to “worry” about, at this point, anyway, really?
As for McGowan’s deal, I think it’s about a lot of things: projecting a certain image to their players, spending a little money to lock up a potentially valuable asset who could walk at the end of this year, and avoiding the distraction that came with it. Personally, I think it’s not tremendously likely that he becomes a major contributor to the club, but I suppose if he was a free agent right now, and they took a flier on him at $3-million, it would be hard to complain. The only thing that irks me about the deal is the fact that they really didn’t need to do it when they did. Oh well…
Shit, maybe the Jays should offer the same extension to Snider– y’know, so they don’t get Brandon Phillips’d.
I like your blog and columns, and, like you, I’m a former Expos fan. I’ll keep them in my heart for quite a bit still, I’m sure. I’m wondering about the somewhat bizarre trend in your columns and blog posts lately of avoiding to name the Dunedin stadium by its current name at any cost (the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium I think it’s called now).
Do you have a specific gripe about the current sponsor? Are you going to start naming Rogers Centre the “stadium formerly known as Skydome”? Let’s see how long it will take Rogers to get nasty with you after trying that kind of stunt a couple of times.
Patrice Maltais, Scarborough
It’s nice to have the vicarious thrill of hearing all Spring Training when we can’t make it to Florida. Thanks for the rich commentary. But I’ll bite on one issue: What’s the deal with all of the mentions of “the stadium formerly known as Grant Field”? Is this your personal reference to losing out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes?
Bryan Willis, Vancouver
Why do you keep mentioning the Jays are playing in a stadium formerly known as Dunedin Stadium? It is akin mentioning the stadium formerly known as the Skydome. Thanks,
Martin Hugh, Toronto
OK, I’ll fess up. I had to read Griff’s answer on this one, because… I have no idea why he was doing this. He explains it better than I could, so you probably should read it too.
“Who knew that my daily spring tribute to ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’ would cause such consternation among readers,” he begins by saying– and I can totally relate. The number of pea brains who came out of the woodwork to protest my frequent use of “So… there’s that” this winter was absolutely shocking.
Something that has bothered me for months is people, some reporters included, talking about Blue Jay starting pitching depth.
While I will concede maybe by 2014 I see the type of depth I like evolving, let me pose the following to you, I will give you Romero (Cy Young candidate I believe). I will also count Morrow although he sure reminds me of a younger A.J. Burnett at this stage of his career. And I will even say Henderson Alvarez appears to be the real deal but what is the track record of big seasons by 21-year-olds?
However Cecil will not make it through the entire season throwing the way he is and I think the Jays know this. McGowan is a great story but best case scenario is he does well and gets shut down at 150 innings and worst case is he blows his arm out…..sadly this can’t be ruled out.
Who is next in line after these two? Kyle Drabek still seems to be struggling with control and I am not even counting mentally. Drew Hutchinson is young and all seem to agree he needs more seasoning?
As much as I love this team I just can’t consider them a serious playoff contender and don’t understand why they were so steadfast that they needed to acquire a number 2 quality starter when frankly I would have been happy acquiring a guaranteed “innings eater” with middle of the road ability?
Mike Davies, Hespeler
Who has been talking about the club’s pitching depth and what gave you the idea that anybody should consider them a serious playoff contender?
Drabek, I’ll have you know, has been throwing well– in terms of mechanics, and controlling his emotions. And there are guys who’ll be ready to help– Hutchison, McGuire, Jenkins, Carreno– in a couple months or so, if needed, if not sooner. There are quality arms throughout the system, and they could patch together a decent rotation this year, but no, I wouldn’t say they have great depth at the MLB level– Aaron Laffey might get a look, for fuck sakes!– and I don’t know where you would have been hearing that.
Big fan of your work and I was wondering If I am the only Jays fan who wants to see Rajai Davis get the bulk of playing time this year over Colby Rasmus.
My only concern here is fielding because we know Rasmus is the much better option defensively. My point is we already have what Rasmus can give us on the team but nobody else offers what Davis has in terms of changing a game with his speed.Also he is a career .274 hitter. I do believe and had an injury-plagued down year last year but also hit .280 and over .300 the previous two seasons in Oakland… I’ll admit there is just something about Rasmus I don’t like. I agree that it was worth taking a chance on him with the trade where we gave up very little and will gladly eat my words if he lives up to his potential but how long of a leash will he get this season because he was absolutely brutal last year even before he hurt his wrist or hand or whatever. Maybe I’m way out to left field on this one you get to see the guys in Spring Training so what are your thoughts…
Chris McMillan, Marsvilles
I’m not even reading this piece of shit beyond your first sentence. Jesus Christ on a crotch, what is wrong with people?
