HELLO KEVIN PIL– … wait… huh? He’s not even in the lineup?
Fuck, I don’t know.
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?
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.
Here we go again. Scott MacArthur of TSN.ca writes that the Jays should be willing to trade Jose Bautista in the off-season. The club’s positional portion of the roster “is built to win now. You could argue the positional roster is beyond its ability to win, past its prime. Centrefielder Dalton Pompey is the only positional prospect of consequence playing higher than Single-A. He’s currently at Triple-A Buffalo,” he explains. “It’s time for the Jays to supplement the young pitchers with a more youthful positional corps. The way to do that is to take the best asset, Bautista, and use his prodigious productivity and cheap contract to secure a haul.” I might agree if Bautista’s contract wasn’t so good. I might agree if whatever young position players they could get their hands on wouldn’t come with huge question marks that Bautista doesn’t. I might agree if I thought this team was irrevocably broken and not just a few savvy tinkers away from being able to make noise in the AL East again. I might agree that the age gap is such a concern if there hadn’t been 16 playoff games started by pitchers age 23 and under in the last two seasons, and 47 made by pitchers age 24 and under in the last four. I might agree… but I don’t.*
McArthur focused on roster construction as the reason Bautista could be in play this winter, but it’s certainly not like there hasn’t been a bunch of peripheral noise being made around the Jays’ superstar this week — much of his own doing. But even as things may have been getting worse (though not in my eyes) with his shouldn’t-be-shocking reluctance to sing the praises of Rogers, they may have been getting better, too. One example is Bob Elliott’s counterpoint to Scott’s trade talk, writing in the Toronto Sun — in a piece with a big, bold headline — that Bautista isn’t going anywhere. At least not in the player’s view. “I’m not going anywhere until the end of my contract,” he says.
Of course, he doesn’t really have any say in that. Not yet, at least — but it’s damn close. I thought I was super sharp for thinking of this, but it was actually brought up first by a caller on last night’s JaysTalk, as I later discovered: Bautista will end this season having spent six full years on the Jays’ active roster (plus part of 2008, after he was acquired from Pittsburgh), and will have nine years and 165 days of big league service time — just seven days short of ten years of big league service. Seven days short of earning his ten and five rights, and the right to veto any trade. If they don’t trade him this off-season, it will become very difficult to do so. Edwin Encarnacion, by the way, will also hit the milestone by the end of next season.
It’s worth repeating and adding to this, even though I proved a link in last night’s piece: Shi Davidi vindicates Bautista’s contention that he didn’t deserve his ejection on Sunday afternoon. “hey were both down. They were both down. It’s a one-run game,” is what Davidi quotes Bautista as saying in a piece last night at Sportsnet. “You gotta go,” umpire Bill Welke responds. “I’m not cursing you,” Bautista responds, and is then ejected. It wasn’t the first time, Shi reminds us, that Bautista was run by Welke: “On Aug. 26, 2011 in Toronto, Welke was behind the plate for another game between the Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, and called a second strike in Bautista’s third at-bat that he didn’t like. A few pitches later Bautista struck out for the third time against James Shields, and when he returned to the dugout began smashing the wall with his bat and cursed out, earning an ejection from Welke. Once tossed, Bautista proceeded to throw his bat, helmet, elbow pads and other accoutrements onto the field.” Hmmm.
Ben Lindbergh of Grantland take an excellent, deep look at players who have lost their prospect eligibility this season, and how they have trended in the eyes of scouts, scouting directors, analysts, and other executives, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the huge main image at the top of the post is of Marcus Stroman. He leads off the “trending up” portion of the piece, and why the hell shouldn’t he? One person he spoke to says that Stroman has already proven himself a capable mid-rotation starter, but another seems to go farther. ”I was worried about the lack of an out pitch vs. LHHs, although I did think he’d be able to stick as a starter. The development of his cutter and fastball command have essentially molded him into a pitcher with three plus offerings.” Nails much?
Aaron Sanchez, by the way, gets an honourable mention in the “trending up” section after he received multiple up votes himself. However, Sanchez is also mentioned later, as at least one of those surveyed felt he’d trended down.
Here’s something fun: though he is at least reasonable enough to point out that there’s no way to know if it was a grave error for the Jays to have not found more reinforcements at the trade deadline (have you seen this? have you heard about this?) or something else, and to note that both the Tigers and A’s — huge deadline winners, we were told — have suffered as well, but Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at the changes in playoff probabilities across the majors since July 31, and HOLY FUCKING SHIT. The Jays have lost 56 percentage points off their odds as of that date — by far the most in baseball. Detroit’s 30 points and Atlanta’s 20 percentage points lost are second and third highest, so… yeah.
