Archive for the ‘Minor Moves’ Category

kawasakiblows

On Wednesday, Munenori Kawasaki officially cleared waivers, was outrighted off of the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, and became a minor league free agent.

I get that.

The same scenario played out for Dan Johnson, as well.

I get that, too.

And according to a tweet from Mike Wilner, George Kottaras is likely to join them as free agents as soon as today.

This I do not get at all.

The answer to the questions on Kawasaki and Johnson are easy.

During his lengthy end-of-season press conference, which I recapped in detail earlier this week, Alex Anthopoulos clarified the utility infielder’s contract status, explaining that “Kawasaki, the way his contract is, even though he’s got — I haven’t looked at this, but — two years of service probably, or three years of service, he’s eligible for free agency. It’s just a clause in his contract. Most every Japanese player that comes over now, they’re not part of the reserve, you don’t get them for six or seven years and go through arbitration (unless they’re an amateur, and so on). So Kawa’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year — someone that I think we’re always going to look to bring back, one way or the other.”

Cue warm fuzzies and trips to Buffalo.

Johnson, on the other hand, despite being a prolific Triple-A hitter, is 35 years old and clearly not in the club’s plans, as evidenced by the way he was used in September. He is out of options and not a viable option as a replacement for Adam Lind on a team serious about winning. So that’s good! With the difference between his cost and Lind’s cost there could have been some kind of ridiculous plan to use him as a replacement, but obviously — thankfully — the Jays aren’t that hurtin’ for money and ideas.

Kottaras, though?

I know he’s not Dickey’s “personal catcher” or whatever, but there is actually quite a bit to like about the idea of Kottaras getting the chance to unseat Josh Thole as the club’s backup behind the plate.

First and foremost, he was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher in 2009, spending 18 games behind the plate for the knuckleballer. If he could do the same ably for Dickey the Jays would clearly have themselves a more capable backup because of the difference on offence. To wit: Thole’s career wRC+ is 78 in 1311 plate appearances, whereas Kottaras has posted a 100 mark through 858 PA. Thole has struggled since moving to a part-time role, and especially over the last three seasons, where he’s posted just a 58 wRC+ in 658 PA — a putrid slash line of .225/.292/.277 over that span. Meanwhile, Kottaras’s last four MLB seasons have produced 109, 113, 103, and 150 marks by wRC+, albeit all in small samples.

Kottaras holds a .246/.338/.431 slash line as a Triple-A player, as well. And his walk rates have only improved as he’s matured: 13.2% with the Brewers in 2010, 13.6% in Triple-A and 8.1% in the big leagues in 2011, 17.7% in part time big league duty in 2012, 19.0% as a backup for the Royals last year, and in 2014, 14.3% for Buffalo, 8.5% in a small sample for Columbus, and 15.8% in the big leagues with three different teams.

It gets better: Kottaras has been stronger against right-handed pitching than against left (105 wRC+ compared to 82 against lefties), which is the exact opposite of Dioner Navarro, who produced just a 96 wRC+ against right-handers in 2014, compared to 103 against lefties, and whose career platoon splits have been even more pronounced (107 vs. LHP, 78 vs. RHP). Thole’s career mark against right-handers is just 85, and that’s lifted by his non-abysmal seasons in 2011 and before.

The Jays, in other words, could legitimately use Kottaras to spell Navarro against right-handed pitchers, even when Dickey isn’t pitching, and get a benefit. He isn’t great defensively, and he isn’t great with respect to pitch framing, but if he could catch the knuckleball the way he’s shown before that he’s capable, it’s a clear win.

So what gives?

Kottaras made $950,000 in 2014 and is arbitration eligible for one more season. Thole, meanwhile, has a club option for 2015, but he’s also arbitration eligible. The Jays could decline the option while keeping control of him, and then — as far as I understand, at least — release him if he loses the position battle next spring while being on the hook for just one sixth of the salary if they’re unable to trade him (a la Reed Johnson). The same would be true of Kottaras were he to lose the battle.

While one sixth of whatever Thole makes (likely a raise on his $1.5-million 2014 salary — i.e. something over $250K) isn’t nothing, it seems like a pretty small cost compared to a pretty big opportunity to make exactly the kind incremental improvement they need on this front.

