Category Archives: Rumours

In a weak and expensive free agent market for starting pitchers, Danks and Floyd may be better options.

By Travis Reitsma

When C.C. Sabathia re-signed with the Yankees almost immediately after opting out of the remainder of his deal, making him the richest pitcher in baseball history, the free agent market for starting pitchers went from not great to bad.  Only two others achieved ‘Type-A’ status in Rangers’ lefty C.J. Wilson and the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt, who’s well past his prime and is a significant injury risk.

Another intriguing option is Japanese righthander Yu Darvish who is expected to be posted by his NPBL team sometime this offseason, but with a posting fee, Darvish could end up costing his North American team over $100-million; a risky proposition for a pitcher who has never thrown a pitch in the Majors.  There are also ‘Type-B’ options Mark Buehrle, Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Aaron Harang, Bruce Chen, and Freddy Garcia and other notables such as Erik Bedard, Aaron Cook, Bartolo Colon, Zach Duke, Livan Hernandez, and Jon Garland.

In other words, there are some decent options, but no game changers outside of Wilson and Darvish who probably aren’t true number one pitchers themselves.  The problem with trying to acquire starting pitching on the free agent market is just how expensive it is.  Take a look at these contracts given out to starting pitchers last year:

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Should the Blue Jays sign Jonathan Broxton?

By Eric Han

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that several teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, have shown interest in Dodger’s closer, Jonathan Broxton. Good idea? Bad?

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Do the Jays want to get Young-er? I’m so Punny.

There’s been an idea floating around the interwebbing tubes since the Vernon Wells trade and it seems to have intensified since Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos flipped Mike Napoli to the Rangers for Frank Francisco.

This idea had only really been proposed by a few bloggers and blog commenters and by some in-passing tweets, so I was willing to let it slide without comment, but now someone close to the Jays with knowledge of them has brought this idea to the forefront.

I picked up a copy of the Toronto Star yesterday and Jays’ columnist Richard Griffin wrote an article asking if Rangers infielder Michael Young could be the next piece of the puzzle in T.O.

Could it happen? Michael Young playing third base for the Blue Jays on opening day 2011 and Jose Bautista moving back to his preferred position of right field?

So, what Mr. Griffin is essentially saying here is that he thinks the Jays are logically looking at acquiring Young, but a couple things don’t quite jive here.

First off, the Jays and Rangers just completed the deal for Napoli and Francisco.  Although it’s possible that they may hook up on a deal in the future, I firmly believe that if they were going to, they would have worked something out at that time.

Secondly, why would the Jays’ take on Young’s salary after finally unloading another contract that was considered an albatross for the franchise?  After shedding Wells’ remaining 4 years and $86-million, why would Anthopoulos then trade for another player who is two years older than Wells and is under contract for 3 more years and $48-million?

Thirdly, Young is not at all a fit for this team.  Yes, he’s a third-baseman and the Jays could, in theory, use another player who can man that position, but Young is 34 years old and horrid defensively.  In fact, Young was one of the worst defensive third-basemen in all of baseball in 2010.  Why do you think the Rangers went after Adrian Beltre?

Also, being that Young is in his mid-30s, he’s bound to start declining at the plate at any moment.  In fact, you could argue that he already is.  Take out his lofty 2009 numbers and it appears as though Young is losing his bat, slowly but surely.

In 2005, Young posted a career-best .899 OPS.  Since then, he’s posted OPS numbers of .814 in 2006, .783 in 2007, .741 in 2008 and .774 last season.

His home run and RBI numbers stay up, but everything else is slowly heading southward.  Young may not be declining as fast as some players but make no mistake, he will continue to get worse over the duration of his contract.  Couple that with his atrocious defence and that $16-million per season looks like almost as much of an albatross as Wells’ deal.

Griffin continues…

On the one hand, the Jays need a starting third baseman if they want to move Bautista back to the outfield — where he believes his future lies — and tempt him to stay. On the other hand, the Rangers need to dump significant payroll if they want to remain close to the comfortable $64 million to $70 million (all figures U.S.) in total salary they’ve had since 2006. Yes, they have new, financially sound ownership but already, with 17 players under contract, their 2011 payroll without Young is $75.1 million.

First off, the Jays have made no indication that they even want to sign Bautista long-term until they have a better idea of what they’re getting from him going forward.  The idea that acquiring Young would convince him to stay long-term is sort of missing the point and doesn’t make a lot of sense.  It assumes that Bautista would leave if the Jays don’t acquire somebody to play third and that’s a completely baseless assumption.

