Whoa. OK, so I should probably get the hell out of bed and write about how the Jays’ Opening Day roster was formally set today, featuring five key bits of not entirely not-fucking-confounding news:
McGowan Starts Home Opener
I’ve written about this rather extensively over the past several days, as it appeared more and more clear that Dustin McGowan’s performances were a cut above those of everyone else pitching for the last spot in the Jays’ rotation, and fortunately the Jays seem to have their heads on straight with this one, despite the obvious risks. It just made too much sense for even this bizarre-thinking organization to not ignore — especially after McGowan reportedly has been saying that he feels great this morning (let’s just pretend it’s still morning) following yesterday’s 62 pitch outing.
Brandon Morrow, who almost kind of looked ready-enough in his last tuneup, gets bumped up a spot and will pitch in the final game at Tampa so that McGowan can continue to go on regular rest, pitching March 30th against minor leaguers, and then taking the ball in the home opener against Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees. It’s easy to be pretty jaded about this club — really, really, really easy — but how awesome is that?
For the sake of completeness, I should note that Morrow will also be on regular rest in his first start of the year, as he’ll pitch on the Saturday in Montreal, along with Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup.
Happ To The DL
Not entirely unsurprising news here, as apparently J.A. Happ’s back isn’t right, or wasn’t right, or flared up, or… something something left arm shittiness.
The Jays have placed their mightily struggling left-handed starter who is still owed a bunch of money (non-Romero division) on the DL to begin the season, giving Happ — who, let’s not fucking forget, is a whole lot better than we saw this spring — a chance to get himself right. Whether that’s necessarily from a medical perspective or from a left arm shittiness perspective … um… who cares? If he’s willing to accept a DL’ing, then that’s obviously the best case scenario for a club that didn’t want to release him, but also didn’t want to find a way to carry him at someone else’s expense when he’s clearly not capable of pitching like a big leaguer just yet.
If he’s ultimately brought back to join the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever and the third left-hander on the depth chart, that’s fairly ideal, I’d say. Pretty much where he should have always been.
Jeffress Makes The Club
Now to the somewhat confounding bits: it’s not like I don’t like Jeremy Jeffress or don’t get why the club continues to hump the dream of harnessing his big arm, but… um… I don’t entirely get why the club continues to hump the dream of harnessing his big arm. He’s always had trouble throwing strikes, as he did for most of this spring, yet Jeffress has made the roster, sliding in somewhere between or below Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond on list of right-handers in the bullpen, safely behind Janssen, Delabar, and Santos, as well as lefties Loup and Cecil.
With McGowan making the rotation while still on fairly strict pitch counts, the eight-man bullpen thing is a little bit more palatable than it would be otherwise (which is, of course, not fucking palatable at all), but with multi-inning guys Rogers and Redmond also in the mix, just how many innings are there going to be for Jeffress? I mean, I know that’s not the point of this move — it’s to try to keep Jeffress in the organization and sneak him down to Buffalo so that he can immediately be passed on the relief depth chart by John Stilson and Neil Wagner — but… I don’t know… maybe it wouldn’t be the worst idea if they just cut bait already and let an organization that will give him a big league job take a chance on him, and do something about the atrocious bench this club is going to run with to start the year.
I reserve the right to revise this opinion if he’s just sitting there so that he can be moved out once the Jays add a real middle infielder — *COUGH* Stephen drew *COUGH* — after Opening Day passes.
Thole Over Kratz
Speaking of the club’s atrocious bench, Josh Thole, everyone! In a surprise move it’s Josh Thole getting the start in today’s game at Dunedin against the Yankees, catching R.A. Dickey, meaning that he’s made the club as a backup catcher.
Now, before you go all “stupid promise when he was given that also-confounding extension last year” or “sham competition,” let’s keep a couple things in mind. Yes, Erik Kratz had a much, much better spring at the plate, and seemed by many indications to have the inside track for this job, aaaand probably makes more sense, given that he’s a right-handed bat and won’t create a vortex of shittiness at the bottom of the lineup on the days when he and Ryan Goins hit eight-nine — and especially those when the club is facing a lefty. But, for one, there is a huge defensive component to this decision, and that’s a whole lot harder for us to get a read on (even if the times we’ve heard of Dickey being caught by Kratz it seems to have worked just fine).
For two, as much as I thought Kratz was a sneaky-good pickup by the club and a much better hitter than Thole, let’s keep in mind some numbers. Yes, Thole has been utter garbage as a big leaguer in his last two seasons (.218/.284/.277 over 489 PA), one of which was impacted by a concussion, the other by sporadic playing time (being generous on that one, I know). On the whole as a big leaguer he hasn’t been that bad, posting a .645 OPS (crude and shitty stat, I know, but I’m being lazy here) over 1100 plate appearances, with a .322 on-base. Kratz, as a big leaguer, in 417 plate appearances, has put up a .688 OPS mostly because of his superior power numbers, with a .281 career on-base in the Majors.
And in at the triple-A level? Thole, in a limited sample, OPS’d .893 for Buffalo last year, bringing his career mark in triple-A up to .829, with a .365 on-base, in 363 plate appearances. Kratz, on the other hand, has an .812 OPS and .341 on-base for his triple-A career over 1500 PA.
I think you can argue that Thole hasn’t been that same guy over the last couple of seasons — I certainly would — but the question of who is the better hitter between the two really isn’t so cut-and-dried, even though it sure seems like it after seeing Kratz at his absolute best in a small spring sample, and Thole at his worst.
Thanks for making those last second plans to leave Australia and come try to make our crappy ballclub, Matt, but it turns out we don’t need you after all.
Yes, Matt Tuiasosopo didn’t make enough of a late impression in camp to unseat Moises Sierra or to convince to Jays to cut a damn reliever in order to give him a spot on the club. You can’t fault the team for putting in a waiver claim for him while he was jetting over to Australia, since they certainly didn’t ask the Diamondbacks to time it that way, but that doesn’t make the situation less unfortunate, I guess.
Not sure how much sympathy I have for a big league ballplayer getting dicked around like this while getting paid more than most doctors, though actually it would seem as though Tuiasosopo may not be a big leaguer for long: a transaction is pending, the reports say, and will most likely mean that the Jays try to sneak him through waivers and stash him in Buffalo. Melbourne it ain’t.
Consider this your Game Threat!