Am I missing something? Perhaps. CBA stuff is always a bit tricky — ask the Edmonton Oilers! HEYO! — but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. And if so, I just can’t understand why the Jays would be about to make Kottaras a free agent.

Maybe they tried him out with Dickey outside of public view and didn’t like the results, though that nobody heard any sort of whisper of such a thing is somewhat hard to believe. (Update: Or maybe I just don’t remember and they totally did have him try).

Maybe they think there’s enough opportunity for him here that they can get him to sign a deal that’s more favourable to the club than even what he’d be set to earn next year through the arbitration process.

Maybe they’ll defer to their nominal ace’s preference, though Thole’s half-season in Buffalo in 2013 while Henry Blanco caught Dickey suggests otherwise. Or maybe they don’t want to disrupt Dickey’s spring by having him throw to different catchers for most of it.

Maybe they don’t want to mess with what was a pretty successful combination in 2014 (after a shaky opening four starts, Dickey settled down and pitched to a 3.41 ERA over 30 starts from April 22nd onward), but they can’t really think that comes down so much to his catcher, can they?

Or maybe — hopefully — Wilner is wrong on this one and the Jays will have enough sense to keep Kottaras around for a good, long look in February and March.

 

(Note: Big crotch grab in the direction of @CWSherwin for the tweet from Brendan Kennedy showing Dickey throwing to Kottaras)

lawrieyelling

In a somewhat surprising development, this morning the Jays announced that Brett Lawrie has been placed on the 60-day DL, ending his season.

This procedural move comes among a metric shit-tonne of changes made to the roster now that teams are allowed to activate anyone on their 40-man. To wit:

Brandon Morrow (who will pitch out of the bullpen) and Dan Johnson have been activated from the DL. Anthony Gose, Ryan Goins, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Dan Norris have officially been called up to the big league club. Dalton Pompey and George Kottaras have been added to the 40-man and promoted to the Jays as well. And in order to clear room for these moves, in addition to Lawrie being placed on the 60-day DL, Darin Mastroianni and Matt Hague have been D’d FA, and Neil Wagner has been released. Sergio Santos, you’ll remember, was DFA late last week, when Chad Jenkins was recalled.

I’ll have more on the youngsters being promoted in yet another Assorted Weekend Thoughts piece later today (or… maybe tomorrow?), but for this one we’ll focus on Brett Lawrie, who somehow finishes 2014 with the fewest games played of any full year in his young MLB career.

Lawrie played 125 games in 2012, 107 last year, and finishes this season with just 70. His numbers don’t look particularly exciting, either, though the hopeful side of Jays fans will have reason to look beyond the slash line of .247/.301/.421. For one, he posted the best ISO of his big league career (.174), save for the explosive late-season cameo he made in 2011. His exactly-league-average wRC+ of 100 was incrementally better than the previous two seasons, the defensive metrics liked him (naturally), and the big one: though it’s an egregious use of arbitrary end points, Lawrie heated up immensely after beginning the season in a funk, posting a 125 wRC+ and a terrific .290/.344/.460 line from April 25th until his season ended on August 5th (three innings into his first game back after breaking his finger on June 22nd).

So, there’s bad — his overall numbers are not encouraging, and he’s done absolutely nothing to shake the “injury prone” label — but there’s also good. He’s still young, he still takes up very little payroll (he’ll be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter), after the cold start he showed there still can be a lot of potential in his bat, and his versatility and willingness to move to second base (not that he had any right to refuse, frankly) allowed John Gibbons to maximize the value he could get out of his roster. It’s a hopelessly misleading number — the bulk of Lawrie’s playing time this year was accrued before Juan Francisco turned into Pedro Cerrano — but the Jays were 39-31 in the games Lawrie played this season. His ability to move around the diamond and keep Francisco’s then-scorching bat in the lineup was a huge asset to the team — as was his defence at whichever position he was asked to play, not to mention his bat.

Despite the disappointing campaign, he certainly has earned another year as an unquestioned regular in the Blue Jays’ infield whenever he’s healthy. Let’s just hope it’s not another damn wasted one.

mayberry

This came down the wire last night, but it seems worth taking a look at a day later: the Jays made a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, picking up John Mayberry Jr. in exchange for minor league outfielder Gustavo Pierre.

Not really sure what the Phillies are thinking here, which seems par for the course, seeing as, y’know, they’re the Phillies.

