Archive for the ‘2013, You Guys!’ Category

bluejaysfireplace

Alex Anthopoulos has already pulled an impressive trick this winter, I think. His passivity on the player acquisition market maybe shouldn’t have been as stunning as we’ve made it– this is, after all, a GM who, we once lamented, spent an entire calendar year on the job while adding only seven non-relievers from outside the organization to his big league roster: J.A. Happ, Aaron Laffey, Jesse Chavez, Jeff Mathis, Ben Francisco, Yorvit Torrealba and Omar Vizquel– but beyond those sorts of fans who are going to bleat out horseshit regardless, just for the sake of hearing their own entitled, know-nothing voices, there seems to be an odd serenity he’s created.

The consternation and anger that welled up in the weeks following our pretending that the fucking Red Sox didn’t win the World Series seems to have abated, though certainly not in the way that last winter Anthopoulos re-energized the fan base with his splashy moves and ability to get Rogers to make gigantic financial commitments.

Our old friend the Tao of Stieb thinks that it’s apathy, but I’m not so sure. And if it is, what this book presupposes is, maybe it shouldn’t be.

Admittedly, things would be different if the top end of the pitching market had budged yet, but apart from the Tigers’ bizarre and disappointing move of Doug Fister, it really hasn’t. That leaves lots of room for Jays fans to fantasize about the club landing one of the remaining big targets, and while the worry in this city is always there that such daydreams are mostly built on total delusion, as I wrote last week, there remains plenty of reason to think that the Jays won’t stand pat.

In that piece I focussed on how the club ought to be able to make the money work, and how badly it is to their advantage to make a play now for a free agent. In essence: for all the words Alex Anthopoulos has spilled about not creating roster holes by dealing key big league pieces in order to fix positions elsewhere on the diamond, by shipping away what little upper-end pitching prospect depth he has (especially the ones with front-line potential, like Sanchez and Stroman) he’d simply be setting up similar holes on future rosters, which will likely have to be filled in expensively via the market anyway. So why not just spend now and keep the prospects?

Waiting out the market with that sort of a pursuit in mind wasn’t necessarily the only course of action the Jays could have taken this winter– we know this for a fact thanks to a rumour that arose during the Winter Meetings, suggesting a deal had fallen apart earlier in the winter, which would have moved Sergio Santos (and presumably more) in exchange for a starter– but it makes sense why the club may be stridently following such a path now. Not only would it enable them– as I argued in last week’s piece– to save their prospect capital, and mitigate potential future rotation woes, but precedent suggests that the longer they wait the more the prices for the free agents they covet may come down.

This year’s market may buck that trend, as it’s so late-developing due to the Masahiro Tanaka situation, but the advantages for the Jays are still adding up: many teams have already spent themselves out of the picture or filled their rotation through other means; many won’t touch guys who’ll cost them a draft pick, or already have and won’t want to blow their 2014 draft any further; and while it’s hardly a buyer’s market, Rakuten finally making the decision to post Tanaka has brightened the picture by adding to the available supply of top-end arms in a huge way.

It’s hardly a certainty that the club will be able to find a quality starter who’ll take their money, however. And it is perhaps with that in mind that the club has been subject to such paralysis when it comes to addressing their other areas of need. Maybe I’m being too hopeful and too quick to construct a narrative that conflicts with some of the things Alex Anthopoulos has openly said this winter– and, as with his stated preference for the trade market, that he has demonstrated time and again in the past that he truly thinks– but I tend to believe that he is actually intentionally holding all of his bullets. He’s holding money to make sure he has room in his budget to fit the free agent he’s aiming to go after, and he’s holding prospects (which could be used to make upgrades elsewhere– most glaringly at second base) to make sure he doesn’t deal away anything that could be used to net a top arm on the trade market, just in case he misses out.

The concept works in one sense because it insulates him better against missing on the kind of difference-making pitcher he so badly needs.

It works in another, though, because as desperately as it seems like he needs to make an addition, Anthopoulos can take the posture that he can stand pat a lot more confidently than I suspect a lot of fans realize. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he really did believe he could get away with doing nothing.

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izturisthrows

Holy shit, people.

Holy. Shit.

Alex Anthopoulos is slow-playing the off-season and apparently it’s breaking brains.

Of course, not helping the increasingly poisonous situation out here among the unwashed masses is the fact that he appears to believe exactly what a whole lot of right-thinking people were saying at the end of the season: that the collection of talent he’s assembled is better than it played in 2013, and could be significantly better by simply upgrading certain positions from total dogshit to at least passable.

