There are some among us who, believe it or not, actually compile lists breaking down the often overwhelming tasks that they’re presented with into individual items for completion.  When presented with multiple things that must get done, my personal strategy is to procrastinate until the last minute and then internalize all my anxiousness at not having completed anything until I break out in a stress rash or get a stomach ulcer.  From there I’m usually able to get out of my duties with a doctor’s note.

Unfortunately for the decision makers in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, doctor’s notes aren’t going to excuse them from making the decisions that need to be made ahead of the first game of the regular season on April 1st.  And so, as a favour to Alex Anthopoulos, John Farrell and their respective management and coaching staffs, I’ve created a tidy to do list for their assistance.

Item #1: Stop Pretending Jo-Jo Reyes Is A Starter.

If Jo-Jo Reyes has proven anything during his brief time in professional baseball, it’s that he can’t handle the rigors of being a starting pitcher.  Match his injury prone past with his failures in getting right handed batters out and the Jays need for a left handed reliever in the bullpen, and it seems obvious that Reyes, who is out of Minor League options, should be the team’s lefty specialist.

Item #2: Do The Right Thing With Kyle Drabek And Zach Stewart.

I tend not to sit on the fence too much when comes to baseball issues, and I’m even more outspoken when it comes to the Blue Jays.  But for whatever it means when people say “the life of me,” I can’t manage to form an opinion on the best development path for Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart.  I realize that there’s no one answer and that each pitcher should be handled individually, but you would think that the experience gained by pitching in the Majors is unparalleled, and if there was ever a year for a young pitcher to find his bearings at the Major League level with the Toronto Blue Jays, this is the season.  However, the fact that neither pitcher has had a single start at the Triple A level does raise some questions, as does the Jays eagerness to run up their service time in a year that’s likely a one step back for the sake of two steps forward scenario.

Item #3: Fill Out The Rest Of The Rotation.

Depending on what the Jays decide to do with Drabek, Reyes and Stewart, there are a number of options to filling out the rotation.  Only because I can’t imagine the team keeping Stewart up while demoting Drabek, my least favourite option would be a combination of Reyes and Drabek as the fourth and fifth starter.  I could live with Drabek and Stewart in the rotation assuming that Toronto believes a season in the big leagues will make them better starters in the future, just as I could understand going with Drabek and Rzepczynski or Litsch.  Another likely option that I might be leaning toward would be to start the season with Rzepczynski and Litsch in the fourth and fifth spot before calling up Drabek and then Stewart at the first opportunity.  This option might temper some expectations out of the gate and allow both prospects the opportunity to face more seasoned hitters before making the jump to the Majors.

Item #4: Assign The Bullpen Roles.

We’ve talked before about the differences that defined roles in a bullpen make, and even though I don’t think a team should settheir relievers by tying them to a specific inning, I’ve to come to grips with it happening.  The Jays should break camp with the following seven relievers no matter what their numbers might look like after Spring Training: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Shawn Camp, Jo-Jo Reyes and David Purcey.  That leaves Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, Robert Ray, Josh Roenicke and Carlos Villanueva on the outside looking in.  I would further break them up as follows: Francisco as closer, Rauch and Frasor for the 7th and 8th, Dotel only faces tough right handed batters, Reyes faces tough left handed batters, while Camp and Purcey come in as needed.

Item #5: Send Brett Lawrie To Triple A.

I know that Anthopoulos has said that he would never keep a player in the Minor Leagues simply for contractual purposes, but if there’s a question as to the readiness of Drabek and Stewart, then how can you not wonder about 21 year old Brett Lawrie.  Yes, he’s had a fantastic Spring to this point, but as Keith Law says, “Spring training stats are as useful as homeopathy.”  No one wants to punish ambition, but by sending Lawrie to Triple A Las Vegas they’re putting him in a position to only grow his swaggerish confidence in a hitter’s league where he can get an even better handle on fielding third base.  And that’s not mentioning the benefits of not starting his service time prematurely.

Item #6: Fill Out The Bench.

Depending on the health of Scott Podsednik, who would make a good platoon partner for Juan Rivera, the team’s starting lineup should be set:  J.P. Arencibia at catcher, Adam Lind at first base, Aaron Hill at second base, Jose Bautista at third base, Yunel Escobar at shortstop, Rivera and Podsednik splitting time in right field, Rajai Davis in center field, Travis Snider in left field and Edwin Encarnacion as the designated hitter.  That’s ten players added to the five starters and seven bullpen guys already on the team, leaving three bench spots to be filled.  One bench spot is given to backup catcher Jose Molina, another goes to defensive specialist John McDonald and the third and final spot goes to Mike McCoy, if for no other reason than his positional flexibility.

Item#7: Set The Lineup.

I already nerded it up with what the numbers suggest would be the optimal Blue Jays lineup.  And while it might seem counter intuitive I’d be in favour of batting Bautista at leadoff or in the fourth spot.  Crazy talk, I know, but before you get all bent out of shape about it, read how I came up with those ideas.

