Monday, November 26, 2012

Every Moustache in Blue Jays History


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Over the past 35 years, the Toronto Blue Jays have built themselves a rich history. The team has seen many changes since its inception in 1977, however one thing has has remained synonymous with the club since day one; and that's the illustrious moustache.

Many iconic Blue Jays have donned moustaches over the years, and in honour of Movember I've compiled each and every single one of them into one video for your viewing pleasure. For those counting, it's 117 moustaches in 204 seconds.

Perhaps the most revealing thing uncovered during my research for this project was there were five Blue Jays players named Willie who had a moustache. There's no way that's a coincidence, as being named Willie must have been a prerequisite for having a moustache (or vice versa).

And remember, please support your local moustaches supporting Prostate Cancer research and donating to Movember.

In case you wanted an entire rundown of every moustache, here's a full list with all 117 pictures and names after the jump.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

John Gibbons is Back with the Blue Jays


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Courtesy of Yahoo
No matter how far and how hard we look, sometimes the answer is right under our noses. And that was definitely the case with the Blue Jays hiring John Gibbons as their new manager.

Gibbons was virtually on nobody's radar and was never even linked as a candidate to take over as the new manager of the Blue Jays. And in some ways, I think he was the perfect candidate all along ... people just didn't know it.

It's unfortunate that John Gibbons was the casualty of a 2008 season gone wrong, but it really was a foregone conclusion back then that he was going to get the axe. Much like any instance where a team is struggling, Gibbons was the scapegoat and was sent packing.

However, I really can't recall having any qualms or issues with Gibbons back then, so I can certainly see why Alex decided to bring him back and give John a second chance.

By all accounts, Gibbons managed the bullpen very effectively and the pitching staff performed very well during his tenure. As noted by Cathal Kelly in the Toronto Star, the Blue Jays pitching staff ranked 6th, 5th, 2nd and 1st in team ERA under John Gibbons from 2005-2008.

John Gibbons also employed a platoon; something we have not seen used by the Blue Jays in a very long time. Some of the players on this roster right now really do lend themselves to a platoon role (Adam Lind, Rajai Davis), so hopefully Gibbons plays to those strengths.

Of course, the thing people will remember John Gibbons for most was his well-publicized spats with Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand. While at the time it looked embarrassing towards the organization, it at least showed that John Gibbons wasn't willing to tolerate that kind of behavior in his clubhouse.

Aside from that, the thing I remember most about John Gibbons last tour with the Blue Jays was his bevvy of lineup changes. On any given week, you might see five, six or even seven different lineup configurations. Gibbons was certainly not afraid to shake things up, as he used no less than 120 different lineups every season from 2005 to 2008.

At its peak, John Gibbons penciled 131 different batting orders during the 2007 season. While Gibbons may have inked his lineups on a dry erase board, as a comparison, Cito Gaston carved his lineups onto stone tablets; using just 53 different lineups in the 1992 World Championship season.

Gibbons' willingness to change up the batting order quite often can only be a positive thing for this team. He often tinkered with the batting order, but really that's the only way to find out to how to get the most out of hitters; not by typecasting them into"roles, but by experimenting and discovering what works best.

John Farrell used many different lineup configurations in his two seasons as manager of the Blue Jays, but that was predominantly out of necessity due to the slew of injuries.

The obvious question about bringing John Gibbons back is "why didn't they hire him in the first place?" Things were a little different back then ... it was just a year and a half since the Blue Jays fired Gibbons in the first place, so it would have been a little odd to bring him back so soon.

Not to mention, it seemed like Alex Anthopoulos was hoping to hire the next great baseball mind as the Blue Jays manager back then. Maybe ego had something to do with it ... because laying claim to hiring baseball's next brilliant manager would be quite the achievement for AA.

Ultimately it didn't, but I can't really fault Alex and the front office for choosing John Farrell in the first place. Besides, had the Blue Jays not gone with Farrell back in 2010 originally, it wouldn't have lead to this window opportunity for John Gibbons.

One could argue that even the league's best managers only make a negligible difference on the outcome of the game, and I would tend to agree with that school of thought. Ultimately the players are responsible for most of the action; it's just the manager's job to oversee it.

