AAscrum

Alex Anthopoulos hit the radio airwaves last night, chatting with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt of Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590, and while he didn’t reveal too much — as is his usual style — he did actually give us quite a bit of food for thought, as he wandered into some territories where he normally wouldn’t go.

Specifically, he said all this:

On the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion:

With some of our core players — everybody always points to and asks about Bautista and Encarnacion — you look at a guy like Bautista: he’s 33-years-old right now, he’s someone that if you look his body type and his work ethic and the way he takes care of himself, I expect him to be a productive player until his late thirties or even forty. I certainly know he’s going to have the desire to do that. And you look at whether it’s the Raul Ibanezes, or Edgar Martinezes, or even a guy like Carlos Beltran or a guy like Ortiz — those guys into their mid-to-late thirties are highly productive. And Encarnacion is, I believe, 31, and because they have two years left on their contracts — a year and an option — that certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility that we don’t sit down with those guys at some point and start adding on some years. So it’s not strictly a two-year window with those guys. they have two years currently, but we think they’re going to be productive for a long time and they absolutely can be part of another wave here, another core for four or five years beyond that.

As much as some fans are ready to tear the entire team apart, I think he’s absolutely right here, and the more you think of it, why the hell shouldn’t this be the winter where something gets done — before these guys get too close to free agency. The club only has the $22-million for Jose Reyes on the books for 2017, and nothing beyond that, so deals where you make Edwin and Jose’s club options for 2016 official, and then buy out a couple more free agent years after that? Even if you’re doing so at some pretty hefty prices, the security might absolutely be worth it, and it shouldn’t kill your payroll.

That last bit is especially true because the club has so much young talent coming up, which Anthopoulos also addressed…

 

On 2015 roster construction, and his club’s odd mix of youth and veterans:

Normally I think if you were going completely young next year you’d have to make some decisions there, but we think some of the young guys who’ve come up and started to establish themselves — they’re performing at a high level, so it’s that much more exciting, like you said, with the fact that they are young, that they’re under control for a long time, that they add payroll flexibility going forward. But the fact that Stroman’s got less than a year of service at this point, and we control him for six more years beyond this year, and so on, he fits in great with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Buehrle and Dickey, because he’s performing at a high level right now.

Even a guy like Aaron Sanchez — we haven’t had a chance to see him in the rotation, but we think he can hit the ground running. In a perfect world, you actually have a roster that’s composed of both [youth and experience] and you get to mix it a little bit and you get to integrate some guys.

Now, if you’d told me banking on guys like Dalton Pompey that are just making their way through the minor leagues, and have had a quick[-moving] season, and you have a lot of guys like that that you’re trying to hit — to integrate — it would be totally different. But we think the young players we have are ready to contribute and are ready to be above average players right now. And if anything, we’re just going to look to continue to add to that.

Sitting here, it sure looks like you could do a whole lot worse in 2017 and 2018 than having Bautista, Encarnacion, and (at least for the first year) Reyes as your really big ticket guys, and a rotation built on guy just barely hitting arbitration for the first time. Then again, it wasn’t long ago that we were looking at years of rotations headlined by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, so maybe we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, but still, to me that’s a better long-term vision than the silliness I hear sometimes like, “let’s just blow it up, get whatever prospects we can, and hope some of them end up good enough that we don’t end up wasting the best cheap years of guys like Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, and Hutchison.”

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pompeytampa

Ten names. I can’t be arsed to actually look it up, but I’m pretty sure it’s been a long, long time since the Toronto Blue Jays so forcefully took advantage of MLB’s rules allowing for the expansion of rosters on September first. And there are still more players that could theoretically been brought to the majors by the club, who might have had some utility as they hope to make a titanic last-ditch push to get back in the playoff race. Kyle Drabek. Steve Delabar, and Rob Rasmussen won’t be returning to the Jays — barring a change of heart from management, or perhaps an injury situation that forces them into action — nor will A.J. Jimenez, or — as was discussed in a post yesterday — Brett Lawrie.

And yet still the Jays have added a number of intriguing weapons that fans will be looking to get a taste of down the stretch.

Some of the moves are pretty basic: George Kottaras was added as the club’s third catcher, while Dan Johnson returns from injury to add another left-handed bat off the bench, while John Mayberry Jr. does the same from the right side. Sean Nolin, who has been on the 40-man roster since his call-up last year, understandably has finally rejoined the club. Brandon Morrow has been activated, likely to complete his Blue Jays swan song — that’s because, with a $10-million club option for next year that’s undoubtedly going to be declined, he’ll hit the free agent market over the winter, possibly looking exclusively for an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot that simply isn’t going to be available here — and, as expected, Ryan Goins and Anthony Gose have also returned to the club.

You could nitpick the decisions on some of the relievers, I suppose. Delabar, for example, is a power arm who may still have a future with the Jays and has put up some gaudy strikeout numbers with Buffalo. But he has also walked at least one batter in eight of his last eleven appearances, and at least one hit in five of his last six appearances, none of which lasted more than an inning.