Secondly, Griffin states that “the Rangers need to dump significant payroll,” which is actually quite untrue.  The Rangers were ready and willing to fork over a lot of cash to keep Cliff Lee from walking and have stated publicly that they intend to increase the team’s salary going forward.

Griffin again…

Young is still their most expensive player. With the signing of Adrian Beltre and the trade with the Jays that brought Mike Napoli over in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco, all of a sudden the 34-year-old Young is a backup at both third and first base. He’s still listed as the No. 1 DH, but Napoli is a power option there. So why would the Rangers want to pay Young $48 million for the next three years as a part-time glove?

I’m not saying that the Rangers wouldn’t trade Young if they could, but they probably aren’t too worried about playing Young in a DH/1B role with Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland.  Considering Napoli will likely catch most often, Young will still have plenty of at-bats between the two positions; he’d hardly be a part time player.

Then Griffin goes off on a tangent that makes even less sense…

Need a clue that something with the Jays and Young could be in the works? Vernon Wells was asked during a Tuesday conference call where he’d been when Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos called to ask him to waive his no-trade clause, to consent to go to Anaheim in trade.

“I was at the Mavericks-Lakers game with my wife and, ironically, with Michael Young and his wife,” Wells said. “I got the call at halftime and missed most of the rest of the game.”

Ironically? Why would Wells use that word for something that was merely coincidental?

The reality of the financial crisis in Texas is that ever since the Rangers signed Beltre to play third, trading Young and his salary has been a distinct possibility. The Jays, after clearing the decks of the remaining $86 million on Wells’ contract — even including a reported $5 million cash payment to the Angels, even with taking two veteran salaries totalling $11 million off Anaheim’s hands — would have room for Young and his $16 million per over the next three years. If we’ve learned anything from Anthopoulos’s year-plus as GM, it’s that if there is a player of talent and controllability on the market, the Jays will ask about him and kick the tires.

Okay, so Wells and Young were together at a basketball game when Anthopoulos called Wells about the trade possibility.  Then Wells wrongly used the word “ironically” and Griffin took that as inside information that Young could be headed to the Jays.

I think Alanis Morrisette taught us that ‘ironic’ is the most misused word in the English language; we probably shouldn’t take that too seriously.

Do I doubt that Anthopoulos has kicked the tires with Young?  No.  In fact, I think his job as a general manager is to do just that, even if there is virtually no interest.  Not to mention that the Jays seem to be in on every rumour, no matter how small.

I’m sorry, but the Jays’ acquiring Young after finally unloading Wells would be counter-productive to the philosophy that Anthopoulos claims to be following.

If Young was a free agent, I think he’d be a spectacular pickup on a one-year deal for $5-million or less, but for three more years and $48-million?  Come on, Mr. Griffin, does that make any sense given the direction of the team?

Finally, Griffin subtly criticizes the Jays’ front office for essentially throwing in the towel on 2011 before the season even begins…

On Wednesday, SI.com named Anthopoulos baseball’s top winner of the 2010-11 off-season. That’s very nice, but as far as Jays fans are concerned, Anthopoulos needs to do far more heading into next season in terms of trying to win now. Should fans simply cancel their 2011 season tickets and come back in 2012 when they are ready to compete?

Last time I checked, a team with a lineup that includes the reigning home run king and plenty of talented hitters such as Yunel Escobar, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider as well as a rotation with some of the best young talent in the league and a stacked bullpen with plenty of serviceable arms was an exciting team to watch.

The Jays’ may not be a full-fledged contender today, but the potential is there very soon, and hell, they could surprise people even in 2011 with a talented club and a terrific minor-league system.

Given what Jays’ fans have endured since their last playoff appearance in 1993, 2011 should be viewed as nothing but a positive; and Anthopoulos should be lauded for the job he’s done since taking over for J.P. Riccardi in 2009.

Adding another overpaid player well into their declining years is not the answer; it’s in fact a blind step backward.  I would argue that Young would make the Jays only marginally better in 2011 and could weight them down significantly over the next few years.  Completely. Not. Worth. It.  It flat out flies in the face of logic.

The Vernon Wells Trade, Part I: Vernon to Anaheim.

Now that there has been nearly 24 hours to let the Vernon Wells trade absorb into our brain cells, perhaps it’s time for a little analysis of what this trade means for both sides.  First I’ll detail Wells and the Angels and then in the next part, I’ll talk about what the Jays received in return.

I do want to say, as many Jays’ fans are saying, that I like Vernon Wells.  He didn’t live up to his contract, but I don’t blame him for signing it, I blame ownership or J.P. Riccardi or whoever was responsible for signing him to that contract in the first place.

