Now we’re talking! After a several week break through the least interesting part of the winter, Richard Griffin has resumed answering reader questions over in his Mail Bag at the Toronto Star, meaning that I figure it’s high time I get to hijacking what he’s been asked and start providing some especially more caustic answers of my own.
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
If the Blue Jays want to field the best possible roster, regardless of options, wouldn’t it be logical to give the long-relief role to J.A. Happ? Brett Cecil has had year after year to try and win a spot on the big league team when the team wasn’t competitive. I don’t know if it’s worth hoping Cecil has a good year as a reliever in the bigs when the only positive sample available is last year’s September, when the quality of the opponent wasn’t that great.
Happ can still be the sixth starter from the ’pen, could log four emergency innings if the need arises, and can get stretched out after that. I’d much rather have the Major League proven Happ than the unproven, shaken up, can’t-outsmart-righties Squints.
Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar, Esmil Rogers, ?? and ?? Who fills out those question marks, in your opinion? Who deserves those spots (if the answer is different)? I would have loved to see Marcus Stroman up, but I guess I have to wait until the beginning of the year.
Love the coverage, Griff! Keep em’ coming!
Alex H, Toronto.
Uh… why the hell would the Jays want to field the best possible 25-man roster on April 2nd, regardless of options? Honestly. I mean, I get why they might want to say a thing like that, for the sake of the guys competing for jobs in camp, but they’d have to be serious fucking idiots if they actually meant it.
Asset management is a crucial part of the job that Alex Anthopoulos is paid to do, and fortunately for all of us he surely understands that the World Series isn’t won on Opening Day, and that sometimes it better serves the organization to carry the lesser of two players on the big league roster for a little while, in order to keep them both in the organization, or to manipulate the service time of one. In the case of the Jays’ bullpen, injuries will happen, poor performance will happen, and when it does, we’ll all be happier to have Aaron Loup or Brad Lincoln– or whichever with-options arms the odd men out end up being– in Buffalo, rather than having exposed guys like Cecil, Rogers and Jeffress to waivers at the end of camp, lost them to other organizations, and found ourselves faced with the prospect of going that much deeper into their system for the next piece of depth.
Which isn’t to suggest that it will be an easy decision or that you always hold onto the guys who are out of options– obviously there’s a difficult calculation to be made– but I’d suspect that’s the way the Jays are leaning, especially since you don’t give Cecil nearly enough credit for some very strong numbers against left-handed hitters.
As for who takes your final two bullpen spots, I have no idea. I guess maybe Cecil– even if Loup is slightly better– and a right-hander? Sure… why not. Certainly not Stroman– not just because of the suspension, but because the Jays seem like they’d rather wait for him to fail as a starter before they switch him to relief. Or at least, I think that’s what’s been out there from them on him. I hope it has been. It should be.
What kind of rope will Gibby give Colby Rasmus as the everyday CF? Two months? All-star break? If he’s hitting .220 with 10 HR by July, what’s the point in him playing over Anthony Gose? Also, what kind of rope will Gibby give Adam Lind? If he struggles, can you envision an OF of Gose in CF and a rotation of Bautista, Cabrera, and Rasmus/Davis sharing the DH?
Andy Frank, Toronto
Seriously? In what universe does 22-year-old Anthony Gose hit with that kind of power, exactly? And what kind of batting average does he have to put up to offset the lack of it? Or… better question: why are we talking about batting average at all? You down with OBP?
But, OK, yes, Colby Rasmus most likely doesn’t have some kind of magical, infinite, Adam Lind-like amount of rope to play with this year, and Lind himself will almost certainly end up looking like the platoon guy we already know he is. But let’s not go nuts with the rush to squeeze Gose in here, as though he doesn’t have a shit-tonne to prove himself. Or the rush to run Rasmus the hell out of town when even with numbers like that, combined with his defence, he’d be somewhere in the realm of almost passable– somewhere between replacement level and average, at least.
Obviously that’s not exactly an ideal centre fielder for a team with championship aspirations, but it’s not any clearer that Gose is that at this point, either. Emilio Bonifacio may end up being the best player the Jays have for the position, but I still have one more year left in me of being duped by Rasmus and his outstanding prospect pedigree and 2010 season in St. Louis, I guess. I’m a believer… kinda. Which is mostly to say, I’m not entirely pessimistic.
