With proximity to his Maryland home seemingly a major consideration, the Jays were probably never really a factor in the chase for A.J. Burnett. That’s good, in a way, because it means that they didn’t exactly “lose” him, as word came this afternoon — to most of us via a tweet from Ken Rosenthal (which credits Philly beat reporter Jim Salisbury, though MLBTR now says Hayden Balgavy of Arkansas’s THV 11, and apparently being a real person who exists, had it first) — that he has signed on to be part of the most expensive fourth place team in the National league, joining the Phillies on a one-year, $16-million pact.
Another one bites the dust.
And this, of course, is where we look at that awfully tasty contract and wonder how the hell the Jays couldn’t have done better, before snapping back to the reality that this reunion just wasn’t ever happening, no matter how much we want to fume about why the hell that’s so. (Or maybe you did that a couple hours ago, when the news first broke, and are over it already — SO SORRY, SOME OF US WERE HAVING LUNCH).
The market continues to play itself out pretty much exactly like we’d expect, and though Burnett isn’t quite the last half-decent starter available without a draft pick tied around his neck, he’s pretty close. Chris Capuano remains out there for some plucky club to dream on — Dave Cameron wrote about him in a positive light a couple weeks back at FanGraphs, noting that he “has a better three-year FIP/xFIP profile than Ervin Santana” and that “his three-year strikeout rate is exactly the same as R.A. Dickey‘s” — so the coming onslaught of scawwwwwy pieces about how the Jays may have waited too long and that other, now-desperate clubs may jump back into running for Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez is maybe still a little off, but… we’re getting to there.
Speaking of, I still think the worry of either of those guys being stolen away is overblown in the minds of fans. If the Jays want them, they can still get them, even if the bidding moves the dollar figure north from its lowest ebb, especially since they still have just about the least amount of draft pick value-loss to factor into the price they’re willing to go to. There is certainly a greater than zero chance that they really don’t sign one — and things like the Mariners losing Iwakuma for four to six weeks don’t exactly help — and should the Jays actually allow that happen, there will be a lot to answer for.
I mean, even if you buy the premise that the Jays could be quite alright with what they’ve already got (and I do), there’s no reason that should be mutually exclusive from the desire to add even more assets. Given the advantageous position they’re in, with respect to both the draft pick situation and the way the markets have cratered, a club with such a public hard-on for in-a-vacuum value can’t seriously expect to convince us that they suddenly got cold feet because they realized that liked what they had so incredibly much, or that they didn’t notice the way that a team like the Cardinals managed to integrate guys like Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, and Carlos Martinez by way of the bullpen during the back-end of a year in which the club made a run all the way to the World Series, despite the fact that in the minors those guys were all exclusively starters.
In other words, the idea — which is out there, I think (or, at least, the Jays would like to be out there, as part of their contingency for not signing anyone) — that the club could be locking itself into some kind of undesirable rotational log jam is utter garbage.
Yes, it’s difficult to not give a free agent signing a whole lot of rope, and given all the marginal value the Jays are going to have to rely on accumulating in order to be competitive with yet another “if everything breaks right…” roster setup, maybe that’s a legitimate concern. Maybe they’ll be immediately regrettable — awful straight out of the shoot — but the good of adding a high upside guy like Santana or Jimenez surely outweighs such potential bad, and the Jays sort of demonstrated how they agree with that notion last year with the additions of Dickey and Johnson, right? Plus, it’s not like they would be killing their flexibility going forward into 2015.
Shit, the Angels got the Royals to take Santana following his brutal 2012 (albeit with only a single year remaining on his deal) and all they had to eat was $1-million. It’s not likely that he or Jimenez will pitch so poorly as to become unmovable, but even if they do, we’ve seen through the sad decline of Ricky Romero that the club will put its own on-field interests ahead of being beholden to a contract or a pitcher’s feeling.
Add in that there are club options for 2015 on Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ, and that, if by some miracle several prospects have forced their way into the rotation picture, Mark Buehrle will be headed into the final year of his contract, likely as a very movable piece if the Jays are willing to eat a portion of his $20-million salary in order to save the rest of it to be used elsewhere, and you wonder just what exactly the fuck the worry might be. Assuming, of course, that it isn’t money, payroll parameters, and all that garbage fans rightly dread may still be lurking behind every decision or non-decision. And that’s exactly where the conversation will inevitably go if the Jays fall short on both of these guys, no matter how they try to spin it.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. I don’t think it will be that way — I think they’ll sign someone — but right now, as we continue to insufferably wait, that’s where it’s at.
One Final Parting Gift Basket…
Because I don’t want to devote a whole damn post about it, and because it’s not like you’re going to have trouble finding anything about it, this afternoon Derek Jeter announced that 2012 was, in fact, not his last season as a professional ballplayer (crotch grab in the direction of @MJ_Baumann for that one), and that he’ll be retiring at the conclusion of 2014. That means just one last chance for Jays fans to figure out that their extra-hard booing of him is kind of weird, off-putting, and an announcement to the world that hey! this is a name I recognize!
Anywho… that’s rather large news, I suppose. Retirement tour it is. And while there was quite a bit of bemoaning of this new trend on Twitter following the announcement, I can’t say I mind knowing when I’ll have one last chance to see the greats of the game in person — and I suspect that the marketing departments of clubs throughout the league don’t mind, either. So, also: get used to it.
Barring injury or (don’t laugh) a playoff matchup, Jeter’s last on-field appearance in Toronto is set for August 31st. I know he’s a fucking Yankee, but his career has been, like, stupidly good and a hell of a thing to watch.