Better enough? I’m not sure. And obviously that’s not a sexy approach for “a 74 win team,” as you’ll not-infrequently hear bellowed at the club’s defenders from the gaping maws of negative suckholes. The number, of course, is technically correct, but that’s a pretty jaundiced slant to put on things, given that the assumption therein is that the results of 2013 weren’t thoroughly warped by injury and under-performance. Plus, while I get that nobody wants sunshine blown up their ass after watching the Red Sox win the World Series and the Yankees unload hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents, it’s not like those teams don’t have flaws of their own– the Yankees’ entire infield and back of the rotation are both pretty spotty, while Boston, as it currently stands, are relying on a trio of very-good-to-excellent prospects (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and Will Middlebrooks) to hit the ground running, which they didn’t exactly do in the big leagues in 2013 (the Sox may, however, re-sign Stephen Drew, which would mitigate their risk in that regard substantially).

Pointing out those flaws is not to suggest that Jays fans should be doing cartwheels here, but a little perspective goes a long way to keeping the nonsense in check. I tried to do that back in late August, reminding us, as it was being announced that Brandon Morrow and Melky Cabrera were getting shut down for the season, that “Morrow, Johnson, Dickey, Cabrera, Reyes, Lawrie and Izturis– seven players who accumulated 21 wins above replacement in 2012, per Baseball Reference, … this year have been worth -1.6 combined.”

It looks like I might have had a math error in there, actually, because if you remove the departed Josh Johnson from the equation  it turns out that per Baseball Reference the remaining six players accumulated 21.7 WAR in 2012. The year before that the group was worth 19.9 wins.

In 2013? Just 6.4.

Sure, some could get hurt again, some may never again hit the peaks they reached in the previous two years, and obviously the team could suffer from a drop in value elsewhere– will Rasmus, Encarnacion, Buehrle and Bautista all repeat their excellent seasons?– but the point is, realistically the Jays are starting from a better spot than the “74 win team” stuff suggests. And with that sort of thing in mind, so much of the current angst– and there is a shit-tonne of it– seems maybe a little over the fucking top. And is maybe getting a little bit too insufferable.

After a certain point, at least.

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greatexpectations3

The GM Meetings begin today in Orlando, and you’ve probably heard by now that last year’s version of the event was where the groundwork for most of last season’s big moves was laid. In fact, by this time in 2012, the Jays had already traded for Esmil Rogers and signed Maicer Izturis (though the latter deal didn’t take place until after the meetings, which were earlier on the calendar). Things have been much quieter so far this winter, but that doesn’t mean that the stakes aren’t just as high for Alex Anthopoulos, which means all kinds of fun innuendo should be coming down the pike this week. And as long as our mayor doesn’t get indicted, I’ll be fully devoted to passing it all along until the meetings adjourn on Wednesday– and for quite some time after, no doubt.

In other words, you have no reason to not be following us. But I’ll do you one better and give you another.

Back on Friday I received my review copy of Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season, the new book from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet and John Lott of the National Post. Along with it, ECW Press was kind enough to send along a copy for us to give away.

So, here’s what we’ll do about that:

The DJF Twitter account (@DRUNKJAYSFANS) is closing in on 20,000 followers– less than a hundred away last I looked– and while I figure most people who want to follow are probably already doing so, I’ve got precisely zero better ideas for using this book to the site’s benefit except to try to bump us close to the prestigious-only-in-my-mind 20K level.

So, if you’re not doing so already, follow DJF on Twitter. Then, at some point this morning I’ll send out a tweet that says something like “RT this to win the copy of ‘Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season’ that we’re giving away. You must be following us to win!“– probably something exactly like that, now that I mention it– and then later in the afternoon I”ll print out the names of everyone who retweeted, cut ‘em up, pull one from a hat, and as long as whoever gets picked is following DJF (because apparently I’m gonna be a stickler about this for some reason), they get the book.

Sound good? Of course it does.

And if you don’t win, you can always order yourself a copy by way of the link to ECW Press above, or find it later this week (if not already) in your local, preferably independent, bookstore.

Hey, and while we’re talkin’ social media, why not give us a like on Facebook, and follow me (@AndrewStoeten) and all our other friends and contributors– like @dustinparkes, @DrewGROF, @thescottlewis, @ArchiZuber and @ScottJohnson48– on Twitter.

collectivebargaining

When MLB and the Players Association came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement following the 2011 season, a number of new mechanisms were put in place ostensibly in the name of fairness. The revenue sharing agreement was changed in order to exclude clubs in the biggest 15 markets from getting those dollars, Toronto included, while competitive balance draft picks were introduced, and changes to the competitive balance tax were made, which the Yankees are now notably running up against.

