Archive for the ‘Toronto Blue Jays’ Category

mcgowann

There wasn’t much in the way of good news coming from the Toronto Blue Jays this winter. While they watched their divisional rivals improve at every turn, they all but stood pat after a 75-win season. The only upgrade came in the form of Dioner Navarro, stepping in as their new catcher. There was no Brian McCann or Jacoby Ellsbury or Ubaldo Jiminez. Hell, there wasn’t even a Grady Sizemore-esque lottery ticket for them to wish on.

As the season grew closer, it became more and more apparent that the back-end of the Blue Jays rotation was…problematic. The Spring Training fifth starter battle quickly became more about attrition than production. Yesterday, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced the man who would take the ball every five days was…Dustin McGowan?

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

theScore’s Jonah Birenbaum spent several days following the Toronto Blue Jays during the opening weeks of Spring Training, talking with many of organization’s future stars.

Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman, a diminutive right-hander whose stature betrays his immense talents, runs through fielding drills with unmistakable ease on the backfields of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Always jovial, the energetic hurler completes Spring Training’s more mundane exercises with the overt confidence of a veteran, but his body language is punctuated with the unadulterated enthusiasm of a youngster getting his first taste of big-league camp.

Stroman, who turns 23 in May, has logged a mere 131 innings as a professional, but the Duke alumnus has a reasonable chance of cracking Toronto’s beleaguered rotation this season. Though he’s aware his future is inextricably linked with that of the Blue Jays, Stroman insists his confidence isn’t a consequence of his pedigree. Selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, Stroman sits atop the prospect hierarchy, but his demeanor is simply a function of his upbringing.

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Mets

We’ve all been here before. It was barely four days ago that it seemed Ervin Santana was about to join the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year pillow contract. Then the Orioles were players and Santana would decide by end of day Saturday.

Then no decision. Then the Braves’ curious decision to stand pat and roll with a highly volatile starting rotation jumped up to bite them all at once and suddenly the tightwad squad from the ATL looked like they might spend some money on a player from outside their organization. As the news on Kris Medlen got worse, the Braves became bigger and bigger players for the services of Ervin Santana.

It appears the Barves got their man, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports the Braves and Santana are in agreement and will announce a one-year deal later this morning. No terms were released at this time.

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Workout

It was not even that long ago, about one year if I recall, that the Toronto Blue Jays were the darlings of the baseball world. Heading into a the season riding a massive wave of momentum, the Blue Jays were picked to advance fall into the playoffs by every pundit from Tijuana to Thunder Bay. Toronto made big moves and cashed in their prospect bitcoins for real live big leaguers and also Josh Johnson.

The 2013 season famously ended in tears for Toronto, as the off-season spending spree bought just enough goodwill to last through the first prolonged slump. The happy vibes eroded quickly. The Jays limped to a 74-win year while their former manager, the one who begged out of town to take his dream job in Boston, hoisted the World Series trophy.

One year later, the Blue Jays are just another team. They’re another team trying to figure out how they can improve at multiple positions after they taught a master class in the perils of a stars and scrubs philosophy in 2013. Second base, catcher, and left field were all black holes last season in addition to a patchwork pitching staff with one of the worst starting staffs in the league.

The team upgraded behind the plate and hope health and divine providence will guide their pitchers and left fielders. But second base? That remains a serious question mark.

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Mets

There has been a lot written in this space about Ubaldo Jimenez in the past few months. About his value as a durable starter, about his turnaround after an ugly 2012, and his upside as a big league starter.

For every sentence written about Ubaldo, by all rights there should be a comparable sentence written about Ervin Santana. Because almost all the above statements regarding Ubaldo Jimenez hold true for Ervin Santana.

But, somehow, it doesn’t quite feel the same for Santana. Yes, he was great in 2013. He added a new pitch and rediscovered the form that made him a 5 WAR pitcher in 2008 and a three win guy in both 2010 and 2011. So where’s the love? Does Ervin Santana deserve the same type of deal as Ubaldo Jimenez?

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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and President and CEO of the Blue Jays Paul Beeston  talk during workouts at the team's MLB baseball spring training facility in Dunedin

The Toronto Blue Jays celebrated their 2013 December Baseball Championship with a sombre, controlled season ticket holder event last night. The natural grumblings of irritated fans after a very disappointing season came through during a ticket holder Q&A with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, president and CEO Paul Beeston, and manager John Gibbons – despite prescreening questions to gently mute any discontent.

More than anything, both the fans and the front office of the Blue Jays seem a little tired. The fans are tired and a little leery after a winter of promise gave way to a season of harsh reality, a fifth-place finish, and the manager who walked away from his contract with the club celebrating a World Series title. The front office seems weary after a season full of worst case scenarios. A season full of injuries and losses and tumors and shredded shoulders and letdown after letdown.

Weary as he might be, Alex Anthopoulos does not appear desperate. All the talent that made his team such a sexy pick for the 2013 season remains in place for 2014. Health is the biggest wild card for his club. It was the biggest factor undermining their aspirations in 2013 and remains the single biggest issue for them going forward into 2014.

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Boston Red Sox Victorino collides with Toronto Blue Jays Arencibia during MLB action in Boston

It has not been a good season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Not in any way. Expectations were high coming into the season after a series of moves designed to overhaul the starting rotation and vault the Jays into contention as the Yankees aged the Red Sox prepped for their next wave of young talent.

2013 didn’t work out like that, of course. Injuries and ineffectivness robbed Jays fans of their coronation before it even happened, to say nothing of the Red Sox and Yankees and their ongoing success.

The reasons for Toronto are numerous, starting with the ugly numbers posted by the starting rotation. Add black holes of production in left field, second base, and behind the plate and you have a last place team where a World Series contender was supposed to sit.

It is behind the plate where the Jays have really suffered, ranking last in the league in WAR from their backstops. J.P. Arencibia is the everyday catcher for Toronto and he stands on the brink of history. Very, very dubious history.

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