Now, if you want to platoon Davis with Thames, I’m all ears.
I have had just about enough of Adam Lind, especially against left-handed pitching. Is there any indication that if his hitting is not improved by the all-star break that we will see David Cooper, Mike McDade, or Yan Gomes in that position.
Craig Armstrong, Toronto
Yan Gomes? Um… no. Impressive spring, but no. And no, I don’t think Cooper or McDade are Major League first basemen, like… ever. I think Lind’s 2009 was so good that they won’t even take a shot on those guys– Lind’s ceiling is still far higher.
If it’s really an issue, they’ll look outside the organization, I suspect.
I just finished reading your Q&A from Feb 23 and would like to respond to one of your comments. You had respond to a listener at the time that Encarnacion should be the full-time DH and nothing but that beg to disagree with you but have you ever looked at his career statistics? They are horrid! Have a look at his career statistics from BaseballReference.com and you will see a player who has never had more than 3 good months out of six each year during his 7 years in the Majors. If he was a pitcher I would consider him to be the Josh Towers or Jo-Jo Reyes from the world of DH’s or crap infielders. Please take the time and look then explain to me why you would consider him for something full-time? FYI yes it is friggin cold here in the really far south. I get to have a 20 month straight of winter….Fun Wow!!
Petr Von Rolt, The South Pole Station.
The South Pole? For real? That’s amazing. Your interpretation of Encarnacion’s stats? Er… less so.
You’re right that Encarnacion has had good stretches and bad ones, but even with the disaster that was the start of his 2011 campaign, he posted the fourth-best wOBA on the Jays, behind Bautista, Escobar and Lawrie. If there are players on this club you want to pick on for not having the resume to be a full-timer, this isn’t exactly the place to start.
In fact, Encarnacion is specifically still with the Jays because he’s never quite put a full season together that lives up to what he can do over the course of those hot-hitting months of which you speak. He’s a cheap asset with a good chance to produce a lot of per-dollar value. That’s the way the Blue Jays have to do business.
The Jays are reluctant to send their best young pitchers to Las Vegas for fear of hurting their confidence because the PCL is such a hitters’ league. However, wouldn’t it make sense to at least send their college grads (e.g. Jenkins and McGuire) to Las Vegas to see if they can handle the pressure? In any case, they better find a new AAA site soon since within a year or two they have far too many good young arms to leave them all at AA .
Bill Reynolds, Toronto
Meh. Triple-A affiliates are more like taxi squads for the big league club at this point anyway. A lot of pitchers will make the jump straight from Double-A to the Majors, as Kyle Drabek and Henderson Alvarez did last year.
Plus, the Jays’ PDC with Vegas is up at the end of the year, and I’m sure they’ll do everything in their power to get the fuck out.
I totally understand the concept of options on players and making sure they are managed properly so talent isn’t needlessly lost.
Where I have trouble with AA on this is when he has those conversations with players and tells them that if they were out of options and fighting for a job, they have the inside track. I think that does a disservice to players with options and also doesn’t motivate the ones without options.
I know that in the real world where you and I work, a strategy like that wouldn’t fly.
Whatever happened to putting the best team you have out there? If a player is out of options and there is no place for him, then trade/cut him so that 1) you have the best team on the field, 2) you make the player who worked the hardest to win the job happy 3) you give the player without options another chance to catch on with another team. Your thoughts?
Mat Saturn, Toronto
You eyes say you understand the concept of asset management, but your letter says you totally don’t.
Putting the best team on the field doesn’t necessarily mean putting the best team on the field on Opening Day and running them out there 162 times. All sorts of considerations need to go into constructing the best team over the long haul– and needlessly giving away talented players who are out of options, instead of demoting marginally better replacements who aren’t, isn’t terribly smart. You’ve often got to think about stuff like service time too, before allowing a player with options left to pass someone without them on the depth chart. It’s not like you can never simply cut bait on a guy, but you have to think long-term.
Me, Adam Lind, and Kelly Johnson have a bet going for who you think has the best shot at winning comeback player of the year this year based on what you’ve seen at spring training. It is me right?
Colby Rasmus, Toronto courtesy of M. Siddall
You haven’t actually looked so hot this spring, Colby, from the reports I’ve been hearing, but that doesn’t mean… y’know… anything.
Personally, I don’t think they should bother giving out a Comeback Player of the Year award when all the person is coming back from is his own shittiness. If I was a betting, man, though– and I am– I’d wager on Johnson being strong out of the gate, with Rasmus warming up a little more slowly and maybe turning in the best season of the three by the end, with Lind getting a free pass on account of some bullshit excuse. And I base that, of course, on absolutely nothing.