I think some of the best managers are very self-aware that they only play a small part in the success of a Major League team. By his comments at the press conference yesterday, John Gibbons falls into that niche:
"The bottom line, whoever you select as a manager, it all comes down to what happens on the field. And that's how we're all judged.

Now it's the manager's job and the coaching staff's job to pull it together as a team and get the most out of these guys.

That's our number one job; get the most out of these guys and get out of the way, to be honest with you."
As someone who already has experience managing the Blue Jays, perhaps there is no one more self-aware of his own managing lifespan than John Gibbons. Not that he should live in fear of getting fired, but that could actually subconsciously work as a motivational tactic.

It's something that was obviously lacking with John Farrell; while his head was in the clouds fantasizing about his dream job in Boston, he was letting the Blue Jays quite literally run wild.

In retrospect, it all makes sense because he had not one team interested in his services, but two. There was never the fear that John Farrell might not have a job.

I can't speak for the entire Blue Jays blogosphere, but I can't think of anyone better than John Gibbons to take over as skipper of the Toronto Blue Jays once again. After all, it's the players who will ultimately power this ship ... it's just John Gibbons' job to man the rudder and guide them in the right direction.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A New Hope


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Image via Bluebird Banter
Hope is one of life's most precious commodities. Hope is what gets people out of bed in the morning. It's what keeps people going in life. And although it's very prevalent, hope is something that extends well beyond the borders of professional sports.

For the first time in a long time, hope is alive again in Blue Jays Land.

Whether they want to admit it or not, the Toronto Blue Jays had a nightmare of a season. 2012 was billed to be another rebuilding year, but a perfect storm of offseason events like the new uniform unveiling and an incredible Spring Training record helped escalate the hype going into Opening Day.

And then it all went downhill from there. One thing happened after another; the onslaught of injuries, the rumoured calamity in the clubhouse, and perhaps the most disheartening thing of all was watching the Red Sox poach John Farrell right from under the nose of the Blue Jays.

After all those events transpired, hope was at an all-time low for many Blue Jays fans. Even the biggest optimist would have a tough time putting a positive spin on everything that happened.

But it's funny how quickly all those bad memories can just fade away. Because after the trade with the Miami Marlins, the Melky Cabrera signing, and hopefully an announcement of a new manager, all those bad things suddenly seem like a distant memory.

Often times, I try to put on blogger's hat and try to take a reasonable and rational look at things. But in instances like this, it's difficult not to be overcome with pure and unabashed joy.

That's why I find it incredibly condescending when Damien Cox urged fans to cancel the parade route down Yonge Street and temper their expectations. I'm sorry, if followers of the Blue Jays can't get excited about what transpired last week, then what the heck are they allowed to get excited about?

Fans shouldn't have to apologize for having a completely normal reaction to their team making a huge blockbuster trade. If anything, it would be incredibly disconcerting if fans weren't excited about the trade with the Marlins.

There is a devout section of the fan base that will remain loyal to the Blue Jays regardless of what happens on the field. However, I'm willing to bet that there were folks who were on the fence about the team before the big trade and are now suddenly interested in the Blue Jays again.

Part of the reason why I became a Blue Jays fan again in 2005 was because of the huge spending spree when they signed A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and traded for Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay. Those moves signaled to me that the Blue Jays were serious about contending ... not unlike what they did last week.

This is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs in 18 years. They've come close a couple of times, but 1993 was the last time the Blue Jays have played October baseball. I don't know about you, but that's a really, really long time.

I always find it odd when people say "this year isn't their year". But you would never hear an MLB executive flat out admit that, because they instant they insinuate writing off a season is when they effectively extinguish all hope.

As far as I'm concerned, any year could be "the year" for the Toronto Blue Jays. Do you think the Oakland Athletics could have imagined they would win the AL West this year? Of course they did.

Maybe nobody outside of the Athletics organization thought they had a chance to make the playoffs, but the A's had hope. Otherwise why else would they play the game? Just like 2012 was the Oakland Athletics year, 2013 could be the time for the Toronto Blue Jays.

