Archive for the ‘AA’s Quest for Pitchers’ Category

happpy

Creating an excuse to give this post the most painfully obvious title ever, J.A. Happ was yet again a disaster today, failing to get a single out in the fourth inning, exiting the game having given up seven earned runs on twelve hits (no walks, though!). If he’s hurt and not telling anyone, mused the excellently Ashby-ish Joe Siddall on the radio broadcast, he’s not doing himself any favours.

It started off fairly well for Happ, too. Somewhat shaky and bailed out a bit by Erik Kratz erasing a Starling Marte single by throwing him out attempting to steal second (which, apparently, Blue Jays catchers are going to be allowed to do this year), but decently enough to create genuine worry that he may have been on his way to doing just enough to justify the Jays keeping him in the rotation. It all came undone in a four-run second inning, though, with singles and hard hit outs following throughout his final inning-plus of work. In all, Happ raised his spring ERA a mere fucking .32 of a run (per @Shifty169), up to a cock-mangling 20.57.

Good fucking lord of grief fucking.

And yet — get this! — according to a tweet from Barry Davis, Happ “says that he was told at the start of camp he was in the rotation, and no one has told him otherwise since.” Happ, he adds, “assumes he’s still in.”

He can’t possibly, though. Yet it’s not like he’s going to say too much negative otherwise, so even though I’m not sure what he has to gain by saying it, I have a hard time killing him for all that. But he does have a knack for not making it terribly difficult to figure out what he’s thinking by reading between the lines — something he showed to be adept at doing last year as he sat in limbo waiting for the club to realize that starting Ricky Romero wasn’t remotely tenable — telling Davis, according to a second tweet, “I’m not going to comment,” when asked if he finds it disturbing that no one has told him that he may not make the rotation.

He can’t possibly, though. Make the rotation, that is. And the thing about last year’s whole untenable proposition about Romero — who, at least when in big league games last spring, and not being shielded from those salivating to call him finished, put up a 6.23 ERA over 13 innings, giving up 17 hits and ten walks (compared to Happ’s 21 and nine over seven this year) — is that the Jays eventually decided that they had no choice but to throw Romero to the wolves anyway.

If you ask me, if they can stomach that desperate, doomed-to-fail experiment, I just don’t see how they can’t be willing to do the same with Dustin McGowan, who at least has a legitimate sparkle of upside in that fragile arm of his, and several reasons to see how the setup may actually work.

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tuiasosopo

The Jays claimed utility man Matt Tuiasosopo from the Diamondbacks late Thursday afternoon, releasing hard-throwing left-hander Luis Perez in the process. It’s a… it’s a move. I don’t know if it’s a curious one, or even an interesting one, but it’s a move. Tuiasosopo is out of options, and will report to big league camp in Dunedin as soon as he arrives — which may not be for a while, since Bluebird Banter notes that he’s currently in Sydney with the Diamondbacks contingent getting set for the season-opening series against the Dodgers.

I’m not sure that he’s anything, but… maybe? You’ll see a lot of people lazily citing a reverse split in a tiny sample of big league at bats, which might encourage you to question the move, especially if it’s with a view to replacing Moises Sierra as the default right-handed bat off the bench, but a closer look shows it’s probably quite a bit smarter than that.

In 2013, Tuiasosopo put up an impressive 114 wRC+ and a wOBA of .342, but did the vast majority of his damage against same-sided pitching (158 wRC+/.389 wRC+), despite getting the bulk of his plate appearances against left-handers. Against lefties he was basically an average hitter, posting a 99 wRC+, a .320 wOBA, but how he got there was interesting: his walk rate was a robust 15.3% — nearly double what it was against right-handers – and his power was slightly above average, as he posted an ISO of .155, but his BABIP was a bit low at .274, leading to an unimpressive-minus-the-walks slash line of .216/.336/.371 in the split.

Thing is, he was getting all those plate appearances for a reason: against left-handed pitching for Buffalo (when it was a Mets affiliate) in 2012, Tuiasosopo slashed .304/.395/.461 against left-handers, which was over 200 points of OPS better than his split against righties. The year before for the PCL’s Tacoma Rainiers it was .241/.366/.482.

Granted, those numbers only cover just over 250 plate appearances in total, but they’re impressive enough. Especially since the Jays are currently looking at handing the job of Lind’s platoon-mate — when they’re not making dumb-as-shit pronouncements about letting Lind and his wRC+ of 37 in the split actually hit against the occasional lefty… like intentionally — to Moises Sierra, who has never had a strong platoon split, and certainly didn’t in 2013, putting up an ugly .222/.301/.370 against left-handers in time split between Buffalo and a nifty big league cameo.

