Marc Rzepczynski: Hard to spell, but easy to hit

Wednesday, December 30, 2009  |  by 

When it comes to pitchers, Marc Rzepczynski isn't exactly a household name ... literally and figuratively. His last name may look like a random assortment of scrabble tiles, however when it comes to his game, Rzepczynski is anything but unorganized.

R-Zep was one of the many pleasant surprises of this past season. Nobody could have foreseen the amount of success he would have this past year because he wasn't even a blip on the radar at the beginning of 2009. Now, Marc Rzepczynski could propel himself into a solid number three starter in less than one full season in the majors with the Blue Jays.

Scouring through the internets, I was pleased to find a new article on Fangraphs that listed R-Zep as having the highest O-Contact to Z-Contact percentage in the majors - even topping 2009 Cy Young finalists such as Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainright.

One might take R-Zep's 64 % contact rate outside the strike zone as bad news, but it's actually a blessing in disguise. As Fangraphs suggests, a pitcher that is able to induce swings at pitches outside the zone will rack up plenty of strikeouts.

One very important thing I learned from Scott Richmond earlier this year is that a pitcher's success ultimately depends on pitching to contact. If you try to power pitch and strike out every batter, you are eventually going to get knocked around.

Rzepczynski does a phenomental job of pitching to contact, evident by his 51 % ground ball rate. By inducing more ground balls and putting the ball in play, Rzepczynski helped keep his pitch count down to around 100 pitchers per start while also achieving a K/9 rate of 8.8.

I don't want to jump the gun here, but it appears as though Marc Rzepczynski is starting to take after another young Blue Jays starter that came out of nowhere to surprise everybody ... Roy Halladay.

My Blue Jays New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, December 29, 2009  |  by 

Quit drinking, lose weight, get organized - some might opt to chose these as New Year's resolutions, but how many of them will actually stick with it?

Hell, I'm not going to kid myself into believing that I will achieve any of those things in 2010, so why not direct my New Year's resolutions towards my favourite team on earth?

Here in no particular order are my Blue Jays New Year's resolutions for 2010:

To Believe in Vernon Wells

Admittingly, this past year I booed Vernon Wells in person at the Rogers Centre. I wasn't proud of it, but at the time, my frustration level with V-Dub reached a boiling point after he struck out on an 0-2 pitch out of the zone, and I felt it was my duty to let him know about my displeasure.

Frankly, we're in it for the long haul with Vernon and I'm hoping 2010 is the year that he bounces back. I vow to believe in Vernon Wells in 2010 and in turn I hope he believes in the fans in Toronto as well.

To Make It To Ten Games (at least)

Last year, I made it to seven games at the Rogers Centre, so it should be a breeze making it to ten in Toronto now that I'm only an hour or so away from the dome. As a constant critic of the Blue Jays, I get caught up in the intricacies of statistics or the little things, but nothing beats an afternoon or evening at the ballpark. Who knows ... maybe I'll get a chance to meet the Melonheads in person this year.

To See Roy Halladay Again

We already know that the Philadelphia Phillies are rolling into Toronto on June 25th to 27th, but it remains to be seen whether or not Doc will actually pitch in one of these games. I did the math, and if the Phillies carry through the five-man rotation as planned, Doc will miss the entire series in Toronto.
If he does pitch however, you can expect there to be a maelstrom of activity at the Rogers Centre.

If Halladay vs. Burnett created an atmosphere that was reminiscent of "the good old days", then imagine what Roy Halladay's return to Toronto will be like.

To Understand the Alex Anthopoulos Vision

This might be a longer process than one year, but the gears of change are already well in motion. You can already see how this baseball club is transforming into a younger, leaner version of its predecessor and it's my goal to understand the direction that AA is taking the Blue Jays.

To Finish Anywhere But Last Place

This resolution is totally out of my hands, so I'm putting my faith in the Blue Jays to avoid landing in the cellar of the American League East. I have trouble believing that the Baltimore Orioles will leapfrog over the Jays in the standings, even after their prized off-season acquisitions like Garret Atkins and Mike Gonzalez.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't really matter whether the Blue Jays finish in fourth or fifth place, because like the great Ricky Bobby once said, if you ain't first ... you're last.

Delgado probably not coming back to Toronto

Monday, December 28, 2009  |  by 

Originally, I was a little disappointed on Christmas morning to discover that one of the requests on my free agent wish list, Carlos Delgado, was not fulfilled. On the contrary, it turns out that Alex Anthopoulos is saving up for an even bigger gift - a winning baseball team.

Not that adding Carlos Delgado to the Blue Jays lineup would automatically make them a contender next year. In fact, I don't think there's one sole player who could propel the 2010 Blue Jays into the playoffs. And if there was, they just traded him to Philadelphia.

Yes, bringing back Delgado would rekindle the fires of the nostalgia era. Fans would love to see King Carlos reclaim his throne once again. If he were still around, I could totally see J.P. Ricciardi signing Carlos Delgado to a one year contact, and year it would be great to have him back for a while.