Item #8: Don’t Forget About Eric Thames.

I’ve had a bit of a thing for Eric Thames for a while, even going so far (perhaps too far) to suggest that he was yet another reason why signing Bautista to a long term deal was unnecessary.  It kind of blows my mind a little bit that his relatively few at bats has raised more awareness about him than his great on base percentage throughout his Minor League career and sudden power surge last year in New Hampshire.  I put him in the same boat as both Drabek and Lawrie, in that if an opportunity presents itself to get regular plate appearances, call him up.  Spending time in the Pacific Coast League is only going to increase Thames’ confidence and give him the opportunity to face more experienced pitching.

Comments (28)

  1. Forgot one…Find a legitimate centre fielder! I know dumping Wells contract was great, but it left a pretty big void in the outfield. Not sure if Rajai Davis is much more than a 4th guy. This team needs a guy who can play good defense and not be a liability with the bat. I see this position being a problem for the near future.

  2. Colby! Rasmus! Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.

  3. I agree with almost every single point here. Anthopoulos and company stick way too closely to their “starter until proven otherwise” theory, because you could develop solid, homegrown bullpens from failed starters (e.g., Reyes, Purcey, Janssen) instead of spending millions on over-priced ROOGYs.

    I personally like the Rays’ development plan – they let their players take the time to develop and they don’t -ever- rush them. The patient approach always wins at the end of the day, and it would be good to see Lawrie, Drabek, and Stewart all spend -at least- half a season in AAA.

    Oh, and the sudden interest in Thames is crazy, but not surprising. When I used to hang out on Jays forums and I did a review of the 2008 draft, him and Bobby Bell were my two “these guys could surprise people” picks. Thames didn’t play baseball for almost two years, and has put up solid minor league numbers in a short time since. I didn’t want to re-sign Bautista either, as I thought we had enough OF depth close enough to the majors that, once we signed Lawrie, he became a huge possible trade piece.

  4. Are you on Charlie Sheen you dont trade Halladay and send Drabek back to tripple A you start him in 5 spot and Lawrie you get him playing time as dh fuck edwin as dh he should be bat boy

    • The team can’t have only a single lefty in the bullpen. Also look at Purcey’s strange splits. It’s a waste using him only against lefties, especially given his reverse platoon split. Janssen also still has an option left, a luxury the Jays don’t enjoy with Reyes.

  5. In all honesty, if Pods isn’t getting serious ABs, I prefer Patterson. (And I don’t see why Rivera needs to be platooned – if you want even a nibble in July, regular ABs are a must.) Patterson steals bases at a higher frequency and is a far superior option to cover CF. I figure chances are someone comes out of ST banged up, in which case all three of Patterson, Pods, and McCoy come north.

    As for the pen, Janssen had a 3.67 in 69 IP last year, and at 29 I don’t know that he has much business in AAA. I think Purcey has that lefty specialist spot lined up, and Janssen has to have the in on the seventh bullpen slot. That’s probably why they’re so keen on trying Reyes as a starter, along with the false hope provided by the no-no last year. That would leave Villaneuva, Roenicke, Carlson and Reyes (provided he isn’t the 5th starter) as the ones on the outside.

  6. I really think some of the logjam in the bullpen, and maybe even in the rotation, will be solved by a trade before the season starts. If it was for Rasmus, I’d be ecstatic. He’d be expensive, but right now the Cards need an experienced starter, possibly they could get him without giving up Drabek or Stewart.

    I agree with your logic regarding giving Drabek and Stewart a year of MLB experience, but I think that logic applies to Lawrie as well. No, he won’t be penalized like a pitcher would be in the PCL, but I’d much rather watch him play, even if he struggles, than have to see Rivera, no matter how he performs.

  7. I don’t see why they need more than one lefty…Downs and Tallet were hardly used as LOOGYs for most of their tenure here, and this year is as much about development as maximizing matchups. While it’s legitimate to exploit a broken system, I just don’t see how you can justify leaving a healthy Janssen at AAA on a baseball level. Maybe Reyes gets the LOOGY spot and Purcey goes down, otherwise I foresee a trade.

  8. How much truth is there in that Kevin Slowey to Toronto rumor. The way I see it we could send a reliever to Minny. Someone like Janssen or Camp and this way we get a 4th starter. I believe we should give the final spot to Drabek or Rzepczynski. I’ve never been a fan of Litsch.

  9. ….I agree lawrie should not start the year with the jays…

    However I have doubts about sending a kid like that to Vegas,… He has 1st round bonus money, he’s 21 and not to generalize but, he does have eminem lyrics tattooed on his arm…

  10. I’m more in agreement with Parkes here. Lawrie has had a good week, kudo’s, but please, triple A makes sense here folks.

  11. @Dustin: agreed re: Rasmus, but I think you’re looking at one of three trade scenarios:

    1) Cecil + prospects (AA knows ‘em better than me) for Rasmus.

    2) Romero for Rasmus + prospects (Moz knows ‘em better than me).

