With no Griff Bag on the immediate horizon, and not a whole hell of a lot else going on, I think it’s probably about time we take a dip into the Griff Bag’s infinitely less bent cousin, Gregor Chisholm’s latest Inbox at BlueJays.com.
As always, I have not read any of Gregor’s answers. If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Gregor in his post and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Which Blue Jays prospects do you see being able to make the next step this year and contribute at the big league level?
— Tim S., Calgary, Alberta
If you want to use a particularly strict definition of prospects, actually, I don’t see any. And I certainly hope there won’t be any, otherwise it will have meant something has gone quite terriblywrong, because the Jays just don’t have a lot of rookie-eligible players sniffing around for jobs on the Major League roster.
Sure, Aaron Loup should make the club and contribute out of the ‘pen, but he lost his eligibility by being on the roster for as long as he was last season, and it’s the same story for Anthony Gose, David Cooper and Moises Sierra, all of whom could see some time in a not-entirely-catastrophic season. But are those guys still prospects? I wouldn’t say so.
The same goes for Chad Jenkins, as well, though he’ll be hard pressed to get to the Majors regardless, with J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln, and Justin Germano likely ahead of him on the Triple-A depth chart.
Beyond that group, you don’t see a whole lot of contributors. Marcus Stroman could succeed in a relief role at the big league level, but his 50-game PED suspension will eat into his season, and Alex Anthopoulos has said recently that he’d like him to continue developing as a starter.
Otherwise, everybody seems to like Sean Nolin, who Anthopoulos has said will begin the year at New Hampshire (and be on an innings limit). Nolin pitched 15 innings there at the end of last season, giving up just two earned runs, nine hits, six walks, while striking out 18 over three starts. If Happ and Lincoln end up in use in the Majors, certainly he could force his way up the depth chart, but it’s still a bit early for that. And it doesn’t get any easier thanks to the innings limit and the fact that Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek will be making their way back mid-season. Plus, with the club’s Triple-A affiliate finally out of Las Vegas, and the big league rotation full, there’s no need to rush guys the way they have in years past.
How do the options work with J.A. Happ? Can he be sent down to the Minor Leagues or would he have to go through waivers?
— Justin D., Halifax, Nova Scotia
Though Happ still has options, because of the amount of service time he has accrued, he will have to pass through a type of waivers before he can be assigned to Buffalo. But according to recent comments from Alex Anthopoulos, this is a mere formality. The waivers are revokable– like the waivers players must clear in order to be traded in August, after the non-waiver trade deadline has passed– meaning that if a team puts a claim in on the player, his club can pull him back off waivers and keep him on their roster. However, Anthopoulos told Gregor last week that teams generally don’t put in claims on players using this system, in what’s essentially a gentlemen’s agreement in order to keep this kind of player movement from becoming rampant. For this reason, it’s rarely reported on– Travis Snider would have needed to clear these types of waivers when he was optioned last season, though we heard virtually nothing of it– and not particularly well understood.
So, yes, he has to go through waivers, but they’re not going to lose him, and almost certainly will get him assigned to Buffalo.
Why did the Blue Jays sign Henry Blanco when they already have Josh Thole, who appears to be a capable backup to J.P. Arencibia?
— Casey W., Barrie, Ontario
Well that depends on which Josh Thole the 2013 Jays are getting, doesn’t it?
In 2010 and 2011, Thole got on base at a .350 clip, and while he didn’t have near the power of Arencibia, J.P.’s career OBP is .275, and Thole, in those two seasons, hit right-handers to the tune of a .326 wOBA, compared to a .296 rate for JPA. So, if that’s the Thole you’re getting, he’s more than just a capable backup, he could very well be the more frequently played half of a platoon with Arencibia and his .328 career wOBA against lefties. And considering that the league average for catchers in 2012 was a .312 wOBA, it could be pretty damn decent.
But the thing with Thole is that 2012 happened. His wOBA sagged to .257, and his platoon split essentially went away as he put up a .234/.294/.290 slash line, which was good for the second-worst slugging percentage among the 223 players with 350 or more plate appearances. He was dreadful, and even if you want to chalk some of that awfulness up to the fact that he went down with a concussion in May, you certainly can’t rely on him to come to Dunedin as though the season never happened and he’s still the same guy as he was the two years prior.
