Another week, another dip into the ol’ mail bag, as we’re about to embark on a journey together, hijacking the latest edition of Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star. Hold me.
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 email@example.com and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
This might be one of those pointless ‘what if’ questions (and I’ll get hammered by DJF I’m sure), but I’m curious to get your opinion on what the state and future of the Jays might have been if the Florida and Dickey trades had not been made in the off season. There would have been some tinkering with the lineup of course, but would we have been in a better position going into 2014 if they had never happened? I was really buying into the build for the future concept, but also bought into the trades.
Rob Brander, Sydney, Australia
Certainly not a question anyone around here would bash, Rob, because the answer is exactly the key to understanding why they Jays did what they did last winter.
Thing is, the guys the Jays gave up in those trades, while terrific prospects to varying degrees, for the most part cannot be expected to be impact MLB players until after Jose Bautista’s contract expires, after Edwin Encarnacion’s contract expires, and after Colby Rasmus, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, and Adam Lind all hit free agency. There may be some overlap in 2015, or because of additional option years on some of those deals, but, for example, Noah Syndergaard is only 20, and has pitched just 114 innings this year, so even if he does make a big league rotation next year– and, out of Spring Training, that’s hardly a guarantee– he’s not going to be able to put in a full workload as a starter anyway. He’s looking like he could be a terrific piece beyond that, but I think it’s safe to say it would have taken some exceptional circumstances for him to be a difference-making arm for the Jays in either his age 22 or age 23 seasons. Meanwhile, Justin Nicolino is 21 and has struggled since moving up to Double-A at mid-season, and Adeiny Hechavarria reached the Majors this year hitting about as poorly as advertised.
Travis d’Arnaud and Jake Marisnick are closer to providing value at the big league level, but had he remained in the Jays system, Marisnick would next year be battling with Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar to maybe win a roster spot in the outfield, depending on what happens with Melky Cabrera (assuming he’s even still on the roster in this hypothetical). Of course, given how poorly J.P. Arencibia has played this year, Travis d’Arnaud is the one who really hurts, but again, that’s one of those prospects who might be a really impactful guy– if he can stay on the field– and that’s more likely to be in Bautista’s age 34 season of 2015.
Why does Bautista’s age and contract status matter so much? It’s not just him, but he was the club’s most important player and also the one farthest along the aging curve. By the time you’ll be starting to maybe, if you’re lucky, see truly impactful seasons from the prospects dealt away, Bautista will either be in a pretty solid decline, or heading towards one last big free agent payday. Encarnacion will be 33 in 2016, himself, and without those two guys at the height of their powers you’re relying a lot then on the development of the kids. It might have worked, and the team certainly could have dealt the likes of Jose, Edwin, Morrow and Rasmus along the way for other, younger pieces to help the full-on Cubs-like rebuild, but those folks who were once pencilling in Travis Snider, Anthony Gose and Kyle Drabek for stardom right about now know that’s hardly an exact science. Neither is building a team through trades, obviously, but the route the Jays have taken has at given them a much better shot in the near term, with Bautista and Encarnacion in better places age-wise, innings eaters in Buehrle and Dickey helping the rotation, and their other core pieces still here– plus they’ll have financial flexibility following 2015, with big dollars only guaranteed to Jose Reyes beyond that point, especially given the new commitment from an ownership that finally has been forced to see winning, not its slice of the revenue sharing pie, as the most savvy method of doing business.
Had it not have been for the deals of last winter the lineup going forward would still look pretty alright on paper, but maintaining the status quo in the rotation would mean something like Morrow-Happ-Hutchison-Drabek-Redmond, with Romero, Rogers, and eventually Nolin and Stroman as depth. Not a lot of hope there.
Sure, the Jays appear to have made a pretty giant misstep in terms of when and how they spent their money and so much of their prospect capital– Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez or Yu Darvish would go a long way right now towards making that rotation look downright respectable– but that doesn’t mean at all that the cupboard is now bare, and in the meantime the club will have a couple of years to really make a push. Now it’s just… hopefully the next two chances at that don’t go as feebly as this year’s try has.
Love your column — a must read for Jays fans!
