Merry Christmas to me! From Richard Griffin!
There’s a brand new, mid-holiday mail bag sitting unwrapped underneath the Toronto Star‘s tree, so let’s all take a few moments to rise from our food comas– or if you’re getting to this post-New Year’s, booze comas– to dive into this greatest gift of all.
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!
Thanks for coming to my rescue on Twitter.
The R.A. Dickey rumours were at their height, and (there was) concern about the price the Jays were paying. I expressed my concern to (ESPN.com expert and former Jays’ executive)) Keith Law about giving up Noah Syndergaard, and I mentioned the comparison that had been made between him and a young Doc (Halladay). “Oh Come on!” was his reply, which is among the tamer comebacks Law posts. You later pointed out that it was none other than Pat Hengten who had made that comparison, maybe in a moment of giddiness.
My question is this: we’re all prone sometimes to falling in love with prospects we’ve never seen. Truth be told, improving your roster dramatically without giving up anyone on it is a great idea, when you think about it. Do organizations sometimes (deliberately or otherwise) over-hype their prospects to improve their trade value down the line? If Syndergaard was really that good, I can’t see AA giving up on him, even though you to have to give up quality to get it in return.
Douglas, Fox, Ottawa
Uh… maybe in a moment of giddiness? Yeah, Law’s point is kind bang on, and while around here I may have breathlessly passed along Hentgen’s comp back when he said it, I did so while also shovelling a massive grain of salt along with it. A team employee comparing a kid in A-ball to a Hall of Fame-calibre 15-year veteran workhorse? Yeah, I think you’re right that “Oh come on!” was a pretty tame comeback.
As for your question, I do think some potential is maybe there for organizations to pump up certain prospects, but probably only to a really marginal extent. It’s not like competitor clubs don’t do their own scouting. And even if for some reason they were overly reliant on the kinds of scouting data fans can get their hands on, it’s not like the BPs and BAs of the world talk only to people in a prospect’s own organization. So… how do we figure this works?
No, Syndergaard is good. Maybe the fact that the Jays felt comfortable enough to move him in this deal is telling of some internal souring on him, but I don’t see a reason to change our opinions of him in the slightest: the development of his secondary stuff will make the difference between whether he can be a really high-end starter or a power reliever.
People always want to view trades through this prism where they have to be some kind of a swindling for one side or another. They really aren’t. This deal was about timing.
Seriously, A.A. is making this team crazy good!
With the new signing of R.A.D, what is the likelihood that he will be willing to share his knowledge and wisdom with some of the other Jays pitchers. I know the knuckleball isn’t really a pitch that you teach to a power pitcher a la Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson, but what about a command and control pitcher like Brett Cecil? How many left-handed knucklers have there been in the majors? Is this something that could happen?
Thanks for all the hard work, I’m sure you were looking forward to a nice and low key offseason, but got this instead.
Jeffrey Chik, Richmond Hill
Thanks to left-handed batters’ weak platoon split vs. LHP, and the lack of left-handed pitchers overall (in 2012, there were 26,126 plate appearances taken against lefties and 59,990 against right-handers), lefties maintain some utility for longer than right-handed pitchers, who seem to typically be the ones to turn to the “pitch of last resort.” That’s why you almost never (maybe even straight up never) see them taking up the knuckler at the game’s highest level.
Cecil certainly falls into this category, as he’s been plenty effective against left-handed hitters in his career, holding them to a .256 wOBA over the last three seasons– amounting to 90 innings worth of work, with similar numbers from one season to the next, 2012 being his worst in the split, with a .268 wOBA against.
His days as a starter may be behind him, but Cecil certainly has more left to give than someone who is on the brink of being out of baseball and forced to take up the knuckler.
I’m looking forward to Florida and ready to book my flight for some spring training games.
When I initially heard that we gave away our No. 1 and No. 3 prospect for R.A. Dickey, I thought we overpaid. I went back through Baseball America’s top 10 rankings for the past seven years, and there have only been two legit star-quality players from this list — Romero and J.P. Arencibia. There’s a couple of borderline cases in Adam Lind and Travis Snider (one had a great season, the other might still have greatness in him).
Are projecting prospects like this really that much of a crapshoot? In light of this, was this a fair trade over the long-term?
Frank S, Toronto
Arencibia a “legit star-quality” player? Uh…
Yeah… projecting prospects is a thoroughly inexact science, with a lot of failure involved. But is it quite as much of a crapshoot as your analysis suggests? No. For one, it’s not like they’re missing any homegrown talents who’ve made the majors from somewhere off their radar screen.