The bigger story though, obviously, is the other names — Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey, and Kendall Graveman — though it’s maybe not quite as big as the knee-jerk cynic would like you to believe.

Hearing the Sportsnet broadcast talk glowingly about the future we’ll be seeing on display this next month certainly raises the ol’ hackles, making it rather easy to feel that the rush to get this trio to the big leagues — and, more crucially, in terms of asset management, onto the 40-man roster — has as much to do with optics as baseball, and with selling hope at the end of a dismal August that has likely been a season-killer.

Not only that, but it might even seem more egregious — perhaps even like a flagrant misuse of some of the club’s key assets, forcing them to burn options too soon, to accrue service time too soon, and potentially creating related issues farther down the line. And I don’t think any of us needs to be reminded what a handcuff it can be to have a roster full of too many out-of-options players.

Yet I don’t think it’s really as big a deal as the negative-minded might want to make it out to be.

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chart (1)

Runs? Pitching? Two shots left to slay the Tropicana Field beast? That’ll play.

And did Mike Wilner just say it was the Jays’ first win in a series opener in nine tries? Jesus fuck.

Now just do that, like, twenty-five more times, and… uh… holy shit, they only have twenty-five games left! [tugs at inside of shirt collar]

dickeytampa

A lot of new faces are with the Jays tonight… and sitting on the bench. A lot of new faces that I… haven’t quite gotten around to writing much about just yet. So score one for me, I guess! John Gibbons has chosen not to throw any of his new guys straight into the fire, even if it means Kevin Pillar and Danny Valencia facing a right-handed pitcher and Munenori Kawasaki playing.

I get wanting to let guys get a little bit acclimatized to their new environment and all that stuff, but… well… I guess what I don’t get is Kevin Pillar and Danny Valencia facing a right-handed pitcher (Pillar more than Valencia, because I think we can all agree that Juan Francisco probably shouldn’t see the light of day any longer), and picking Kawasaki’s bat over Goins’ defence at this point.

Meh, I guess. Just struck me as odd is all. Doesn’t mean some of them can’t be used later in the game.

And hopefully it doesn’t matter much what the lineup looks like anyway, as R.A. Dickey gets a precious dome start, and will ideally get the Jays off to a winning start in a series they really need to win, and certainly could use sweeping, in a place where they haven’t actually taken a series since approximately the paleolithic era.

Meaningful-ish Septemeber baseball has arrived-ish!

Scuttlebutt

Seriously, though. Reaaaaaally thought the bottom of the lineup might look a little better than that, given all the recent call-ups.

Scott MacArthur tweets that John Gibbons says Brett Cecil is “hanging” and won’t be available tonight, nor will Daniel Norris — he’ll be available starting tomorrow.

Brendan Kennedy notes that there was a late lineup change today, with Edwin Encarnacion moving to DH and Adam Lind shifting to first, where EE was originally going to be. Don’t particularly care for the connotations of that, but at least Eddie’s still playing, right?

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.

And while we’re at it, you might as well follow me on Twitter, follow @DrunkJaysFans, and follow the dusty ol’ DJF Instagram too!

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:10 PM ET @ Tampa

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… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
3B Danny Valencia (R)
2B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
CF Kevin Pillar (R)
C Josh Thole (L)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Tampa Bay Rays

2B Ben Zobrist (S)
RF Wil Myers (R)
LF Matt Joyce (L)
3B Evan Longoria (R)
1B James Loney (L)
SS Yunel Escobar (R)
DH David DeJesus (L)
C Ryan Hanigan (R)
CF Kevin Kiermaier (L)

RHP Jeremy Hellickson

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.

jetersign

Seriously?

Trying something new again with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we? (Yes, we’ll get to the call-ups).

I guess I should have something to say about the whole Derek Jeter farewell tour stuff, eh? It certainly was a central part of the weekend series, and an especially a central part of three rather excellent JaysTalk episodes on the Fan 590, as Mike Wilner tried — not so much by choice, but because every single person, it seemed, wanted to talk about it – to straddle the fine line between “I think Jeter is a clear, inarguable Hall of Famer” and “I don’t think Jeter is as good as everybody else seems to,” with some hilarious results.

Maybe not quite Pre-Taped Call-In Show hilarious, but I still got a kick out of it.

This really isn’t the space to have a lusty debate about Jeter’s legacy, but I’m generally with Wilner on the idea that Jeter’s accomplishments don’t quite stack up to the myth that’s been created around him — and, really, it’s the myth, and not the player that Mike is pushing back against. Everybody acknowledges that Jeter’s career has been really, really good — to not do so would be absurd. Saying, as Wilner did over the weekend, that he’d take Jose Bautista’s last five years over any five year sample of Jeter’s career is less absurd — per FanGraphs, Jose’s last five years have produced 25.9 WAR, while Jeter’s best (1998-2002) come in at 27.0, and by the Baseball Reference version of the metric Jeter leads 28.9 to 26.9 over the same spans — but it’s maybe still a little bit out there, even for those of us who agree with the basic point it’s attempting to serve.

