The second half, and a crucial couple of weeks for the Jays begins, with Texas and J.P. Arencibia in town and… really I should have more to say about that than this, but I’m in a car and kinda can’t be arsed at the moment. So this is your Game Threat.

jpajohnson

OK, so this is mostly just an excuse to post Scott Johnson’s outstanding image here, but… no, actually J.P. Arencibia is still, somehow, news in these parts, and it’s certainly not going unnoticed that the Rangers today announced that he’s been recalled (after long spell in Round Rock, during which he moved out from behind the plate to try his hand at first base — gotta make them Yen!) and will be with the Rangers for this weekend’s series. Geovany Soto has been activated from the DL, meaning J.P. won’t be behind the plate. First baseman Carlos Pena has been D’d FA to make way for our returning hero, his replacement.

Yes, the Rangers are this bad.

dailyduce3-595

Well, you see refrigerator boxes. I see an outreach centre that’s changing people’s lives every day and WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SIMONE?

According to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, the Jays have “checked on” Alfonso Soriano, who is now a free agent, following his release from the Yankees. I’ve maybe been a little harsh about Soriano of late. Sure, he’s been hot garbage, even against lefties, this season (wRC+ of 80 in the split), but OK, OK, he was pretty terrific against them last year (147 wRC+, and about league average against RHP, too), so if you were going to try to catch lightning in a bottle, seeing as you’ve got a few weeks before everyone starts getting healthy, you could do worse than seeing if he’s got anything left and then just discarding him if he doesn’t. Rosenthal says Soriano is “mulling over” his options, but if he wants to keep playing, it’s not like he’s going to get a better assurance — or opportunity — than that. Right?

Keith Law’s mid-season top 50 prospects list came out today at ESPN.com (Insider Only), and Aaron Sanchez has fallen entirely off it. Yikes. It’s not all bad news, though, as Dan Norris made the list, ranked 37th. “He’s a long way from having average command,” Law says, “but at this time last year it was unthinkable that he’d improve enough to get a Futures Game appearance and a quick promotion to Double-A.”

It’s the unofficial mid-season, with the second not-quite-half about to get underway tomorrow, so there’s a lot of taking stock going on…

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star looks at what the Jays need to do to make the playoffs, listing several things from the obvious (get healthy, find an infielder, fix the bullpen), to the less obvious (lower the walk rate, get deeper into games), to the fanciful (hit better with RISP).

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet looks at some of the options the Jays can look to on the trade market, and they’re not all infielders. Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and Josh Willingham all present potential corner outfield solutions that would force Jose Bautista to move to third base and Brett Lawrie to second once he returns, which… actually that sounds doable, right?

Speaking of the bullpen stuff, John Lott of the National Post looks at how the once-strong bullpen has gone sideways for this club, and what some potential fixes could be *COUGH* Sanchez *COUGH*.

Gregor Chisholm reviews the first “half” of the season for BlueJays.com, and gives us five things to watch as the season comes to a conclusion, including how the young starters fare as they pitch more innings than they’ve ever been asked to, whether the offensive approach changes back to what made the club so successful in May, and whether the Jays can play well enough to justify the club keeping this team more-or-less together for another shot in 2015.

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sanchezMTL

No, obviously it’s not a permanent move. Don’t get your boxer-briefs in a twist, for fuck sakes. But yes, according to a tweet from Bisons play-by-play man Ben Wagner, Aaron Sanchez has been moved to the bullpen, obviously with a view to bringing him up to help the big league club (and limiting his innings in the process so that he doesn’t have to be shut down in mid-September).

This comes on the heels of the Jays making a waiver claim today, acquiring Brad Mills, the former Jay who became expendable when Oakland traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, and designating 2010 first round pick Deck McGuire for assignment in the process.

Brad Mills

So… Brad Mills is back, and is going to end up on the 25-man roster of this club. A corresponding move has yet to be announced, but it could be a relatively simple one, despite the news about Aaron Sanchez being moved to the bullpen. The Jays currently have three catchers and five outfielders, so it’s not outlandish to think that Kratz or Gose or Mastroianni could be optioned down, with Mills joining a pitching staff with an eight-man bullpen — or, perhaps, a six-man rotation.