Wells was a team leader and an incredible influence in the Toronto community and the Canadian community at large.  I’ve always loved his deadpan sense of humour and his ability to make any interview entertaining (as evidenced by his numerous encounters with Cabbie on The Score).  Even his play on the field was much of the time at a level rarely seen within this franchise.

As a move to better the franchise, however, I cannot be happier.  It’s nothing personal, but as a fan I’m thrilled at the potential for this deal to open up a kind of Jays’ team that can contend on a yearly basis with the giants of the AL East.

About a week ago when talking about the four most important and polarizing position-players on the Jays, I talked about what I expect to see from Wells going forward.  I think it still holds true now, although it will be interesting to see if playing in Anaheim helps or hurts his numbers.

Here’s what I said at the time:

“Wells had a nice bounce-back year in 2010 after an ’09 that had fans of the team and pundits alike calling for his head on a platter.  He finished with a solid if not spectacular slash line of .273/.331/.515 and hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2006, a year before signing the massive extension.  He recorded the second-highest WAR rating of his career at 4.0 and although he was still below average defensively, he managed to improve greatly over his previous two seasons, perhaps showing he was healthier than in previous years.

“However, there are some troubling things about Wells’ 2010 that are worth mentioning.

“Vernon got off to a torrid start.  Between Opening Night and May 9th, Wells compiled a .339/.406/.661 line to make for a 1.067 OPS.  He’d hit 9 homeruns and had driven in 25 in only 33 games.  He compiled a walk rate of 9.8% during that time.

“From May 10th through to the end of the year, however, Wells had a much more pedestrian .255/.310/.475 line for a .785 OPS.  He hit 22 more homeruns while driving in 63 and saw his walk-rate drop 27.5% to 7.1%.

“If I was a betting man, I’d say the second set of numbers is more likely what you’ll see from Wells in 2011 and beyond.”

I don’t appear to be alone in thinking Wells will regress in 2011 and beyond.  Bill James predicts a drop to a .269/.328/.467 line, which in terms of slugging percentage is quite a severe drop off; and James also formed that prediction before the trade and I would imagine his park adjusted numbers will suffer in Anaheim.

According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, Angel Stadium ranked ahead of only Safeco Field in Seattle and Tropicana Field in Tampa in 2010 in the runs category at 0.864 of the league average, Rogers Centre ranked 8th at 1.058.

In home runs, Angel Stadium ranked 23rd at 0.825, while Rogers Centre was 4th at 1.358; and in hits Angel Stadium ranks 24th, while Rogers centre ranks 11th.

Those factors will not help Wells, although you could make the argument that a potential switch to a corner outfield position and the switch from turf to natural grass could help him stay healthier.

Overall, I really do see Wells’ numbers regressing to a .255/.310/.475-ish line.  I will admit, that on-base percentage is significantly less than his career .329-mark, but that is also helped by a .280 career average, and I don’t see Wells achieving that number in Anaheim.

Could Wells trade open door for a Vladdy return to Canada?

A week or so ago there were a few DH-type players available on the free agent market, speculation was that the Blue Jays could be able to grab one of them.  But then Jim Thome signed in Minnesota for $3-million, Johnny Damon signed with Tampa last night for $5.25-million and so did Manny Ramirez for a ridiculously low $2-million, and finally Andruw Jones inked a deal with the Yankees also for just $2-million.

This leaves Vladimir Guerrero as the only really viable option at DH on the market unless someone sees Russell Branyan as viable.

With the Angels now acquiring Vernon Wells, it likely means that Bobby Abreu will be the full-time DH in Anaheim.  This is significant as it was speculated that Guerrero might be primed for a return to the Angels after a one year hiatus in Texas.

That opens the door for Toronto.

Obviously they can afford Guerrero, especially since Thome, Ramirez and Jones signed for cheap.  They should be able to get him for $3-million or less; in other words less than the Jays paid for both Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch.

Getting Guerrero would give the Jays plenty of flexibility at several positions: Adam Lind can play first and DH and is adept at hitting righties while getting owned by lefties; Edwin Encarnacion can DH, play first and third base; Mike Napoli can catch, play first and DH and he absolutely tears apart left-handed pitching.

Trading Wells has opened some serious doors; Jays’ fans should be thrilled.

UPDATE: Of course, as my luck would have it today, right after I post that, MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that Guerrero is close to signing in Baltimore.  Fuck me with a spoon…

UPDATE 2: Apparently now they’re not close.  Thanks to Blandy and Ryan for the story.  You can remove the spoon now.

Will Albert Pujols ever be a Jay?

