Work On Dirt Infield Slated To Start Soon

Image via @James_In_TO

Image via @James_In_TO

 

 

I had an opportunity this past weekend while attending the Blue Jays fourth annual coaching clinic at the Rogers Centre to listen in on a session presented by Blue Jays head groundskeeper Tom Farrell. During the session he talked about properly maintaining any baseball field including the local minor ball field that the kids play on. During his session Farrell and his crew even did a wonderful demonstration on how they repair the damage caused by digging holes in the dirt area around home plate. The gathering of coaches would learn that from the top of the dirt to the actual cement surface is only four inches.

After the session a scrum of us gathered around Farrell, most of the questions revolved around diamond maintenance around your local fields. I did however ask Farrell just how big of a job it was going to be to install a dirt infield.

According to Farrell the work involves digging twelve inches of the cement surface so they can put in the sand, gravel and other material needed. Farrell says the 12 inches will allow the moisture to move through the materials to keep the dirt infield moist.

Farrell did say the biggest problem with the dirt cutouts around the bases is keeping the moisture in dirt because there isn’t enough space from the top of the surface to the bottom of the surface since it is only four inches. Farrell also added that they do keep the dirt cutouts tarped between games to avoid the cutouts from drying out, pointing out that when the weather is really warm and the roof is opened the dirt dries out really quick. In fact Farrell said that when the weather gets really warm it’s a common occurrence that when they are watering down the dirt you can see it dry out just as quick as the water is applied.

Farrell said that the work on the infield will start in February and is expected to take three to four weeks.

The Weekend Roundup

Getty Images

Getty Images

 

A little less than 36 hours after Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins swapped Ben Revere for Drew Storen, Adkins made an appearance on MLB Network Radio’s Front Office show Sunday morning and had some interesting things to say about the futures of both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Atkins says that he has met with Encarnacion and plans to meet with Bautista within the next week. He also added that he wants to extend both Bautista and Encarnacion but haven’t made them any offers. Can’t say I’m overly surprised that Atkins would say that because he wouldn’t be winning himself any favors with the fan base, who seem to have been out for blood after a rather quiet off-season, I will consider this news when it comes out that offers are actually being offered across the table to them.

We still don’t totally know whether Aaron Sanchez will be back in the bullpen or used in the rotation as Atkins said that they want to be flexible and not paint themselves into a corner just in case of depth issues. He also didn’t commit to either Roberto Osuna or Storen as the Blue Jays’ closer when the season starts.

When it came to the R.A Dickey trade rumors that started to surface after the Storen trade late Friday night Atkins said that while they are willing to listen on anyone, they are not actively shopping Dickey. I would hope if they were that Dickey’s personal caddy  catcher Josh Thole goes with him, in a related note, Buster Olney (subscriber only) believes that he doubts the Jays would get an offer that would be good enough, claiming that there are better options out there in the Free Agency/trade market for starting pitching. Although according to a Jeff Blair tweet late Friday night it seems like there is interest in Dickey. I would find it really hard to fathom that the Blue Jays would be shopping Dickey with the shape of their starting rotation, the thought of letting a guy who pitches 200 innings get away almost seems absurd. For what Dickey makes compared to what the going rate is for starting pitching right now it’s almost safe to say that his deal is a bargain for the Blue Jays. I guess time will tell if there is anything more to this story other than rumor.

To end off our weekend roundup, Blue Jays play-by-play man Buck Martinez is releasing his newest book called “Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better” It is published by Harper Collins and due out March 15th. The book is described as;

In the spirit of Moneyball, the voice of the Toronto Blue Jays offers cutting insights on baseball

Buck Martinez has been in and around professional baseball for nearly fifty years as a player, manager and broadcaster. Currently the play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays, Martinez has witnessed enormous change in the game he loves, as it has morphed from a grassroots pastime to big business. Not all of the change has been for the better, and today’s fans struggle to connect to their on-the-field heroes as loyalty to club and player wavers and free agency constantly changes the face of every team’s roster.

In Change Up, Martinez offers his unique insights into how Major League Baseball might reconnect with its fanbase, how the clubs might train and prepare their players for their time in “The Show,” and how players might approach the sport in a time of sagging fan interest. Martinez isn’t shy with his opinions, whether they be on pitch count, how to develop players through the minor-league system, and even if there should be a minor-league system at all. Always entertaining, ever insightful, Martinez shares brilliant insights and inside pitches about summer’s favourite game.