There are no guarantees that any of these moves will pan out. The 2013 Blue Jays could very well end up as a reincarnation for the 2012 Miami Marlins. Things might even get worse before they get better. But they have hope.

And as corny and cliched as it sounds, with hope ... anything is possible.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Melky Way: Cabrera Signs with the Blue Jays


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Any other year, signing Melky Cabrera to a two-year $16 million dollar contract might raise a few eyebrows. But this year, it turns out this signing is precisely what the Toronto Blue Jays needed.

Much like the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins, bringing in Melky Cabrera was one of those "pie in the sky" scenarios that made complete sense for the Blue Jays, but I never really expected them to pull the trigger on.

It also seems incredibly convenient that the Marlins are reportedly sending $8 million dollars back in salary to the Blue Jays, and that cash will go towards paying Melky Cabrera's salary in 2013. That is what I call being smart with your money.

I'm curious if Alex Anthopoulos was working on inking Melky Cabrera all along, or if the trade with the Marlins was what suddenly convinced Cabrera to sign on the dotted line?

From his standpoint, how could he turn down two years of guaranteed money? I can imagine every other team must have been lined up to sign Melky Cabrera to a one-year incentive-laden contract, but the Blue Jays stepped up and offered two years.

The obvious comparison contract-wise is the deal that Torii Hunter just inked with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a two-year contract worth $26 million dollars; by comparison, Melky Cabrera signed for $10 million dollars less, and he's also eight years younger than Hunter.

The Tigers are getting the arguably better player in Torii Hunter, but I'd much rather take my chances on somebody eight years younger and for $10 million dollars less. After all, that surplus can be put towards one and possibly even two more players.

It's very difficult to gauge what kind of results to expect from Melky Cabrera because there's the task of finding that hypothetical point where he started taking performance enhancing drugs. Was it with the Giants, his brief stints in Kansas City or Atlanta, or could it be linked all the way back to his days with the Yankees?

Personally, I think the real baseline for Melky lies somewhere in between his 2009-2010 seasons. For argument's sake, I'm just going to throw out 2012 and maybe even 2011 as well. If the Blue Jays get a facsimile of Melky Cabrera from 2009 with the Yankees or 2010 with the Braves, then that's quite alright with me.

Ordinarily, signing a player who just came off a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs might create some backlash, but the majority of folks are welcoming this signing with open arms. And it's for good reason; the Blue Jays are using this opportunity to buy low. Because one can only imagine what kind of money Melky Cabrera could have commanded on the free agent market had he not gotten caught.

Another positive of signing Melky Cabrera is it doesn't shoehorn the Blue Jays into starting Rajai Davis or Anthony Gose as the everyday left fielder. Gose could probably still use some seasoning in Buffalo this coming season, and Rajai Davis ideally should be relegated as a fourth outfielder.

It may be a case of incredibly lowered expectations to hope for Cabrera to OPS just .671 like he did in 2010 with the Braves, but let me remind you that at his very best with the Blue Jays, Rajai Davis had an OPS of just .687.

Essentially, Melky Cabrera's floor is Rajai Davis' ceiling ... so anything better than the bare minimum from Cabrera will surpass the very best we can expect from Rajai Davis. That seems like a pretty safe gamble to take on the part of the Blue Jays.

By adding Melky Cabrera to the lineup, the Blue Jays plug another hole in their lineup that desperately needed an overhaul. They now have another left-handed bat (another switch-hitter, mind you), that helps solidify the top of the order.

When it comes to building a formidable lineup, I always look at the Yankees and Red Sox as prime examples of orders that never take a break. For the longest time, their one through nine was a steady stream of solid hitters ... something the Blue Jays were considerably lacking.

Once the Blue Jays order reached the five or six hitters, the skill level dropped off considerably. But now that Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus project as being the six and seven hitters, opposing pitchers can no longer look forward to taking a break in the bottom third of the Jays lineup.