You might not agree with the way that he got himself tossed in a crucial game Sunday against the Rays, or his continued insistence that it was an unjust ejection (though Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has a piece that sure makes it seem like he’s right). You may not have liked the way he essentially threw teammates at the bottom of the roster under the bus when he griped about the fact that the Blue Jays were unable to make any moves at the July 31st trade deadline, while teams around them in the race did what they could to make additions. Perhaps you think that all of this stuff — rather than an athlete daring to actually answer questions honestly and not through his P.R. training — should be kept behind closed doors — that Jose Bautista should just shut up and play.
But you can’t deny that the Jays slugger speaks for a lot of people when he vents his frustrations the way he has lately, and I suspect that we got a little closer to the nut of what this is all about in a quote from him today, as passed along by the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin:
When Bautista was asked whether #bluejays ownership dedicated to winning: “I don’t have enough information to answer that question.”
— Richard Griffin (@RGriffinStar) August 25, 2014
OK, so maybe the comment isn’t entirely devoid of the P.R. filter, but his non-denial denial about thinking this way really tells us all we need. And as conflicted as we might be about the fact that he’s saying it, the fact that Bautista is the club’s best player, most marketable player, and a player with a immensely team-friendly contract, means that he can engage in this kind of talk and not have to worry about the consequences. He’s too valuable to the club and the company, and he knows it.
Or maybe he’s simply at the point where he doesn’t care if saying such things brings down petty consequences from an ownership dumbly willing to cut off its nose to spite its face, but I suspect there’s a deeper frustration at work as he says the things that Alex Anthopoulos, Paul Beeston, and essentially no other member of the organization (save the much quieter Edwin Encarnacion) can say for themselves without fear of burning bridges. Some fans and media will get bent out of shape about Jose being a prima donna and regurgitate a bunch of hockey jargon about leadership and whatever else the can find to spin a narrative that paints him in the light they want to paint him in, but I love it. At least somebody is saying it.
Rogers, of course, isn’t the only problem with this organization or the only reason they were left paralysed at the trade deadline. We all know that in the past two years Alex Anthopoulos has traded away many of the better chips not found on his club’s big league roster — crucial pieces when it comes making deadline moves, unless a club is able to take on lots of money without concern about it hampering them in the future *COUGH* — but that really only just exacerbated a problem that goes back as far as J.P Ricciardi’s terrible drafting. Ricciardi’s failures left the Jays upper minors bereft of talent, and AA’s immediate switch to focus on far-away high school players with big upsides has yet to close the gap.
If the aim was to build a pipeline and take the extreme long view, that all made sense, but somewhere along the line Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion got great, Rogers agreed to put up a tonne of money, and the equation for Anthopoulos changed. But then, almost as quickly as it had begun, the money stopped flowing and the Jays found themselves in a position where they could neither fill in gaps with cash, nor could they trade a Nicolino because they still had a Syndergaard and Sanchez, and then trade a Syndergaard because they still had a Stroman and Hutchison.
The young talent that was wanted by other clubs was needed by this one, not only for this year, but — and this is where Rogers really comes into it — because they are under team control for so long, and so cheaply, and the front office seems rightly terrified of giving away such valuable pieces when it has been so clearly demonstrated to them that “Can we please have just a little bit more investment here, just to make entirely certain that the whole thing doesn’t go down the tubes?” is an unreasonable question to ask.
Anthopoulos appears to have been left to his own devices this season — he’s been given a budget, and the Ervin Santana mess suggests that the onus was on him to get creative if he wanted to add salary (i.e. increases to payroll were non-negotiable) and that’s certainly how he’s operated throughout the year. I’d suggest that the shift seems odd from a GM who spoke so often in his first few years about preserving his flexibility, but it doesn’t seem odd at all when you look who resides upstairs.
Maybe Anthopoulos went wide-eyed into the dramatic payroll increase of November and Decemeber 2012 and thought the deals in front of him were too good to pass up, even if it meant destroying what was left of his flexibility both monetarily and with respect to his ability to make trades (though the latter might be a stretch, given that with Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, and the then-hope for a bounceback from Ricky Romero, he may simply have been overconfident in his starting depth). But it isn’t outlandish at all to think the other thing: that Rogers tied the hands of its own organization in a cynical attempt to save as many pennies as could be saved once it became clear that the much ballyhooed roster Anthopoulos had bought for himself wasn’t working out.
That doesn’t sound like an organization dedicated to winning to me, but is that really the way that it is?
I don’t have enough information to answer that question. Neither does Jose. And so why the fuck shouldn’t he say it?
