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.
As some of you may or may not know, this site Blue Jay Musings is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, every spring the site Cards Conclave send around what they call Playing Pepper, a questionnaire to bloggers of every team in Baseball about their view on the off-season and questions about the upcoming season.
So without further ado here is our version of Playing Pepper.
1) What are your thoughts on the team’s off-season? Did they do what they needed to do?
The biggest question marks going into the off-season where second base and the bullpen. They didn’t necessarily address those needs quite the way most Blue Jays fans wanted too. At second base they acquired Devon Travis who was a highly thought of prospect with the Tigers, but, he’s still just a prospect who will likely start the year in Buffalo. Maicer Izturis is looking to bounce back from missing almost all of last season with a knee injury and if he can show that 2013 was a fluke then he should bring some offence to that position. As for Ryan Goins, sure he’s a plus defender at second, his bat still hasn’t developed to the point where he deserves Major League At Bats.
Alex Anthopoulos passed on the bullpen arms in Free Agency this winter and I like the fact that they didn’t bite on the asking price for some free agent arms. Don’t forget, the Blue Jays’ pen was one of the better one’s in 2013 and bullpens are one of the more trickier positions to fill on a team because of the uncertainty year to year. I would expect the Blue Jays to be able to build the bullpen in house and probably the best thing for the pen would be if Aaron Sanchez is in it.
Did they do what they needed to do? in some ways yes and in some ways no. The Russell Martin signing is a huge upgrade behind the plate and he will do wonders working with the young arms in the Blue Jays rotation. Josh Donaldson was also a huge acquisition, nothing against Brett Lawrie who was a great defender, but having a guy that has proven he can stay healthy and that has hit for power playing most of his games in pitcher friendly parks in Oakland and Safeco and is also a plus defender and has playoff experience is huge for a team like the Blue Jays that have play-off aspirations this year.
2) So how will the off-season GM drama affect the team, if at all?
The Dan Duquette-Ed Rogers-Paul Beeston drama from this past winter won’t have any affect on the team on the field. We probably won’t hear anything about a new president until November which is after Beeston’s contract is set to expire and he will head off into retirement.
3) What’s the strength of this team?
Easily the offence, with a 3-4-5 combination like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson they have arguably one of the best 3-4-5 combinations in all of baseball. Russell Martin should be able to put up similar numbers to what Melky Cabrera put up last season and I think Michael Saunders could be a nice addition to the line-up. Lets also not forget about Dioner Navarro who will be a nice bat off the bench and can fill in at DH and catch when Martin is not in the line-up.
4) What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
Marcus Stroman, I know he had a helluva of a rookie season with the Blue Jays, but I believe that he will only get better this year. Another year under the tutelage of Mark Buehrle will help as well. It should be interesting to watch Stroman develop this year and see his sinker that he worked on when he entered the rotation last year get even better. I honestly think that Stroman has ace potential and will be a stud for years to come.
5) What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
I think the Blue Jays will finish anywhere between 85-90 wins and with all the question marks with every other team in the AL East I think they have a really good chance to win the division. I do believe that this will be the year that they end their 21 year postseason drought this October.
We are looking at doing a Mailbag feature every couple of weeks here. Send your Blue Jay related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Anthony Gose Era ended Wednesday night as he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for second base prospect Devon Travis, who according to the Blue Jays website is their ninth ranked prospect. Gose came to Toronto in 2010 when he was acquired for Brett Wallace. Gose came as a speedy outfielder that was a good defender but wasn’t much with the bat. At one point he was considered the heir apparent for the center field job but as this past season went along it became apparent that he had fallen below Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey on the depth chart. As for Travis he is expected to be given a chance in Spring Training to compete for the second base job but probably starts the year in Buffalo. Ideally in a perfect world the Blue Jays could sign a veteran second baseman through free agency or acquire one through trade. The Blue Jays have shown interest in Howie Kendrick in recent days according to rumours, however, the Jays are listed on his no trade list so there is that. Another name that the Jays could be interested in could be the Angels’ Gordon Beckham who could be non tendered and be available. Alex Anthopoulos has been rumoured to be interested in Beckham in the past so it could be possible that it could happen. Bob Elliott tweeted out last night that the Blue Jays are in talks with former Reds hitting coach Brook Jacoby about the hitting coach vacancy on their staff. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi also tweeted out last night that Jacoby is described as a solid instructor and has a similar approach as Kevin Seitzer has. Who ever gets hired on as the Blue Jays hitting coach let’s hope they can last longer than one season as the Jays are going to have their fourth hitting coach in four years in 2015. It also came out Tuesday that Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t expect Melky Cabrera to return in 2015. In reality if they really wanted Cabrera back they should have got something done in the summer and not waited for it to get to the point where the highest bidder wins out. Bob Elliot also had some info on the Cabrera talks:
The Blue Jays obviously know what free-agent left fielder Melky Cabrera is looking for as both sides have talked. Cabrera had told friends that the Jays made a three-year $39 million offer. The outfielder’s agent is believed to be looking for a $50 million package. “We have a sense right of the likelihood is of signing him,” said Anthopoulos who says he is sensitive to not talk about someone else’s free agency or divulge negotiations. “When a player reaches free agency, you have to start preparing for contingencies because the likelihood is when players become free agents an overwhelming percentage don’t return.”
That offer seems a bit low if it is true, I said earlier in the summer that 3 years at 45 might be enough to get it done in the end but at this point it seems like the Jays won’t get Melky back unless the offer goes up. The Blue Jays released their Spring Training Schedule on Wednesday. They start their Spring Schedule in Dunedin against Pittsburgh and close out their Spring Schedule with a pair of games against Cincinnati at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on April 3rd and 4th. The Blue Jays have 33 games scheduled as well as three split squad games. For those of you that will making the March Break trek to Florida in March the Blue Jays only have a pair of games scheduled for Dunedin that week, March 18th and 19th against Tampa and Boston. And lastly on this Thursday afternoon, Bluebird Banter has put together a handy little guide on what Blue Jays on the 40 man roster have options and it also includes their outright statuses as well, it’s a must for any Blue Jays fan to bookmark so they can keep tabs on the Jays roster movement as this winter progresses.