I’m just spitballing here, but the Jays toyed with the idea of a six-man rotation earlier in the season, with what seemed like the intention of preserving some bullets for a guy like Drew Hutchison. Now Marcus Stroman fits that bill as well, as both pitchers will be depended on down the stretch as they head into uncharted waters in terms of the innings they’re being asked to log. Their hitting the wall ought to be a very real fear for any Jays observer even half serious about them making some kind of playoff run — which, at this point… uh… we’ll just be happy if we get to the point where we have to worry about it.

Stroman has been so good, and the Jays have been so bad, that it’s hard to see how they could honestly take him out of the rotation at this point, but the Jays seem to be enamored with how the Cardinals did things with their young arms last year, and surely they noticed that Michael Wacha spent about a month in the bullpen, after originally getting called up as a starter, before rejoining the rotation for the stretch drive. I’m not saying this is really what the Jays are onto, I’m just sayin’…

Anywho, in Mills they have… something? The left-handed former Jay made three starts for Oakland (two of which were on the road, FYI), allowing eight earned runs over 16.1 innings, with 14 strikeouts and seven walks. Not great, but not terrible, either. He can eat some innings for the club, and in Triple-A this season with Nashville, he was pretty spectacular: 77 Ks and only 18 BBs in 75 innings.

He doesn’t have a lot of experience in the bullpen, so… we’ll see how they intend to use him, I guess.

Aaron Sanchez

The Jays having Aaron Sanchez moved to the bullpen is the clearest signal yet that they intend to bring him up to help the big club this year. And I’m OK with that. Seems like reasonably good asset management: sure, you’re giving him some service time and adding him to the 40-man a bit earlier than necessary, but they obviously feel he’s going to be up and contributing in the big leagues sooner than later, so I’m not terribly bothered by that, and in return, instead of giving away talent to bring in some pricier veteran bullpen piece, you just use a guy who seems like he should be able to be successful in the role. We all know he’s had his struggles with command, but it could work — cutting down on the variety of pitches he’s throwing might help, right? Right???

This also, if we’re being honest, makes you wonder a liiiiiitle bit about just how constrained the club is with respect to adding payroll, but I think it’s a reasonable enough idea on its own to not believe that’s the only thinking behind it — especially because it’s not like they’d be asking to add some hugely expensive (in baseball terms) reliever down the stretch, but just the pro-rated salary of a guy making a few million bucks. I mean… they can’t be that stretched, can they?

Whatever the case is on that front, as a baseball move it could work. The way Sergio Santos (who is out of options, FYI) has been going lately, along with the fact that Chad Jenkins exists, suggests that it behooves the Jays to address their bullpen (and that’s to say , and this would be a pretty damn decent way to do it, I think. Shit, if they think Mills can give them enough innings to justify it, how about adding both Sanchez and Stroman to the ‘pen? That’d make for a really impressive relief corps., though they’d obviously be taking a big hit in the rotation to do so. But given the fact that they may need to pull things back for Stroman anyway, if they want to have him continue to be available through September and (hopefully) October, maybe it’s a thing? Hey, and maybe he can even stay there once Brandon Morrow comes bffffffffffffff — hahaha, sorry, couldn’t get through that sentence with a straight face.

I probably shouldn’t be focussing quite so much on that angle, but it certainly intrigues.

Deck McGuire

Ahhhh, Deck McGuire. It sure does hurt to see his name two spots ahead of Chris Sale when you look at the first round of the 2010 draft, but before we lament his D’ing FA too vociferously, let’s remember some context. First off, he may not necessarily be on his way to another organization. He could get through waivers unclaimed, and with the way he’s pitched — 23 walks in 55 innings, with just 38 Ks and a 5.59 ERA since moving up to Triple-A — and the fact that he spent parts of four seasons at Double-A, it wouldn’t be surprising. And that’s just sort of it: the writing has long been on the wall here, unfortunately. You don’t struggle so badly to get out of Double-A for so long and keep your prospect status intact.