Unfortunately, just as with any flame, it eventually flickers out.

It's a strategy that's been used by General Managers in the past and it has worked to an extent - distract the fans from the on-field product by bringing back a fan favourite. The problem is that fans can only be distracted so many times before the front office realizes that the villagers are ready to burn them at the stake.

The Alex Anthopolous strategy could argue that a signing like this would be counter-productive. Signing Carlos Delgado to an incentive-laden contract would be a short-term gain and frankly Alex Anthopoloulos has a solid long-term plan that almost certainly doesn't involve any 37 year old sluggers.

The way that AA has talked about "young, controllable players", I'm sure he would much rather use $5 million dollars to pay a portion of the reported $16 million dollar 2010 draft costs or pump the money into the scouting system, rather than giving it to Delgado.

In this business, sometimes you have to think with your brain rather than your heart. Appealing to the fan's emotions only keeps them happy for a little while. In the long run, fans would much rather have a winning franchise instead of pinning all their hopes on one small piece of a former winning franchise.

And that's why we won't see Carlos Delgado back in Toronto any time soon.

Happy Holidays from The Blue Jay Hunter

Thursday, December 24, 2009  |  by 

Although Alex Anthopoulos' blackberry might not be in hiatus through the holidays, unfortunately The Blue Jay Hunter will be on a bit of a break this week to celebrate Festivus and other holidays of that nature.

As you can see from the photo above, the Blue Jays roster has seen significant changes from just one year ago.

That being said, another year is nearly in the books and I hope you are looking forward to the 2010 season as much as I am. Even if another subpar 75-win season is on the horizon, it still sure as hell beats no baseball at all. Playing day after day of MLB '09 The Show will only take you so far.

Naturally, people get sentimental and reflective after a couple of holiday egg nogs, so I would like to thank everyone for reading, commenting, and even following my 140-character ramblings on Twitter.

This blog has grown by leaps and bounds just this year alone, and not to sound "acceptance speech cliche", but it wouldn't have been possible without you guys ... so thank you.

Have a great holiday!

Vernon Wells Perfect 10 Special on Tonight

Wednesday, December 23, 2009  |  by 

Considering that we're in the home stretch of the holidays, it's very apropos that Rogers Sportsnet is rolling out a special this evening that's sure to get you in the giving spirit.

I encourage you to check out Vernon Wells "Perfect 10" documentary on Sportsnet tonight starting at 7:30pm EST.

While Vernon may have had a bit of off season, he still continued his charity work this year through his Perfect 10 Foundation. It's a shame because Wells does a heck of a lot of charity work with the Blue Jays and it often gets overshadowed by other stories that the papers and bloggers would consider to be much juicier.

At the end of the day, even though ticket holders are paying his salary, Vernon Wells is a human being after all. I'm not saying that fans don't have the right to be upset at Vernon for this past year, but keep in mind that every player has a bad year from time to time. There is no doubt in my mind that Vernon Wells will be back with a vengeance next year.

In the words of my good friend Eyebleaf at Sports in the City, I Believe in Vernon Wells. And after watching tonight's Perfect 10 special, I'm pretty sure you will too.

Surf's Up, Seattle

Tuesday, December 22, 2009  |  by 

I’m not sure if there are ample surfing spots in Washington State, but Brandon League is certainly going to get lots of practice on the West Coast playing for the Seattle Mariners. The trade was finalized today sending League and minor league prospect Johermyn (yo-Herman!) Chavez to the M’s for Brandon Morrow.

The Blue Jays certainly appear to be on the winning side of this deal; Morrow has a lot of upside and with just over one year of service time he would be under team control until 2012.

League often tortured us with his Jekyll/Hyde antics – one week he would be lights out, and the next he looked like a deer in the headlights.

The trade comes as a bit of surprise; one would have expected Lyle Overbay to be the next Blue Jays dealt, but it turns out that Brandon League is the one who will now take up residence in Washington State.

Condolences go out to Drew at Ghostrunner on First who has had not one, not two, but three of his favourite players stripped away and traded to other teams this year. Talk about kicking a man when he's down ...

After all is said and done, I look forward to seeing Brandon Morrow pitch in Toronto. It sounds like he has a lot of potential, and could be a solid number two starter down the road.

Peering into the Crystal Ball

Imagine if you will three years from now and picture what the Blue Jays starting rotation will look like. Take your pick from these five guys: Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, and Kyle Drabek.

It still may be a few years down the road, but that sounds like the Blue Jays will have one hell of a starting rotation in a couple of years that could contend with the best teams in the American League.

Marcum emerges as the new Ace

Monday, December 21, 2009  |  by 

Six months ago, no one ever thought there would be a time in the near future where anyone but Roy Halladay would be a starting on Opening Day.

Unfortunately, the Blue Jays will find themselves in that predicament on April 6th of next year when they decide who their Opening Day starter will be, and essentially who will be the new ace of the starting rotation.

So who will it be? As far as I'm concerned, the proverbial torch has been passed on to Shaun Marcum to steer this pitching staff in the right direction.

