Monday, July 18, 2011

Gaining Some Perspective on the Closer Situation


By
Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
It's interesting how temporarily unplugging from fandom can actually help gain a little perspective on the Toronto Blue Jays.

For one reason or another, I just so happened to miss most of the weekend series against the Yankees, only catching about 3-4 innings in total on TV and the radio. That time away allowed me to gain some clarity on a couple of things to do with the Blue Jays, most notably the closer situation, or the lack thereof.

I thought back to what happened last year with the Blue Jays three-headed closer coming out of Spring Training comprised of Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg. There was never really one defined closer, as Frasor started out of the gate as the ninth inning guy.

After two blown saves within the first two weeks of the season, the Blue Jays didn't even hesitate to take the closer's role away from Jason Frasor and bestow it upon Kevin Gregg. At the time, it seemed like a knee-jerk reaction, but most figured Gregg was signed to be the Blue Jays closer anyway, so there really wasn't much debate on the issue.

Fast forward to this season and the tumultuous ride that has been Frank Francisco's rise and fall and rise and fall as the Blue Jays closer. Francisco has suddenly turned from a high leverage pitcher to carving out a niche as the guy who comes in with a nine-run lead.

Last year, the club was willing to ditch Jason Frasor as the closer at their very first opportunity, and yet here is Frank Francisco being treated with kid gloves and given multiple chances to reclaim his throne as the Blue Jays closer.

I don't know how much of a decision it was the manager's to take Jason Frasor out of the role last year, but I think it had something partly to do with Cito Gaston and partly to do with the front office. So why are so many strings being pulled (whether it be by the Manager of the General Manager) to keep Frank Francisco around?

This leads me to believe either the front office wants Frank Francisco to grab the reins as closer because they want to build his trade value, so he can attain Type B free agent status, or so the Blue Jays can keep him around next year and beyond.

It doesn't make sense for the Blue Jays to give Francisco chance after chance to be the closer unless they wanted him to be the closer for next year, an possibly even beyond that as well.

Something that's become very clear with Alex Anthopoulos (and maybe even his sole weakness to date) is that when he's determined to get a player via trade, he is willing to do almost anything to get them.

We still won't know for another 5-7 years whether Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose was the right decision, but at the time it felt like AA had his blinders on for Gose and was going to acquire him at all costs.

It felt like a very similar scenario when the Blue Jays traded Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco; another player that was on Alex Anthopoulos' wish list, and when he had the opportunity to get Francisco via trade, he did it.

With the way the Blue Jays are continually trying to build Frank Francisco back up, that's why I wouldn't be surprised at all if they re-signed him to a one-year deal with an option from 2012 and 2013.

We've also learned that the Silent Assassin isn't afraid to acquire free agent compensatory picks by what some General Managers might consider as unconventional means. Need I remind anyone what happened with the man with an hour and a half stint with the Blue Jays, Miguel Olivo?

Whichever reason it is that the Blue Jays have for holding onto Frank Francisco, my instincts tell me it's because they want him here for the long haul rather than for just the short term. Either that, or Alex Anthopoulos really doesn't want to see one of his off-season acquisitions go belly-up.

5 comments:

  1. The only thing predictable about Anthopoulos is that he is unpredictable.

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  2. AA seems to fall in love with his purchases. He won't let them go and hopes they blossom. Think Jo-Jo, EE, Fankie Frank and probably others. Sometimes a dog is a dog.

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  3. BlueJayNator, that's precisely correct. And the fact that things have remained relatively quiet on the trade front leads me to believe AA is working on something.

    Joe, I briefly heard AA talking during yesterday's game on EE and I thought the same thing. He was hoping Encarnacion would have a big year, and I think that's why he's held onto him for so long because Alex put so much stock in the guy and doesn't want to give up on him quite yet.

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  4. I think AA is also trying to develop the reputation of an organization that stands by it's players - a lot of guys may not want to come up to the Great White North to play, and so the organization really needs to ascertain itself as a place where players will get the chance to prove themselves and not be tossed aside at the slightest opportunity. AA also hates letting go of talent, especially guys who have shown flashes of brilliance like JJ, EE, and FF (amazing initials!). I'm ok with him hanging on for compensatory draft picks - we aren't contending this year anyway, so why waste the potential to stockpile more young talent?

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  5. Julie, that certainly is the reputation AA is trying to convey to players outside of Toronto. It's a bit of a double-edged sword though as the organization's commitment to players like EE and FF could come back to bite them, but ultimately I think it will pay dividends and help attract more free agents.

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