And the draft stuff? Let’s not forget that there were actually twelve GMs who passed on Sale (whose violent delivery led a large number of observers to see his future in the bullpen), and that lots of picks from that draft have busted just as badly — Barret Loux (6) is out of baseball, Karsten Whitson (9) didn’t sign and ended up an 11th rounder this year, Christian Colon (4) is in his third season trying to get out of Triple-A, and even Billy Beane and the A’s ended up with something of a disappointment in Michael Choice (10). Sure, McGuire was the “safe” pick, and that sure adds fuel to the ol’ moron fire when it comes to this conversation – he can’t even get a safe pick right! — but the fact that he was safe allowed the Jays to gamble on other picks, which they did in the sandwich round, drafting Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and Asher Wojciechowski. Say what you will about the guys that they were traded for, but two of those prospects were key pieces that turned into 2/5ths of the Jays’ current rotation, while the third will soon be on the big league roster in the bullpen, as we discussed above. The Jays kinda nailed the 2010 draft — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Prospects bust sometimes. Have you heard??????

Today In MLBTR: Thursday, July 17th

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This hasn’t quite been a daily feature, but may still end up one from here until July 31st, especially with the Jays still holding on for dear life in the AL East, trade season sizzling, and the club with plenty of use for many parts, big and small. So let’s have a look at what the invaluable, fantastic, and comprehensive MLB Trade Rumors is telling us about today (and maybe yesterday, too)…

A look at a piece from Jim Bowden touches on just about everything in the latest from the wacky ex-GM over at ESPN.com, but not the fact that, as we’ve known, the Jays are looking for a right-hitting third baseman — and more likely to trade for one of those than a starting pitcher. There aren’t a lot of options, though. Among the best third basemen with at least 50 plate appearances against lefties Martin Prado (15th in the split with a 126 wRC+) really seems like the only option, with everyone else either belonging to a true contender or being highly unlikely to move (think David Wright). Chase Headley has a 78 wRC+ against left-handers, FYI. And the best second baseman in baseball in the split? Steve Tolleson. I shit you not.

Meanwhile, Bowden also talks about Cole Hamels being unlikely to move (but Cliff Lee being a potential August trade target), the fact that the A’s may be active once again in territory the Jays are looking at — this time being the second base market — and that “some possible trade partners increasingly believe” that David Price won’t be moved. Part of the reason? “The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable.”

Speaking of what constitutes a viable playoff scenario, a look at the Red Sox suggests that club is still considering whether to buy or sell at the deadline, “thinking that there may still be time for them to climb back into the race.”  In a Quick Hits piece it’s suggested that Cleveland has been looking at the Rays system, and that maybe this means they have some interest in Price, even though they’re currently 7.5 games back. The Mets, seven games back in the NL East, are still weighing whether or not to pursue deadline improvements to help them in 2014, apparently. Hey, but the Jays, at four games back, are totally fucked, right???

Over the weekend the Angels were looking to make a deal with the Padres, which could have seen them land both Ian Kennedy and Huston Street. The Padres also have Chase Headley, of course. Could the Jays swoop in with some one-stop shopping of the poor-man’s-Billy-Beane variety? How about with the Diamondbacks? I mean, I don’t know how thrilled I’d be with giving up an Aaron Sanchez for a Martin Prado, but Prado and Brad Ziegler? Headley and Kennedy? It’s a little more palatable, at least. (As of Wednesday it seemed like the Angels’ pursuit of Kennedy was off, so… there’s that).

Speaking of Street, a look at the closer market suggests that the Padres are reluctant to move either him or Joaquin Benoit. Jonathan Papelbon is another name that’s out there, and while the Jays obviously don’t need a closer, their bullpen could certainly use a lift — though it’s at least encouraging that Neil Wagner is making progress, and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this week, per a tweet yesterday from Ben Nicholson-Smith.

One name that’s now off the market is a familiar one: on Wednesday the Rangers dealt the Sausage King, Jason Frasor, to the Royals for 26-year-old Triple-A starter Spencer Patton, who didn’t rank among the club’s top 30 prospects according to Baseball America this year, we’re told.

The Yankees have officially released Alfonso Soriano, making him a free agent. He’ll likely sign for the league minimum somewhere, if he continues to play. He’s a right-handed bat, but his wRC+ against lefties has slumped to just 80 this season, meaning he’s not really of any value to anybody — certainly not the Jays — on a big league contract. If he wanted to go to Buffalo though, for some reason, that could do.

If they decide to be sellers, the Mets are considering making Bartolo Colon available. Theoretically the Jays could have just signed him last winter, but regardless, he’s an option that’s not without intrigue. Tough to see the club going with all three of Buehrle, Dickey, and Colon in the rotation next year, though it sure would help bridge the gap to the Norrises and Sanchezes of the world. Plus, he’s only owed $11-million next year, plus about $3.75-million for this. Still though, probably not a great idea.