Sierra’s typically below-average walk rate spiked to 11.5% when moved up to the majors last year. He cut down on his strikeouts, increased his power, and basically forced his name back into the conversation, despite having a pedestrian year in Buffalo that had made him something of an afterthought — and probably for good reason. The 25-year old isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in camp, but he’s also out of options, and has certainly looked better so far than Tuiasosopo, who has just four hits and four walks in 39 plate appearances.

One could pretty easily think — despite some chatter on Twitter that some sort of a deal might be in the works that would make one of these two players less redundant — that we simply now have some healthy competition for the role, and that the team figured it cost them nothing given they quite possibly would have lost Luis Perez anyway, had they tried to slip him through waivers. However, there are some legitimate reasons to think that Tuiasosopo might be the favourite: in addition to the better production in the split at the minor league level, he’s more versatile — in 2012 at Buffalo he played every position but pitcher or catcher — and his numbers in the big leagues in 2013 may have looked even more impressive had it not been for a ribcage injury that sent him to the DL in mid-June.

He returned to action on July 8th, a week before the All-Star break. Granted, that’s quite a long time, in baseball terms, before he went 0-for-September in 22 plate appearances, but perhaps the effects of the injury lingered. It’s a stretch, but the difference between his first half (195 wRC+) and his second half (20 wRC+) are extraordinarily stark.

The fact that the ability hasn’t returned yet this spring is a concern, but perhaps that will give the club a better chance to sneak Tuiasosopo through waivers to Buffalo and keep both of their options open.

Or perhaps this is the signal of something coming on the pitching front involving an outfielder. There are obvious doubts to be had on that, given that the outfielders the Jays would conceivably be giving up — i.e. none of their three starters — would be minor pieces to any deal, but that doesn’t mean pitching isn’t still the talk of the rumour mill…

The Latest Trade Pitch

Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago wrote on Thursday that the Jays had three scouts watching Jeff Samardzija’s latest outing for the Cubs, “including their director of professional scouting, top scout and former Cubs general manager Ed Lynch.”

It’s not like the Jays are the only team interested, though, as Levine says that as many as 25 scouts were in attendance for the performance, likely because, as he tells us, “the Cubs and Samardzija are no closer to a deal on a long-term contract now than they were the last time they had substantive talks in December.” He adds that “the sides seem to have differences that could amount to $15 million-$20 million over the life of a long-term deal.”

However, those scouts may soon need to switch locations, as Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson may be a trade candidate, now that we’ve learned, via a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, that extension talks between the two sides have broken off, and free agency at the end of the season seems a likely option. And get this: all Masterson was asking for was a three-year deal around, but under the same average annual value of Homer Bailey’s six-year extension with the Reds ($17.5-million). That’s… uh… that’s pretty doable-sounding to me. So go do it already, Anthop– oh… fuck it, who are we kidding?

Of course, if they knew what was good for them the Jays may not even need an extra starter. That’s a stretch, I know, and also irrelevant because they clearly don’t know what’s good for them, but Dustin McGowan pitched really well again today. Like he did all of last year.

He wants to start. He’s getting built up. He could pitch the home opener on April fourth having made two more spring starts on regular rest to keep pushing his arm to get beyond the 45 pitches he was at today (though one start would have to be against minor leaguers in Dunedin). When healthy he’s a clear, obvious cut above Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond. Most importantly, if he gets hurt — which, naturally, is the fear — they’re really only losing their fourth-best right-handed reliever.

The thing about his getting built up, though, is that it’s not really what it looks like — or so say the Jays for now.

“We just kind of figured [the bullpen] was where I was going to be, just because I hadn’t built up enough innings to even really compete for the [starting] job,” he told reporters today, including John Lott of the National Post. “But I think they wanted to get me out there and see if I can even go three or four innings, just to see how I would bounce back. Who knows, in the ’pen, you might have those days when a guy needs to go three or four.”

Those are valuable innings, sure, but not as valuable as ones in the rotation. More valuable, I guess, than ones that he can’t pitch because he’s overextended himself and ended up hurt, though. And maybe I’m being a bit too romantic about the notion that this should be a serious consideration, but if not now, when? This is the last guaranteed year of a deal that includes a $4-million club option for 2015, which is no slam dunk to be picked up. He wants to do it. He’s got them weighted balls! He’s going to be thirty-two damn years old next week. Take off the fucking Water Wings already and let’s see if he sinks or swims.