This team is built mainly based on trades (and a couple of lucky pickups in Bautista and Encarnacion). Besides Arencibia and Lind, no one else on the field is developed from our farm. This tells me two things: 1. Our farm is so over-rated, AA took advantage of it and turn our farm into stars (Reyes, Dickey), which means our farm isn’t really that good, and; 2. We can’t develop anyone or scout properly. I am trying to think of an all-Jays team, and members of this team must be drafted and/or developed by the franchise since Day 1, and have decent contribution to the franchise (i.e., reasonable stats for 2-3 years with the franchise). Here is what I have:
1B: McGriff, Delgado
2B: ? (maybe Hill)
3B: Gruber, Sprague
C: Borders, Whitt
OF: Bell, Moseby, Green, Wells
P: Hentgen, Halladay, Stieb, Guzman, Key
Am I out of my mind in trying to come up with such a team? It feels like ever since Wells left, we really had nobody from our scouts. I understand part of it has to do with Riccardi destroying our scouting department, but is it this bad? I feel after this three-year competing window, we will be so pathetic again for an extended period of time . . .
Yeah… this is nonsense. I mean, make up any list that you want, but what in the world do guys that were scouted twenty and thirty years ago have to do with anything that the current regime is doing?
Alex Anthopoulos brought in a tonne of new scouts when he came on board, and really changed the club’s infrastructure in that regard. That was four years ago, but his first draft wasn’t until June of 2010. By the end of last season, of the players picked in the first ten rounds of that draft (325 picks total), only 20 had played at all in the big leagues so far, and one of those guys was drafted by the Jays– Sam Dyson. Sean Nolin was also picked in 2010 and, of course, made his debut this season. Only 5 players from the first 10 rounds (331 picks) of the 2011 draft had made their big league debuts by then, and the Jays have also graduated Kevin Pillar from that draft (round 32, have you heard?). So, while not necessarily stars, the Jays are graduating players to the Majors from those drafts at a fairly typical rate, which might even be impressive given how heavily they’ve gone after high school players who are much farther away from Major League duty– ten of the 16 players they selected in the first ten rounds in 2010 were high schoolers, and in 2011 the number was 13 of 15.
So, talking about the team’s inability to scout and develop is, at this point, laughably premature. And by the way, as for teams made up by players acquired in trade, if I may borrow a point from a recent Effectively Wild podcast, take a look at the Oakland A’s active roster. That team is 71-53 right now, and the guys drafted and developed by them active now, if you don’t count Cuban free agent Yoenis Cespedes, numbers just four: pitchers Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin, Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle.
Why do the Jays’ managers when fired, find no other jobs managing in MLB? Cito could not get a job elsewhere. Gibbons was managing beer league in Texas. Only the much-maligned John Farrell seems capable of gaining employment elsewhere. Maybe it’s time that the Jays consider hiring a major league manager. Or at least one the rest of baseball considers major league.
Gibbons was managing in fucking Double-A, for fuck sakes, for one, after being a big league bench coach in Kansas City for three seasons. And Cito failed to get jobs because he, rightly, found the interview process an affront to his record and didn’t like the idea that he was sometimes being interviewed as a token minority candidate, and stopped going, which hurt his chances for those teams who may otherwise have been genuine.
Maybe it’s time that Jays fans consider remembering Jim fucking Fregosi, the fact that Farrell was sought after, and that managers aren’t goddamn magic.
I just caught The Ray’s hidden ball trick against The Dodgers. This is an uber rare play, so all other teams can be forgiven for not doing this in the last five years or so since it last happened. But it got me thinking about teams/players whose heads are (or are not) 100 per cent focused on the game. I do not think that it is a coincidence that a Joe Maddon team pulled this off — whether or not he actually called the play. To me it speaks about a collective mindset of a team, and it seems to me that said mindset is not as razor sharp within the Blue Jays clubhouse.
I believe Ron Gardenhire is managing without a contract right now. What are your thoughts on the Jays going after him? I realize the Twins are not tearing up the league this year, but the Twins don’t seem to have the horses this year — and after 12 years on the job, tuning out the manager to some degree is inevitable. Now John Gibbons seems like a heckuva nice guy, and blaming the field manager is always the easiest thing to do. And, true, there have been some injuries, and half the team seems to be performing under career norms, and that perhaps there’s a lack of leadership in the clubhouse from a player perspective, and the core of the team being away for WBC in spring training wasn’t ideal — but we’re not dealing with a small sample size. This is Mr. Gibbons second go-around. And there’s got to be a reason why he didn’t get another sniff as an MLB manager after his first Blue Jay stint. And not to be overlooked is that he wasn’t even thinking about managing in the big leagues again. If the reports are true, AA basically dropped the offer to manage this team on his very unsuspecting lap. To me, that’s not how you look for a field general.
Adam — Barrie, On.
A field general? Really?