What Mike spent most of his time railing against, though — at least before he had to start defending himself from the confused masses, always looking for space to take a pot shot, acting as if they thought he was running the great hero down — and rightly so, was just how over the top the multiple standing ovations Jeter received this weekend seemed.

Fans pay for tickets, they’re allowed to do what they want, but my first reaction was… um… holy fuck, people.

On reflection, though, maybe I get it. Almost.

The big spectacle of a farewell tour thing is relatively new — or at least relatively rare — so it’s maybe more difficult to gauge what might be an appropriate reaction than those of us up in arms over it tend to believe. Mariano Rivera pitched out of the bullpen, so obviously it’s hard to compare the ovations he received to the ones Jeter did. I don’t remember such fanfare when Cal Ripken Jr. played his final games here, even though he’d announced in June of 2001 that he was retiring, while someone like Paul Molitor — who would have deserved all that Jeter got and more from Jays fans — announced in December of 1998 that he was walking away, so Jays fans never had a chance to give him this sort of send off.

For a guy like Jeter, it doesn’t hurt that there were so many Yankees fans in attendance — as there always are — or that we’re so close to the Yankees stronghold in Western New York. Or that so many pre-1977 fans in this area had been Yankees fans. Shit, for what it’s worth, I said myself at the start of the weekend that it would be nice to see Jeter cheered a bit, rather than being showered with boos by Jays faithful for the sin of being the most recognizable name in the visiting dugout.

I imagine the fact that he is one of baseball’s few active household names has a lot to do with the reaction this weekend as well. It’s easy to bitterly say, “Well, if he wasn’t a Yankee it wouldn’t be like this,” or, “They wouldn’t do this for any other player,” but I think that’s actually the point. He’s a celebrity. He is what he is. And fans here probably wouldn’t do it for anyone else. Ortiz? Pedroia? Pujols? Cabrera? Felix? I doubt it. Not quite, at least.

So I don’t exactly think it’s going to lead to a new era of Jays fans welcoming opposing stars with open arms. It’s an exception. Though it certainly becomes an off-putting one when it seems as though going to the Rogers Centre is like a damn trip to the cottage for Yankees fans — a rustic building by the lake where they can feel comfortable in what should otherwise be a hostile environment — or when Derek Jeter of the New York fucking Yankees gets a better fucking reception on his farewell than Carlos goddamn Delgado got when he returned for the first time after being lowballed out of town. And it’s certainly weird when Rogers, with their awesomely kinda-shitty gift, seemed to really nail the more-appropriate thanks-for-nothing response (I mean… Jeter can buy Banff if he wants to, right?).

But I don’t know… if people want to be a part of something, and they think its appropriate to salute an opposing player as emphatically as they did… uh… maybe whatever?

standings0902

Trying something new again with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we? (Yes, we’ll get to the call-ups).

Talking about the race for a playoff spot, with respect to the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, isn’t entirely absurd just yet, but it sure is close. However, after a disappointing start to the weekend series, the Jays continued to show some fight — or whatever silly thing you want to call it — and find themselves a still-not-technically-impossible 5.5 games back of the second Wild Card.

Depending on how you want to look at it, the schedule either helps or hurts them.

The Jays’ next twelve games are against sub-.500 teams — yay! — but nine of those are against the Rays and Red Sox, including the series that begins tonight in Tampa, where the club hasn’t won a series since around the time Kim Campbell was Prime Minister, I’m pretty sure. Having the Cubs come in for three next week should be favourable, but… it’s baseball. Anything can happen.

Looking at the schedules of the laundry list of teams the Jays are chasing produces a similar effect. Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle, and the Yankees all play each other quite a bit before the season comes to a close. For example: Cleveland has six against Detroit (three home, three away), and three in which they’ll host the Royals (plus they need to finish off a suspended game from Sunday, in which Kansas City is down 4-2 in the top of the 10th). Detroit has those six with Cleveland, plus six more (three home, three away) with the Royals. Kansas City has the aforementioned nine games with their division rivals, plus three this weekend in Yankee Stadium, as well.

In addition to hosting the Royals for three, the Yankees get the Jays for four, plus eight against a tough Orioles club, with the rest of their schedule featuring Rays and Red Sox clubs who will be loath help their rivals’ playoff chances. Among the teams still in the race the Mariners only face the Jays, visiting Rogers Centre later this month, but they have their work cut out for them with twelve games left against very strong Angels and A’s clubs.

There is a lot of opportunity for the Jays’ opponents to tread water a bit as they beat up each other, but you’d kind of have to think that in reality it’s more likely one team or another will separate themselves and only make the Jays’ task harder. And that the club’s best hope is to, first and foremost, worry about themselves.

Here’s what the schedule for this month looks like:

@ Rays x3, @ Red Sox x3, vs. Cubs x3, vs. Rays x3, @ Orioles x3, @ Yankees x4, vs. Mariners x4, vs. Orioles x3.

Not a whole lot of time left. Would love to see where they stand after sweeping the Rays in Tampa, though, eh?