For two, it takes so long for these guys to develop that looking back seven years doesn’t give you a whole lot to look at. Nobody on either of the last two lists has come close to establishing himself as a big league regular, then three lists back you get Arencibia and Kyle Drabek, and you have to go four back to find Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins and David Cooper.
So, your seven year sample is really more like a three or four year one, and in it they’re doing a pretty good job of identifying what few talents were coming through the system at that time.
The farm system under JP Ricciardi was weak in high-impact talent, and when Alex Anthopoulos took over and tried to infuse the minors with more of that, it meant drafting a lot more guys who are long-term projects. Consequently, the guys on the recent lists are mostly pretty far from the Majors, and the groups from a few years back weren’t particularly strong. To me this sort of highlights the fact that speaking in generalities, either about the rankings, or about prospects in the abstract, doesn’t do a whole lot of good– especially when we have a lot of information on the specific players involved in the deal.
So… I’d say that the deal makes sense in a lot of ways, but not just because, in the most general terms possible, prospecting is a crapshoot.
Q. I often hear about teams having their grounds crew adjust the softness of the dirt or the cut of the grass near the foul lines to help the home team. If Dickey has a preference or, perhaps, if it becomes clear that it makes a difference do you think that the Jays will keep the roof closed even on days when it would normally be open when Dickey is starting?
Kevin Klombies, Calgary
Without a doubt, I think the Jays will try to use the dome to their full advantage when Dickey starts. I’m not sure how easily they’ll be able to manipulate their way into keeping it closed once the weather gets nice, but definitely in the early and late season, I expect it. And I’m not 100% sure if the rule holds, but in the past the Jays were forced to keep the roof closed for all playoff home games. So… giddy up.
Q. I like Dickey but would not have made trade. Hope Alex is right. Should have given up D’Arnaud or Syndergaard and someone else, not both. Why not one of them with Sierra, or Drabek, or Hutchinson. Also, why not keep prospects one more year before either bringing them up or using as trade bait. I thought they should have gone free agent route and re-signed Carlos Villanueva and possibly Shaun Marcum. Thinking that bringing in two rather than three studs all at once would be less demanding on the team as regards to egos and media attention. Basically now you can say that Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero have moved to the 4 and 5 spots instead of last year’s 1 and 2 spots.??
Angelo Romanin, Woodbridge
Albeit I think the addition of Dickey does make us stronger; I am concerned that the price was too high in the young talent we gave up to get him. With quality free agent arms available like that of Anibal Sanchez, wouldn’t it have been better to get a top tier free agent even if the average annual salary was higher and still keep our farm system stocked with great young talent for the future? Could you please speculate on why AA went the trade route vs the free agent route?
Doug Martin, Dalmeny
Holy shit, Angelo, GOOD POINT! Why didn’t they give up just one of the big prospects, and add in Sierra, Drabek or Hutchison??? ANGELO AND I DEMAND ANSWERS.
Oh. Wait. It’s because they don’t get R.A. Dickey if they don’t give up the prospects they give up.
As to Doug’s question about whether Anthopoulos should have just kept the prospects and gone the free agent route, maybe we should ask Jon Daniels how well it works to treat the list of available free agents like items on a grocery store shelf waiting to be added to his cart. Or even Jerry Dipoto of the Angels, who badly wanted Zack Greinke this winter, but settled on spending his money on Josh Hamilton.
Money may be the ultimate decider for free agents, but they certainly take more factors into consideration than that alone– recently in this town alone we’ve heard of players looking elsewhere in order to stay closer to their homes in the states, who don’t want to play on turf, who don’t want to DH, who want a better chance to be part of a winner.
Teams looking to deal, on the other hand, simply want to straight up maximize their assets. The Jays built up a tonne of prospect capital partly for this purpose, and using it in the way they they’ve done helped assure that they’d land the players they wanted. Sure, Anthopoulos still had to strike a delicate balance between the assets given up and the long-term financial commitments required by the deals he was assuming, but at least by using this kind of capital he could either assure he got precisely the kind of return he wanted, or got to keep his prospects.
In a vacuum adding Anibal Sanchez– even on that exorbitant deal– and keeping the prospects probably is a better option than giving up what they did for Dickey, but how realistic was it to expect that to happen? We know adding Dickey was a genuine possibility, and the cost in prospects was mitigated by the financial flexibility gained by acquiring a high-end player on a below-market deal.
With the acquisition of Dickey it looks like Romero is now pushed down to the fifth starter. This has to be the first time in league history where the Opening Day starter from the year before has dropped down to No. 5 on the depth chart, no? Don’t get me wrong, this sounds like a good problem.
