The Blue Jays Winter Tour is well underway and today we learned that Aaron Sanchez has been training this off-season with Marcus Stroman. We also learned that Sanchez had added 25 pounds, Sanchez stated that his goal was to build up durability in order to be in the starting rotation this season, although he also says he hasn’t been told by the team to prepare to start the season in the rotation. I would assume that the Jays would give Sanchez the chance to start this Spring and with Drew Storen addition it does give the Jays a little more depth in the back-end of the bullpen, and Sanchez’s addition to the rotation would improve what some experts have called a mediocre rotation. It would also most likely bump Jesse Chavez into bullpen as the long man, a role he has experience in as he was in that role in Oakland prior to last season.
We also learned thanks to a pair of Jamie Campbell tweets that Brett Cecil’s calf muscle that he injured in the playoffs is completely healed and he will be ready come the start of Spring Training next month. Campbell also tweeted that if the Blue Jays had made the World Series Cecil would have pitched thanks to the intensified treatment he received during the playoffs. That doesn’t really surprise me considering there was talk that if the Jays had advanced Cecil would have been available, I also remember hearing that he was throwing off a mound during one of the off days during the ALCS.
GIBBY ON SHORT LEASH?
Stephen Brunt made an appearance on The Brady and Walker show (watch here) on Tuesday and when asked about just how long of a leash John Gibbons has with the new regime Brunt responded with saying he thinks Gibby is on a short leash and if things go south early it could be a very different conversation. I know that Gibbons was Alex Anthopoulos’ hire and the new regime inherited him and he isn’t probably their first choice to manage the team but at the time of AA’s dismissal it would have added even more vitriol to the PR nightmare that was happening. I also think that Gibbons deserves a long leash this season, in fact he deserves the full season here at the very minimum. That’s what winning a division and winning a playoff round the previous season will do for a manager. I would like to think that all of this talk is just that. I’m smart enough to realize that sports talk radio shows in Toronto like to make something out of nothing, they’ve been doing it for years with the Maple Leafs. But, just for fun let’s go back to 2002 when Mark Shapiro took over as General Manager of the Indians, he inherited Charlie Manuel as the manager. Shapiro had every intention to have Manuel manage the Indians for the full season- and he would have-but Manuel, who was in the last year of his contract, approached Shapiro about a contract extension and wanted to know if he was in the teams plans beyond the 2002 season. Shapiro abruptly fired him.
The big difference with the two managers is that Gibbons is under contract for 2017 as well, thanks to his rolling option in his contract.
AA’s OTHER JOB OFFER
Thanks to Bob McCown we now know what one of Alex Anthopoulos’ other job offers were before signing on with the L.A Dodgers. McCown’s co-host on Prime Time Sports. McCown said on Tuesday (watch here) that he and AA had a long conversation about broadcasting and the possibility of AA becoming Bobcat’s sidekick. McCown has even gone as far as asking Anthopoulos to come in and co-host for a week. Thanks to the Dodgers, we will never now if AA would have been any good at radio. Maybe after he’s done with baseball he’ll get into radio.
With the Arbitration deadline slowly approaching MLBTR’s Matt Swatrz goes into detail on Josh Donaldson’s upcoming Arbitration case. All told he figures that Donaldson is due for a $7.7 million raise from last years salary of $3.4 million. He compares Donaldson’s case to that off Chris Davis’ arbitration case in 2014 when he was awarded a record $7.7 million raise. Swartz argues that Davis’ 2014 wasn’t a MVP winning season and that Donaldson can use that argument to cement his case. Realistically we all knew that Donaldson was going to get a huge raise in 2016 and that is the one thing that maybe holding things up when it comes to player signings as they have to stick relatively to their budget.
Speaking of the budget, rumors are floating around that the Blue Jays are looking into Fernando Rodney. Rodney would be a good depth piece. If you take away his stint with Seattle last season where he was absolutely dreadful he’s been a fairly reliable reliever and has had some good seasons as a closer in Tampa. With the Blue Jays lack of depth in the bullpen I would like to think that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are smart enough to realize that an incentive laden type of contract offer for Rodney might just get a deal done. Sure, there are other names still out there but none with the track record that Rodney has had over the recent years, and as much as his stupid arrow he does after a save and his inability to wear his hat properly he would be a smart signing for the Jays.
It appears that former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has landed on his feet reportedly taking a front office job with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wish him well in his new endeavor. I won’t be like some of the Blue Jay fans who hold AA’s departure at the feet of Shapiro. AA didn’t leave because of Shapiro, if fans really want someone to blame put it squarely on the feet of Rogers who mishandled the President job and replacement search with hilarity. While it seems that some fans have decided that they can’t move on from AA’s departure, may I remind them that the chapter on AA’s time has closed, just like it has with any other popular player, manager and executive. All it takes is another winning year for the Blue Jays and the fans will soon become fans of the new regime. Most were ready to run AA out-of-town at the All-Star break, how winning changes things.
