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.
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.
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.
Alex Anthopoulos acquired David Price for games just like tonight. And like every other start since he became a Blue Jay he did not disappoint. Price was dominant as he pitched seven shutout innings he allowed only two hits walking one while striking out seven. The only inning that the Yankees threatened when Price pitched was the third inning when Price escaped a bases loaded one out jam by striking out Alex Rodriguez and getting Brian McCann to pop out.
The Blue Jays were able to take advantage of Adam Warren and his Yankee teammates miscues in the first inning as they plated three runs in the first inning. Ben Revere led off the inning with a single, Josh Donaldson was hit with a pitch, Jose Bautista would hit a single to plate Revere, Donaldson and Bautista would move up on a wild pitch. Donaldson would score on a Encarnacion ground out. Justin Smoak would hit a double which would cash in Bautista. The Blue Jays offence would stay quiet until the seventh when they would add a run on a Russell Martin Sac Fly.
John Gibbons wasn’t messing around tonight as he pulled Aaron Sanchez after allowing the first two hitters to reach in the eighth inning. Brett Cecil was brilliant yet again, after allowing a single to Jacoby Ellsbury he struck out Brett Gardner, Rodriguez and McCann. I thought with the lefty heavy lineup that Gibby would have started the inning with Cecil. It does bring up the question though, is it time to re-evaluate Sanchez’s role in the bullpen? He may have gotten slightly unlucky on the groundball up the middle, but walking the first hitter he faced and then falling behind to Ackley didn’t help. With the way Mark Lowe has been pitching it is time to move him into higher leverage situations.
Roberto Osuna had a bounce back effort even though he did allow a home run in the ninth. I wouldn’t be to worried about it unlike some of the media members in Toronto that seemed to be awfully worried about the amount of home runs that Osuna has allowed. There have only been the two home runs that cost the Jays the lead , the other home runs didn’t matter to the outcome of the game.
Well, that felt like a kick in the gut.
These emotions go along with the time of year, it’s what happens in a pennant race. You win some, you lose some. It’s all apart of the process, enjoy it for what it is because for the last 22 years you weren’t able to say that the Blue Jays were in a pennant race.
The biggest thing is how does a team and more importantly Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez bounce back from this. Sanchez who suffered the loss in Tuesday nights game pitched a scoreless inning in last nights game, so take from it what you will. Osuna, who bounced back nicely from blowing a save at the end of August, and had looked really good his last few outings should be fine as well. Remember, he has pitched in many big spots and has come up big. It’s one game, better they have a game like this now instead of against the Yankees or in a playoff game.
The other thing to take away from the loss was the fight to the end that the Blue Jays put up. It would have been easy to throw in the towel but thanks to a Jose Bautista two run homer and a Matt Hague pinch hit double hit to the deepest part of the ball park the Blue Jays had the tying run in scoring position at the end of the game.
Really like the way John Gibbons managed the game today, yeah it didn’t work out but sometimes that is going to happen. Although maybe next time he brings Sanchez in to a game maybe the bases should be empty, Sanchez hasn’t done a great job of stranding inherited runners. Some of the comments I read after the game about Gibby from the so called Bandwagon fans were annoying, some calling for Gibby’s head.
I suppose a game like this points out the lack of another left handed pitcher that can be used in a high leverage spot. It would have been nice if Gibby could have gone to a left hander to face David Ortiz in the ninth inning instead of using Sanchez there. But when your only left handed options are Aaron Loup and Jeff Francis in that spot then you stick with Sanchez. Remember Sanchez is a young pitcher and as he gains experience he will only get better. I still think he is better served being used out of the bullpen than in the rotation, I said it last winter and I’m still sticking to that statement now.
Lastly, to all the fans that were overreacting to the loss today, relax, it’s one game. It’s late in September and the Jays are up 3.5 in the AL East and have a magic number of six! And this team is a ton of fun to watch as well.
Marcus Stroman made his highly anticipated home debut tonight and didn’t disappoint as he allowed a run on six hits in seven innings of work he walked a batter while striking out three. In the inning that the Red Sox did score their run they had two bloop hits and infield single and a sac-fly so it’s not like they had hard hit balls that led to their lone run. The defense behind Stroman tonight was once again top notch as they turned 2 double plays to get out of innings and the only blip on the night defensively was a Justin Smoak error on a ground ball.