Pierre (pronounced, I’ve been led by a Dunedin Jays broadcast to believe, Pee-er-aye) is a third baseman who will turn 23 in December and was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire for the first time at the end of this season. He’s been in the organization so long that, as an 18-year-old in 2010, he played for Auburn, but he spent big chunks of three seasons at Lansing, and the last year-and-a-half at Dunedin. Part of that is because he struggles so much at the plate. In 2013 he walked just four times in 439 plate appearances — improving to 13 walks this season, in 437 PA! — and the highest OBP he’s produced in five stints at three levels since the beginning of 2012 is .302. This year at Dunedin he slashed a depressing .263/.285/.390.

That doesn’t mean that he’s entirely worthless, though. Phillies blog Crashburn Alley, in their write-up on the deal, notes that Zach Mortimer of Baseball Prospectus wrote last year that Pierre has “a plus-plus arm but was forced to move off of shortstop because of inadequate defensive actions,” and that he “offers good bat speed and average power potential, but he may never realize his talent because of a deficiency in plate discipline.”

He could get better, in other words, but it’s a long shot. And giving him up for a potentially useful piece in Mayberry? That works.

It does, apparently, for Philadelphia, too, as Crashburn Alley explains that “the Phillies likely would have non-tendered Mayberry in the off-season rather than go into a second year of arbitration with him, so getting something is better than getting nothing.”

Mayberry, who is currently injured, makes $1.5875-million this season, and will get a bit of a raise next year, but will still command less than the $5-million per year the Tigers are paying Rajai Davis, whose role Mayberry will essentially take over — minus the stolen bases. He’s certainly a useful piece, though, for a Jays club still (somehow) searching for a proper platoon partner for Adam Lind, posting a 155 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season, and sporting a 130 mark for his career in the split across 475 plate appearances. He can play all three outfield positions, though he’s not above average at any, but — at least according to the advanced metrics — he’s passable enough to make him potential competition for Kevin Pillar next spring, one supposes. That is, if Pillar is even around still — Mayberry’s presence on the roster certainly makes a sell-high move involving Pillar a possibility.

So… another platoon guy. But one that makes a little bit more sense, at least, than a Nolan Reimold — who was claimed by the Diamondbacks late last week — in that he actually has a pronounced platoon split. So… certainly more useful to the Jays than to

Hey, and Dan Norris is up!

gobbons

That. Is. Amazing.

Huge crotch grab in the direction of @bigmf99 for the screen grab from BlueJays.com, and I hope it’s intentional, but no, this is not a post in which I’m going to join the army of dopes who think they can divine a manager’s ability to imbue his team with “want.” Because that would be stupid. (I am, in the coming weeks, hopefully going to do a series of posts making the case to keep Anthopoulos, to fire him, to rebuild, and to keep going ahead with the current core — all of which are pretty defensible positions — but Gibbons? Nah, he’s good).

Also stupid, probably, is combining the little gag above with a post about Sergio Santo’s latest DFA, but the picture came across my screen as I was searching for something to write about all that, and… um… about that… uh… thing is…

Santos’s miserable season continued last night, as he managed to get just one out, followed by a monstrous Mike Napoli home run, a double, and then yet another dinger, turning the 6-4 deficit Casey Janssen (and some terrible defending) had left him with in the top of the 11th into an 11-4 disaster. And it was indignity piled on indignity this morning, as the club made it official that Santos has been designated for assignment, with Chad Jenkins being recalled.

Santos has a $6-million club option for next season, and even though declining it means costing the club $750K, plus another $1.5-million to buy out his 2016 and 2017 options as well, certainly they’re not going to pick that option up. And putting him through waivers at least gives the club a chance, unlikely as it is, that some team will claim him and they can be off the hook for those buyouts.

It’s pretty much the same story as the last time he was designated, only with Chad Jenkins, not Rob Rasmussen, being the player recalled in his place, and without the possibility that Sergio will go back down to the minors and find himself. He may yet clear waivers and find himself back on the 40-man and back on the roster before all is said and done, but I’d figure that in all likelihood Santos’s time with the Jays is over.