Q. Even if J.P. Arencibia is not chosen to be Dickey’s regular catcher, a vote of confidence in their No. 1 catcher would be nice. Opening Day, he should be in the lineup either as a catcher or as a DH. What are your thoughts?
Bob in Kuwait
I don’t think it matters one iota. That Aaron Cibia guy, and everybody else, knows that he’s the number one. If Henry Blanco is Dickey’s catcher, and Dickey goes on Opening Day, he is absolutely the one who should be in there. Dickey’s comfort on the mound, and with who he’s throwing to, is far, far more important than letting J.P. get an ovation. It’s not like there’s any hope that Blanco, whose only season of more than 100 appearances was back in 2004, is going to steal his job, and I’d say that a truer vote of confidence from the club would be to treat Arencibia like he’ll grasp that truth and can handle it.
What do you think John Gibbons brings to the table as a manager? He came off as a straight-shooter who was fierce and eager to win. I’m curious as to whether you believe he has the right mantra to keep younger players in line and get the veterans to buy in to his program. Fans are optimistic, what are your thoughts?
Humber College Journalism Student
What was great to me about ol’ Gibbers the first time around was the way he handled the bullpen, the fact that he wasn’t terribly set in his ways, and open to things like platoons and unorthodox lineup structure, and that he generally seemed decent at putting his players in the best position to succeed. That’s about all I can ask of a manager, without resorting to creating magical fables about his abilities, though he certainly also seems laid back enough to have everybody enjoy being around him, while being hard-assed enough to fight any of his charges who get out of line, which, while I don’t think those qualities have any particular correlation to managerial success, is still slightly fucking awesome.
I read a piece recently about Brad Lincoln potentially starting the season as a starter in Buffalo, but that all things being equal he would rather have a bullpen spot in Toronto. I understand all players would rather be in the bigs than minors, but wouldn’t Lincoln be happier to get another chance as a starter in Buffalo? After all the earning potential for major league starting pitchers is much higher than for bullpen arms. I’ve always wondered how pitchers feel when their organization decides they don’t have starter “stuff” and are relegated to a life in the bullpen. Wouldn’t every pitcher (other than the very few superstar closers) rather be a starter?
Simon Elliott, Toronto
Actually, word is the Jays have now rethought the experiment, and are moving Lincoln back to relief, thanks especially to the fact that so many of the minor league depth starters they acquired this winter are looking decent so far in camp. That said, while you give good reasons why it might make sense for a pitcher to want to remain a starter and keep fighting for a rotation opportunity rather than move to the bullpen– and surely those guys must exist– Lincoln isn’t even the only pitcher on this team, let alone in the whole league, who’d rather be in the Majors in whatever capacity he can. J.A. Happ certainly has made it clear that his preference is to be in Toronto, not Buffalo, and it makes total sense: the money’s better, the travel is better, the living is better, the road beef is better. It’s all pretty much better. Plus, it’s not like he couldn’t temporarily take a bullpen role and then one day down the line get himself stretched out again.
So… uh… yeah. I guess that means no. In answer to your question: no. I guess I could have just gone with that, huh?
I know it’s spring training but I was wondering what are your thoughts on the Jays re-signing Josh Johnson to a long term deal? Johnson originally was the centrepiece of the deal with the Marlins so if we don’t re-sign him would AA feel he gave up too much to the Miami? I’m sure a lot depends on how well Johnson pitches this year and how the team does but with Dickey signed for the next few years as the staff ace, do you think it could be a one and done in Toronto for Josh Johnson?
Well, obviously none of us has any actual idea about this, but regardless of that, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always of the same mind as Alex Anthopoulos when it comes to questions of risk assessment– not a shocker given the fact that he has so much more data at his disposal than I do, but still– so it’s entirely possible that I’ll be exceptionally off. So keep a couple of giant grains of salt handy, and that proviso in mind, when I say that yeah, I think it’s entirely possible that Johnson is one and done here, largely because any kind of deal with him is going to require one seriously spectacular balancing act of all the risks involved.