Well, if the accumulation of a massive amount of season-saving wins is going to start somewhere, where better than at home against the Red Sox, and against Clay Buchholz in what’s been an abysmal year for him (even though his peripherals don’t look too different than they ever are at all)?
Not that we’re at the stage where the Jays can pick and choose who they get hot against, mind you. Things are bleak. The winning has to start now. It might not even matter if it does. Etc. etc. etc.
Nice day, though, eh? And baseball!
Megan Robinson tweets that John Gibbons says Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan are getting the night off tonight, with Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup expected to be used in the 8th and 9th innings.
Mike Wilner adds that Gibbers was sure to “relay confidence” in Janssen as he noted that he was being given the night off.
Jose Bautista still doesn’t think he should have been ejected.
Talk about the mushy middle: the Jays went into this game 5.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot and 5.5 games out of landing a protected draft pick next June. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy for stealing his shtick, you might be a garbage clown if… you think the Jays should tank for the protected pick instead of doing everything they possibly can to get back in the race.
Lately Facebook changed its algorithm with respect to sharing, it’s really become a much more powerful social media tool, and so it’s probably in your best interest to just go right ahead and like DJF on Facebook. That way you can get everything that’s posted here injected straight into your feed-veins.
Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET vs. Boston
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…
SS Jose Reyes (S)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
3B Danny Valencia (R)
2B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
LHP J.A. Happ
SS Brock Holt (L)
2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
RF Yoenis Cespedes (R)
DH Mike Napoli (R)
1B Allen Craig (R)
RF Daniel Nava (S)
3B Will Middlebrooks (R)
CF Mookie Betts (R)
C Christian Vasquez (R)
RHP Clay Buchholz
Another week, another Griff Bag! Aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star! On time and everything!
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, unless it’s about fucking Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
The Jays are playing listlessly and ever since the trade deadline came and went without the owners doing anything to improve the team that was performing quite well without some key players like Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie – have given up hope and the grit that they had and it is now a case of “Roger, it’s all over and out” (I should make that plural).
I wish that some group or company with the money and the love for the game purchases the team and the ball-park that the current owners got for a song, from them. All the very best to the Blue Jays team that has shown courage and great performance in so many games – thank you guys.
Have a great weekend
Tony in Toronto
Thanks, team, for your courage and spirit for all those games before you packed it in like a bunch of spoiled children with two months to go!
What a load. You want to cry about Rogers? Fine. But don’t make shit up. Whatever listlessness you want to pretend you’re seeing is just coincidence. They’ve played poorly. They’re not sulking and letting it show in their play on the field — or if they’re so unprofessional and collectively out of their minds as to be actually doing so, you sure as fuck aren’t able to divine it through your TV.
Welp. Here we are. They’re not finished just yet, but they certainly will be if they don’t start winning immediately, and winning a lot. Even if they do, the Jays now find themselves behind Cleveland, in addition to the Tigers, Yankees, and the Mariners, who currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AL. Stranger things have happened than a team coming from where the Jays are to make the post-season, but the club hasn’t made their task any easier in the last week. As last Tuesday began and the Jays headed into their first game against Milwaukee, in order to just ensure a tie for that second Wild Card spot, over their final 37 games of the year they would have needed to play a half game better than the Yankees, and three-and-a-half better than both the Mariners and Tigers. Tough, but not impossible. As it stands today, to get a share of the Wild Card they’ll need to be a half game better than Cleveland, two games better than the Yankees, four-and-a-half better than Detroit, and five-and-a-half better than Seattle over the course of their 32 remaining games. To give some perspective: the Jays weren’t even 5.5 games better than the Mariners in May, when they went 21-9 and Seattle was 16-14. The BP-powered playoff probabilities listed at MLB.com currently gives the Jays a 4.0% chance of making the playoffs.
It’s not early anymore.
As the annual grim ritual march to irrelevance — *COUGH* — gathers steam we seem to be shifting nicely into finger-pointing mode, and Jose Bautista sure put a target on his back and a narrative on Sunday, getting himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes. But it wasn’t, of course, just the manner in which he was ejected that irked fans so much — though, rightly, that was part of it — but it was also the fact that, in a crucial affair, his replacement, Nolan Reimold, ended up making a giant shit-turd of an extra-inning error, and striking out to end the game, and a rally-that-could-have-been that saw the Jays place runners on first and third with none out and — ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME???!!? — failing to score.
At one point this afternoon I contemplated doing an Anatomy Of A JaysTalk post to try to rein in some of the madness, but then Joanna of Hum and Chuck reminded me that I basically responded to all this already. More than a year ago.
