Andrew Stoeten

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Today In MLBTR: Friday, July 11th

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I can’t yet say that this will be a daily feature from here until July 31st, but with the Jays still doing swimmingly, trade season heating up, and the club still with plenty of use for many parts, big and small, it probably will serve us well to have a look at what the invaluable, fantastic, and comprehensive MLB Trade Rumors is telling us about today (and maybe yesterday, too)…

We’re still seeing the Jays’ name come up in whispers, but one wonders what they might really be thinking, and just how willing they’ll be to patch the ever-growing holes in their 2014 roster with pieces of their future. As if it wasn’t a difficult enough question already, the Jays could still add pieces hoping to help weather the storm and position themselves for a strong August and September with a (hopefully) healthy offence, but over the last couple of weeks the likelihood has certainly increased that whatever they do may be all for naught.

It would be easy to think that Alex Anthopoulos, given what’s at stake for him personally, in terms of his job and his ability to again ascend to the highest position within an MLB franchise, that the lean would be to do all that he can to win with this roster and to sort out the future later. But is that necessarily the case?

The latest from Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal doesn’t seem to indicate either way, as on one hand Morosi tweets that the Jays are one of three clubs looking at Rangers reliever Joakim Soria — the Angels and Tigers being the others — though Rosenthal counters by saying that the Jays are first weighing the possibility of bringing up Aaron Sanchez to help the club in the bullpen.

Rosenthal goes on to add that the Jays are looking at possibly moving Dan Norris to Buffalo, and that he could surface in the major league bullpen later — they’re hoping, he says, to limit their innings while repeating the Cardinals’ success last season with youngsters Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez working out of the ‘pen.

Interestingly, Rosenthal also says that the Jays have changed Sanchez’s arm slot, and that he’s been pitching better since. I don’t know how much stock we can put into that without seeing him succeed with it for an extended period, but it’s noticeable that in his last three starts for Buffalo have been better than his first three. Over the first three he pitched a total of 13.1 innings, allowing nine runs (seven earned) on 13 hits and 12 walks, with 13 strikeouts. Since then, over three starts, he’s pitched 19 innings, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on 19 hits and five walks, with 12 strikeouts. So… not wildly different, but the reduced walks and the increased innings sure look encouraging.

Not that they would have interest at this point, I don’t think, but if the Jays wanted to trade for the Phillies’ Marlon Byrd, they’d have a tough time doing so, as they’re one of just four teams on his no-trade list. The Jays, for a geographic reasons, and for reasons to do with the division they play in and the high-resource competition they face, are quite often on players’ no-trade lists. Oh, and for this reason, too: “Byrd adds that he included Toronto and Tampa on his list because of the artificial turf and the risk that poses to him as an aging player (especially one with a vesting option based on plate appearances).”

Moving on, and away briefly from MLBTR, a piece arrived today from former big league GM Jim Bowden over at ESPN.com about what it might take for the Jays or the Giants to get Martin Prado off the Diamondbacks, and… well… it’s a weird one. The Giants, he says, might offer Heath Hembree (“who has a big arm but hasn’t quite developed the control and command needed at the major league level”) and a minor league reliever. But for the Jays, it’s top 50 prospect territory. Or, at least by some standards, as he suggests the Jays give up Dalton Pompey (but not after being asked, and rejecting the overture, for Mitch Nay). We’re also told, somewhat inexplicably, that “the Blue Jays prefer Lawrie at second base rather than third, but what they like most about Prado is, like Lawrie, he can play both second and third. Unlike Lawrie, Prado is an above-average defender at both.” Huh?

One more non-MLBTR item, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Jays have signed Mexican pitching prospect Guadalupe Chavez. He wasn’t ranked among Badler’s top 30, but he calls him “one of the better young pitching prospects in Mexico. He’s a good athlete with a skinny 6-foot-2, 150-pound frame and already throws up to 93 mph while flashing an above-average changeup that’s ahead of his curveball, with good pitchability for his experience level.”

The injury to the Reds’ Brandon Phillips may have put a wrinkle in the Jays’ plans, as there is now another team looking to the trade market for second base help.

In a roundup of NL West notes, we’re told that the Giants and Rays have been doing some heavy scouting that may involve Jays fans pipe dream Ben Zobrist, while the Diamondbacks may be looking at a payroll crunch next year, which is why they could be extra inclined to move Prado and/or Aaron Hill. Beyond, y’know, the obvious.

Not that we should necessarily be thinking this way anymore — and not that we shouldn’t be scared off by the high cost and the results that don’t match the declining peripherals — but Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon says that he’d waive his no-trade clause to move to a contender. Does that mean the Jays at this point? It probably does, right? Right??

