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.
Jon Heyman is reporting that the Blue Jays will hire Indians’ President Mark Shapiro to be Paul Beeston’s replacement. In Heyman’s piece he says that the news could be announced as soon as this week, However MLB.com Indians reporter Jordan Bastian has tweeted that it has been confirmed that Shapiro has been hired and that the announcement will be made tomorrow in Toronto. It is believed that Alex Anthopoulos will be retained as the Blue Jays General Manager.
It is unknown if Shapiro will start his new gig now or after Beeston retires at the end of October.
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 held their annual State of the Franchise for Season ticket holders Thursday night. In all honesty not much new came from the event. It was a lot of stuff that had been discussed and brought up earlier in the winter.
Perhaps the best part of the night was When Gibbons was asked “Who’s gonna compete for the final rotation spot?” A fan yelled “James Shields” Gibby responded “That’s a good name” and Anthopoulos blurted out “Show me the money!” Hopefully someone at Rogers was listening.
As for Beeston, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was introduced, said that they are dedicating 2015 to winning and that he would like to go out with a World Series championship. Beeston also added that they have every intention of playing in October. He also confirmed that he is leaving when his contract expires on October 31st.
Beeston did say that they plan on putting together a proposal to host another All-Star game saying, “sooner rather than later.” It probably won’t happen until grass is installed at the Rogers Centre which according to Beeston is still being targeted for 2018 and that the University of Guelph has been contracted to work on the project. Beeston did add that once the cement is out that there is no turning back on the project. I don’t know, call me cynical about this whole thing, but maybe a new ballpark would be a better option, although The Fan’s Bob McCown had gone into many reasons on why it isn’t likely to happen with Rogers owing the Dome.
The new turf was on full display tonight, some said that it looked thicker than the older turf which is a good thing, gotta say though, the colour looks so much better than the old turf. Lets hope it’s much better for the players health than it’s previous predecessor.
AA was asked about Melky Cabrera and said that they talked about an extension in June but the talks didn’t get real serious. AA did add that the market for Melky changed after the Michael Saunders trade was done. AA also admitted that the Blue Jays had been trying to get Saunders for the past three years. AA also said that the Mariners, who earlier this winter traded for J.A Happ, had put in a waiver claim for Happ in August. Interesting indeed.
AA also mentioned that he is opening to extending Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion before their deals expire at the end of 2016, he also said that both have said they want to stay in Toronto. Of course this shouldn’t really be anything new as AA had said as much last year when the topic was breached.
MARTIN MLB SHOW COVER
It was announced earlier today that new Blue Jays’ catcher Russell Martin will be featured on the cover of “MLB 15” This will be Martin’s first appearance on the cover. Former Blue Jay Brett Lawrie was on the cover last year and Jose Bautista had been the cover boy for 2012 and 2013 when “MLB The Show” started doing separate covers for Canada. It really doesn’t surprise me that Martin was the player that was decided on for this season, it seemed almost a given once he signed in Toronto that it would happen considering all the fanfare the deal received.
PROMOTIONAL GIVE-AWAY CHANGED
The Blue Jays changed their May 10th giveaway to a Josh Donaldson white replica jersey giveaway day. It was originally scheduled to be a Brett Lawrie jersey but we all know what happened there.
On the day it was reported that Casey Janssen had signed with the Washington Nationals on a one-year five million dollar deal with a mutual option for 2016 Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos made an appearance on Prime Time Sports on the FAN 590. Audio here.
The first question posed to Anthopoulos was if there had been much communication between the Blue Jays and Janssen’s agent, AA admitted that they had a few conversations but that it was clear early on that the Jays were not going to be in on Janssen. AA did say that there was a brief discussion at the All-Star Break about an extension but it was decided to wait until after the season.
When asked about his bullpen AA wouldn’t commit to any one guy closing, he said it could be Brett Cecil, although he thinks that he may be better served in the seventh or eighth inning when they need a big out instead of waiting for him to come into the game in the ninth inning. AA also mentioned Aaron Sanchez could be used as a starter or be in the bullpen this year, and that it would depend on how well Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris pitch during the spring. AA also squelched the rumours about the Jays interest in Jonathan Papelbon by saying that if you hear the same rumours over and over again that they are not true. It’s also a line we’ve heard Anthopoulos say before.
When asked if they were going to add an arm to the pen AA said they were monitoring the pitchers left on the Free Agent Market and depending on price and fit that something could happen, although he did mention that young pitching prospect Miguel Castro, who started last season in Vancouver will be in camp and given every opportunity to win a job in the bullpen.
The topic of Dioner Navarro came up and it sounds like that barring a trade that will help the Blue Jays, of which AA said that nothing had even come close, that Navarro will be on the team and could see time at DH as well as catching with Anthopoulos noting that Russell Martin will likely catch somewhere around 110 games. AA didn’t mention anything about Josh Thole so one would imagine that if Martin catching the knuckle ball in Spring Training goes well that Thole is likely not going to make the ball club regardless of R.A Dickey’s urging earlier in the off-season.
When asked whether there were too many guys to DH on the team Anthopoulos said that the plan is to spread the spot out to give guys some rest but also mentioned that the spot could really open up if Justin Smoak doesn’t make the team as AA said that Smoak would have to earn his spot on the team.