With the Hall of Fame inductees now announced, it was interesting reading former Blue Jay Roy Halladay’s tweets renouncing P.E.D users from entering the HOF, Interestingly enough Roger Clemens accused Halladay of using amphetamines during his time in Toronto. It should be pointed out that Clemens was only a teammate of Halladay’s for one month. Halladay was a September call-up in 1998 which was Clemens last season with the Blue Jays, so I find it hard to believe that Clemens would have paid enough attention to a rookie call-up to see if or what they were actually taking. It should also be noted that Halladay never failed a drug test in his big league career so maybe Clemens should be keeping his mouth shut.
Another day, Another Free Agent pitcher off the market as Scott Kazmir signed a three-year 48 million dollar deal with the Dodgers. The deal includes an opt out after one year. These opt outs have become to contracts today what no trade clauses were to contracts of the past.
Thing is, unlike Commissioner Rob Manfred, I think these opt out clauses are great for both the player and the ball club that signs said player. In Kazmir’s case if he has a great year with the Dodgers, which he probably will, he can opt out and gain even more money in signing a deal next winter because of the lack of depth and names in next years Free Agent class. Quite honestly with the type of money that has been thrown around on pitching this year how could you blame Kazmir or any other pitcher for asking for a opt out clause after a year or two, It’s not like the money tree that surrounds Major League Baseball teams is about to dry up any time soon.
It also is a sign of change in how front offices across baseball will have to do business with potential Free Agent signings. I said many times on twitter after the David Price trade that if the Blue Jays wanted to be competitively in on the Price market this winter, which they weren’t, that they would have to be willing to offer seven years at 210 million and offer an opt out after three or four years. Chances are that a player will opt out when the clause in the contract kicks in, and in Price’s case, it would allow the team to get out of having to pay him in his declining years.
Having said all that, it’s a fact that in the future if the Blue Jays want to be competitive with Free Agent starting pitchers down the road then they will have to include the reality of having to offer up opt out clauses in the negotiations. In fact in any long-term negotiations with an elite pitcher in his prime if I was the one in the negotiating room I would insist on an opt out clause after three to four years for the very reason I pointed out about not being stuck paying big money during a pitchers declining years. I’m sure though that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have that all figured out seeing that they are intelligent guys, despite what some fans would have you believe.
With the list of available arms, both starters and relievers, dwindling as we enter January it is becoming more apparent to me that the Blue Jays will leave both Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna in the bullpen for 2016. There isn’t room in the Starting rotation like there was last season, and with an open competition for the fifth spot between Drew Hutchison, Jesse Chavez and
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez up coming this spring, and the lack of depth in the pen, it’s safe to say the pen is where the pair will be in 2016. The current bullpen for the Blue Jays is Osuna, Sanchez, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera, Bo Shultz and one of either Chavez, Hutchison or an arm off whats left of the free agent scrap heap. Out of those names there are only three pitchers that I would consider trusting in a high leverage spot, Osuna, Sanchez and Cecil. I would have included Tepera and his good numbers against lefties but with Cecil being dominant against lefties it cancels out any advantage that you would get with Tepera.
It also brings up another discussion. An idea I saw on a Facebook group through a tweet that may really seem at first like a ridiculous idea but the more I think about it the more I think it’s a move the Blue Jays may have to think about if they want to improve their pitching. Trading Devon Travis for pitching help. I know it seems crazy but with the emergence of Ryan Goins showing that he can handle the rigors of playing every day at second base and making big improvements at the plate, it really is an idea that I can get behind. Of course the one problem with the idea that wasn’t brought up is the fact that Travis is coming off of exploratory shoulder surgery and there is no guarantee they were able to fix what was ailing him in the first place, there is also the thought that he could now be tagged as injury prone which would drop his trade value. Lastly Travis isn’t expected to be ready until late April or early May and I’m going to be real curious to see if he is able to carry over this year’s numbers before the injury into next season. Here’s hoping that he can. Of course they could always hang onto Travis in case, and there is a really good chance it happens, Troy Tulowitzki goes down with an injury during the season. As they say, you can never have enough depth. Right?!?
I suppose there is always that hope that the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona can find himself this spring and be a contributor to the big club. Heck, maybe Drew Hutchison will find his old form from a year ago and show that this years form was a blip on the radar screen.
Either way, watching the pitching battles this Spring should be awfully interesting.