Adding Melky Cabrera to the order allows the Blue Jays to stretch out their lineup even further, and are now suddenly (on paper, at least) looking like one of the best lineups in the American League.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blue Jays Make a Splash, Reel in Five Marlins


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Just the other day, I was speaking to someone about how I was convinced the Blue Jays were going to stand pat this offseason. Despite the fact that the club clearly had gaping holes in their roster, my cynical side thought the Blue Jays were going to do anything but make a splash.

Clearly, I was very wrong.

The initial reaction to the trade was one of complete and utter shock. I'm not speaking in hyperboles here, this transaction affects the entire landscape of the Toronto Blue Jays. It has huge repercussions at both the Major League and Minor League level.

It may not have been the largest trade in the terms of players involved, but it certainly was one of the biggest in terms of the calibre of players the Toronto Blue Jays received in return from the Miami Marlins.

Let's just sit back and think about this for a second ... the Blue Jays acquired four All-Stars in one fell swoop from the Marlins. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Joshnon are all fantastic players. And when healthy, Emilio Bonifacio is a serviceable infielder/outfielder. John Buck is really just there as salary relief.

Upgrading the rotation: Johnson and Buehrle

Straight out of the gate, I really like this trade for the Blue Jays. They immediately upgrade the rotation with two solid starting pitchers in Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, and they also upgrade significantly at the shortstop position with Jose Reyes.

Not that Buehrle and Johnson are coming to Toronto on the cheap at $11 million and $13.7 million next season respectively, but I think a proponent of this deal really must have hinged on the price of free agent starting pitching.

Odds are that Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez were all asking for well above that amount on a multi-year deal. Not to mention the Blue Jays would undoubtedly have to overpay to convince any of those guys to come to Toronto.

So it seems like the trade route was the only viable avenue for the Blue Jays to use to upgrade their starting rotation this offseason without going completely insane with dollars and duration of contracts.

Jose Reyes: the new shortstop

With Jose Reyes, the Blue Jays truly have that dynamic player and a very rare talent. A solid defender, a great hitter and a threat on the basepaths. Not to mention, a prototypical leadoff hitter the Blue Jays have been in need of for a very long time.

I was very surprised to learn this, but @eggshmeg pointed out to me that Jose Reyes is actually a year younger than Yunel Escobar. So the Blue Jays really do upgrade in every way imaginable at the shortstop position.

Here is the caveat of the entire trade for me though; the 2015-2017 years on Jose Reyes' contract. In 2015, Reyes' salary will jump to $22 million per year. He'll only be 34 years old at the end of the contract, but with his history of leg injuries, hopefully Reyes doesn't turn into yet another albatross contract like Vernon Wells did.

Not to mention, if the Blue Jays are going to be footing Jose Reyes' salary at $22 million come 2015, wouldn't it be paramount to spend a little more and upgrade the field to real grass? If they're going to spend that much, why not spend a little more and protect your asset?

Buck and Bonifacio

I keep forgetting that John Buck was included in the trade, but he is merely salary relief on the part of the Marlins. And with the glut of catchers on the roster, Buck could be as good as gone by Opening Day anyway.

Emilio Bonifacio might not take the starting second baseman's job away from Maicer Izturis, but Bonifacio is a welcome upgrade on the bench that can not only field multiple positions, but he also has some speed as well.

Bonifacio really is the wild card in this entire trade. He's under team control through 2014, and when healthy is a legitimate threat on the basepaths. Ideally, I think Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis could combine for a platoon at second base, or maybe even split time with Rajai Davis in left field.

The fact that Emilio Bonifacio is a switch hitter and can field multiple positions really gives the Blue Jays some much-needed flexibility in the lineup.

Parting with prospects

Of course, in order to get something, you have give something up ... and the Blue Jays gave up some good players in this trade. Toronto sent three of their Top 10 prospects over to Miami, in addition to Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez and Jeff Mathis.

Those guys basically get cancelled out with the acquisition of another SS, C and two SP's, but it's those prospects that could really come back to bite the Blue Jays. However, that's the cost of doing business.

Often times the most highly-touted prospects don't pan out, and sometimes they do come exactly as advertised. But at the end of the day, they're still prospects ... and they won't be Major League ready for 2-3 years. The players the Blue Jays received from the Miami Marlins are all established Major Leaguers and are ready to make an impact on the roster right now.