Like, you obviously understand why it’s ridiculous to believe any of this nonsense. I mean… magic Ron Gardenhire somehow gets a pass for not being able to conjure wins out of thin air when his players aren’t good enough, but Gibbons needs to go?? Because he injured Morrow and Lawrie and Reyes and Cabrera and made Dickey and Johnson horrible disappointments? Because he wasn’t able to stop Izturis and Bonifacio and Arencibia from taking big steps backwards?
Does the need to lay blame really need so badly to outstrip the need for damn common sense?
In a recent letter to you regarding AA you replied in part “Since Pat Gillick, the Jays have never had a GM move on from Toronto to become a GM elsewhere, nor have any of their top assistants or farm directors. Tony LaCava is reported to have turned down an offer from the Orioles two winters ago, staying with the Jays because he wanted to finish the job here.” Would you not agree that this is a serious indictment of Blue Jays management. If other teams in baseball have such a low opinion of Blue Jays hires and obviously the way they run their organization then it shouldn’t surprise anyone why they have been mired in the basement and out of the playoffs for so long. Is it not time for a major managerial rethink in Blue Jays land? With all due respect to Paul Beeston but if Stan Kasten had been hired as president I think things would be very different in Blue Jays land.
Good fucking lord. For one, there are 29 other GM posts in all of baseball, and they don’t change hands all that often. That LaCava was reportedly offered the Orioles job, that Gillick had success all over the place, and that Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi are both assistant GMs who may yet get another chance to run teams– it all speaks pretty alright to the club’s process, doesn’t it?
And are you serious with the Stan Kasten stuff? You think he could have figured a way to get Rogers to up the payroll to $300-million that Beeston has somehow failed at? Really?
I really liked your explanation to the question about why left-handed throwing infielders have a disadvantage playing these positions. I really hadn’t noticed this rarity. Are there currently any major league lefties throwers playing the infield? Another odd combination seems to be right-handed batters that are left-handed throwers. The last really good player with this combination that I can remember was Ricky Henderson. Why do you think this combination is so rare? As always, love your work.
Charles Adam, Manitoulin Island
There is an excellent recent piece on this exact topic at Kotaku, after a reader there noticed that MLB: The Show doesn’t even have animations for left-handed infielders except at first base (and pitcher). It’s just so extremely rare, because of the awkwardness of the required motions in the field– though there is also the suggestion, I think from Bill James, as I failed to mention last week, that any left-hander with a strong enough arm to play behind the plate will be made a pitcher anyway. That may also explain the dearth of Rickey-like position players who bat right and throw with their left hand– there are a number of pitchers, if you believe their Baseball Reference profiles, who play that way, and some left-throwing switch hitting position players as well, I believe.
It’s definitely a rare combination– I know this personally, in fact, as I throw left and bat right, and haven’t come across all that many others who share that quirk.
Q. Hello again from Japan,
Richard Stoeten. Here’s a possible question for your mailbag:
Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka just set a new NPB record with his 16th straight win from the start of the season. He’s 16-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 19 starts and has not allowed a run in his last five outings. Ma-kun is doing things that no pitcher has ever done over here — not Darvish, Kuroda, Iwakuma, Nomo, Daisuke . . . no one. He has a chance at a perfect season.
Teams like the Yanks, Rangers and Angels have scouts following Tanaka’s every move. The Jays? Nobody. Tanaka is only 25 years old and will likely be available for posting at season’s end. His fastball tops out at 96 mph and his slider is thought to be the best in Japan. He certainly looks like an ideal MLB prospect. My question is, why don’t the Jays pay more serious attention to top-flight players in Japan like Tanaka? (I don’t mean backup players like Kawasaki. I mean front-line stars). Players like this could seriously help them.
Mike DeJong, Tokyo, Japan
The Jays certainly should pay attention to the best players coming out of Japan, as I think the posting system, with its blind bid process, gives them an advantage over traditional free agent wooing, given their less-than-desirable division, reputation, and turf. But I don’t know why you’re so sure they’re not paying attention or don’t have scouts in attendance watching Tanaka– they’re not exactly an open book about that stuff. Plus, Alex Anthoupoulos himself went twice to see Yu Darvish in 2011, so I really don’t know where the notion they aren’t serious enough in that market is coming from.
Five members of the Blue Jays went to this year’s all-star game. That is surely evidence of the some of the talent on this team. Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie can’t be far off. Like you, I’ve watched a lot of baseball and this team is bad. Poor starting pitching and poor defence is the norm.
