More tumult in the Rays organization, as manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract that was activated when Tampa GM Andrew Friedman bolted for the Los Angeles Dodgers, making one of the games best-regarded managers a free agent.
Maddon won’t be coming here though, just in case any of you thought there was a chance in hell Rogers would actually pay top tier money for a manager. Joel Sherman tweets that executives from the Mets and Dodgers have confirmed Maddon isn’t a target, and he’s “Been told no by #Braves #Bluejays teams thought could be in play” [sic]. Of course, nobody actually believes that the Dodgers are out of the running, but that doesn’t mean I’d be going and holding my breath that the same was true of the Jays then.
We’re still seeing fallout from the Jays’ decision to raise ticket prices. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star speaks to fans surprised and dismayed by the decision, and also Jays senior VP Stephen Brooks, who says that “It’s never an easy decision, as evidenced by the fact we haven’t done it in five years.” Brooks explains, “It’s just trying to get consistency in product pricing relative to other products by section,” and confirms that single game tickets will be going up as well. Welp.
I got a bit conspiratorial last night, tweeting rhetorically, “Would anyone be surprised if we look back next spring and think they were setting the front office up to fail so they can slash $?” What I meant by that is, with all we know about how the suits are watching revenue, giving more reason for fans to stay away — especially if the club has another underfunded, unsatisfying off-season — could provide a pretext for an eventual housecleaning. Honestly, though… it had been five years. I’m starting to believe that they probably didn’t want to do it any more than fans wanted it to be done, but they can’t really be expected to sit at 2009 prices forever, especially given inflation and the sagging dollar. Shit, fans kept coming out despite the traffic mess around the stadium this summer, so maybe they really can get away with it. Better now than following another year of the same story, right?
Speaking of the revenue question, though, Shi Davidi adds this in his piece on the ticket prices at Sportsnet: “Intriguingly, team owner Rogers Communications Inc., reported its third quarter earnings Thursday, with the company’s release noting that ‘higher revenue associated with the Toronto Blue Jays’ helped keep Rogers Media’s operating revenue unchanged in the quarter and up two percent year to date.” Well that’s alright, though he adds that “no specifics were provided.”
One of the reasons this increase has caused bigger ripples than it might have otherwise, of course, is the uncertainty the team faces going into this off-season, and the fact that we simply don’t know if Alex Anthopoulos is going to be able to do the very obvious things he needs to do in order to make this team tangibly better. It begins with re-signing Melky Cabrera (or an adequate replacement), and according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Jays are still hopeful they can do so, and “have begun” talks to bring him back. Hmmm. I’d wager that means formally or something — clearly they’ve discussed it before this point — but either way, that’s alright.
Regarding Melky’s status, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes that Jose Bautista, when speaking to Mike Wilner during a World Series pre-game show on the Fan 590, says he thinks it’s 50-50 whether Cabrera will return. Meanwhile, at FanGraphs, they profiled Cabrera as a part of this year’s Contract Crowdsourcing series (in which fans are asked to estimate the years and dollars players will receive on the open market), which highlighted something that ought to be a reality check for a lot of Jays fans who think the off-season hinges on getting him back: Cabrera has averaged 498 PA and 2.1 WAR over the last three seasons, and 2.5 WAR per 600 PA over the last three seasons. He was worth 2.6 WAR in 2014, and is projected to be worth 2.5 WAR in 2015. That makes him a very good player. That doesn’t make him an irreplaceable player.
Sticking with FanGraphs, something else Anthopoulos can do is raise the damn floor of the players that his club gives playing time to, which is something that’s explored with respect to the Orioles in an excellent piece from Jeff Sullivan this week. The O’s made the ALCS despite Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Davis being awful and off the post-season roster, and Matt Wieters and Manny Machado injured. Imagine the Jays having that happen and what we’d be hearing about “everyone has injuries, so we can’t use that as an excuse, but look at all our injuries!” The reason, Sullivan surmises, that Baltimore was able to weather that storm is not their magical manager (sorry spirit animal lovers), but the fact that GM Dan Duquette has actively worked to raise the floor of the players at his disposal as much as he’s worked to raise the ceiling, too. Over the last three years the Orioles have accumulated the sixth-least amount of negative WAR in the majors (the Rays, unsurprisingly, are first). The Jays are middle of the pack, but among AL teams, the only ones to have played more negative WAR players over that span are the lowly Astros, Twins, Clevelands, Mariners, and White Sox. Looking at it through the prism of Andrew Friedman’s current and former teams, Sullivan explains that “while the Dodgers, over the last three years, have combined for seven more positive WAR than the Rays, the Rays have been better by about 4 WAR overall, because they’ve been able to have better depth. Friedman has always accumulated talent beyond just the active roster, while Colletti had weaknesses on the active roster.” It’s a lesson Alex Anthopoulos would do well to learn — though, granted, one that was tougher to learn in his early years with the club, as J.P. Ricciardi’s weak drafts were still impacting him. Getting harder and harder to blame J.P. with each passing year, though.