Welp. It was a good try…

Nolan Reimold DFA?

reimoldeatsit

I love this picture so fucking much. But, sadly, this post isn’t about that. It’s about a strange bit of news for a Tuesday morning. You see, last night Jenn Smith (aka @GTAChick78) tweeted that Nolan Reimold had been designated for assignment by the Jays, with Kevin Pillar coming up to take his place on the big league roster.

Jenn has been right on these sorts of roster moves before — including getting Danny Valencia’s name first after rumours started circulating that the Jays had made some sort of a deal with Kansas City back in late July — and this morning MASN’s Orioles beat reporter, Roch Kubatko, strengthened her case, tweeting that Reimold had indeed been designated for assignment last night.

So that’s… weird. If it’s true.

The Jays haven’t made any sort of official announcement for the move yet. Perhaps they’re trying to dream up some kind of a justification for it, because while Reimold has certainly not been good, at the very least he’s an outfield option under team control for next year. That’s slightly important for this club, given the potentialdepartures of both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera via free agency, which would leave the club with only Pillar, Jose Bautista, and Anthony Gose as somewhat-viable everyday outfielders. (Or… well… Bautista’s obviously beyond viable, but Gose has some pretty severe platoon issues, and Pillar has yet to show anything at the big league level and is allergic to walks).

Obviously a Blue Jays team looking to be successful in 2015 isn’t going to have a tonne of use for a guy like Reimold, but he’s still some sort of an asset, and with the way the team has shown a borderline obsession with not simply giving players away — hellooooooooooo Juan Francisco — this would seem to be a really odd move. And especially oddly-timed.

Is it disciplinary? Related to the dropped ball that cost the team on Sunday? Is it a sign that they think they can keep Melky in the fold and won’t need Reimold going forward? Do they want Pillar eligible for their (very hypothetical) playoff roster? Do they want a 40-man spot for Dalton Pompey? Did they promise Reimold a chance to catch on with a playoff team when they… claimed him on waivers?

That last one’s not likely. Maybe none of those are. Maybe this isn’t even a real thing that has happened and I’m just wasting everybody’s time here. Maybe it’s simple desperation and entirely performance based — after all, in 46 plate appearances since he returned from the DL on July 30th he’s hit an abysmal .175/.239/.350 — but with five games to go before rosters expand?

Uh… if they were going to get desperate enough to shed some of their bottom-of-the-roster fodder, wasn’t the time for that maybe something like sixteen or twenty days ago? At least?

Update

Shi Davidi confirms it at Sportsnet, suggesting that Reimold was a DFA candidate because of his recent struggles, and that the club is going to need spots on the 40-man roster to add Daniel Norris and Brandon Morrow (who is getting closer to returning after throwing some live BP in Dunedin over the weekend). Not sure how getting rid of either Colt Hynes or Matt Hague (who both, apparently, exist) wouldn’t have been a better options to clear a 40-man spot. Or Juan Francisco. But… what the hell do I know, I guess. Still think it’s a little weird.

goseHR

So here’s the news that a lot of Jays fans weren’t hoping to here, but should probably have been expecting: according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Anthony Gose is headed to Buffalo for a couple of weeks, in order to make room for Edwin Encarnacion.

This won’t sit well with those who are ready to run Colby Rasmus out of town — or even those who still like the promise Colby holds, and think he can do better than we’ve seen so far, but have also noticed that Gose has been worth nearly a win more to this team in 2014 in over a hundred fewer plate appearances.

And it definitely won’t sit well with those who are ready to stop watching Juan fucking Francisco tumble deeper into the goddamn abyss.

Francisco has been awful basically since the start of June — a .184/.240/.380 and a 67 wRC+ in 171 plate appearances — and somehow even more fucking terrible than that over his last month. His defence isn’t good, which is why he’s mostly been at DH or first base of late. But, unlike Gose, he’s out of options, and hey, at least when the other team needs a key strikeout, Big Juan’s a guy they can totally count on.

Ugh.

Bitterness aside, the decision seems to be based on the fact that the club currently doesn’t have anyone other than Munenori Kawasaki who can hit right-handers at all. Steve Tolleson and Danny Valencia can’t. Problem is, um… Francisco can?