Barry Choi, Toronto
Well… he earned it.
Q. I have attended maybe one game a year for 20 years at the Skydome/Rogers Centre, but I will make a personal pledge to attend 10 games if they install grass from March to October, complete with hydroponics and maybe even install a giant window beyond the centre field fence. What will it take to convince Rogers to spend the money? I will even pay for a Sportsnet package if required.
Charles Besko, Toronto
At first I was positive you were about to say that you were pledging to go to a bunch more games this year because of the fantastic moves Alex Anthopoulos has made to strengthen the team, and the commitment Rogers has shown by taking on so much additional payroll.
You kinda went off the rails there with the grass stuff, Charles. Yeah, it would be better, but… really? I think the Jays have done plenty this winter to earn our support.
Other than finding depth in starting pitching to fill AAA and the final bench spot player is there anything more you see AA doing? All that is left and good in the minors are Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra. Kind of scary how the talent (trade bait) has been depleted.
How many picks (in what rounds) do the Jays have for the upcoming draft? Lastly, what are your predictions in terms of W’s for best case and worst case scenario?
Thank you Richard . . . Happy Holidays!
Kam H, Richmond Hill
1. I think there could still be a move for a bullpen piece yet to come, especially if/when it becomes clear that Darren Oliver’s salary won’t be on the books for 2013.
2. All that’s left and good in the minors? Uh… holy shit no. The high minors are thin, but most of the Jays’ prospect talent wasn’t there anyway. The only players slated for Buffalo who now won’t be there are d’Arnaud, Alvarez and Hechavarria. Those aren’t small losses, and there isn’t a whole lot of positional depth coming in behind them, but plenty of fine prospects remain in the system.
3. Unless they sign one of the few remaining Type-A free agents, the Jays won’t add or lose any additional draft picks this year, meaning they’ll pick only in the numbered rounds, beginning at tenth overall.
4. I think the absolute best case might be somewhere north of 95 wins, worst case is the low-80s, and likely scenario is somewhere in between– probably closer to the upper end than the lower. And I base that, of course, on absolutely nothing.
It looks like AA is just about done with the roster, but I am still wondering about the possibility of bringing in Lance Berkman to DH and dumping Lind. The respective salaries wouldn’t be far off and Berkman would give us another switch-hitter with great on-base skills, which was the Jays biggest offensive weakness last year. He can also play OF and 1B on the very occasional day as well. Bringing in Berkman would bring back memories of Pat Gillick adding the finishing touches of Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor on those World Series teams so many years ago.
Adam Walberg, London
Uh… dumping Lind where exactly? Who the fuck is rushing out to take Lind and the $7-million still owed him ($5-million for 2013 plus a $2-million buyout if they decline his 2014 option) off our hands?
And even if you could dump Lind, or take on salary regardless, assuming that you get the healthy, 2011 version of Berkman is pretty fanciful. Because of troubles with both knees he was only able to get into 32 games in 2012, and he wasn’t particularly good when he did– especially against left-handed pitching (granted, that’s based on a woefully small sample size). Even if you include his strong 2011, he’s still only posted an 86 wRC+ against left-handers over the last four seasons.
Given all that risk, I’m gonna go ahead and just pass, thanks.
I value your constructive observations on R.A. Dickey. I hope you are correct. I’m a senior who has spent 50-plus years watching baseball. I also spent 38 years as a conservative financial advisor. I saw many investors buy junk at the top of the dot-com craze. Is A.A. making a similar error investing in Dickey, Inc. “at the top of the market” especially as Dickey moves up from Quadruple-A (National League) to the AL? Good chance this will be this generation’s Brock-for-Broglio fiasco (young fans, look this one up!)
Selby Martin, Toronto
It’s an entirely legitimate concern, Selby, but I’m not sure why it’s only the Jays who risk being burned by a club selling off an asset at its peak value. I’m not saying Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard are these other players, but before we worry too much about buying high from the Mets, we’d do well to remember how Alex Anthopoulos sent Nestor Molina to the White Sox at the absolute peak of his value (John Sickels just ranked him as tenth best in a weak system, giving him a C+ grade), and may have done the same when he sent Joe Musgrove and Kevin Comer (among others) to the Astros in the JA Happ deal, neither of whom made Sickels’ Astros top 20.
It only takes one bad season for a prospect to lose a lot of shine, and again, while I’m not saying that’s necessarily in the cards for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, they too could be peak value moves.