Speaking of bad ideas, A.J. Pierzynski! The Red Sox officially released him yesterday, so if anyone’s looking for a shitty catcher nobody likes, one’s available.

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Interesting stuff from Shi Davidi in his latest from Sportsnet, as he looks at the “interesting opportunity” that Cuban defector Rusney Castillo might present for the Blue Jays, as the “close to big-league-ready” 27-year-old gets ready for a showcase in Miami for interested clubs at the end of this month.

Shi explains why Castillo — who Ben Badler of Baseball America says is viewed by some scouts as an everyday centre fielder, while others see him as a fourth OF — could fit into the Jays’ long-term outfield situation:

The Blue Jays are sure to attend the event, even if only for information purposes, and they’re going to need outfielders next season.

Centre-fielder Colby Rasmus and left-fielder Melky Cabrera are both eligible for free agency, leaving Jose Bautista as the only starting outfielder under club control for 2015.

New addition Nolan Reimold has a year of arbitration remaining before free agency while farmhands Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar are the only real alternatives in the system.

Prospect Dalton Pompey has made significant gains this season but his arrival isn’t expected before late 2015, at the earliest.

That’s about the size of it. And though I advised not blowing it out of proportion, Jeff Blair did write at Sportsnet on Monday that “given the state of the market and everything we’re led to believe from the Blue Jays brass, neither Melky Cabrera nor Colby Rasmus will be back.” In other words, as should be totally obvious and not mind-bending, with $96.2-million already committed for next season — before arbitration raises and dollars needing to be committed to re-sign, replace, or pick up options on Rasmus, Cabrera, Lind, Happ, Janssen, Santos, McGowan, Thole, and maybe even Morrow — it’s going to be awfully hard for a team that needed to ask for players to make deferrals in order to free enough budget to sign Ervin Santana to compete on the open market for the services of their two outfielders. Shit, as we mentioned on this week’s podcast, at this point it’s not entirely unreasonable to think it could even be tough for the Jays to make qualifying offers to them, out of fear that they might take them!

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klawchips

Back on Thursday, Keith Law had his weekly chat with readers at ESPN.com, and… uh… for lack of a better preamble, here are the Jays-related tidbits…

James (NYC)
With a few teams in the playoff hunt needing a 2B, what are the chances the Mets could get a top 100 (or top 150) caliber prospect for Daniel Murphy? How much does the fact that Murph is not a Qualifying Offer candidate affect his value (I am assuming a team wouldn’t give him $16 million after 2015)?
Klaw
If someone believes he can play an average 2b, then yes.

The Jays, as we’ve heard, are not one of those teams who think he can play an average second base, so even though he could certainly help them — he has a 116 wRC+ this season, and has already accumulated 2.6 WAR per FanGraphs, after a three win season last year (though the fact that he hits left mitigates just how much “right now” value he might have for the Jays) — I guess we don’t have to worry about it. Assuming those original reports are true, that is.

If not, a top 100 calibre prospect, eh? You’d like to think the Jays could solve their infield issue for less, which… yeah, that probably goes a decent way to explaining the whole stalemate on the trade front, eh?

 

Clay (Hoboken)
How the heck did Jeff Hoffman manage to get full slot from the Jays?
Klaw
I don’t know.

This is one that didn’t really get as much attention as it should. The way the Jays spun it was that they figured they’d already gotten a big discount on Hoffman simply by his sliding due to Tommy John surgery from a likely top three pick down to them at nine, which… is really kind of insane, isn’t it? I mean, I’m glad they got him signed and we didn’t have to go through the whole Phil Bickford/Tyler Beede/James Paxton nonsense again, but it sure seemed like Hoffman didn’t have the kind of leverage to get slot money — he wasn’t going to be back on the mound in time next spring to show enough to improve his stead much, and even if so, as a college senior at that point his option would be to either sign what’s in front of him or go to independent ball for a year.

I don’t know. I’m not saying it isn’t a bit ugly when teams play hardball with players like they’d have had to — look at what’s going on with the Astros and top pick Brady Aiken — but for all their talk in previous years about holding firm to their valuations and not wanting to set bad precedents, this sure seemed a bit off. Good for Hoffman, and good on him, but I wonder what the story is.

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