For a while in the wake of the trade, and especially in the wake of comments from his agent, Matt Sosnick, it seemed very possible to me that something might actually get done before the season started. I figured that there’s just too much health risk for Johnson to not take guaranteed money now, even on a shorter, lower-salaried deal than he may be in line for after a successful season, and so much risk to the Jays, too, in that they gave up so much (and took on such backloaded deals) to get him, and by waiting to negotiate they may end up having to pay exponentially more for him down the road than they would if they just signed a mutually-beneficial deal quickly– much like they decided to do when renegotiating with Jose Bautista following his breakout 2009 campaign.
The more I’ve thought about it that way, though, the more I’ve found that I’m changing my tune, because it’s become clearer to me that the absolute downside of waiting pales in comparison to the very obvious downside of rushing in and signing him to what would still have to be a tremendously significant contract.
For starters, if the Jays decide to wait until after the season to negotiate with Johnson, they get all that extra data on which to base their offer. More crucially, if Johnson has a season of the kind that might put him in line for a nine-figure deal, it will, at the very least, likely mean very good things for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. It will also mean that the club will be able to safely make him a qualifying offer, adding an early-round pick in the 2014 draft if he signs elsewhere– and according to statements from the State of the Franchise event, the minor league system is already subject of renewed focus from Alex Anthopoulos, after he cashed in so much of his prospect capital this winter.
Add in the fact that by 2014 you’ll see the likes of Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, Chad Jenkins, J.A. Happ, and even– perhaps by mid-season– Aaron Sanchez ready to compete for spots in the club’s rotation, and I think it becomes clear that the Jays aren’t simply faced with a Johnson-or-nothing calculation. They have options here– one of them being approaching him at some point mid-season, as they did with Edwin Encarnacion this summer– and I’m finding it hard to see how it’s in their best interest to do anything but wait, all things considered.
Q. This is not a Blue Jay question. You will get lots of questions about the starting rotation, who’s on second and who’s the closer so I am interested in your thoughts on another topic. With Tim Raines’ induction to St. Mary’s (Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame) I’d like to know your thoughts on baseball’s future in Montreal. Will it ever happen again? Even AA or AAA. I know that a group let by Warren Cromartie has been looking at the possibility. Will we ever have a Pearson Cup again?
I love Montreal and I love the idea of the city one day getting a Major League team back, but it’s going to be a long, long time before it’s anything resembling a realistic possibility, I’m afraid. There are other markets who are going to get a chance first, and relocation and expansion just don’t happen often enough in baseball for Montreal to get itself back to the front of the line anytime soon. It’s one of the biggest markets in North America that’s currently untapped by MLB, but the lack of a facility, the cost to build a new one, the sting of losing the Expos and the legacy of their sad, woefully-attended final years is a lot for the city to overcome if they’re ever going to want to see big league baseball there again. Those wounds are still relatively fresh, given the typically-glacial pace of these kinds of changes, so one day it will seem a whole lot more feasible, I’m sure. Just don’t hold your breath.
I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a long time; it concerns Omar Vizquel — a player I’ve always admired for his defensive skills and plucky approach at the plate — and a player who’s probably a hall-of-famer. Nothing can tarnish Vizquel’s legacy as a player at this point, I would think, but given he’s often hinted at wanting a coaching career post-retirement, do you think the disaster in Toronto in the 2012 season will hurt his future? He was brought in to provide leadership, especially to the team’s Latino players, and was reportedly a divisive influence in the clubhouse on a team that appeared to be a rudderless ship; moreover, one of his charges, Yunel Escobar managed to offend an entire community with an absolutely bonehead move and when Vizquel was asked about it he basically said he didn’t see anything wrong with it.
So . . . did “Coach Viquel” just set his career back in your opinion?
Geoff Read, London, Ont.
No, I don’t think Vizquel did himself any favours last season– and even if he was genuine when he essentially called out John Farrell and the coaching staff (which sure is a whole lot easier to believe now that we all are supposed to hate Farrell and think he’s awful, eh?), it certainly didn’t come off that way. P.R. is a big part of the job, and Omar didn’t look particularly adept at it.