Q. Wow, it feels great to be a Jays fan again! I’m so confused by all of the “the cost is too high” comments that I’ve been hearing from other fans and bloggers. Seriously? I don’t care about Noah Syndergaard in 2016, I want playoff baseball in 2013!
Also, with AA’s stated desire to have eight major league “capable” starting pitchers on the roster, do you see him offering a minor league contract to Eric Bedard? Does AA have anything else percolating on the back burner? Keep up the great work, Griff!
Cory Snyder, Cambridge, ON
Which bloggers are you referring to, or is this just an adorable catch-all smear?
Honestly, reaction to this deal has been pretty uniformly positive, though that said, let’s not go too absolutely nuts down the “now I totally don’t give a shit about prospects!” overcorrection wormhole.
There are lots of reasons why it makes sense to have traded Syndergaard, timing chief among them. With no setbacks, the earliest we could have expected to see Syndergaard break camp in the Jays rotation was 2015, the final year that Bautista, Buehrle, Encarnacion, and Romero would be on the books (barring the picking up of options), as well as the option year at the end of Morrow’s current contract. Sure, having a ready-made rotation piece might have helped them at that point (the Jays are evidently banking on Aaron Sanchez for that– plus Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin, Roberto Osuna and others), but not nearly as much as having Dickey for the years prior, which represent the best chance to build around the club’s current core group.
We agree, it’s a gamble worth taking. But, for me, “who cares?” maybe goes a bit too far. Perhaps I’m being pedantic, and maybe we’re actually just saying the same thing here, it’s just… there’s a tonne of value in Syndergaard that I don’t want to sound cavalier about being OK with dealing. Y’know?
A very well written and balanced column on the trade. Nice to read a column like yours. We’re still big RA fans here and many of us Met fans are not lovers of the Yankees so go Jays! Hope the trade works well for all.
Bob Grossman, New York
Agreed wholeheartedly. Nobody in this town whose opinion was worth the brain cells it was thought with complains for a second that the Jays sent what might end up being a Hall of Fame second baseman in Jeff Kent to the Mets in exchange for David Cone while on their way to winning the 1992 World Series. I could see disliking it at the time, and yet, even though it turned out that they couldn’t have possibly given up a better minor league piece to the Mets, it’s not remembered negatively at all. Nothing should make Jays fans happier than this deal working out for both sides.
This may sound ludicrous, but hear me out. If the Angels don’t know what to do with Vernon Wells now, why doesn’t AA call up the Angels and offer to take Wells back, on the condition, of course, that the Angels absorb the bulk of his salary? We don’t need him, no, but he’d be a solid bat off the bench, a potential upgrade over Lind at DH, and a reliable backup outfielder. I’d rather see Wells riding the bench in Toronto than in California, he’s a great guy and a fan favourite to boot, especially if we’re liberated of his contract. I realize he’s maybe not the talent he once was, but in 2013 we won’t need him to be a superstar, just productive when called upon. And on a team and in a city where he’s comfortable and no doubt keen to prove himself again, he might be a nice addition. It could be the smoothest move AA ever makes.
Matthew McKean, Ottawa
Your message is on my computer screen so I can only assume that you have the internet, in which case, why don’t you go look up what this “solid bat off the bench” and “upgrade over Lind at DH” has been up to lately? And I say that as a person who think Lind is pretty damn close to awful.
I liked what I heard about Vernon when he was hear, and how he carried himself and represented the Jays and the city, but no, it wouldn’t be a smooth move, it wouldn’t be a welcomed move, it would be fucking ridiculous.
Like every Blue Jay fan, I am very excited about the recent transactions and I am optimistic about the Jays chances in 2013. However, I was wondering about Jose Bautista and if the injury he had this summer will affect his swing and offensive output next season. What are your thoughts about this subject.
Spencer Atin, Toronto
My thoughts? It is what it is. My sense is he’s going to be fine– others, like Sam Fuld, have come back from the same injury and seem to be back to their old selves– but obviously I have absolutely no idea. He says he’s fine, he wants to play for the Dominican in the WBC, both of which are good signs, but… yeah, I guess we have no idea. And what are they going to do? Try to find a replacement for him to keep waiting in the wings? Not possible.
They have no choice but to rely on Jose for as much production as he can provide, and if something isn’t right, yeah, it’s going to make things a whole lot more difficult.
They have some of the best doctors and trainers in the world, though, and a huge financial incentive to do right by him, so… why go to the trouble of being worried? There’s nothing anyone can do and it’s probably going to be fine– which is exactly what you could say of any number of players on every single team. That’s just the way it goes.