So who’s up for some aimless speculation?  I figure it’s a good time since there is very little tangible news these days in baseball.

Over at Getting Blanked, Mr. Parkes got to writing an article that was eerily similar to one I had been thinking about writing for a couple weeks.  It involved the best player in baseball and his impending contract situation.

Albert Pujols is entering the final year of a 7yr/$100-million deal that he signed prior to the 2005 season with St. Louis.  The Cardinals are now faced with the tough task of resigning him to an extension which could very well be the most lucrative in Major League history.

If he does not sign an extension before the end of the season, Pujols will undoubtedly become the most anticipated free agent to hit the market since Alex Rodriguez in the fall of 2000.

Parkes does a great job proving the opposite point I had.  I was going to say how the Cardinals might have an advantage in negotiations because the three biggest spenders in baseball, the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, are set at first base for many seasons to come with Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Howard respectively.

It should be qualified that Gonzalez has not yet signed an extension with Boston and as of now is still set to become a free agent at the end of this season, but it is well understood that the Red Sox and Gonzalez will sign an extension soon.

Since there are very few teams who can afford the contract Pujols would command, the Cardinals might have some leverage.

But Parkes makes a great point:

“As good as Teixeira and Gonzalez are, Pujols is much better.  And the Yankees and Red Sox go into every offseason with the sole purpose of getting better.

Assuming that the Yankees or Red Sox aren’t interested also overlooks the fact that New York will be using 39 year old Jorge Posada as their DH this coming season, while the Boston Red Sox go with the rapidly aging beyond his 35 years, David Ortiz.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that the two Evil Empires won’t be involved in bidding for his services if Pujols gets to free agency.”

Now I’m very glad I didn’t write my piece, because I agree.  And who’s to say a team like Philadelphia doesn’t consider trading someone Ryan Howard, who given his defensive woes (-12.6 UZR) is likely better suited to be a DH, to the Yankees or Red Sox; making room for the surprise Pujols signing?

That last scenario certainly isn’t likely, or even seemingly possible, but it isn’t impossible.

Speaking of nearly impossible scenarios, a conversation came up in the comment section of Parkes’ piece.  In said conversation, some commenters were suggesting the Blue Jays should be a big player in the potential Pujols sweepstakes.

Now, I understand that the likelihood of Pujols even becoming a free agent is 50/50 at best, but because we’re all bored and looking for something to talk about, let’s consider it for a moment.

Is there any chance at all that Pujols and the Jays are a match?

The Jays do have a hole at first base with the band-aid solution of placing Adam Lind there and possibly platoooning him with defensively horrid third baseman Edwin Encarnacion in 2011.

There are also very few up-and-coming options with the best hope probably being David Cooper who has yet to show he’ll be a solid major-leaguer.  K.C. Hobson is at least a couple years away and is still a huge question mark to most scouts and analysts.

Rogers Communications is also one of the wealthier ownership groups in baseball and assumedly has enough money to cover a potentially record-breaking contract, so why not?

Why wouldn’t the Jays be considered a player in the Pujols lottery, providing he hits free agency at all?

Well, I am of the opinion that there is a 0.00000000000000000000001% chance that Pujols ever signs in Toronto.

Here why:

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball right now; it isn’t even up for debate.  I won’t go into his credentials here, but just look at his FanGraphs page and his Baseball-Reference page.  In fact, with his current trajectory, there’s a good chance Pujols ends up being considered one of the two or three best players ever to play the game.  He’s in a league with Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

Alex Rodriguez opted out of his previous record-breaking contract after the 2007 season and signed a brand new record-breaking contract with the Yankees for 10 years and an astronomical $275-million.  That’s $27.5-million per season on average.

At the time, Rodriguez was still considered one of the best players in baseball, but by that time, at 32, he had mostly slipped behind Pujols in that category.

Pujols is younger than A-Rod was and is better than he was at the time; couple that with the fact that he has made no qualms about getting as much money as he can and you have the recipe for a deal that could reach 10 years and $280-$300-million.

I’m not even sure the Cardinals would be willing to/could go that high; hence my consternation toward the attitude that a Pujols extension with St. Louis is an inevitability

As a Jays’ fan, I would of course love to see Pujols playing first base in a white jersey at the Rogers Center, but I have absolutely no grand pipe dreams of this happening.

Yes, Rogers Communications is one of the wealthiest ownership groups in the Majors, but when in their (albeit short) history of owning the Blue Jays have they shown a willingness to drop anywhere near the amount of money that Pujols will command on the open market on their baseball asset?