It's a tall order for someone who is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since September 16th, 2008. If anyone on the pitching staff can do it though, it's Shaun Marcum. Luckily, Alex Anthopoulos has assured everyone that Marcum will be healthy and ready to to for the coming season. The million dollar question though, is can Shaun fill Roy Halladay's shoes?

He isn't the flashy power-pitching number one starter that one would expect, yet Shaun Marcum has displayed traits of a young Roy Halladay and given a lot of hope to a young starting rotation that has been desecrated by injuries for the better part of two seasons. Marcum isn't going to overpower hitters like Dustin McGowan, but he will keep them guessing with his pinpoint location and command of the plate.

At this point, I would even go ahead and pencil him in as the Opening Day starter. While he might not be the sexy choice like Ricky Romero, why not start off Shaun Marcum's road to redemption with a bang - in front of 40,000 plus fans at the Rogers Centre?

If the Blue Jays are going to set a new tone and start a new era, they may as well do it with Shaun Marcum as the anchor to the starting rotation.

TSN drops the ball on Halladay trade coverage

Friday, December 18, 2009  |  by 

It was the story that dominated the headlines from coast to coast, above and below the 44th parallel. You couldn't turn on the television or radio without hearing about the Roy Halladay trade. Yet, one network opted to put this massive story on the backburner: TSN.

Thankfully, other networks like Sportsnet, The Score and even Sun TV did the story due diligence. I sent an email to The Casino Rama Grill Room earlier this week lambasting TSN (more specifically Off The Record) for failing to give the Roy Halladay trade the proper attention it deserved.

The day after the initial trade rumours hit the internet and the airwaves, OTR did address the trade but not until the third segment of the show. They even had Will Hill (former Blue Jays public relations manager) on the show. To make matters worse, following Off the Record, SportsCentre led off the show with a story on a Jason Spezza injury instead of the Halladay trade.

On Tuesday, you couldn’t walk through the city of Toronto without seeing a paper with Roy Halladay on the cover or even walk down the street without people talking about it. Yet TSN decided to lead with the Spezza injury. On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Grill Room devoted Tuesday’s entire show to the Roy Halladay trade and issues focused on the Toronto Blue Jays.

Having been fed up with TSN and pleasantly surprised by SUN TV, I decided to thank The Grill Room for covering the Halladay deal as it should have been covered. Here is a portion of the email I sent to them:
I used to be a faithful viewer of (TSN) but they have become so convoluted with NHL and CFL talk, it makes me sick at times. The Grill Room does a great job of covering all sports, all athletes, and everything that is happening in the world of sports.
Low and behold, they responded and actually went so far as to use my email on the show and actually use it as a topic of discussion for one of their segments. To my astonishing surprise, my tiny little internet voice had been heard!

What happened when I sent an email to TSN earlier this year asking that they talk about more baseball on Off The Record, you ask? Absolutely nothing.

I realize that TSN has a heavily invested interest in the NHL and CFL, but regardless of which league is the cash cow on your network, you should put those interests aside and cover the issues that viewers want to see. When people were tuning into SportsCentre at 6:30pm earlier this week, the first thing they wanted to see was the latest developments in the Roy Halladay trade, not Jason Spezza’s knee injury or Luke Schenn's lack of ice time.

I would accuse TSN of playing favouritism, but TSN broadcasted 25 Blue Jays games this past season, so it’s not like they aren’t involved at all with the Toronto Blue Jays. TSN doesn’t have as much money invested in Blue Jays broadcasts, but they certainly have a good chunk invested in those games. Why is it that when it comes to Blue Jays news, it's treated like the weaker sister?

Don't get me wrong ... TSN is a great network and they were the pioneers in sports television. More specifically, Off The Record used to be one of my favourite sports talk shows. However, lately it seems like the show has alienated baseball issues altogether, so I barely tune in any more. From April to September, I could probably count on two hands the amount of times Off The Record talked about baseball.

For a network that prides itself on being “Canada’s Sports Network”, they really don’t seem to have Canadian sports fan’s interests at heart. It’s called “The Sports Network” for a reason, but perhaps it should be called “The Hockey and Football Network, and if we have time … the Baseball Network”.

The Phillies Perspective on the Halladay trade

Thursday, December 17, 2009  |  by 

Three days after the initial shell shock of the Roy Halladay trade, and the dust is still settling on one of baseball's biggest trades of the decade.

You've heard about this deal ad nauseum from Toronto sports writers, bloggers, and every Joe Blow sports fan out there, so why not have our friends from the other side of the 44th parallel weigh in on the biggest trade of the year?

Here is what Chris at The Fightins had to say:
Yes, (The Phillies) they did have to give up Clifton Phifer, but this is absolutely not a lateral move. Moving Lee was a baseball decision and we simply could not leave the “cupboard bare” for the future. But people this is Harry Leroy mo’ fuckin Halladay. If you aren’t excited, you don’t have a pulse.
Initially, I myself questioned the move by the Phillies to trade one Cy Young winner for another. At the time, it may not have seemed like much of an upgrade for Philadelphia to go from Cliff Lee to Roy Halladay.