And with the wealth of depth in the minors, the Blue Jays could actually afford to part with some of their best prospects. They didn't have to part with their number one prospect in Travis d'Arnaud, and they still have two of the Lansing Three.

What this trade really means

After a disastrous 2012 season, something drastic needed to be done to improve the roster, and Alex Anthopoulos answered with a very bold move. The Toronto Blue Jays sent a very clear message that they are here to contend.

No one can say for certain whether this blockbuster trade has the potential to be a game-changer like the Fernandez/McGriff for Alomar/Carter was, but with the calibre of players involved, it certainly has the gravity to do just that ... to change the game.

The past few seasons, it seems like this regime has been heavily focused on drafting and developing young players. Now that the club is starting to see some of the fruits of their labour, I feel like the Blue Jays shifted gears and placed an emphasis back on the big league squad with this trade.

For the longest time, I just wanted the Blue Jays to do something. Not necessarily just for the sake of it, but at least to give the appearance like they were making an effort to improve the team.

It felt like this team was in a perpetual state of building and rebuilding ever since Alex Anthopoulos took over the helm as General Manager. But in one fell sweep, AA immediately fast forwarded the timeline on contention for the Blue Jays.

And so here we are at a crossroads in the franchise of this team - the Blue Jays could either stand pat and do nothing, or they could take a leap of faith and make a really big move. Although doing the latter may blow up in their face, I respect that the Blue Jays are finally going for it.

Instead of looking ahead into the future and wondering what tomorrow will bring, welcome to today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Toronto's Potential Starting Pitcher Trade Targets


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The Toronto Blue Jays have two options when it comes to improving their starting rotation this offseason - buy or trade. They can either go out and overpay for free agent starting pitchers, or they can go about it the Alex Anthopoulos way and make a trade.

While AA has never outright come out and said the Blue Jays would be aggressive in the free agent market, Alex has indicated the team would be more like to make a trade. And now more than ever, cost-controlled arms are among some of the most highly-coveted assets in baseball.

Knowing Alex's tendencies, my fear is his list of prospective targets will consist of pitchers which are under team control or already have a contract in place for the foreseeable future. In this exercise, AA has to be weary of falling in love with the contract or years of control rather than just going after the best pitcher available.

However, that's precisely what I did when I scoured Cot's Baseball Contracts for some plausible starting pitcher trade targets for the Blue Jays. After all, to think like AA you have to act like AA.

It really is a fine line Anthopoulos has to walk between finding a SP that's both controllable and extremely talented ... because what's the point of going out and getting another Henderson Alvarez? He may be a cost-controlled arm, but would another arm of Alvarez' calibre significantly improve Toronto's starting rotation?

If the Blue Jays are going to give up the farm for a decent starting pitcher, that player not only needs to immediately improve the rotation, but he has to provide value for the duration of his deal as well. It's a mighty task that the Blue Jays have ahead of them, but one that's not entirely impossible.

Although it's difficult to gauge which players may or not be on his radar, taking his past transactions into consideration, here's a breakdown of some starting pitchers that Alex Anthopoulos could be targeting this offseason.

Jon Niese - New York Mets
Status: Signed through 2016 with options for 2017/2018

Of all the potential trade targets out there, Jon Niese's contract almost seems like a match made in heaven for Alex Anthopoulos. Niese's salary is pretty reasonable for the first few years, and if the Blue Jays so choose, they could always pick up those final two options.

Despite playing for the lowly New York Mets, Niese has been worth 7 wins above replacement, which is pretty respectable as far as starting pitchers are concerned. In the Blue Jays starting rotation, only Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero have posted high WAR since 2010, so Niese could definitely slot in with the Blue Jays as a solid second or third starter.

I don't know how willing the Mets would be to part with Jon Niese a mere seven months after they signed him to a five-year contract extension, but the Blue Jays definitely match up well for as a trade partner for New York.