    OR

    3) Morrow for Rasmus + prospects (Moz…)

    I’m reeeaaallly not keen on any of those options, but I think St. Louis would want one of the big three, as much as or more than we as Jays fans would want AA to hold onto them at this point in time.

  12. @Justin: I think Rzepczynski and Drabek are probably better options at this point than Slowey, and for that reason it seems like a waste of an asset to deal for him IMHO.

  13. Tom are you insane…No chance Romero or Morrow get moved.

    • We have this convo around the office on an almost daily basis. I think we’d all be far more willing to move Morrow for Rasmus than Romero. His contract plays a big role in that thinking.

  14. @rasmus trade talk

    Why not ship Cecil/Thames/Jimenez for Rasmus, and then trade Villanueva/Janssen for Slowey?. Slowey immediately takes the three spot, and Rzep and Listch slide into the 4/5 spot. I mean, that’s a fairly fair package for Colby, a fringe #2/ really good #3 going forward, a young powerful corner outfielder with a bit of a platoon problem, and a toolsy young catcher. And the Jays get Rasmus, Slowey and clear up the logjam in the pen. Win-Win-Win?

  15. I can’t imagine that Cecil/Thames/Jiminez would even be close to good enough in a trade for Rasmus.

  16. RE: Dustin… Although I agree that Morrow would be easier to part with at this point. You’re just more sure what you are going to get from Ricky.. but if Morrow builds off last year, not only will it look like a terrible trade, but you’ll have to end up spending prospects to go out an acquire a top of the rotation starter at some point in order to compete..

    Morrow has been jerked around, but had a ridiculous 10.95 k/9 last year.. given that he is still young and his arm doesn’t have much mileage on it. I would consider him to be untouchable until further notice.

    • Colby Rasmus is 24 years old. He’s a prospect that’s already proven himself. There is no one knocking on the door in the Jays system at CF.

      Morrow is 26, and I agree that he put up some really great signs of being a top of the rotation starter, but I think even if he does live up to that potential, it wouldn’t be a terrible trade by any means. Every deal can’t be a total screw job. The team won’t end up spending prospects on a top of the rotation starter because they already have that in Kyle Drabek.

  17. Re:Ty… everyone over exaggerates Rasmus’ value.. If Cecil, Thames, Jiminez doesn’t get it done, then he shouldn’t be traded for.

    I don’t get why everyone is so quick to want to trade prospects for established players. Lets build the farm system let some of our prospects develop, then fill the holes needed through trade and free agency.

  18. “dc says: Tom are you insane…No chance Romero or Morrow get moved.”

    “Tom Jackson says: I’m reeeaaallly not keen on any of those options, but I think St. Louis would want one of the big three, as much as or more than we as Jays fans would want AA to hold onto them at this point in time.”

    Insane I may be, but clearly I was not advocating that either Morrow or Romero be moved, just stating that that’s what it might take, particularly with the Pujols situation currently unresolved. AA won’t get Rasmus with Rzepczynski or Litsch as the starting point, Jedi mind tricks or not, Moz brain fart or not. It’s not happening.

  19. Dustin, the same Kyle Drabek you just wrote an article about how his mechanics lead to serious injury. He’s already had 1 TJ, can the jays really trade Morrow because of Drabek?

    While I agree that CF is terribly lacking.. Do we really need a good CF for 2011? Rasmus doesn’t make the team contender especially if you subtract Morrow.

    By the time we are ready to seriously compete 2013,2014, Rasmus will be on the cusp of free agency and Gose or Marisnick might be knocking on the door. So we get maybe 1 or 2 years in which having Rasmus is actually important, but end up selling low on Morrow because of it.

    • How are you so sure that this is selling low on Morrow? And for the record, Morrow is closer to free agency right now than Rasmus.

      Reread the article again. I linked to an article that warned about Drabek’s mechanics. It’s very far from a sure thing.

  20. As far as I’m concerned DC, you pick up a good player at position X, if it’s a position of need, when a good player becomes available, depending on the price of course. You also don’t plan around what prospects might be knocking on the door in 2 or 3 years because you should be able to move a solid established veteran player if/when a prospect shows he’s ready for the show.

  21. D.P.. with Morrow’s talent you can’t take the chance that you are selling low. . I may sound overly optimistic, but if he hit 80% of his potential he will be a bona-fide ace and a top3 pitcher in the division…

    Last year Brett Cecil had a comparable year to Morrow at a younger age.. Why wouldnt the cardinals entertaining the possibility of taking a deal centered around Cecil as opposed to Morrow? They wouldn’t because Cecil projects to be as good as he was last year, where as Morrow projects to be something much better.

    you just don’t trade that kind of potential unless its going to put you in the driver seat to win a WS, like when the Red Sox traded Hanley . I just don’t see a point to it at this point.

  22. You guy’s are crazy! Rasmus is going to stay right where he is. Who plays center for the Cardinals when he leaves, Jim Edmond?

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