The problem was that Cliff Lee was going to be seeking Roy Halladay-like money after 2010, and he was probably seeking a five or six year deal. Roy Halladay on the other hand just wants a chance to win, so the contract details are secondary to him. Whether it was three our four years, $20 million or $15 million ... he didn't care, so long as he can pitch in the playoffs.

Lots of folks have weighed in on whether the Phillies, Jays, or the Mariners are the winners in the deal. While the Phillies should be stoked about receiving the best pitcher in the game and immediately boosting their roster, to some extent they should also be concerned about losing their best pitching prospect.

Thankfully, Bill from CrashBurn Alley understands the quality of pitcher that the Blue Jays are receiving in return from the Phillies:
Losing one of baseball’s best starting pitchers is tough, no question, but hopefully the Jays acquire a prospect who may become the next Roy Halladay. They may have done that in acquiring Kyle Drabek from the Phillies, but Roy Halladays don’t just show up at the doorstep (or in a basket in the river, like Moses).
For the Phillies, it's a short to midterm gain by aquiring Halladay, whereas the Blue Jays are looking for long-term results. Two teams who are on opposite ends of the spectrum right now, but don't forget that up until the year 2000, the Phillies finished below .500 13 out of 14 seasons. It took them a long time to get where they are today.

And just like the Phillies built a championship team from the ground up, so too will the Toronto Blue Jays.

It's O-Phil-cial: Halladay now a Phillie

Wednesday, December 16, 2009  |  by 

At one press conference, the Philadelphia Phillies were celebrating the dawn of a new era with the best pitcher in baseball. At another, the Blue Jays were lamenting the loss of their franchise player.

It was a sad day for Toronto Blue Jays fans - for the past five months, we had been expecting this day to come, but I don't think any of us could have prepared ourselves for the heartache that came along with letting go of Roy Halladay.

After watching today's press conference, there is reason to believe there is a lot of hope for this franchise moving forward. AA kept a very positive tone this afternoon and did a good job of providing the answers that everyone was looking for.

One phrase that Anthopoulos used quite frequently was "young, controllable players".

Obviously this is what the Blue Jays were seeking, and is the reason why they didn't go for a deal with the Los Angeles Angels involving players like Eric Aybar and Mike Napoli. While being good players, they could either potentially walk in just a few seasons or command quite a hefty contract.

Also, by trading for players with major league experience, you already have a relatively good idea of what their ceiling is and what to expect from them in the future. Whereas with highly-touted prospects, their potential is nearly unlimited.

It's refreshing to see a General Manager who understands the value in having a player under team control for six seasons, rather than a free agent who can command colossal amounts of money and just walk away at the end of their contract.

Expectations will be undoubtedly high on the players the Blue Jays received in return: Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace, and Travis D'Arnaud. I don't think we should bank on any of these guys being the next Roy Halladay, however there is a great deal of potential and promise in each of them.

Even if just one of them turns out of be a success, the Roy Halladay trade would have been all worth it.

A Video Tribute: Saying so long to Roy Halladay

Tuesday, December 15, 2009  |  by 

We all deal with the loss of a loved one in different ways. When it comes to saying so long to Roy Halladay, the best way for me to personally to grieve during this situation was to create this goodbye video message to him.

Please watch and reflect back on the good times we had with Doc.

Let the Halladay heartache begin

Monday, December 14, 2009  |  by 

December 14th, 2009 will be forever remembered as the day that the Toronto Blue Jays parted ways with one of their greatest players in franchise history.

As I dry off my keyboard from the river of tears, rest assured that it's not easy to see Roy Halladay traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a reported three-team trade involving the Jays, Phils and Mariners.

The writing was on the wall for this deal since July, yet all the time in the world couldn’t prepare us for what was to happen today.

Just as Kevin Kaduk from Big League Stew said … it’s like the end of Marley and Me. Roy Halladay leaving the Blue Jays was inevitable, but sure doesn’t make things any easier.

The worst part of it all is that the man behind the curtain, Alex Anthopoulos, is not available to comment on these trade talks for the next few days. I realize that AA wants to get his facts straight and cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s before going public, but wouldn’t it be better to give the fans either a yes or no answer before heading into your Fortress of Solitude?

Come on Alex, it’s the least you could do after the biggest trade in the franchise's history.

In the meantime, I will mourn the loss of the best pitcher in baseball and wish Doc his very best in his future endeavours. Suddenly, that June 25th Interleague weekend series against the Phillies at the Rogers Centre just became much more interesting. Even though it will be in a different uniform, I'll look forward to seeing Halladay back in Toronto.

I wish no ill will towards Roy Halladay, and am certain he will see continued success with the Phillies carving up those hapless National League hitters.

At the end of all of this, when Doc has won another three Cy Young awards and is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I hope he looks back on his time in Toronto with fond memories ... because I always will.

Regardless of which cap and jersey Roy Halladay will be wearing from here on out, as far as I'm concerned he will always be a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Start working on that "Level of Excellence" induction ceremony, boys.