Justin Masterson - Cleveland Indians
Status: Under team control through 2014 

Justin Masterson is yet another name that has been linked in trade talks with the Blue Jays. And invariably since the bug has been planted in people's ears already, that likely means there is next no chance of a trade ever happening. However, there is no reason why Masterson shouldn't be on AA's radar.

What could be a tipping point is the fact that Justin Masterson is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career this offseason. Considering that Masterson has 96 starts under his belt the past three seasons, that will really work in his favour during arbitration negotiations.

And with another solid 2013 season, Masterson's salary could escalate much higher in his final year of team control. So it really is a bit of a crap shoot from a budget standpoint in estimating what might happen with Masterson down the road.

Justin Masterson has miraculously made a living (in the AL Central nonetheless) by being a two-pitch pitcher, with just a fastball and a slider combo. Masterson is also predominantly a ground ball pitcher, which would bode well with a Lawre/Escobar/Hechavarria left side of the infield to back him up.

To me, Justin Masterson simply on his own doesn't warrant an elite level package of prospects in return. Perhaps if the Indians want to package together Justin Masterson and Shin-Soo Choo, then that might make more sense for the Blue Jays to part with some of their better prospects.

Brett Anderson - Oakland Athletics
Status: Signed through 2013 with options for 2014/2015

Obviously the biggest concern with Brett Anderson is his injury history. Anderson already had Tommy John surgery last year, and shortly after he came off the DL in late August, Brett suffered an oblique strain which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

If the Blue Jays do in fact trade for Brett Anderson, I think the best case scenario is it turns out to be the next Gio Gonzalez deal. Worst case scenario is Anderson turns out to be the next Mike Sirotka. That's a pretty large discrepancy, one which I'm not so sure I'd be willing to part with my best prospects for if I were Alex Anthopoulos.

Despite pitching in pitcher-friendly ballpark, Brett Anderson's home and road splits are nearly identical. So there should be no concerns about skewed statistics since half his starts are at The Coliseum in Oakland.

Ian Kennedy - Arizona Diamondbacks
Status: Under team control through 2015

When we're talking about the Alex Anthopoulos school of thought, dark horse candidates actually end up being the odds-on favourites. And Ian Kennedy definitely fits the bill as a dark horse trade target for the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason.

I really like the fact that Ian Kennedy has posted 30 plus starts the past three seasons with the D-Backs, and durability is one thing the Blue Jays have been severely lacking these past few years. If Kennedy could give the Blue Jays thirty starts, that would help ease the need to call upon spot starters and dipping into the minors.

The only thing that frightens me a bit about Ian Kennedy is his unusually high career fly ball percentage at 42.1%. However, his batted ball statistics would probably translate fairly evenly in Toronto as the Rogers Centre boasts nearly identical dimensions as Chase Field.

Mike Leake - Cincinatti Reds
Status: Under team control through 2015

He may not have seen any action in the 2012 postseason, but Mike Leake likely caught the eye of many MLB executives this past season with the Reds. Leake is under control through 2015 and wouldn't become a free agent until 2016 at the very earliest.

Mike Leake is an especially attractive trade target because he would be the odd man out if the Reds do in fact move Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation.

Leake comprised one fifth of Cincinnati's rotation from Opening Day until Game 162, so I can't imagine why the Reds wouldn't just want to leave the rotation as is. Nevertheless the Blue Jays could desperately use the services of Mike Leake whereas the Reds could afford to give him up.

Jeremy Hellickson - Tampa Bay Rays
Status: Under team control through 2016

This is perhaps the trickiest trade target of the bunch because it comes from a team within the division. Who knows what kind of a premium that would add to the asking price of Hellickson, but I can't imagine the Rays would part with him for anything less than a king's ransom.

The Tampa Bay Rays have already mastered the art of developing home grown starting pitching, and one would think they'd be asking for highly-touted pitching prospects in return. In the case of the Blue Jays, that could mean parting with one and perhaps even two of the Lansing Three.

Jeremy Hellickson isn't even arbitration eligible until 2014, so there really isn't much concern at least in the foreseeable future about his salary jumping to an inordinate amount.

