I’m surprised his readers found anything to talk about this week *COUGH* but apparently they did, because here we’ve got yet another Griff Bag– aka Richard Griffin’s reader mail bag from over at the Toronto Star. So… commence hijacking!
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!
A Toronto sports fan who is excited for the new baseball season to start. Looking for your opinion around the catching position for the Jays, assuming Alex has yet to do anything by the time you read this, I wonder which combo will give the Jays the best chance of contending? While Travis D’Arnaud has lots of upside, he has zero experience in the big leagues, catcher is such an important role for a team, I wonder if trading J.P. Arencibia gives the Jays the best chance to compete.
Thank you for your time.
Ivan Yung, Mississauga
I run into this sentiment a lot, and I still don’t fully understand why people want to give so much credit to Arencibia for gaining experience over two seasons. Sure, it’s not that there isn’t value in knowing a club’s pitchers, or being a catcher who has gone through the Major League wringer a couple of times already, but playing the “experience” card here is, in my view, mostly a way to sidestep some crucial questions about his bat and defence.
And it’s not a particularly compelling way to sidestep those questions either. Two fifths of the Jays’ rotation next year will be new. Because of injuries to both, Arencibia has only caught J.A. Happ for three innings. He’s also been limited to only about a month working with Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln, Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos, and hasn’t caught Esmil Rogers at all. So if you think that aspect of the experience factor matters above all else, it’s probably time to think again.
Sure, Arencibia’s weak defence has improved steadily with experience, but many already view Travis d’Arnaud as a plus defender behind the plate (scouting reports seem somewhat divided on that), and his bat has certainly looked better than JP’s if you compare the numbers from their age 22 seasons at Double-A New Hampshire, and at 23 in Las Vegas. Arencibia had his offensive breakout when repeating Triple-A, yet d’Arnaud, a year younger and seeing the level for the first time, had a better wOBA in his injury-shortened 2012.
There are concerns on d’Arnaud, to be sure– the injuries, a lack of walks, a lot of strikeouts, and perhaps also a pair of really high BABIP numbers over the past two seasons– but it’s not like the bar has been set terribly high. And while the Jays’ recent moves may allow them the luxury of keeping both, letting d’Arnaud force the club’s hand when ready– and I don’t think anyone would tell you that, in a vacuum, that isn’t the ideal setup– the roster still has holes to be filled. If they decide a catcher needs to be dealt to do so, when push comes to shove, I desperately want it to be Arencibia on the move.
Experience be damned. Small hit while d’Arnaud gets his feet wet be damned. Concerns about d’Arnaud’s myraid unconnected injuries be damned. He’s the all-around talent.
Q. Confession of a fair-weather fan. Isn’t that what they call you when you lose daily interest in your team after they stop winning? Is this not too harsh if a generation goes by before your team shows any potential to be relevant late into a season? I don’t mean winning a pennant or World Series, or division title or one of . . . how many wild card spots now on hand. I mean challenging in a meaningful way for any postseason entertainment throughout a September stretch run.
Pat Gillick’s Blue Jay teams showed the formula. It wasn’t complicated, was it? Spending the most gives your team the most chances. The Jays did that (in the early ’90s). They even perfected the rent to buy system that brought in key talent for stretch drives like Rickey Henderson, David Cone and others. It did not win us a lot of friends but as locals what did we care? It was not our money.
Labatt was a heck of an owner and what happened next could not be blamed on the brewery. They were bought out by a Belgian brewery who did not share Labatt’s commitment in the longterm benefits of public relations through professional team governance. But the sale to Rogers seemed like a perfect fit. They owned a sports network and already held the discretionary entertainment resources of an entire nation. Who has a TV/cable bill that is less than $200 a month?