Bautista Appreciation Society Renewed

I'm pleased to announce that the Bautista Appreciation Society (BAS) has been renewed for yet another year. Official membership cards are pictured above, please inquire within to become a member. Existing members will receive new cards in the mail.

Jose thanks you for your continued support and appreciation.

Tenders and Non-Tenders

Sunday, December 13, 2009  |  by 

The short list on the 40-man roster became even shorter late last night, as the Blue Jays whittled their roster down from 38 players to 37 after tendering contracts and non-tendering one ... that of Raul Chavez.

He was the lone member of the purge, as Brian Tallet, Jeremy Accardo, Shaun Marcum, Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor, Dustin McGowan and Jose Bautista (NAILS!) were all tendered contracts by the Blue Jays.

Late yesterday, it seemed the Jeremy Accardo was all but gone, but it turns out the Blue Jays and his agent actually came to an agreement and he will stick around for at least one more season. I guess after packing up his stuff and threatening to move out of the house, Accardo will be staying in the clubhouse after all.

The move (or lack thereof) to non-tender Raul Chavez was a little puzzling considering that he was only signed to a $500,000 dollar minor league contract last season, so it's not like he was going to make $1 million next year. This vacates any starting or backup catching positions, so Alex Anthopoulos is likely cooking up something, whether it be via trade or free agent signing.

Wait! Late development tweeted by Jordan Bastian: Chavez will be back next year, and has signed another minor league deal.

Just by taking a peek at what scraps that other teams threw out in non-tenders yesterday, AA should probably take a peek at John Buck. While he lacks the defensive skills of Raul Chavez and power of Rod Barajas, John Buck would be a nice happy medium between to the two polar opposite catchers that the Blue Jays fielded last season.

This could also mean that J.P. Arencibia might finally get his chance to hit the big time. Last year in Las Vegas was more than disappointing, however AA could just have blind faith that Arencibia is ready to make the jump to the show right out of spring training.

D-Day for Jose Bautista

Friday, December 11, 2009  |  by 

Members of the Bautista Appreciation Society, buckle yourselves in because the next 24 hours could be a bumpy ride.

We will learn by 11:59 pm on Saturday evening whether or not the Blue Jays will offer Bautista a contract and thus avoid arbitration.

Reading around the Blue Jays blogosphere and glancing through the papers, the consensus is that the Jays will in fact non-tender Bautista as he would become way too expensive as a utility infielder/outfielder.

If Bautista were to be assigned as a full-time third baseman or left fielder, the Blue Jays could easily justify spending $3 million per year. Judging by the 30 percent raise Jose received last year, one could guesstimate that he might make upwards of $3.12 million in 2010.

However, contract offers might possibly excel far beyond $3 million per year according to Bautista's FanGraphs page. While his value is ranked a little astronomical at $8.4 million, Jose could viably fetch a decent amount on the free agent market as he upped his WAR to 1.9 in 2009.

That's the thing about Jose Bautista - he could literally fit in on any team, in almost any position. Bautista is the proverbial Swiss Army Knife in the lineup.

Unfortunately as with any mighty titan, he has an Achilles Heel ... and that is right-handed pitching. His .202 batting average against righties is his kryptonite and a huge stumbling block for an everyday player.

Some promising news from the Winter Meetings - Cito Gaston said he might try using Bautista as a leadoff hitter against left-handed pitchers next season. This is a very rare occassion where I actually agree that Cito is on to something; Bautista's .382 on base percentage speaks volumes - but ONLY against right handers.

Of course, I don't want to think that September 2009 was just an anomaly, but damn ... Jose raked during the last month of the season. I start salivating when I look back at his September statistics and see those ten home runs and .944 OPS. We've seen Bautista at his worst and his best, but if September was any indication of what he's capable of, he's damn scary at his best.

I know $3 million seems like a lot of money, and it is (especially when you only have an $80 million dollar payroll to work with), but considering how many uncertainties there will be with this team on the field next season, it would be nice to have the stability and flexibility of Jose Bautista on the roster.

With a starting rotation with a core that is fairly young, the Blue Jays will need all the defense they can get to support their young starters. And Jose Bautista is a solid defensive player who is always a threat to gun down runners from the outfield or merely keep the ball in the infield.

So should the Jays let Bautista go? No way, Jose.

The defense rests its case.

Day Four wrap up from Winter Meetings

Thursday, December 10, 2009  |  by 

Well ... another year of Baseball's Winter Meetings are officially in the can (pictured above).

Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays essentially left Indianapolis as the same team as they arrived as. No trades, no free agent signings, and no crazy statements from the General Manager. The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels or Phillies could have started laying the groundwork for a Roy Halladay trade, but we won't know for sure until the official announcement comes down from AA himsef.

He can leap over tall automobiles in a single bound

Earlier today, I posted that the Blue Jays had signed Joey Gathright - it turns out that Bob Elliot from the Toronto Sun led me astray, and that the Jays were merely "looking at Gathright", and had not officially signed him. Gathright would provide some much needed speed as the third and half outfielder, but we can only anticipate whether or not he will be added to the roster ... hopefully on a minor league deal.