Speaking of Papelbon, in an NL East notes piece, we’re pointed to a piece in the Philadelphia Daily News, where his trade value is examined, and it’s figured that a Papelbon/Burnett package could have some appeal to a team like Baltimore. The Jays too, though, perhaps?

Jorge de la Rosa of the Rockies, a rental, could supposedly be obtained in exchange for a “young impact starter.” Yeah… good luck with that. Better news, though still about as unlikely to happen, is the fact that the same report adds that Troy Tulowitzki has given his subtle blessing to be traded to a contender. All the prospects for him. Right now. Do it.

Lastly, among other things (none of which are Jays-related) an AL East Notes post, we’re given a link to a piece from Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, who writes about the clubhouse discord in Boston surrounding A.J. Pierzynski, who apparently wasn’t liked by his teammates. “A microcosm of Pierzynski’s approach was mentioned by more than one of the backstop’s former teammates, who revealed his propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games. In one instance, after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away. That incident paved the way for at least one complaint to management from a teammate.” Amazing.

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The Jays made official this morning what we all knew was going to happen after the results of Adam Lind’s “Mom-RI” revealed that he’d be out six-to-eight weeks with a fractured right foot [Update: Actually, Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets that this afternoon the Jays said that Lind will be in a walking boot for 5-7 days, and back into games in 2-3 weeks. OK!], placing him on the disabled list and recalling Dan Johnson from Buffalo to make his Blue Jays debut (D’ing Bobby Korecky FA in the process to make room on the 40-man).

Fans can probably be forgiven for believing that while Lind has actually not been great over the last few weeks, and Johnson has been crushing at Triple-A, seems almost beside the point given the “no light at the end of the tunnel” sort of situation that the Jays are currently mired in. We all know the litany of troubles: the losses, the wasting of good pitching performances, the coughing up of a late lead on Wednesday to an Albert Pujols home run, Encarnacion and Lawrie and now Lind being on the shelf, Juan Francisco going full pumpkin, Bautista and Reyes hurting and not hitting like their normal selves. A 4.5 game lead in the AL East on June 11th turned into a 3.0 game deficit today.

Shit, the Jays losing Lind didn’t even warrant mention (likely because it was already old news by then, but still!) in Drew’s piece at theScore on MLB’s “Black Thursday,” which saw Masahiro Tanaka, Brandon Phillips, and Yadier Molina all go down.

But it’s not untrue that Lind has hit a pedestrian .275/.333/.377 (98 wRC+) in his last 75 plate appearances, and an awful .174/.174/.261 over his last ten (23 PA, wRC+ of 9). Or that Johnson — a lefty-hitting 1B/DH with some ability to be bad at a few other positions (3B/OF) — has been fantastic in the International League, posting a .248/.402/.471 line (144 wRC+) in 403 plate appearances for Buffalo.

Obviously those numbers won’t translate to the big leagues, but he’s actually been a decent enough big league hitter over 1556 career plate appearances, posting a 101 wRC+ by way of a .236/.337/.411 line. He’s had some short and terrible stints — a .119/.187/.202 line in 91 plate appearances for the Rays in 2011, for example — but some extended good ones, mostly in his early career, and has been an excellent Triple-A hitter over nearly 4000 plate appearances at the level, posting a .283/.403/.513 line.

So, yes, he’s been a journeyman (he took a year off to go to Japan, even) and there maybe isn’t a tonne to dream on for a guy who has been overlooked so many times this season, and had so many chances to establish himself in the big leagues, but he’s hardly nothing, either. He’s an immediate upgrade on what a hobbled Lind was offering, he can take a walk (13.2% walk rate as a big leaguer), some of his big leauge struggles and time spent in the wilderness was due to a hand injury, and he’s even shown enough against same-sided pitching — a .796 OPS against lefties this year in 149 plate appearances, and a couple hollow OBPs above .325 in the previous three seasons in AAA, for whatever that’s worth — to, sadly, probably be an upgrade on some of the bats this club has been running out against lefties of late.

And he’s not short on self belief, either. In an outstanding piece at Bull City Summer, Adam Sobsey writes about Johnson,

Two seasons ago, while he was playing for Charlotte, Johnson told me that he had had interest from National League teams, who wanted to put him on their major-league bench for left-handed platoon and pinch hitting duty. But Johnson turned down the guaranteed major-league salary (half a million dollars), plus pension and union membership. He still believed he could be a big-league regular, and in order to land that full-time job he’d have to play in the American League, which has the designated hitter, the position where Johnson’s skills most comfortably belong (although he’s a better first baseman than his reputation allows.) So he gambled on a much lesser minor-league contract and started the last two seasons in Triple-A, hoping for a crack at the bigger dream.