 

Jays Acquire Drew Storen

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Jays dealt from an area of strength Friday night in order to add depth to a position of weakness as the they traded Outfielder Ben Revere to the Washington Nationals for reliever Drew Storen and unspecified cash considerations according to MLB Trade Rumors.

It’s is a deal that makes sense for both teams as the Blue Jays have a glutton of Outfielders and Washington had no need for Storen after acquiring Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline last season.

Revere who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline played in 56 games as a Blue Jay hitting .319/.354/.381 only hitting one home run while swiping seven bases,  Storen made 58 appearances for the Nationals where he had 29 saves before losing his closer’s job at the trade deadline.

Both players are Arbitration eligible this year. Revere had two more years of team control while Storen will be a Free Agent at the end of this season. According to MLBTR they project Revere to earn $6.7 million this season while they project Storen to make $8.8 million.

How the acquisition of Storen affects the Blue Jays plans with Aaron Sanchez is anyone’s guess, but as I’ve pointed out in earlier posts with the logjam of starters competing for that fifth spot I really don’t see Sanchez leaving the bullpen for the rotation.

With Revere’s departure it opens the door yet again for Dalton Pompey to emerge on the scene and show he belongs in the big leagues, something that he couldn’t do last season. It also puts pressure on Michael Saunders to show what he can do as a Major League hitter, something that he hasn’t been able to show he is capable of doing.

The Thursday Notebook

Getty Images

Getty Images

 

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.

John Gibbons 2017 Option Picked Up

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

 

It will be a Happy New Year at John Gibbons’ house in San Antonio as his 2017 option has been picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thanks to the way former Jays G.M Alex Anthopoulos structured Gibbons contract when he was brought back as Manager in November 2012 it guarantees that as long as he is employed by the ball club on January 1st his option for the following season is automatically picked up. It also now means that Gibbons now has an option for the 2018 season included with his contract.

Anthopoulos went this route with Gibby’s deal to avoid the situation that occurred during John Farrell’s tenure as manager in Toronto, when after his first season questions were raised about his future in Toronto when rumors that the Red Sox wanted to hire him to fill their managerial opening. The rumors came back in the second half of the 2012 season when it was mentioned that Farrell wanted to back to Boston to take on his dream job, there were also plenty of questions regarding an extension and the possibility of being a lame duck manager had Farrell been with the Blue Jays in 2013.

Gibbons will be entering his tenth season as manager, his fourth season since being re-hired in November of 2012. Gibbons only trails Cito Gaston on the Franchise list for games managed with 1092. In 2015 Gibbons enjoyed his most successful season as the Blue Jays manager as the Blue Jays won 93 games en route to an American League East title and a trip to the ALCS for the first time since 1993.

Gibbons holds a career record of 555-541.

The Wednesday Night Notebook

 Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

 

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.

 

It’s Time For Our Yearly List Of Top Ten Blue Jay Games Of The Year

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

 

With the hourglass slowly winding down on 2015 it is time once again for us to release our list of the Top 10 Blue Jays games of the past year.

With the amazing season that the Blue Jays put forth this year it made for quite the discussion on Social Media on what games should make the list. So without further ado here is this years list.

10. September 23rd. Blue Jays 4 Yankees 0. Marcus Stroman dominates the Yankees and Russell Martin’s three run blast puts the nail in the coffin in the Yankees AL East chances.

9.  September 27th. Blue Jays 5 Rays 4. Josh Donaldson walks off the Rays in the final regular season home game.

8. August 2nd. Blue Jays 5 Royals 2. Tempers Flare, Benches clear.

7. June 12th. Blue Jays 13 Red Sox 10. Blue Jays score nine runs in the seventh, also erase a 8-1 deficit en route to the win.

6. September 30th. Blue Jays 15 Orioles 2. Blue Jays clinch the AL East for the first time since 1993.

5. October 11th. Blue Jays 5 Rangers 1. Estrada, Tulo power Jays to first postseason win in 22 years.

4. October 12th. Blue Jays 8 Rangers 4. Blue Jays Bats power the series to a fifth game.

3.  October 21st. Blue Jays 7 Royals 1. Estrada pitches a gem to stave off elimination and force a sixth game.

2. October 19th. Blue Jays 11 Royals 8. Ryan Goins has a career night at the plate. Blue Jays get back into their ALCS series with the Royals.

1. October 14th. Blue Jays 6 Rangers 3. The batflip!

We had a ton of fun putting this list together, we hope that you enjoy reliving the highlights of the Blue Jays 2015 season as much as we did.