Second Base also came up during the interview, Anthopoulos said that Macier Izturis looks good and will be back and will be given every opportunity to win the job at second and that also the team is very high on newly acquired second baseman Devon Travis and that he could be with the ball club when the season starts.
When asked about James Shields Anthopoulos would only say that they are monitoring the pitching market and that anything could be possible as long as it stayed within the five-year window.
Anthopoulos was also asked if he see’s himself being a career GM or if he had ambitions of being a President of a team, AA says that scouting and evaluating talent is his favourite part of the job. He was also asked if this being his last year of his contract has made him run the club any differently than he normally would and he said no and that he has always managed the club with an eye towards payroll and always looking a few years ahead regardless of whether he is in the job or not. He said that his job is to look out for the best interest of the organization going forward, saying that if he wanted to he could unload the farm for established big league players but that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the Blue Jays going forward.
The Blue Jays finally went out and spent money in the Free Agency Market and signing catcher Russell Martin to a 5 year 82 million dollar deal. The Martin signing is the longest Free Agent deal that Alex Anthopoulos has made during his tenure as Blue Jays General Manager. The Martin deal surpasses A.J Burnett’s five-year 55 million contract he signed in during the J.P Richardi regime as the biggest Free Agent signing in club history.
Sure the deal may be a bit of an overpay but it addresses an upgrade to the catching position that the Blue Jays could definitely use. Martin comes advertised as one of the best pitch framers in the game where he was third amongst catchers at generating strike calls, something that couldn’t be said for Dioner Navarro, Martin is also great at shutting down the opponents base stealers as he threw out 37 percent of would be base stealers in 2014. Martin is also considered one of the better catchers at calling a game, although I didn’t think that Navarro was all that bad of a game caller. Martin is also considered a great clubhouse leader, so there is that if you’re into the whole leadership thing that is often overblown in the Toronto media.
Then you have Martin’s offensive abilities to throw into the mix as well. Martin hit .290/.402/.430 last season with Pittsburgh. Martin hit 11 home runs and had an OPS plus of 136. Martin had a WAR of 5.5 as well. For Martin’s career he has a career line of .259/.354/.399 over a span of nine seasons.
With Martin on board it gives the Blue Jays three catchers on their roster again. It could mean that Josh Thole’s days as a Blue Jay would be numbered, a scenario many Blue Jays fans are hoping for as Thole’s lack of offensive production and who’s only role is being R.A Dickey’s personal caddy hasn’t justified him holding a roster spot in many fans opinions. Navarro who proved he was durable to last a full season in 2014 could be an admiral back-up catcher who could fill in if Martin were to go down with an injury. Navarro could also spend some time at DH or come off the bench as a late inning pinch hitter.
The other good news about this signing is that Rogers is finally showing that they are willing to spend money in the free agent market and with the Blue Jays being linked to other rumours on Free Agents it’s also showing that maybe they are ready to be active players in Free Agency. According to Jose Bautista in an interview with MLB radio last week claimed that the Blue Jays had 20-30 million to spend this winter. If that is indeed the truth then the Blue Jays still have between four and fifteen million left to spend.
The next step for AA is to fill holes at Second base, Left field, Center Field and in the Bullpen. I am quietly optimistic that the Blue Jays will fill those mentioned holes after this unexpected start to Free Agency.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston was on Jeff Blair’s show on the FAN 590 Friday morning where he talked about everything from Alex Anthopoulos, John Gibbons, attendance, payroll, grass at the Dome and even his own future with the ball club, and to state that winning a World Series is still the main goal.
Beeston started by saying that he will remain with the Blue Jays until Rogers no longer wants him around and he didn’t actually say when his deal runs out with the Blue Jays but he did say that he dislikes contracts. At the same time he also said that AA would be back in 2015 which isn’t a big surprise considering it was reported in August that sources were saying he would be back.
When it came to payroll Beeston did say that it would be going up in 2015 and reiterated his point that Rogers has never turned them down for payroll requests, not that I believe that or much of what comes out of Beeston’s mouth, so take it for what it’s worth. He did mention that if AA wants to go after a Free Agent like John Lester or David Price down the road the money would be there if they so choose to pursue it. Beeston did bring up the five-year policy again, so chances are that they will take themselves out of the market of some of the available Free Agents. When asked about Melky Cabrera, Beeston says that he would love to have him back in 2015 and when asked why an extension wasn’t done during the season Beeston says that a question that only AA can answer.
Blair asked about attendance at the games and with the TV ratings and radio ratings up why did attendance go down this year. Beeston said that he’s not worried about the attendance and that he is quite happy that the Blue Jays are bringing in the younger crowds and the amount of kids that are at the games this year.
When asked about grass going into the Rogers Centre Beeston is adamant that it can happen in 2018 although they have their work cut out for them as they have to be able to have air currents that can reach the field level to keep the grass from dying so they would have to have fans installed like they have installed at Miller Park in Milwaukee, who went through some issues while trying to grow grass.
John Gibbons was mentioned when asked about his comments earlier in the week about the clubhouse needing a change, but was also mentioned that he would be back, which we also already knew. I think the whole clubhouse thing is much to do about nothing, if the team is winning everyone gets along great. It’s not a surprise to hear this kind of stuff when the team doesn’t do as well as they would like too.