Rule 5: Still don't talk about Fight Club

In the Rule 5 draft, the Blue Jays selected Zech Zinicola (ZZ for short) from the Washington Nationals. If memory serves me correctly, the last Rule 5 pick that the Blue Jays selected who has found success in the majors is Randy Wells.

The Agents of Penny, Wolf and Harden are geniuses

Move over Scott Boras ... Brad Penny's, Randy Wolf's and Rich Harden's agents are now officially the new money-sucking experts on the beat. How these guys could extract upwards of $10 million dollars per year from any team is beyond me.

Hell, I wouldn't even draft Brad Penny, Randy Wolf, or Rich Harden in the first 15 rounds of my fantasy league, so what makes them so desirable this winter? I guess starting pitchers were the flavour of the week in Indianapolis - I'm just glad the Blue Jays didn't get involved in free agent talks like that.

Blue Jays (might have) signed Car-Jumping Joey Gathright

The Blue Jays finally made a splash at the Winter Meetings this morning by signing outfielder Joey Gathright.

Details and terms of the contract have not been officially released, but the video above is a pretty good example of the kind of speed and agility that the Blue Jays outfield has been sorrily missing.

Welcome to the club, Joey!

UPDATE: Apparently according to Gathright's agency, he is still unsigned and has not been picked up byt the Blue Jays. That's what I get for believing something that was posted at 5:30 in the morning!

Day Three surprises from Winter Meetings

Wednesday, December 9, 2009  |  by 

Any time I hear the phrase "surprise team" during the Winter Meetings, I am afraid ... very afraid. Especially since there is a rumoured "surprise team" that is involved with trade talks between the Chicago Cubs for Milton Bradley.

Back in September I explored the possibility of bringing Bradley to Toronto, but overall it was too high of a risk for not enough reward in return. Milton Bradley does not fit in the direction of the future of the Blue Jays, as was tweeted by Jordan Bastian:
"Jays want young controllable players to build around. Bradley, with his history and his contract, is not a fit for Toronto."
While I completely agree, that was said by Bastian and Alex Anthopoulos. I don't think AA would be crazy enough to want Milton Bradley on this team, however there might be a few others like Paul Beeston and Cito Gaston who are trying to put together a good argument to bring in Bradley.

Make it a Blockbuster Night

Moving on to the first blockbuster of the Winter Meetings - the Yankees upgraded their outfield by acquiring Curtis Granderson from the Tigers in a three team trade. The Yankees gave up Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson - notably missing from that list of players? Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes ... don't consider that a coincidence. The Yankees are likely keeping those guys in their back pocket just in case they want to swing a last-minute deal with the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay.

The Bearded Face of Innocence

Speaking of Doc - if you want to think back to a younger, more innocent time in his career, Dave at Go Jays Go got his hands on this picture of a fresh-faced, brace-clad Roy Halladay on draft day 1995. It almost brings a tear to your eye to think back to then and realize that just 14 years later, he would be leaving us. Oh, and don't worry ... we've already started creating the playlist.

Day Two buzz from Winter Meetings

Tuesday, December 8, 2009  |  by 

If you missed Day One of the baseball winter meetings, I'm afraid you didn't miss much.

The biggest news from yesterday that actually solidified into a couple of signings was Ivan Rodriguez signing with the Washington Nationals (WTF?) and Brad Penny inking a one year deal with the Cardinals which could be worth upwards of $9 million dollars (double WTF).

The latest Roy Halladay rumour that has been cooked up is Doc going to the Tampa Bay Rays for B.J. Upton and pitching prospect Wade Davis. In turn, since the Jays already have an overpaid unproductive centre fielder, they would trade Upton to another team and gain some more prospects that way.

Don't count on this trade having legs because it does not fulfill the first Roy Halladay requirement, which is a chance to win. Yes, the Rays have posted back to back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history, but they are not going back to the World Series any time soon.

The Rays obviously train and play the regular season in Florida, however that is secondary on the priority list for Doc. Members on both sides of the Jays and Rays blogosphere are shaking their heads in disbelief at the thought of this trade, and so are the experts.

Sad to say this, but we will miss the sprinting power of Rod Barajas next season. He officially declined arbitration and according to MLBTR is being targeted by the Kansas City Royals. My personal favourite Barajas moment is pictured left - you can relive the magic over at the Te of Inglett.

Day One rumblings at Winter Meetings

Monday, December 7, 2009  |  by 

Day one of the winter meetings are nearly over in Indianapolis, and the Blue Jays are virtually in the same spot they were 24 hours ago.

Most of this information is based off of tweets from Jordan Bastian, but it sounds like Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays crew are basically sitting back and letting other clubs come to them when it comes to trade offers for Roy Halladay.
"Jays GM is limiting the number of people in his suite for any talks. 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 discussions only. One way to limit leaks to the media."
Note that this is almost the exact opposite strategy used by J.P. Ricciardi when he was shopping Roy Halladay at the trade deadline. AA wants to keep any potential deals close to his chest and not reveal them to the media unless they are absolutely certain a trade will be made.