With the season now over for the Blue Jays, it is now the time of year that we will start to hear about injuries and surgeries to repair said injuries. The first announcement came out today when the Blue Jays announced that Edwin Encarnacion had a successful sports hernia surgery, the interesting thing about it was that Encarnacion had released a picture on his instagram account that he had undergone surgery. He did not say for what, so many of us assumed it was for his finger that he had issues with throughout the season so it came as quite the surprise when it was announced that it was a sports hernia that Encarnacion had repaired. It also makes it that much more impressive when you think about his performance despite the list of ailments that Encarnacion had to deal with in the second half and the playoffs. It wouldn’t shock me to hear in the next few weeks if it’s not announced that Jose Bautista undergoes some kind of work on his shoulder.
Seems like the Toronto media, especially Sportsnet seem to want to make a big story out of Alex Anthopoulos’ pending future, some even saying there is a chance that he doesn’t come back. I’ve heard enough of Anthopoulos’ interviews in the last month and the way he has talked it has left me with the feeling that he has some sort of handshake deal worked out with Rogers and that they are waiting for Mark Shapiro to be introduced to the Toronto media once he takes over as President next week. I have a hard time to believe that AA would have talked as much about the Blue Jays offseason plans at his year end presser Monday if he wasn’t planning on coming back.
The other thing to think about, Rogers knows that if they didn’t bring AA back they are going committing a PR nightmare after the second half and playoff run that the Blue Jays went on. Rogers built up a ton of good will with the playoff run this year and they could watch it all disappear in a nano second if AA isn’t brought back.
Lets not forget the job that AA has done in scouting and drafting, without all the success they’ve had in drafting young talent there isn’t a chance that the Trade deadline goes down like it did this summer. I’m not saying they would have been sellers, but they sure as hell wouldn’t have been the buyers they were at the deadline, and it’s a damn good chance that the David Price deal never happens.
It’s time that the media get out of their mindset that everything they write about the Blue Jays must be all doom and gloom just for cheap click bait.
The Blue Jays finished up their four game series in Baltimore by dropping a 6-4 decision to the Orioles. The Blue Jays fielded their “B” team. The Blue Jays plan to play their regular line-up when they start their three game series in Tampa Friday night.
There seems to have been quite the backlash about John Gibbons electing to rest his regulars two games in a row instead of keeping the pedal down and going for the top spot in the American League and having homefield advantage throughout. I agree on how Gibby handled it, the weather situation in Baltimore dealt the Jays a raw hand to begin with. The plan all along was if the Jays won the first game they would rest their starters in game two, makes sense, especially if the division is clinched you don’t want to be stuck having your starters have to play two games in one day especially this late in the season. I also don’t mind the way things were handled Thursday with the Jays running out the same “B” squad line-up. With the not so wonderful forecast pushing the game up till noon it was going to be a no brainer that Gibby wasn’t going to play his regulars. It became even more apparent why he didn’t when the game started in a steady rainfall. It’s not worth risking an injury at this point in the year playing a game against a team that is long out of it this close to the playoffs when they have the division clinched.
Here’s the other point to think about. Lets say for argument’s sake that the Royals and Blue Jays have the same record going into the weekend, the Blue Jays hold the tiebreaker because they won the season series with the Royals. So in essence the Jays hold a one game lead on the Royals. If the Jays win two of three in Tampa this weekend the Royals would have to sweep the Twins, let’s also not forget that the Twins are only a game out of the wild card spot in the AL so it’s not like they’re not playing for anything.
It should also be noted that because the American League won the All-Star game having the homefield advantage only applies to the ALCS and that still would only matter if the Royals made it and didn’t get bounced in the first round, with the way they’ve played in September that’s not totally out of the realm of possibilities either.
It looks like the Blue Jays will have Troy Tulowitzki back in the lineup as early as Saturday. Tulo will face live pitching during a simulated game on Friday in Tampa, if all goes well the plan is to have Tulo play on Saturday in Tampa. With the AL East now wrapped up the Blue Jays have also announced that David Price’s next start will be the ALDS opener in Toronto next Thursday. Price is scheduled to throw in the simulated game in Tampa tomorrow to keep him ready for the playoff opener on next week.
OWN A PIECE OF HISTORY
Well, it didn’t take long for Roger to find away to make some profit on last night’s celebrations in Baltimore. A champagne bottle and one of the corks are now up for auction on the teams website. The current bid for the champagne bottle is currently at $210.00. The current bid for the cork is $55.00
With Dave Dombrowski now off the market in Boston it has brought up more questions about current Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’ future beyond October 31st when his current contract expires. It has also for the moment not regurgitated this past winters rumours of Dan Duquette coming to Toronto. But back to Anthopoulos for a moment, as it has been pointed out by some there is a possibility that he cashes in on his high demand this offseason and ends up going elsewhere. I suppose it’s a possibility, he will after all be a free agent that is free to go where he pleases, and there is also no guarantees that whoever is Paul Beeston’s successor won’t want to bring in his own guy to be the team GM. It would also be some pretty awful PR for Rogers if Anthopoulos were to get away in the off-season.