That’s where Henry Blanco comes in.
He’s awful with the bat too, but he’s a guy with “veteran presents” who R.A. Dickey loves throwing his knuckleball to. He won’t be asked to do much, if he makes the club– essentially catching Dickey every fifth day, and playing checkers with fellow mascot Mark DeRosa otherwise. And if such a scheme works out, it gives the Jays the chance to give full-time at-bats to both Arencibia, in the Majors, and Thole– who has minor league options remaining– in Buffalo.
So Blanco is just an added layer of depth at the position who allows them to see what they’ve got with the two younger catchers. I don’t think the club would ever say this, but it sure seems to me like they’re keeping the possibility of a platoon in their back pocket, which may have been harder to do with Thole not getting regular at-bats as the clear backup. But maybe not. Bringing up Thole would have to mean ditching Blanco, and if they build up his intangible veteranness too much, I’m not sure how willing they are going to be to do that *COUGH* Omar Vizquel *COUGH*… unfortunately.
Was it a mistake for Arencibia to accept an offer to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic? It seems like he would be better served staying in camp and working with all of the new pitchers.
— Josh M., Moncton, New Brunswick
Yeah… I think you’re probably right. But what should we do? Kill Arencibia for choosing to take part in the experience, playing with what’s essentially an All-Star team, and for his country?
Can’t do it.
Besides, there are silver linings: R.A. Dickey is the most difficult of the new pitchers Arencibia will have to catch– assuming, y’know, the Jays ever actually allow that to happen– and he’ll be with Team USA as well. Plus, playing for Joe Torre, being in the room with all those great players, something something intangibles. Whatever.
What type of role will Rajai Davis have on this year’s team? There doesn’t appear to be much playing time available.
— Gino M., Toronto
Bizarrely, the Jays have said that they’re actually contemplating giving Adam Lind one last chance to bat against left-handed pitching, despite the fact that over the last three years he’s posted a -15, a 72 and a 48 wRC+ against lefties. He’s awful.And over the same span, Rajai Davis has posted a 117, a 127 and a 114.
David Ortiz he’s not, but Davis is a better option to DH against left-handers, and it’s insanity to think he won’t end up in the role in very short order. Nothing in Adam Lind’s last three seasons says he’s capable of doing it himself.
If both Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen have a good spring, who will be the closer?
— Aaron M., Port Hood, Nova Scotia
If they’re both healthy and decent, I can’t possibly imagine Janssen losing the role that he earned in the absence of Santos last season. He was so good, in fact, and so good in 2011 as well, that I think he’ll get quite a bit of rope to stay as the closer. Nothing at all wrong with having Santos as your eighth inning guy, if he is indeed back to his elite self.
Is it too soon to assume this will be the last season we see Colby Rasmus manning centre field in Toronto, with Gose lurking in Buffalo?
— Tyler Y., Beaverton, Ontario
Yes, it’s far too soon that 2013 will be the end of the Colby Rasmus era here in Toronto, though there are certainly reasons to think that might be the case. Obviously the continued progression of Gose is one of those reasons, but not necessarily because he’s going to suddenly take a step forward with the bat and come to take away Colby’s job. I think it’s more likely that Rasmus doesn’t show enough with the bat to justify his rising cost, relative to Gose. Colby will be heading into his third arbitration year in 2014, meaning that he’ll be a free agent after that season, barring an extension. Gose will come much cheaper, and doesn’t have to provide nearly the value that Rasmus does with the bat in order for things to even out, because so much of his value is derived from his speed and defence.
Obviously a lot can change over the course of those years, but Rasmus is going to have to hit a lot better than we’ve seen in order to justify staying in the picture– and he’s going to have to provide meaningful production, not just empty home run and RBI totals that will drive up his cost in arbitration, as he did this past season, or he’s going to find himself a non-tender candidate. It’s pretty easy for the club to justify paying him $4.65-million if you think he can’t possibly do much worse than the win-and-a-half he provided last year, but if that number gets bumped up to something in the $7-million range based on another season of 20+ home runs, a bunch of RBIs and not a whole lot else, Gose starts looking real good.