Another area where the playing field was supposedly levelled– at the expense of amateurs not in the union, of course– was in the draft.

What we’ve ended up isn’t quite the commissioner’s preferred “hard slotting” plan, but the introduction of bonus pools and strict penalties for overpayment was supposed to be an improvement on the previous system, in which talented players dropped due to signability and then were scooped up by big market, high payroll clubs. And it’s sort of worked! But… um… turns out there might be a slight problem with the new draft setup when it comes to compensation for players receiving qualifying offers– at least, it sure looked like a problem from where I was sitting when I saw it highlighted in the “Winners” section of Ken Rosenthal’s roundup of yesterday’s activity over at Fox Sports.

Moving away from some paragraphs on the players who yesterday avoided being chained to a market-destroying draft pick, Kenny Ken Ken commented on the good fortune of a couple of teams:

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johnsonSTthrow

Nick Cafardo sure seems to know where his bread is buttered. Earlier this month I’d pivoted off something that the Boston Globe man had written as I explored the notion that the Jays could have interest in Bronson Arroyo, beginning the post like this: “We had posts on this site in MayJune, and August, that referred to something Nick Cafardo had written about as ‘insanity.’ If you wanted to surmise that I’m somewhat suspicious of his attempts to throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks (note: most likely shit), that should tell you everything you need to know.”

So… the same caveats obviously apply with his latest from the Globe, but it actually makes a lot more sense than Arroyo, or claiming free-agent-to-be Justin Morneau on waivers for no reason, or whatever the other stuff was about.

To wit:

6. Signs point to the Blue Jays spending to acquire another big bat, two starting pitchers, and a bullpen piece. And maybe I’ll pick them again.

Yeah, sure, maybe that’s coming straight from the mouth of an agent, or completely made up, but I’ll sure take it! And there’s more!

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jpabow

J.P. Arencibia finished the 2013 season with a .227 on-base percentage, which is not the worst OBP by a qualified hitter since 1900. It’s not the second-worst. It’s not the third-worst. It’s not the fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-worst on-base by a qualified hitter since 1900.

It’s not an on-base percentage of a qualified hitter at all.

Yes, Arencibia, at the end of the season, dropped just below the threshold needed in order to qualify for the batting title. To do so a player needs to have 3.1 plate appearances for every originally scheduled game that his team played, which means that, playing a 162 game schedule, a player needs 502 PA. Arencibia finished the year with 497.

He was five plate appearances shy of posting the second-worst qualified OBP since 1900, and the worst since Hal Lanier in 1968.

The fact that he wasn’t qualified doesn’t change how bad he was, and so this conspiracy theory is maybe a bit silly, but something interesting did happen on the final weekend of season that could have impacted his qualifed status: Josh Thole caught a day game after a night game in order to give Arencibia the day off.

Thole caught as R.A. Dickey pitched– with the dome closed, you may remember– on September 28th, and then was back out there the next afternoon, catching J.A. Happ.

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yangomes

The regular season has ended, and yet Yan Gomes is still playing. The Clevelands are fighting for their playoff lives, hoping for a chance to take a crack at the Red Sox in the ALDS, awaiting the winner of tonight’s Tampa-Texas tiebreaker, and the addition of Gomes– worth 3.7 wins per FanGraphs (2.7 per Baseball Reference) in just 88 games– has been a huge part of that.

So, it should be noted, have the additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Danny Salazar, Scott Kazmir, and a re-born Ubaldo Jimenez– meaning, the Francona-is-magic brigade can kindly take a seat, thanks.

Regardless, given the atrocity that Jays fans have endured behind the plate this season, which Alex Anthopoulos still won’t commit to replacing– though given that means submarining what little is left of his theoretical value, I suppose it’s understandable– there has been a lot of post-facto hand-wringing around here among those who’ve taken notice of the season Gomes has had.

That’s not remotely close to unfair. Esmil Rogers has had a very good season himself, but you simply cannot give up MLB-quality everyday catchers for a middle reliever, no matter how good or versatile he may be. Especially when you’re committing to J.P. Arencibia.

Frankly, the Jays are lucky that Rogers had as good a year as he did– thanks in no small part to bullpen coach Pat Hentgen and the introduction of a power sinker to his repertoire. Otherwise dealing away Gomes would look even more like an unmitigated disaster.

Even without the Rogers component, however, there are reasons to not fly too deeply off the handle about it– even if they may illuminate something not too pretty about how the club operates.

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