I do have a solution that some have also have suggested. Why not do what some MLB teams are doing now and go with two people at the top like the Red Sox are doing. The Jays could promote Stephen Brooks who is currently is the VP of Business for the Jays as the actual President and have him look after the Business side of the ball club and give Anthopoulos the title of President of Baseball Operations which isn’t much different from what he is currently doing for the ball club. Hell, if they don’t want to go that route they can always talk Beeston into sticking around another year, no I’m not kidding.
There seems to be lot’s of discussion around Russell Martin and his ailing left leg/hamstring and why the Blue Jays even had him playing. I wouldn’t have played him Wednesday night in Philadelphia and the reason isn’t completely related to the injury. First off Mark Buehrle has been having Dioner Navarro as his personal catcher as of late and things have been working out rather well. Navarro has caught eight of Buehrle’s starts and even though it is a small sample size the numbers speak for themselves. In those eight starts opponents have a slash line of .239/.274/.411 he has pitched 55 innings in those starts with an ERA of 2.62. In the 16 games that Martin has caught opponents have hit .281/.306/.425 in 104 innings and a 3.83 ERA. Second the Phillies are the bottom feeders of the National League and with two big series with the Angels and Rangers it made all the sense in the world to start Navarro. I understand that Martin is the Blue Jays big off-season investment but two days off in a row would have helped him out and let’s also point out the Blue Jays need him in September as healthy as he possibly can be and it just seems foolish for the Blue Jays to be running him into the ground right now. His numbers for August .111/.184/.111 would also show that maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Martin to take a few days off and try to heal up. It’s also quite plausible that come September when the rosters expand Josh Thole will be one of the September call-ups and will probably catch R.A Dickey.
The Blue Jays haven’t even had their full squad report for Spring Training yet and the injury bug had bitten already as Michael Saunders tore his meniscus and is reportedly out until All-Star Break. Saunders did talk to the media on Thursday morning and said that his goal is to be back before the Break. The worst part is just how freak the injury is. Saunders hurt his knee taking fly balls on one of the back fields at the Blue Jays Bobby Mattick Complex when he ran into a sprinkler.
For those keeping score at home that is the third freak injury in as many years to happen to a Blue Jay, in 2013 Melky Cabrera suffered a tumour in his back which made him look like an old man, last season Maicer Izturis completely tore his lateral collateral ligament in his knee when he stumbled down the dugout steps in Baltimore and now Saunders inadvertent run in with a sprinkler. Some one should tell the Baseball Gods it’s time to lay off of the Blue Jays, they’ve dealt with enough injuries in the last three seasons regardless of whether they were of the freaky variety or not.
As for who the Blue Jays plan on putting in Left field until Saunders comes back? Alex Anthopoulos said for now they will look internally at the outfielders they have, my guess is that Kevin Pillar is the most likely to be in left on Opening Day, but that they could also make a move at the end of Spring Training. Shi Davidi also dropped an interesting name into the mix when he appeared on the MLB Network tonight saying that Danny Valencia who has played some outfield in his career could get some playing time in left as well. I guess it’s a better option than trying Edwin Encarnacion in left like the Blue Jays did last year when Jose Bautista was hurt.
BLUE JAYS SIGN SANTANA
The Blue Jays also announced Thursday night that they had came to terms with former Cy Young winner Johan Santana to a minor league deal. Santana will make his appearance at camp tomorrow according to reports. It’s yet another low risk, high reward signing for the Blue Jays who have been making a habit of doing these type of signings this winter. Santana, 35, hasn’t pitched in the Big Leagues since 2012 when he pitched with the Mets. He has missed the past two years rehabbing a shoulder injury, which happened to be his second in three years.
On the positive side of things if Santana can prove that he’s healthy and that he could contribute would give the Blue Jays another option for their starting rotation, most likely he will start the season in Buffalo and add more pitching depth for the Jays’ which in the past has been proven that you can never have enough depth.
Of interest to note, Current Blue Jay Josh Thole was the catcher that caught Johan Santana’s no-hitter when he was with the Mets in 2012. It was the first in Mets history.
GIBBY MUM ON OPENING DAY STARTER
This came as a surprise to me when Scott MacArthur tweeted out that John Gibbons wouldn’t commit to starting R.A Dickey on Opening Day, saying that when they knew, we would know. Not that it really matters and we really shouldn’t read much into it. MacArthur later tweeted out that if Dickey were to start the second game of the season in New York he would avoid facing the Orioles, who Dickey doesn’t fare well against, and that it would give Dickey three starts under the Dome in the Jays first homestand of the season. That makes sense and Dickey is a guy who has said he prefers to pitch in a controlled environment so making three of his first four starts inside the Dome rather than unpredictable outdoor weather in April is probably a good thing.
As for who starts the Grapefruit League opener next week, according to MacArthur Gibby is leaning towards starting Aaron Sanchez.