The crowd tonight was electric and was just as loud as they were for David Price’s debut start with the Jays last month. Honestly though the crowds have been amazing the last month and a half and with the Blue Jays magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to seven I can only imagine what the crowd reaction will be when they do clinch a playoff spot during the homestand.
The Blue Jay bats didn’t hit a home run tonight which is hasn’t happened much this season, they did however pounce on Red Sox mistakes. With a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit what should have been a double play to third baseman Brock Holt. Holt had the ball go off his glove and go into left field. The next batter Justin Smoak would hit a two run double and Ryan Goins would bring Smaok in when he hit a triple making it a 4-0 game.
Perhaps one of Alex Anthopoulos most important acquisitions wasn’t made at the deadline. Cliff Pennington was picked up during the Blue Jays early August series in New York and ever since he’s been a Blue Jay he has come up with great defence and some timely clutch hitting and more importantly professional at bats. Pennington in his first plate appearance had a sac bunt up the third baseline allowing Kevin Pillar to advance to third base, and in his at bat in the sixth inning he hit a sac-fly to score Ryan Goins with the Blue Jays sixth run. What’s been even more impressive is how he has contributed to the line-up playing everyday while Troy Tulowitzki is out.
John Gibbons used Aaron Sanchez in the ninth inning with a five run lead, it did seem like an odd move to use your set up man in that spot but I do kind of see the reasoning behind the move. Much like using Roberto Osuna in the ninth last night in Atlanta, Gibby probably wanted to get Sanchez some work since he hadn’t pitched since Tuesday’s loss in Atlanta. And if they need to go to someone in then pen tomorrow to set-up they could again use Sanchez or use Mark Lowe, who has been seeing more outings in higher leverage spots in which he has passed with flying colours.
That didn’t exactly go as planned, but thanks to old friend J.P Arencibia and his Tampa Bay teammates the Blue Jays still have their three game lead atop of the AL East. The Blue Jays magic number stands at 16. The Blue Jays continue their three game set with the Braves Wednesday night as they send David Price to the mound, the Braves counter with Shelby Miller.
Mark Buehrle who had struggled in his last outing in Boston, had a Buerhle like outing allowing two runs, only one earned, in five innings. He allowed six hits and worked in and out of trouble a few times during the night. Justin Smoak hit his 16th home run on the season which tied the game in the fifth inning. Cliff Penington had himself another great night at the plate going 2 for 3 with a walk. The bullpen was great yet again, Brett Cecil had another excellent outing tossing a scoreless inning striking out a pair of hitters. Mark Lowe worked a scoreless seventh inning. The Blue Jays defence had a good night for the most part as they were able to turn four double plays on the night.
John Gibbons made some head scratching moves, the first one was having Ryan Goins face a lefty in the top of the eighth inning, at the time it seemed off, and it was made to look even worse when he was taken out in the bottom of the eighth in a double switch for Darwin Barney. I’m not going to kill Gibby for going to Aaron Sanchez for a second inning, at the time it seemed like a good move at the time, but after having it blow up on the Blue Jays the last two times they’ve tried it, I wouldn’t try going back to Sanchez for two innings anytime soon. I’m also not going to kill Gibby for not walking Simmons in the ninth, with Bourn due up it would have been a tough chore to double him up, and there is no guarantee he keeps the ball in the infield to have a shot at getting the runner at home. Smoak, who has been great defensively at first, didn’t have such a great night he made an error in the third which led to a Braves run and then couldn’t come up with the scoop on a throw from Barney in the ninth.
The top three hitters in the Blue Jays lineup went 0 for 13. The Jays also failed to get a hit off of the Braves bullpen which is the 30th best bullpen in Baseball. Here is a worrying stat about Aaron Sanchez, after tonight’s game in his last 106 pitched thrown he has only had two swinging strikes. I know that his command is off at times but he needs to trust his stuff a little more and start locating his fastball and stop falling in love with his breaking pitches.