If the Jays were already a sure-fire contender and if they were selling out every game and if revenue was flying in like it was in the early 90’s then maybe I could see a deal for Pujols coming to fruition, but they’re not, they’re not and it’s not.

A deal for Pujols also seems to fly in the face of what Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos has been preaching since he became the head of Baseball Operations.  He has made it clear that they will build within, take advantage of controllable years for cheaper and younger players, and use Rogers’ seeming willingness to drop some cash to resign core players when the time comes.

Signing any player to an expensive long-term deal from outside the organization doesn’t seem to fit the organization’s plan, let alone the most expensive player.

All of this is not even mentioning the likelihood that Pujols would choose to come to Toronto over places like New York, Boston, St. Louis or even Los Angeles; and don’t give me that “he might have grown up a Jays’ fan like Manny” bullhonkey because I don’t see Manny signing on any dotted line as of yet and that kind of stuff honestly means very little to professional athletes.

It. Isn’t. Going. To. Happen.

Arbitration Musings: Will Bautista be signed long-term? Will Frasor be traded? Will the impressive streak end?

Major League Baseball saw its arbitration deadline pass yesterday at 1:00pm EST with not many surprises.  Prince Fielder avoided a potential hearing with Milwaukee by inking a one year extension that will pay the big man $15.5-million; the largest sum of money ever given to an arbitration-eligible player.  The Red Sox did the same with their closer Jonathan Papelbon agreeing to a $12-million pact for 2011, the fourth highest single-season total ever for a reliever.

Other notable settlements from around the league include Matt Capps who re-signed with the Twins for $7.15-million (which seems really high), C.J. Wilson who settled with Texas for $7.05-million, Heath Bell who agreed with San Diego on a $7.5-million deal, and Josh Willingham who will make $6-million next year with Oakland.

These aren’t necessarily the most notable players who settled with their teams, but they are some of the most expensive, and none of them seem to be particularly worth it to me.

On the Jays front, Toronto settled with all but two of their arbitration-eligible players before the deadline, coming to terms with Brandon Morrow ($2.3-million), Yunel Escobar ($2.9-million), Casey Janssen ($1.095-million), Shawn Camp ($2.25-million), Jesse Litsch ($830,000) and Carlos Villanueva ($1.145-million).

The Jays also inked an extension with Rajai Davis for two-years and $5.25-million with an option for 2013 set at $3-million with a $500,000 buy-out.

But two players did not reach agreements with the club by the deadline: Jason Frasor and 54-home run man Jose Bautista.

The team and the players can continue negotiating until the hearings in February, but each side had to submit a figure to MLB by 1pm yesterday.  If no agreement is reached by the hearing, the two sides make their case to an arbitration panel and whichever side wins has their figure implemented; no middle ground.

These hearings can often create tension between the two sides so it’s probably a good thing that the Jays haven’t gone to a hearing since doing so with reliever Bill Risley in 1997.

Frasor and the Jays aren’t far off; the Jays have reportedly submitted a figure of $3.25-million, while Frasor’s side has given a figure of $3.725-million.

Bautista on the other hand is more of a challenge.  The Jays submitted a figure of $7.6-million, while Bautista believes he should make $10.5-million.

As an added wrinkle to this, Alex Anthopoulos says they will not negotiate one-year deals after the deadline, but instead will only talk multi-year contracts.

“If we don’t have deals done by the 1 p.m. deadline, we would not negotiate a one-year deal” says Anthopoulos.  “As a general policy, if multi-year deals were to ever come about, we certainly could continue to negotiate those.”*

Bad grammar aside, this complicates things for both players.  The Jays have given no indication that they are willing to give Frasor a multi-year contract and although they could be open to it, I doubt they take that plunge with the added flexibility a one-year deal has for a middle-reliever.

I also can’t see the Jays and Bautista coming together on anything other than a one-year deal since the Jays have no way of knowing what to expect from Bautista in 2011 and beyond.  Plus, the fact that they are so far apart suggests to me that they couldn’t come together on deal if they wanted to.  Finally, if I’m Bautista I want a one-year deal at $10.5-million or a long-term deal that takes care of me for the rest of my career.  A two-year deal seems like the worst possible option from the player’s perspective.

That impressive streak of arbitration case avoidance could end this offseason for Toronto.

Here’s a thought before I let you go back to whatever it was you were doing:  What if the Jays are looking to trade Frasor before the arbitration hearing?  I mean, they did just sign both Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch to one-year deals;  that strangely high amount of right-handed depth in the ‘pen could be used to grab a prospect or two from another organization and there could be quite a bit of interest for a guy like Frasor given that he’ll earn similar cash as other pitchers of his ilk.

*From MLB.com, found here.