Also, Hellickson has fared pretty well these past two seasons against his opponents in the division. Facing the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays several times a year hasn't fazed the Rays young starter, so the litmus test on whether he can hack it in the AL East has already been passed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Should the Blue Jays Spend Like It's 2005?


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Courtesy of CBC
2005 - it was a great time to be a Blue Jays fan.

I remember that offseason quite vividly because it was one of the main reasons why I became interested in the Toronto Blue Jays again. The multitude of moves the front office pulled off during the 2005 offseason piqued my curiosity and brought be back into the fold as a Blue Jays fan.

The signing of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, the acquisition Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay, all those things cultivated excitement about the team ... something that had been absent for quite a few years.

What the front office did during the 2005 offseason sent a very clear message - they were not afraid to spend to contend.

Money was seemingly spent frivolously; a polar opposite compared to the cost-controlled days of today. While we didn't know it at the time, it was also effectively the death of any five-year contracts delved out to free agents.

It's hard to believe it's been seven years since then, but the Blue Jays find themselves in a similar position now as they did following the 2005 season. The team was middling in the AL East, but with the moves they made, Toronto quickly vaulted themselves back into contention.

The results from those transactions may have come with mixed results, but ultimately there was no doubt about what J.P. Ricciardi was trying to do; no matter the cost, he was trying to put together a winning team.

With Alex Anthopoulos at the helm of this current regime, sometimes I'm not entirely sure of what his motivation is. It feels like he's perennially building towards a winner, but at the same time it also feels like this team is constantly in a construction zone.

Many pundits are saying it's imperative the Blue Jays need to make some big free agent signings and/or trades this offseason. While there's nothing I'd love more than to see them open up the pocketbooks, the trend in recent weeks actually leans towards the opposite.

One lucrative cost-cutting measure was the "decline and sign" of Rajai Davis, which that saved the Blue Jays $500,000 dollars. Mike Aviles was due to get a salary bump in arbitration, and he was traded for Esmil Rogers. Another move that probably saved a couple million dollars.

All these shrewd moves by Alex Anthopoulos means either one of two things; the Blue Jays are either saving every nickel and dime possible to put towards some sort of spending spree, or they're just saving every nickel and dime.

AA is no stranger to delving out contract extensions to players already in the organization, but he has yet to sign a free agent to longer than a two year contract. In fact, the most amount of money a free agent has ever commanded is Darren Oliver at $4.5 million.

So who's to say the purse strings will suddenly fly open this offseason? Alex himself even said they would have to get "creative" with the money they have available. The definition of "creative" isn't overpaying the most sought after free agent starting pitchers.

People like to picture Rogers as a bottomless pit of money the Blue Jays can dip into at any time, but it sounds like the funds the Blue Jays have to work with are much more limited than they let on.

Why else then would the organization perform some creative accounting to save themselves $500,000 dollars? Unlike the cult classic, it's not like Alex Anthopoulos has been written a blank cheque and has the free will to spend frivolously.

Just because the Blue Jays should go out and sign Edwin Jackson or Zack Greinke, doesn't mean they will. But does that mean those are necessarily the best moves for the club at this very moment? The answer to that should undoubtedly be yes.

If the Blue Jays decide that this offseason will be the second coming of the 2005 offseason spending spree, it might keep the villagers from revolting for a short while, but ultimately what will keep the fans coming back is a winning product.

One quality of the J.P. Ricciardi regime that I really miss is the transparency. There was no such thing as a cone of silence, and he never backed away from questions. Heck, J.P. even answered questions from fans with Mike Wilner on Jays Talk.

I wish I could call in to "Wednesdays with J.P." today and ask J.P. Ricciardi if he could do it all over again, would he still sign B.J. Ryan, A.J. Burnett and Frank Thomas to those huge contracts. I'm willing to bet that he would ... because signing those players immediately made the Blue Jays better, not worse.

More often than not, there are more perils to not signing a free agent than by signing one. Even though it would likely be a great deal of money, the Blue Jays wouldn't be in danger of mortgaging the future by opening the vault and bringing in some free agents.