He also tells us that this season Johnson has adopted a new batting stance this season, more traditional looking than the open stance many fans may remember. It would be a bit of a stretch to think that maybe this will have changed him for the better and for good as he gets set to make his 2014 debut in the majors (he hits 8th tonight in Tampa, the city where he made his most famous baseball moment, a game-tying, two-strike, two-out home run on the epic last day of 2011 that saved the Rays’ season), but one can hope.

Of course, all this doesn’t mean that losing Lind, who currently ranks fourth in MLB among hitters with over 100 PA against right-handers with a 178 wRC+, won’t hurt. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the sort of death blow to the club that the news maybe felt like when it was first learned that yet another of their key bats was leaving the lineup for an extended period. Not that the way they’re teetering they necessarily need a death blow at this point anyway. Ugh.

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There is literally no way I’m watching this afternoon’s Jays game. Not with a damn World Cup semi-final going on, and a menu of krokets, herring, and heartbreak on tap. And it’s a shame, too, because somewhere around the middle of last night’s win, this team actually looked vaguely watchable again! So… there’s that.

Hup Jays Hup!

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WAS THAT SO FUCKING HARD???!??

(Also, FYI: #Kratzup).

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What is there to even say at this point? WIN A FUCKING GAME.

Scuttlebutt

Barry Davis tweets that Cole Gillespie is ailing, having hurt his oblique while swinging today. BUT WHO WILL PLATOON WITH LIND AND SUCK??? Davis adds that a DL stint might be possible, which… sure, gets some big league DL money before the inevitable DFA. Why not?

John Lott tweets a link to his great piece from the National Post on Dan Johnson, who awaits his turn in Buffalo, tearing up the International League.

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 3:35 PM ET @ Anaheim

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
3B Steve Tolleson (R)
RF Melky Cabrera (S)
1B Jose Bautista (R)
RF Nolan Reimold (R)
DH Dioner Navarro (S)
CF Darin Mastroianni (R)
2B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
C Josh Thole (L)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim

RF Cole Calhoun (L)
DH Mike Trout (R)
1B Albert Pujols (R)
CF Josh Hamilton (L)
SS Erick Aybar (S)
2B Howie Kendrick (R)
C Chris Ianetta (R)
LF Collin Cowgill (L)
3B John McDonald (R)

LHP Tyler Skaggs

Daniel-Norris

Dan Norris

Hey! Prospect stuff!

Remember prospect stuff?

Around here we used to get in a real lather any time that something like the mid-season top prospects lists from places like Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America — both of which released their mid-season 2014 lists yesterday. It’s not like that stuff became less important, it’s just with the depletion of the club’s upper minors with the trades of Noah Syndergaard (9th for BP, 19th for BA), Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, etc., and the shift in focus by the Jays from prospect-hoarding to turning farm pieces into big league roster players, it simply wasn’t of the same concern. And now… well…

As much as my knee-jerk reaction to the Jays’ recent might be to write things like “this is not the week I want to deal with morons insisting the Jays should be sellers” *COUGH* the prospect question becomes ever more interesting the more the Jays flail. Sadly, the club has floundered so badly — and has been hit by key injuries to Brett Lawrie and now Edwin Encarnacion, with guys like Adam Lind and Jose Bautista playing while ailing — that it is no longer outside of the realm of honest assessment to wonder about the wisdom of dealing away prospects to patch the holes on the club’s current roster.

I mean, I’d absolutely argue that the season is still eminently salvageable — and that’s not even a word anyone should be using, given the club’s still-excellent position in the standings with nearly half a season still to go — but there are certainly reasons to wonder about what a future would look like with the players being praised today on these lists.

For Baseball America it was Dan Norris and Dalton Pompey — and, perhaps surprisingly, not Aaron Sanchez — who made the grade.

Norris jumped from outside their pre-season top 100 into the 25th spot, ahead of Sanchez (previously 32nd), and ahead of guys like Kyle Zimmer (Royals), Alex Meyer (Twins), and Hunter Harvey (Orioles), slotting in just behind the injured Jameson Taillon. A “lefty with three potential plus pitches (fastball, slider, change) and an average curve,” is what they call him, which sure sounds good to me.

Pompey (47th) also jumped from outside the top 100, placing the 16th rounder ahead of first-round outfielders Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals) and Brandon Nimmo (Mets), as they write that the “toolsy center fielder’s bat has caught up to rest of his tools in a breakout start in the Florida State League.”