“Hey,” I sarcastically intoned, “let’s all try to extinguish the fire in Bautista’s belly by taking giant steaming shits down his throat. At least it allows us to pretend there’s some explanation– some manifestation of karma, some vengeful umpire-led conspiracy, some unseeable force of poor leadership and selfishness– for the way the season has gone so far. I mean, it’s far easier to point fingers and think we’ve got it all figured out than to actually grapple with the notion that things may really not be as bad as the results make it seem and that the universe sometimes just isn’t fucking fair, eh?”
After showing a GIF of the argument, I went on:
“Have we really never seen that from a good team before? From a leader before? From a presumed leader, even though we don’t really know anything about what goes on behind closed doors, before? Or are we just twisting the meaning to make it fit with whatever negative bullshit our guts are desperately telling us we must think about this frustrating team? Because I think it’s the latter, and I’m not going to let that happen to me. It was an ejection. It happens. No need to insist it’s so imbued with deep meaning.”
Yeah, it was dumb, and the timing of it was terrible — especially with so much conversation still going on about Bautista’s post trade-deadline comments and his commitment to the club. But let’s not lose sight of reality. It was his first ejection of the season, and the first for a Jays player in 2014, after it happened six times last season. Jose now joins fellow non-leaders Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, and Russell Martin in getting tossed from a game this year.
Speaking of finger pointing: “Once again a Blue Jays game came down to a lack of execution and fundamentals, both offensively and defensively, further dimming their fading playoff hopes.”
That’s from Richard Griffin’s gamer for the Toronto Star, and while he’s not wrong… I dunno… can we maybe not sound the FUDAMETALS idiot alarm? The commenters on that one are already pretty deep up their own assholes.
But at least one man in Griff’s piece is pointing a finger in the right direction: John Gibbons.
“The bottom line is we needed him in the game. Say your piece and get the hell out of there. We’re trying to get in the playoffs, we need you on the field. He’s a marked man in this game. Bill Welke? I thought he had a pretty good zone today. It was steady, he was calling strikes. He was looking to call strikes. But we need you in the game.”
Bautista, as you’ve probably already seen, wasn’t exactly seeing it the same way as his manager:
“If you want to stick to facts, the facts are that because I did say something, anything at all, I did get tossed,” Bautista said, denying umpires may have it in for him. “I guess you would say yes (I blame myself). But again, I feel like what I said was nowhere near warranting getting ejected. But if you want to get the other side of the story, you’re going to have to talk to Welke.”
An umpire being accountable? Pfft. Good luck.
But you know what? Bautista might even have a point. Too bad his reputation will preclude most people from listening.
Rightly or wrongly, the confluence of all these troubles for the Jays has got a lot of people, myself included, starting to think more and more about what this team ought to look like next year. I’m not sure it’s as difficult a question as a lot of people want to make it out to be. Bautista and Encarnacion locked for up two years at way less than their market value? Hutchison, Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris potentially on the cusp of forming the core of a dirt cheap young rotation you can feel awfully good about? The increasingly real possibility of another failed season under Alex Anthopoulos will increase the volume of those wanting to insist the club do something drastic, but maybe you just play for 2015 and — especially — 2016. Maybe you take a step back and use R.A. Dickey as a chip to get a real second baseman. Maybe J.A. Happ gets it done. Maybe you swallow hard and pay a big portion of Mark Buehrle’s contract in order to get out from an even bigger portion of it and restore some financial flexibility. As scary as it is to keep on humping the diminishing returns of Jose Reyes, and to think of banking so hard on what will, by 2016, be a 35-year-old Bautista and a 33-year-old Edwin Encarnacion, maybe we’d do well to remember just how rare their kind of talent is.
Maybe these are questions better left for… y’know… every day of the off-season. Maybe Anthopoulos can beef up the damn analytics department in the meantime.
Tangent here, but it would be a little bit fucking nice if this winter we can avoid missing details like Dioner Navarro’s poor pitch framing, which was discussed by Jeff Sullivan at Just A Bit Outside last week. Sullivan looks at the total strikes gained or lost by framing — both by a team’s own catchers, and against its hitters — and finds that the Brewers are the top team in baseball (+400 strikes), and the Jays are the bottom one (-280). It’s not all on Navarro — Sullivan notes that Jays hitters have lost out on strikes because there are so many good framers in the AL East that they face with regularity — but still! He explains:
“What does a single strike mean? Calculations in the past have put the value of an extra strike somewhere around 0.14 runs. That’s not very much, but then, you can do the multiplication. These things add up fast. If you use that estimate, then the difference between the Brewers and the Blue Jays, here, comes out to about 95 runs, just from pitch-framing alone. That’s thought to be something like ten wins. That’s just the difference between the two extremes, but that’s an enormous difference.”
I’ll still take him over Arencibia, though.