Speaking of Halladay trade talk, Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman claims that the Angels are back in the hunt for Doc:
"Angels will play for Halladay. But only if he'll agree to sign long term. Joe Saunders possible bait."
Any sort of decent player package including major league talent would obviously have to include some sort of contract extension negotiations for Halladay. Personally, I am not crazy about Joe Saunders - would much rather prefer someone like Jered Weaver or Ervin Santana, but the asking price is likely too high.

Finally, other piece of news that affects the Blue Jays somewhat - Rod Barajas is expected to decline arbritation from the Blue Jays. No real surprise here ... the bigger surprise is the lack of talk from other teams about signing Rod Barajas.

As far as the catcher's position is concerned, he provides a decent amount of pop, however clubs could be avoiding that .258 OBP like the plague.

Unfortunately, not much flash or drama from day one of baseball's winter meetings - the big announcement that Will Carroll alluded to on Twitter over the weekend was that Bloomberg is going to be involved with stat tracking in MLB. It's not necessarily mind-blowing news to the average fan, but apparently it will have a huge impact for those within the industry.

Baseball Winter Meetings Kickoff

On your mark, get set, go!

All thirty of baseball's general managers will be off to the races today at the annual winter meetings in Indianapolis. Although not as flashy as last year's backdrop in Sin City Las Vegas, the winter meetings will provide a stellar setting for some of the most talked about story lines this off-season.

I've never been to or probably will never get the chance to cover the winter meetings, but I have a feeling that this year's gathering will have all the makings of a schoolyard at recess. Alex Anthopoulos will be the cool kid in Grade 3 who has the toy that everyone wants to play with (Roy Halladay), but will only accept a king's ransom for an opportunity to get their hands on it.

Don't expect much to change from what's already been reported on the hot stove, but there could be some progression in talks with existing teams in the Halladay sweepstakes. It sounds like the big news will be whether or not the Red Sox or Yankees are willing to pony up and offer what the Blue Jays are asking for ... the farm.

On the secondary front, Alex Anthopoulos will likely be shopping Lyle Overbay and left-handed relievers like Brian Tallet and Scott Downs. With the free agent catcher market dwindling by the week, AA will have to make something happen in order of trades to lock up a starting catcher for 2010.

I'm not exactly sure why the General Managers always decide to have this meeting in the dead of winter, but for once at least I can say that something interesting in the baseball world will be happening on my birthday (shameless birthday plug).

So Alex, if you could somehow manage to get the Halladay trade done, deal Lyle Overbay and find a starting catcher all at some point today, that would make for an excellent birthday present. Thanks very much!

Winter Meetings teaser

Saturday, December 5, 2009  |  by 

We're just two days away from baseball's winter meetings in Indianapolis, and already people are buzzing about what could transpire next week.

It all stemmed from a tweet from Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus:
"I know of two HUGE announcements coming at the Winter Meetings. I expect both will be bigger than any player signing or news made during."
Immediately, the gears started turning in my mind about what these two huge announcements could possibly be. My first reaction was something to do with Bud Selig stepping down earlier than 2012, but Carroll denied that the announcement has anything to do with the commish.

After the stream of debacles in the playoffs, I thought it might be the announcement that instant replay would be used for calls other than home runs. Again, Carroll confirmed it was nothing to do with instant replay.

So what else could it be?

Other folks have speculated that it might be a more balanced schedule, retooling of interleague play, or the possibility of scrapping interleague play altogether. Another possibility might be a retooling of the All-Star game, but I highly doubt an announcement like that would overshadow Roy Halladay trade talk.

Obviously it will be something that affects every team and possibly every player in baseball, so it has to be of epic proportions. I will be listening closely to the Winter Meetings starting Monday thanks to a free 14 day trail of XM Radio online, so hopefully I can relay the news as soon as possible.

Until then, we can only speculate that this huge news is that Tiger Woods is going to buy to Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers and move them to Regina.

Draft Picks for Dummies

Friday, December 4, 2009  |  by 

Initally when I learned that the Boston Red Sox had signed Marco Scutaro, I rejoyced at the thought that the Blue Jays would receive their first round pick in the 2010 MLB draft.

Apparently it’s not exactly as black and white as one would think.

If a team signs a Type A free agent, its first-round pick goes to the former team -- unless that pick is in the top 15, in which case a second-round pick goes to the former team. The former team also gets an extra pick between the first and second rounds.
Currently as it stands, the Blue Jays receive the Red Sox # 29 pick in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. But after letting go of Billy Wagner, the Red Sox recoup their pick from the Braves and get pick # 20 in the first round.

The Red Sox on the other hand could lose their # 20 pick if the Braves sign a Type A free agent ranked higher than Billy Wagner was (who is currently 34th) and would subsequently be bumped to the second round of the draft.