Surely an age spoiler, but I remember when the cost of TV was the $500 you paid for your RCA 26-inch colour television. If we didn’t have the left over scratch to actually attend a game, at least we could watch them in the prison of our home entertainment centre. But Rogers failed to be that guy. They sat on their hands for a decade and other than renaming the Sky Dome after themselves, did little to alter the lengthy morass Jay ambition became. If the team was not interested in competing, why should fans care. . . and they didn’t.
But this changed last Tuesday. Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle may turn out to be nothing more promising than innings eaters. But every team needs them. No one needs that more than the Blue Jays, if you will recall last year, and the one before that, and the one . . . you get the idea. Jose Reyes will remind us of the glory days in middle infield and whether the others make significant contributions is rather beside the point. The owners at long last have gone all in, and that is already meaningful to this fan, and surely others who have been waiting for the better part of two decades for the return of fair weather. And this literally just in, that the Jays just signed Melky Cabrera . . . as I was saying. Hey if money is no object suddenly why not buy back Doc to repay him for 10 years of loyalty.
Bill Barlow, Toronto
Well, Bill, I’m glad you’re excited. And you’re absolutely right that Rogers didn’t do right by this club for far too long. But first, let’s please stop the Halladay nonsense. Cut the cord already– though if he doesn’t get extended and makes it to free agency next year, sure, make a run at him and see if he cares as much about a reunion as the fan base does.
Secondly, Pat Gillick and Labatt didn’t just materialize out of thin air in the late 80s. Gillick’s first club to crack .500 came in the seventh season of Jays baseball, and they didn’t make the playoffs until season nine. The clubs of his that lost in the ALCS in 1985, ’89 and ’91 were largely homegrown and trade-built, running very average payrolls (though there was not nearly the vast disparity then that there is now) that were largely tied to revenue and attendance.
We saw JP Ricciardi’s house of cards fall apart as he wasn’t able to turn money into results, and shit, while nobody would trade ’92 and ’93 for the world, it’s not difficult to argue that some of the problems of the years that followed were due to the large payrolls the club built then. So the formula you’re espousing isn’t nearly so simple– there’s a reason that, until this point, Alex Anthopoulos has run the club much closer to Tampa’s model than what you’re suggesting.
It can absolutely work, and spending big can fail, but I can’t disagree with you that it’s immeasurably nice to finally be giving the other path a try. That’s for sure.
I was just wondering that with the Argos lease up after this CFL season, will the Blue Jays management decide to install a dirt infield at the Rogers Centre? What do you think is the likelihood of a decision like this? With this mega-trade complete soon I’m concerned whether Reyes is satisfied with playing on turf, having battled leg injuries in the past, do you see this as a potential problem for the Blue Jays in the years to come?
There are two sides of this coin, actually, as I’ve heard it pointed out that it could also be an asset to the club to keep the fast-moving infield carpet in the hope of giving guys like Reyes and Melky Cabrera a better chance of slapping singles past opposing defenders. But certainly a dirt infield would look better, and might help out a guy like Reyes– though I haven’t heard anything resembling a complaint from his direction, in the reports that I’ve been watching.
Of course, a full, natural playing surface is the ideal. Likelihood? We’re still looking at a couple of seasons at the absolute earliest, if it’s even possible at all. It sure got easier with the marriage of Rogers and MLSE, as it’s eliminated the competition between Rogers Centre and the ACC when it comes to hosting concerts and other events, which might make a baseball-only more feasible.
As for the Argos, as fun as it is to take cheap shots at them, I don’t wish ill on their club, the CFL, or those who happen to enjoy it. That said, at this point they don’t belong at SkyDome anyway, and if it’s necessary for the Jays to push them out in order to do what’s in the best interest of both organizations, I’m all for it. Where the football team ends up– York University? A refurbished Varsity or Lamport Stadium?– I really don’t care. That’s their problem.
Q. Are Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio both better hitters than Lind??If yes, is Bonafacio as good of an outfielder as Bautista or (Melky)? If yes, then wouldn’t it be better to have EE=DH, Jose or Melky at 1st, Izturis at 2nd, and Bonafacio at RF/LF??? Then we don’t have to see Adam Lind . . .