As much as we love a good, old fashioned platoon, they become a bit unwieldy with respect to the finite number of spots on the roster, and the Jays are in a bit of a pickle with this one. But, as is usually the case with these matters, it’s not necessarily as completely fucking stupid as it seems — though that maybe depends on how big a risk to their seasons you think moving Bautista or Encarnacion to third against right-handers until Lawrie is back would be. Francisco has to have a short leash here. Ryan Goins can come back after the mini-series with Milwaukee, and while he gives absolutely nothing with the bat to this offence-starved club either, at least he does fucking something well. And it’s not like Francisco can’t heat up, either — plus, the power is a very nice asset, and given the career turnarounds of Encarnacion and Adam Lind in recent years, you can sort of understand not wanting to expose him to other clubs… sort of — it’s just… are they really so desperate that that’s what they feel they need to hold out hope for at this point?

Maybe they are. Yeesh.

hinterland

Breaking: Brett Lawrie?

Ugh.

In his return to the lineup, something has happened to Brett Lawrie’s back — Gregor Chisholm was the first to tweet that it was “lower back tightness,” officially — and he did not come out to field in the top of the fourth inning. Danny Valencia took his place at third base.

Hey, but you know what’s more important than getting real grass for the Jays to play on? Being super nice to the Argos!

Doubly so after Danny Valencia butchered a high chopper from Delmon Young from an easy, and much needed, out into a run-scoring single.

Anywho, in his first and only at-bat of the night, Lawrie hit what might have been a double down the first base line, but he missed first base and had to quickly put on the brakes and go back — though, in all honesty, that may have had more to do with the arm of Nick Markakis. Before we knew the official explanation, Buck and Tabby thought the issue may have occurred then. I wondered for a time if maybe something happened with his still-sore finger when he slid back into first base. John Gibbons even suggested in a mid-telecast interview that something may have happened with him sitting on the flight from Florida.

Whatever the case, stop me if you’ve heard this before: Brett Lawrie is hurt. We’ll update as more becomes known, unless it’s just “day-to-day,” which it almost certainly is going to be. So… this is probably all you’ll get.

Update: Well, Lawrie is day-to-day, but here’s a little more context for you: Megan Robinson tweets that John Gibbons says Lawrie felt his back tighten up in batting practice, while Barry Davis adds that Lawrie himself says it was “grabbing at” him in BP, and that this is the first time he’s experienced a lower back problem, which… that can’t be right, can it? He’ll have an MRI tomorrow just to be safe, Davis tweets, but the hope is that he’ll only be out a day or two. Fun stuff, ain’t it? One more tweet from Barry tells us that Lawrie had treatment during the game and his back loosened up, but that he’s still going to to be cautious and get the MRI.

Welcome Back Kottaras

The Jays divested themselves of some of their catching depth when they moved Erik Kratz as part of the deal for Danny Valencia last week, and as much as the Valencia is a nice little fit for them, it left the rather thin in the catching department. A.J. Jimenez is the only non-MLB catcher on the roster, with Mike Nickeas the only one with big league experience at either Buffalo or New Hampshire.

In other words, they wouldn’t be in a great spot if Navarro or Thole were injured. Not that any team wouldn’t have a rough go if it lost both of its big league catchers, but Kratz was a nice little insurance policy — a good-receiving backup with a little bit of pop, and thank to his time in the big leagues, with some familiarity with the club’s pitchers, too.

I wasn’t terribly worried about the Jays being able to come up with a guy to take his place, if they ended up needing one in a pinch, and it turns out we didn’t — or at least may not — have to wait until then. To wit:

He’s certainly got the passport that will get people around here to take notice, but he’s actually a nifty little pickup, too.

Ewan Ross made the case for the Jays to pick up Kottaras back in November at Blue Jays Plus, citing his elite walk rate, his good ISO, that he’s a left-handed hitter (A.J. Jimenez hits right, FYI), and the fact that he’s caught a knuckleball before (he was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher in 2009) as reasons. He hasn’t played much this season, or all that well — at least not in the overall, though he was hot in a very small big league sample of 33 plate appearances split between Cleveland and St. Louis — but the track record is actually pretty decent. He’s been worth over three wins per FanGraphs in less than a couple season’s worth of plate appearances (853 PA), partly based on defence, but partly also because he’s been a league average hitter by wRC+, thanks largely to the great walk rate, which has seen him post a career OBP of .327 — which is only, like, 50 points higher than Kratz’s, with a better SLG and ISO to boot.

That’ll play. Um… in Buffalo, ideally.