On the other hand, they could very well be handicapping themselves by sitting idly by and counting nickels and dimes. Unless Alex Anthopoulos has an extra $20 million rolled up in change somewhere, I'm not holding my breath that this offseason will mimic what happened in 2005.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ricky's Tricky Injury Situation


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Courtesy of Zimbio
In 2012, Ricky Romero carried the weight of the Blue Jays starting rotation on his shoulders. After countless arms went down to injury, I suppose carrying that weight for the better part of a season really did take its toll on Romero.

Under normal circumstances, discovering that Ricky Romero underwent surgery would be rather concerning. But in this rare instance, it was actually somewhat of a relief ... because then there's an "excuse" so to speak for his career worst season.

Some might say that playing through an injury is incredibly selfish. But I actually think it's one of the most selfless things Romero could have done for his injury-riddled teammates.

From Romero's standpoint, I can completely understand what he did and I commend him for it. Whether or not the injury was mild or moderate, it really does take some stones to pitch through an injury like that.

I'm reminded that Jose Bautista played with a nagging hernia during the his breakout 2010 season. For the final five months of the season, Bautista roughed it out and still somehow managed to hit 54 home runs, all while sitting just one game. Can you imagine what he might have done had he been completely healthy?

Bautista's case is the exception to the rule though, because more often than not there are players out there playing with undisclosed injuries ... whether the team knows about it or not. Jason Frasor was another player who struggled with an injury this season until it finally became too much.


Which brings me to the million dollar question; how hurt does a player have to be to go on the disabled list?

The Blue Jays are certainly no stranger to having some of their players stay on the roster while they were still hurt. There's the aforementioned Ricky Romero, Jose Bautista, Jason Frasor and even Adam Lind.

After transitioning over to first base, Lind suffered from back pain during the 2010 season. Rather going on the disabled list, he decided to play through it, and it was eventually revealed closer to the end of the season that he was ailing.

At the time, I remember wondering why Lind didn't just go on the DL. After all, he was occupying a spot on the roster that could've been used on somebody else; someone that surely could have gotten on base at a better than .287 clip.

However, I now see it from Adam Lind's perspective. The instant he alerts the team about his back pain, he becomes a concern. On a visceral level, it must suck to have your livelihood taken away from you.

So I really can't blame these guys for playing through an injury because it's probably much better for their psyche to play hurt than to sit at home. I'd probably do the very same thing, because one can only sit around and play so much Little Big Planet every day.

And who's to say these guys didn't let the team know that they're hurting? Perhaps the coaches told them to suck it up and just play through it. Maybe there's a pain threshold so to speak, and the trainers just send the players on their merry way if they aren't past that line.

If Ricky Romero spoke with his coaches and trainers and they determined that the pain he was suffering from didn't warrant a DL stint, then so be it. Even if Ricky didn't alert the team to what was going on, it's not like there were any pitchers banging down the door to replace Romero.

Here's what Ricky had to say himself about his 2012 season:
"There’s a difference between being hurt and being sore. Was I sore at times? Yeah, everyone’s sore. You just continue to pitch.”
I also wonder how much of it is mental. Everybody has a different pain threshold; what might be excruciating for one person might just feel like a small side effect to another. That would explain why Jose Bautista could still hit 54 home runs in 2010 nursing a hernia, while I would surely cower in pain and ask for my momma.

Once again, I commend what Ricky Romero did this year. He could have easily just laid the blame on an injury and attributed his struggles to all of the above. But he never dodged any questions throughout it all and owned up to everything - an old school quality that's sorely lacking in baseball today.

In this age, it seems like pitchers especially are put under the microscope and babied like never before. With Stephen Strasburg, it was obviously a tug of war between the Nationals and Scott Boras as to whether or not to shut him down; because both sides truly wanted to protect their investment. The Nationals wanted to save Stasburg's arm for the future while Boras wanted him to build as much value as possible up front to lead to a bigger payday down the road.

In Ricky Romero's case, he probably wanted to protect himself and continue to prove his value by pitching through the pain ... even if that meant he didn't have all that great a season statistically. It's an admirable quality, but at the same time it makes me wonder how many other pitchers around the league are doing the very same thing.

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