Breezy Stafford, New Orleans, LA
I’m all for schemes to keep Adam Lind out of the Jays’ lineup– and judging by the curious frankness of recent radio interviews with Mike Wilner and last week’s one with Jeff Blair, I’m getting the sense that maybe he wants out of here as well– but I don’t think that works in reality as well as it maybe does on paper.
For one, the club has invested a lot in Jose Bautista, not just in terms of money, but in making him the face of the franchise, a conduit between the players and front office, and an expected leader in the room. It’s his team, if you will, and if he wants to be in right field– and he does– he’s going to be there. Plus, playing both Bonifacio and Izturis every day drastically limits the versatility which is such a key attribute both players bring.
Frankly, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have Adam Lind as the club’s DH against right-handed pitching– his .343 wOBA against them last year is far from terrible. I’d like to see them go a whole other way at DH, but it seems more likely they’ll simply find a lefty-mashing platoon partner for him, or… maybe even not– it’s not like they won’t hold their own against lefties with Bautista, Encarnacion and Melky. Regardless, I can’t imagine it being the way you suggest.
Having covered the Expos, you know Tim Wallach, you know what kind of person he is. You will not find a better managerial candidate. He knows how to manage, he is a players type manager and one that works well with the front office. He is the best man for this JOB!!
John Mo, Scottsdale, AZ
Um… right. It seems the voices in your head have told you much about this Wallach person.
Just an observation regarding Reyes playing on turf: he’s a shortstop. He’s typically positioned over the dirt portion of the infield. Isn’t the turf-grass comparison overblown???
Mike A, Toronto
Uh… no. Because the Rogers Centre has those tiny little cut-outs that surround only the bases. Pretty sure Reyes doesn’t situate himself directly on top of second.
It’s probably safe to say that my last (post-blockbuster trade) question was premature. The Melky Cabrera signing and the rumour mill indicate loud and clear that AA is not done reworking the lineup. Looking forward to seeing what’s next. Exciting times.??
Matthew McKean, Ottawa
I am a bit puzzled by this huge trade and the positive buzz that it is getting. As much as we all want a winner in Toronto in any sport, I wonder if this move is any different than the Riccardi era moves. Jose Reyes at five years and $96 million would not be lauded as a great free agent deal nor would Mark Buehrle at three years, $48M. Health will be the likely deciding factor. At this point we might as well go for it. Do you think that a combination of Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia plus a high prospect would pry David Price or Jeremy Hellickson from Tampa?
Matt Meisner, St. Catharines
Well sure, Matt, if you want to look at it like a fucking spoilsport. And you’re not wrong that there is significant risk to taking on these deals or that Miami has already reaped the benefit of their backloaded structure. But what happened two weeks ago is so much bigger than just this single deal in a vacuum that I can’t possibly look at it that way.
Rogers has put up the kind of money we always feared might never be there, the Jays have acquired players that they very likely couldn’t have on the free agent market– at least without the kinds of overpays that they’re on the hook for anyway– and the club is now a destination. I don’t think for a second that Melky Cabrera would have so quickly signed here had the Miami trade not have taken place, for example, and I think there is now a much greater possibility of more free agents choosing Toronto both now and in the near future.
It could still blow up in their faces, sure, but not only do they appear to have the resources to make it work– they always have, frankly– they appear willing to actually use them.
Looking back, were there any clues that The Trade was going to happen? i.e., any subtle hints AA dropped, or moves made (or not made); because this came out of nowhere, which is somewhat shocking nowadays.
Brent Shepherd, Victoria, B.C.
It’s my view that far, far too much is made of the myth that the Jays’ silence is total, and any deal in the works will only be heard when it’s completed. Sure, Alex Anthopoulos wants to work in silence, and fears that too much information in the public sphere can take away an edge that he may have in trade talks, but all kinds of stuff that he’s done since assuming the role of GM has not been done entirely in stealth. I wrote about it back in July, in fact.