For Baseball Prospectus, Sanchez (29th) still reigns among Blue Jays, but it’s with a heavy dose of cold reality — as has been the norm of late. “It’s been a familiar tune for the right-handed starter this season: electric overall stuff clouded by concerns as to whether the fastball command is going to grow enough to lead to consistency at the highest level. Sanchez has moved a few spots, but given graduations to The Show his status has probably moved a bit backward. This arm tends to tease visions of a legit frontline arm with his stuff, but the clear-headed line of sight points to a mid-rotational starter,” writes Chris Mellen.

Mellen also provides the write-up for the ninth-ranked Syndergaard, FYI. Ugh.

Norris (33rd) is nipping at Sanchez’s heels for the top spot in the Jays’ system because of the “ a developmental step forward” he has taken over the last calendar year, which shows “no signs of slowing.”

There are intriguing pieces in the low minors, too, and ones that were just drafted (one, Roberto Osuna, just about to get back on the mound after last year’s Tommy John) — and, obviously, a pair of excellent arms already in the big leagues — that make it a still-intriguing collection of talent, but it’s the upper level talent that matters most. That’s where the Jays will likely be forced to trade from if they choose to make major upgrades for the 2014 season, but that’s also where the foundation — small a base as it may currently be — for the future may lie.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Welp. At least they didn’t waste another solid pitching performance.

This is a frustrating team to watch right now, there is no doubt about it, and the reason why is quite simple: the Jays are not hitting enough.

It’s been bad. But that doesn’t mean that some true identity of this team has been revealed over the last miserable few weeks, though I know that a lot of negative types are being overrun by their emotions and allowing themselves to think such ridiculous things — which, of course, leads to more and more absurd ideas as fans fall deeper and deeper into blind, unchecked negativity: getting concerned about Jose Reyes laughing, overstating the importance of an undeniably atrocious throw home from Colby Rasmus, working it out in their mind to somehow find a way to blame John Gibbons for all this.

The reality is, over the last 30 days the club has been functioning with one truly dangerous hitter, who is now on the DL — Edwin Encarnacion (156 wRC+ in that span). Adam Lind and Jose Bautista have both been playing hurt, and it shows (110 and 106 respectively), and Melky Cabrera has been about what you’d expect (102, powered by a .284/.342/.394 line). Kawasaki, too, at 91 wRC+ with a .348 on-base.

Literally everybody else has been below league average at the plate.

Jose Reyes, now struggling in the field as well, and understandably drawing the ire of the fans, has hit to an 84 wRC+ over that span. Colby Rasmus is at 87. Dioner Navarro, 73. Steve Tolleson, 68. Juan Francisco, 55.

It’s been ugly, but the thing is — the perspective that we really ought to maintain, hard as it may be at the moment — is that’s not who Jose Reyes is. That’s not who a healthy Jose Bautista is. That’s not who a healthy Adam Lind is (at least not against right-handed pitching).

That may not be who Colby Rasmus is (though we’ve certainly seen him be that as well, unfortunately), but on the other hand, given their track records and the favourable platoon matchups they were seeing before injuries started taking their toll elsewhere, I think Francisco and Tolleson can be better than that, too. Probably.

It’s an awful collective slump with the bats, compounded by injuries that are keeping Lawrie and Encarnacion out and exposing the flaws in guys who shouldn’t be asked to see as much big league pitching as they have of late. But as a group, we know they can be better. Even without Encarnacion and Lind, it’s not difficult to imagine them being better.

Of course, the fact that they can be much better doesn’t mean that they will. And if what the track record shows are their real selves do show up, it doesn’t mean that will happen in time for them to stem the tide and stop this tailspin from destroying such a promising season. What’s happening now is what it is. Which also means that it’s not something magical, beyond what we can see, in the hearts of the players or those coaching, managing, or running the organization, in the sporting spirit of this city, or whatever other bullshit gets invented to try to flesh out these fairly simple facts into big narratives that speak to what must be done.

The All-Star break should help. Adding a bat via the trade market should help. Eventually getting Lawrie and Encarnacion back should help. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help — at least not enough to turn this around and, from a still-solid position in the standings, launch an attack on the second half that gets the club right back to where we expected them to be when we saw through May and early June what they’re capable of at their best — but you absolutely cannot say that it can’t.

If that seems like a message that’s rather tepid in its positivity, well… that’s because it is. Woof. Fuck you, west coast!

Shit, it’s even got ol’ Gibbers down:

Oy.