Players who have played their entire lives; are making defensive errors that don’t make sense. I hope it is a result of trying hard to pick each other up or is frustration the cause? The A’s make three errors and it’s infield practice the next day?? I think you’re right, playing on grass at home is one of the intangible improvements moving forward. Can’t understand such poor play from such a talented group.
Thanks for any insight.
Dave Van Norman
It’s certainly confounding just how bad it’s looked, but I think you’re right that one element is that sometimes the players have tried too hard to do too much at times. More than that, though, I think there are just some bad fundamental baseball players on this club and they shouldn’t be excused for it. That said, I think they can immediately be better with a more sure-handed option at second base.
Also, I tend to think a huge thing is simply that the errors this season have seemed so much more glaring because the club’s margins for error have been so razor thin due to the starting pitching having been so poor and the offence having been so top-heavy. I mean, if errors float your boat– though they’re hardly an accurate portrayal of the kinds of fundamental issues you’re referring to– it’s worth noting that the Pirates and Dodgers have overcome committing more errors than the Jays, for example.
Lately, it has been the hot topic of speculation whether John Gibbons will/should/must take the “fall” for the Jays’ 2013 mess. Thinking about it recently (while tending to my infant son in the wee hours of the morning), I actually believe that there is a larger question to be asked. That is, if/when Gibbons gets fired, will AA be shown the door with him? My line of thinking is that AA stuck his neck out in bringing back Gibbons, making him “his guy” and invariably hitching their wagons together.
If Jays’ upper management (Beeston) and ownership believe Gibbons is not the right guy, then doesn’t it follow that AA must take the fall with him? Indeed, you alluded to as much in your recent post on thestar.com(in regards to Farrell) where you stated that AA’s attitude was that the manager would simply need to write in the lineup and call it a day. Clearly, that hasn’t worked out. So isn’t it just as much the fault of the GM as it is the fault of the manager? I am thinking that, while there will no doubt be “tweaks” made to the roster this offseason, the true dismantling/housecleaning will occur with the GM and manager both being ousted and the ushering in of some battle-hardened veterans in their places. (Like maybe Mike Scioscia for manager if he is fired by the Angels?)
Love the mailbag.
Holy fuck. There is zero chance Anthopoulos goes, and zero chance anybody above him would tie it in to anything to do with the manager. For one reason, they probably understand that managers aren’t magic. For another, they probably get that Gibbons had shit fucking all to do with the injuries and underperformance of Morrow, Johnson, Dickey, Cabrera, Reyes, Lawrie and Izturis– seven players who accumulated 21 wins above replacement in 2012, per Baseball Reference, and this year have been worth -1.6 combined.
Hold on– wait a second. Seven guys worth 21 wins combined last year have produced at less than replacement level this season??? And people want to blame the manager??!?!!?!
I cheered when AA got these guys and got cramps when the rotation went south, but it doesn’t seem to me that we’re that far away. Second seems a key. Who knew that Izturis was over the hill that much? Not AA, not anybody. A substantial journeyman all of a sudden got old. With a limited range at short and fill-in for 50 games at third, the pitching staff was in trouble even before injuries.
So: Who’s available? Let’s get next year organized.
Elizabeth City N.C.
I think the up-the-middle defence has obviously not helped, you’re right, and that Izturis is certainly better suited to the coming off the bench than being a starter– and I think Anthopoulos saw that maybe when he acquired Emilio Bonifacio in the hope that he’d play second. Still, though, it was a misstep and it needs to be rectified. Howie Kendrick of the Angels was the trade target we were all drooling over around the time of the trade deadline, but for the price and the skill set, I’m not sure he’s really the best fit. Kelly Johnson is slated to hit free agency, and I really don’t think revisiting him is as bad an idea as a lot of fans probably do. There are a few more middling names on the list of free agents– Stephen Drew, anyone?– but nothing to spectacular.
Not that’s realistic, at least. There is Robinson Cano, but the idea that he’s into coming here, and the Jays are ready to break the bank and lock him and Jose Reyes into their middle infield until their mid-30s is pretty far fetched. I’d do it though!
You never know what you will see when you head out to the ballpark. Just the other night I was walking home from the Rogers Centre after attending a Jays game when I came across a rookie Toronto police officer; he was pulling a dead cow by its tail and dragging it along Roncesvalles Ave. He was sweating profusely and he looked exhausted. It was a very strange sight to say the least, so I asked him “What was going on?” He seemed flustered and told me that he was walking his beat when he came across this dead cow lying right in the middle of the street and when he started to write up his report he realized he did not know how to spell “Roncesvalles” . . . So he decided to move the cow over to King Street!
Go Jays Go!
Fred from Toronto