That said, the deal with the Marlins seemed to come completely out of left field, partly due to AA’s valuing of silence, and I think partly because of the fact that it came together rather quickly. There were no hints of this one that I heard of, prior to its particulars going public (which, it should be noted, happened several days before the deal was made official).
Q. Do you think AA would talk to Jose Bautista about who to hire as manager? Or at least run it by him first?
Ben Smith, Peterborough
It’s not quite a Vin Skarter situation, but I’d suspect that Bautista has some form of input on much of what Anthopoulos does. That’s probably less because AA fears Jose and feels the need to cater to him, though, and more because he genuinely values his opinion. I’m entirely guessing, though.
HERE’S [WHERE GRIFF INCLUDED] A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS THAT ARRIVED JUST BEFORE THE TRADE THAT REFLECTED THE FEELINGS OF FRUSTRATED FANS SINCE THE SEASON ENDED.
Q. Great blog
Richard Stoeten — I really enjoy it. Would love to see you team up with Doug Smith, during summer months, so we could get daily tidbits, in addition to your regular coverage.??
My question is with respect to all of the bullpen signings — do you see this as a strategy by AA as a selling point to potential free agent starters? i.e. sign with us and you’ll have one of the best/deepest bullpens protecting your back?
David Moon, Toronto
It’s an interesting thought, but no, I don’t see it as that at all. Building a strong bullpen has value in and of itself.
As much as I approve of the Blue Jays/Marlins deal, there’s something that we’re forgetting in all of this. The Jays could have acquired two of the three big-name players, Reyes and Buehrle, last off-season for nothing more than the money they will now pay them anyway. Had Anthopoulos picked up Reyes last off-season, he could have acquired the two Marlins pitchers without having to give up so much young talent. He could then have used these prospects to acquire other established players. Was this deal a panic move in response to growing criticism from the fan base? And is this deal an indication that the Blue Jays are so far off the radar for free agents that unless the Blue Jays go out and trade for talent, players will simply not sign here?
I’d shit all over you for the first part of your question, Christian, but from your last line, it’s obvious that you grasp understand why the Jays felt it was necessary to actually trade for these players. Ask Carlos Beltran: top tier guys who could essentially write their own ticket were simply not going to sign on to play here as long as the situation was hopeless. It worked for a short while during the Ricciardi era, before the rise of Tampa, when it looked like a player here or there may have given the Jays a shot. But to have signed those guys last year, they would likely have needed to add more dollars and more years to the deals they are now on the hook for.
That doesn’t mean they’re great contracts– or, in fact, that part of the reason the front office jumped at this deal wasn’t market- or P.R.-related– but so what? MLB took away the club’s revenue sharing windfall, and now are behaving like the big-money owners we’ve always known they are. They can absorb the hit.
Q. Well, all of a sudden, it’s exciting being a Jays’ fan again. And finally you might have some meaningful September (October?) baseball to cover. I didn’t like losing Hechevarria and some of those young pitching prospects, but this is HUGE. And they kept the two big power arms in their rotation. So a chunk of the future is lost, but they still have a lot of young pitching depth with Drabek and Hutchison, Syndergaard and Sanchez and most importantly, Rogers is finally acting like the mega corporation that it is, rather than Kansas City North. The $170M of additional salary is a rounding error for them and given their increasingly negative profile in the city of Toronto, they had to show that they were serious, especially given their stakes in Raptors and Leafs. I know it’s not official, but I can’t believe that Selig would veto this, after having let the Red Sox do essentially the same thing. As for those Expos fans in Montreal, they are probably experiencing a touch of schadenfreude and “I told you so” today about that creep Loria. That man should never be allowed near a baseball franchise again. He’s now destroyed two, not one, franchises.
Yep. That’s got it.