Ahh, but this is the Jays we’re talking about, so even though they’re stretching McGowan out, they’re not really stretching him out. Dr. Gibby’s orders.

Ugh. Hey, but maybe this is just a hilarious dose of classic bullshit from the club and they really are thinking of doing it. That would be… good? I don’t even know anymore.

anthocalypsenow

The budgetary issues that were supposed to keep the Atlanta Braves out of the final sprint for Ervin Santana may be a thing of the past, as last night Jim Bowden laid this on us:

A team owned by a publicly traded company that actually wants to win? Amazing. (And speaking of, on his show on the Fan 590 yesterday, Jeff Blair opined that he’s “not entirely certain MLB would approve another publicly traded company buying a franchise.” Hmmm. I wonder if the Jays’ experience subsidizing pointless excess Sportsnet channels with cheap content under Rogers’ corporate boot-heel might illustrate anything about all that.)

Update: It’s official now, Santana to the Braves.

Should this force me to change the screed any?  Since the Braves weren’t an option until very, very recently, and the Jays sat on their hands all winter, I’m going to say no. Smart decision on Ervin’s part, though, to go to a good NL team with a sudden need and a run environment that will look a whole lot better to whichever prospective employers next year don’t bother to pay attention to park and league factors.

Oh, and way to go, Jays. It’s better than having him land in Baltimore, I guess. And especially good on Atlanta, who didn’t have a need to fill three days ago, got hit with injuries, then simply went out and got this done. Funny fucking thing that, eh?

It seems already like we’ve discussed this ad nauseam, and I wasn’t planning to do it again today this much, but the opportunity arose in the comments on the post below this one to make clearer just why I think the Jays’ possible inaction on Ervin Santana is so upsetting. And rather than leave it all buried there, I figured it would be useful to make a full post out of it.

Plus I get to FJM a comment from RADAR! Because this is where we’re at, apparently.

To wit:

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santanafinishespitch

Everybody panic!

Earlier today Jeff Shultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote about the Braves situation with Kris Medlen, who left yesterday’s game with a forearm strain and is undergoing an MRI with Tommy John fears looming. I wrote about this in the previous post, but for the sake of completeness here, to recap, on the possibility of Atlanta jumping into the chase for Ervin Santana, he figured “there’s probably no money left to bring in somebody from the outside now, and there’s no reason to believe the organization will change course in philosophy since they didn’t show any desire to spend in the winter.”

However, an hour later his colleague, David O’Brien, laid this on us:

Initially I didn’t think there was anything to the idea of the Braves pursuing him, but now with Beachy having more issues (he left today’s start against the Phillies after two innings due to biceps tightness), I’m hearing from a person connected to the  Royals that the Braves are making a run at the free agent. How serious that is, I don’t know yet.

Realistically, with Santana supposedly asking for at least $14 million in a one-year offer and with the Twins reportedly having a three-year offer of about $33 million on the table for Santana, I couldn’t see the Braves going $10 million over their budget to bring in a guy who’s been inconsistent in recent years and has had some elbow concerns of his own. But that was before Beachy left today’s game. Now, I think the Braves feel like they need to see if it’s possible to get a proven starter (and one who had a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings last season for the Royals.

There could indeed be a legitimate issue with Beachy, which would really ratchet up the pressure on Atlanta to find some pitching. From an update in Schultz’s piece, he explained:

“I’ve seen the doctor; my ligament is fine. The biceps is a little too tight. It’s difficult to describe. When I went down in 2012 it was a stabbing sensation. Last year it was a fullness in the joint and (discomfort) shooting out all over.”

Asked if he thought he would be ready when the season opens in three weeks, he said, “We’ll see. We’ll see how it recovers.”

With so much money locked into this Braves team, it would be hard for them to sit idly by and not take this opportunity to grab a pitcher who could really help them. Because, y’know, presumably they’re an organization that actually gives a shit about winning and doing right by all that money they’ve committed and the people they spent it on. Weird, huh?

They’re also a team with unseemly corporate ownership, though, and we know how difficult it can getting budget approvals out of those soul-crushing enterprises or convincing them, apparently, how important winning is to a robust bottom line. So… who knows? But if you’re Santana, going to the National League for your pillow deal probably sounds pretty enticing.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter.

Drew gave us an excellent roundup on the situation this morning at Getting Blanked, nailing as he explained that “putting together a good season in terms of ERA and wins playing in front of a superlative defense in a pitcher’s park doesn’t pay like it used to.”