Speaking of Ricciardi, Andy Martino of the Daily News reported this week that Ricciardi is about to extend his arrangement with the Mets, where he oversees pro scouting and acts as a senior advisor to GM Sandy Alderson. So much for him never working again, eh dipshits? In the same piece Martino looks at Yasmani Tomas, the 23-year-old Cuban outfielder who could be the subject of a bidding war this winter. We’d love to see the Jays involved, but given the market for the latest big talents out of Cuba, it’s hard to picture.
The same goes, unfortunately, for second baseman Jose Fernandez, who defected this month, even though he’d fit an obvious need for the club. MLBTR provides some background on him, with links to scouting reports from the always-excellent Ben Badler of Baseball America, and tells us another unfortunate fact: the process to get him declared a free agent by MLB won’t likely be complete until around the end of January. The Jays simply cannot wait until then to address their infield issue on the hope that they’ll be able to land Fernandez.
Speaking of the second base issue, back at FanGraphs, Eno Sarris provided a hopeful answer to a question yesterday in a chat that asked about Aaron Sanchez’s future. “ I think they put Sanchez and Norris in a battle, hope that one of them can be a number two to Stroman’s number one… and then I kinda like that team. I don’t know why people are so down on them. A targeted infield acquisition and a little bit of luck between their three young outfielders could make that team hum.” He’s not wrong. Except… well… gotta find some relievers and a better replacement for Melky than the youngsters. But still!
So what do the Jays do this off-season? Shi Davidi takes a detailed look in his latest at Sportsnet, priming us for the start of the off-season in earnest, which could come “as soon as Monday and no later than next Thursday depending on what happens this weekend in the World Series.”
Elsewhere at Sportsnet, the Tao Of Stieb tells us about the danger of looking to the World Series for lessons, while Ben Nicholson-Smith outlines what should be an off-season of change for teams in the AL East, which has obviously already started in a big way in Tampa.
More Sportsnet: yesterday was the 21st anniversary of Joe Carter’s home run, so they re-posted last year’s excellent oral history of the moment.
Back to the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy has a bunch of great stuff, most recently telling us about fan Scott Ingram’s proposal to commemorate Ralph Platner at the Rogers Centre. I think the idea is great, but even if you don’t, it’s not like it could possibly be worse than the one statue they do have down there. *COUGH*
Speaking of the AFL, Your Van C’s looks at Roberto Osuna’s second appearance there, which took place on Tuesday and was… still not great, but better.
And speaking of prospects, Jessica Quiroli of Minor League Ball writes about Matt Boyd, who tells her about dealing with his demotion back to Dunedin this season, after struggling to adapt at Double-A New Hampshire.
A bunch from MLBTR, as they feature the Jays in their Offseason Outlook series, and tell us about the hiring of former Nationals scout Paul Tinell by the Jays, as well as their re-signing of Jonathan Diaz to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
Some retrospectives on the season, as Blue Jays Plus grades the Jays’ bullpen, Bluebird Banter looks at whether the bullpen was really the problem, while Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com looks at the expectations that were unmet this year by the bullpen.
Back to Bluebird Banter, where the always-excellent Nick Ashbourne looks into some splits, and determines that Drew Hutchison needs a new plan against left-handed hitters.
And lastly, not Jays-related, but two outstanding pieces that are definitely worth a read, as the Guardian talks about Billy Beane, his influence in baseball, and his obsession with soccer. Meanwhile, Jack Moore writes at Vice Sports about how Wall Street strangled the life out of Sabermetrics.