Also, serious question: where the hell did this Hall of Fame stuff start coming from anyway? Yeah, defence, OK– he was quite good according to the metrics, and your dad or favourite sportswriter probably even told you he was great– but for his career he hit about as well as Colby Rasmus did last year. Like… think about that. He was an above league average hitter, per wRC+, in only three seasons. Compare that to… say… Ozzie Smith, who was so in seven full years, plus his part-time final season as well. Smith was a better hitter (relative to the era he played in), a better defender, and a much better baserunner. Where’s Vizquel’s case, exactly?
Good to see your link to send questions is up and running again.
My concern is about the Jays bench. Not that I’d expect Gibby to do a lot of pinch hit strategy but Davis, Bonafacio/Izturis, Blanco, and DeRosa are light hitters and no lefty on the bench. Competitive teams generally have a diverse bench with position flexibility (which the Jays have), but not having one “power” bat and/or no left-handed hitter it begs to question the balance. Any concerns there? Never mind a pinch hit HR but I can barely expect a gapper in the clutch from this bench.
One last thing, on the Jays site DeRosa is not listed in the depth chart. Does that mean that AA is leaving the door open if he finds a suitable bench replacement? I believe Sizemore and Abreu are still on the market.
Kam H, Richmond Hill
Bonifacio is a switch hitter, for one, and there’s a strong possibility Adam Lind is going to wind up sitting against most lefties by the time all is said and done, for two. So… yeah, the bench looks fine to me. And, uh, I wouldn’t go holding my breath until DeRosa gives way to guys anyone who can’t play the infield, can’t stay healthy, or can’t not be Bobby Abreu.
Help me out with the logic on all of this. I was disappointed when the Jays flipped Mike Aviles & Yan Gomes (a personal favourite) to Cleveland for Esmil Rogers, who had been a huge disappointment as a starter in Colorado, but seemed to have resurrected himself in the Indians’ bullpen. Aviles would look a lot better as the 25th man than Mark DeRosa. Now it seems the team has pretty much guaranteed Rogers a spot in the ’pen (based on 35 innings in Cleveland?) over Brad Lincoln, another guy with mixed results as a starter, but much better as a reliever over a FULL season, while telling Lincoln to go back to being a starter, obviously in Buffalo. Putting the poor guy in a position to fail.
I would much prefer Aviles on the bench (or even starting at second base) and Lincoln in the ’pen, to DeRosa on the bench and Rogers in the pen. Is Rogers that good? Is Lincoln that bad as a reliever? I heard fans in Pittsburgh last year advocating the team trading Hanrahan and installing Lincoln as their closer!
Help me out here.
You lost me after the bit about Yan Gomes being a personal favourite.
Thank you for your insights on the Blue Jays. I thoroughly enjoy your articles and blog. I think it is important when considering the Jays farm system to include those young players that are no longer considered prospects because of service at the major league level. This is a much better reflection of the depth and opportunity that the Jays have for the future. In particular, Anthony Gose, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek and Luis Perez are all still youngish players with enormous potential. The injured will begin at AAA most likely when they return and help to make the farm system if not the prospect list quite strong.
Sure, the Jays have some young potential contributors who have already burned their rookie eligibility, and those guys do tend to get overlooked when prospect stuff gets talked about. Gose and Hutchison, especially, could very easily still have their prospect status and the system overall would look a whole lot better for having them considered part of it– Brett Lawrie, too, if you want to get real outlandish. Of course, so would the Orioles if they could still include Manny Machado, or the Red Sox and Will Middlebrooks, or the Rays and Matt Moore, etc., etc.
You’re not wrong, just saying…
Is there a player on the Top 10 Prospect list that wasn’t expected to be there?
You mean apart from the ones who only made it because a bunch of guys ahead of them got traded? Yeah I don’t know– and not just because I’m not entirely sure which list you’re referring to here (though I seem to recall Griff having recently posted something about Baseball America’s Jays top 10).
Q. Hey there,
I’ve been following your blog for a long time but my question is unrelated to baseball. Just wondering why you look so angry in your new byline picture? You should be happy that the Jays will be contenders this year!
All the best,
Wait, so it’s not the guy with the wine bottles holding up three fingers anymore?