It appears that very same thing will happen to the Blue Jays # 29 pick recently inhereted from Boston. All the Red Sox would have to do is sign a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration that is ranked higher than Marco Scutaro (who is currently 20th) to bump the Jays pick into the second round. They would simply have to ink Matt Holliday, and suddenly the Jays dreams of having two picks in the first round would be all but crushed.

Faithful BJH commenter Peter D has pointed out that the Red Sox could theoretically let Jason Bay walk, and meanwhile sign free agent Matt Holliday and still improve their standing in the draft. One thing's for sure, Theo Epstein is one crafty cat.

That means if the Red Sox do in fact sign Matt Holliday (which they are expected to do), in turn the Cardinals would receive the Red Sox # 29 pick and the Blue Jays would be SOL.

So much for the first round pick.

I guess Alex Anthopoulos initially screwed the Red Sox by taking both John McDonald and Alex Gonzalez off the free agent market, basically forcing Boston to overpay Marco Scutaro. It now appears that Epstein will get the last laugh, as any first round picks the Blue Jays were hoping on gaining from Marco Scutaro have all but flown out the window.

I don't claim to be an expert on Elias Rankings, free agents and whatnot, so if anywhere in this post I have been mislead, please let me know in the comments below or send me an email.

Rehashing the Adam Dunn discussion

Thursday, December 3, 2009  |  by 

For a guy who has been accused of "not even liking baseball", whether or not he actually has a passion for the game, Adam Dunn sure knows how to play it.

Think back to July 2008 and you'll remember the tirade that seemingly came out of nowhere from J.P. Ricciardi when he lambasted the then Cincinnati Reds slugger on Jays Talk. It was one of the strangest things I have ever heard come out of the mouth of anyone in baseball, let alone a General Manager of a professional baseball team.

Relive the madness and click on the audio below:

Audio courtesy of The Fan 590

J.P. Ricciardi’s media blunder all but eliminated any chance whatsoever that Adam Dunn would ever play for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Until now.

With Ricciardi gone, Alex Anthopolous can swoop in and be the young, hip General Manager and reassure Dunn that he’s nothing like Ricciardi.

It's time for the Blue Jays to extend and olive branch to Adam Dunn and get back on his good side. It's time for the Blue Jays to do what they should have two years ago - either trade to get Adam Dunn or sign him as a free agent next winter.

Unlike the soon to be departed Roy Halladay, Adam Dunn isn’t in it for a championship – he wants the money. He played in Cincinnatti for seven and a half seasons while they never once had a record above .500. Now he’s with the worst team in baseball, so it’s clear that having a chance at winning is at the bottom of his priority list.

The Blue Jays can easily clear up enough space to pay Dunn $10 million dollars a year, and it would be more than worth it. Adam Dunn is the closest thing there is to a guaranteed 40 HR/100 RBI hitter, and would provide protection for Adam Lind in the three slot.

Like most typical sluggers, his batting average is something left to be desired and he averages around 180 strikeouts per season. Despite all that, Dunn still has a decent career OBP at .383.

There is one drawback though – the Blue Jays cannot and should not put him in the outfield or first base. He is an on-field liability, and according the FanGraphs has the worst UZR rating in baseball over the past three years. Simply put, at this point in his career it’s DH or bust for Adam Dunn.

Maybe this off-season isn’t the right time to trade for Adam Dunn, but he should definitely be on the Blue Jays radar next winter. He won't be coming to Toronto to win a championship at first, but if all the pieces fall into place, a world series ring might be a pleasant side effect.

Doc's Demands

Tuesday, December 1, 2009  |  by 

When it comes to off-field distractions, Roy Halladay would prefer not to deal with the drama.

ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke with one of Halladay's reps and said that if Roy Halladay is still with the Blue Jays next season, he will veto any trades after Spring Training and will therefore fly the coop as a free agent

Part of me wants to believe that it's just Halladay's agents who are trying to stir the pot and get the chequebooks of the Yankees and the Red Sox warmed up for the impending bidding war. Alex Anthopolous says he hasn't heard this from the horse's mouth and spoken to Halladay's representatives directly, so one can only guess the validity of this claim.

If this statement is in fact true, is it really all that surprising?

From the All-Star game until the July 31st trade deadline, all eyes in baseball were on Roy Halladay. Up until that point, Halladay’s biggest audience was the handful of Toronto sports writers … then the Ken Rosenthal article dropped and all hell broke loose.

We learned one important thing during that storm of trade talk and rumours – Halladay does not want to experience that ever again. Speaking to the media and fielding questions day after day was not part of his routine, and whether or not he wants to admit it, maybe all that attention threw him off his game a little bit.

Some might say that Halladay’s alleged declaration decreases his trade value, but I think it actually increases it. If teams were banking on picking up Doc at the trade deadline as a rental, they now have to rethink their strategies and determine whether they have the resources to trade for him prior to Spring Training 2010.

For Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s either now or never - trade Roy Halladay or watch him leave uncontested just like Carlos Delgado did in 2004.

While it would be excruciatingly difficult to see Roy Halladay just walk away from this organization as a free agent, Halladay and his agents have all the power and the Blue Jays are simply at their mercy. I just hope they take it easy on them.

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