In other words, thanks to advances in analysis, maybe where he ends up trying to make his next paycheque isn’t as big a concern as it used to be. Then again, it’s probably more likely that it just shouldn’t be such a concern, though it often still is (Josh Johnson says hi).

There are a few people on Twitter saying that maybe Santana just doesn’t want to come here, but last night I tweeted why I tend to not think that’s the case. (Give me a follow when you click that, while you’re at it!). So… I don’t know… we continue to wait and see and hope to finally put this behind us, one way or the other (but hopefully the good way), and get on to some actual baseball stuff soon.

The number of excuses for not getting this deal done — or not getting it done before the Braves had reason to swoop in — continues to be fucking zero, though. So… there’s that.

santanathrows

There would seem to be more at stake for the Toronto Blue Jays when it comes to signing Ervin Santana or not than just the marginal value he can provide the 2014 edition of the club, though that alone could legitimately be huge.

It may not, of course. Santana’s addition may only push them from being an 84-win team to an 86-win team, or a 79-win one to a 81-win one. Shit, they may already have enough talent, and have made up for enough of last year’s value leakage to be legitimately in the playoff conversation as constituted. No, really, it could happen! But just a little extra push could be vital.

You’d hate to be Alex Anthopoulos looking back in September at what this team could have been with just another couple of wins. And if you’re him and you don’t believe those to be relevant-enough to matter, what the hell are you doing with this club in the first place, and why didn’t you spend this winter retooling it significantly?

The GM should think this team is good enough for those couple of extra wins to mean something, and while they certainly may be able to skate through the AL East somehow without them, thanks presumably to projection-busting sources like Drew Hutchison or Marcus Stroman, the line about believing so much in the club’s internal options has lost nearly all of its power to compel now that it’s no longer being uttered to provide cover for those legitimately wary of this club giving a four-year deal to a guy like Santana.

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santanaheavens

All sorts of varying reports this… er… what time is it? Morning?

Anyway, all sorts of reports today about Ervin Santana signing with the Jays. Or maybe the Orioles. Or maybe someone else if a better deal comes along by 5 PM. Or… well… why don’t you lay down and I’ll fill you in…

It started this morning, at least according to my timeline, with tweets from Jon Morosi and Buster Olney, with Morosi tweeting that he’s in Dunedin today and that the Jays people he spoke to were optimistic about their chances to sign Santana, while Olney added that the Jays have played their hand extremely well if they land him, “and they’re working on it.”

MLBTR then went whole hog, passing along a tweet from Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes, who said that the team and Santana had agreed on a one-year deal would pay him $14-million. Not so fast, though, tweeted Joel Sherman of the New York Post, saying that the deal was being worked on, but wasn’t done. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes then added that Santana indeed has a $14-million offer from the Jays and will sign it… if he doesn’t get a better one by 5 PM. But then, in a piece at ESPNDeportes.com also added that a deal from the Orioles is on the table: a $13-million one with performance incentives — something the Jays won’t do.

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ervinthrowswhite

OK, Blue Jays. Let’s play ball with Ervin Santana already, for fuck sakes. Here’s the latest from Kenny Ken Ken:

HELLO MR. THOMPSON!

Buster Olney wrote about Santana’s predicament earlier today at ESPN.com (Insider Olney), suggesting that it was the medicals on him that were really scaring teams off, but on a one year deal? That surely mitigates the concern.

Still, it doesn’t sound great:

Whatever is in Santana’s medical history about his right elbow ligament scares the heck out of teams. The fact that Santana is tied to draft-pick compensation has hurt him, but the bigger problem for him — and the reason why the $100 million-plus request on his behalf had absolutely no chance of happening — is that teams are scared of his elbow blowing out soon. Some team evaluators have said there’s no way they’d invest significant money in a player who appears to be that close to a major blowout.

Those fears are exacerbated by the fact that Santana threw highest percentage of sliders in 2013 of any pitcher in the majors, a pitch that is notoriously tough on elbows.

I’d absolutely take him, though. Obviously. There’s no such thing as a bad one year deal, and knocking a bunch of guys one spot down the Jays’ rotational pecking order — even if it was only for however long he stays health, assuming his arm really is some kind of ticking time bomb — would be slightly fantastic, and… well, we all know the reasons why it would be dumb as shit for the Jays to let this opportunity pass them by — especially if Santana goes to Baltimore.

There could be other teams that jump in at this price, though Max Wildstein of Outside Pitch tweets that it is indeed between just the Jays and Orioles, apparently.

Ugh. I don’t want to even think about him going to damn Baltimore– and neither should Rogers or the Jays’ front office. Just fucking sign him already!