Toronto Baseball Guys
Jays Sign a Pair
It was a busy week for Ricciardi & Co.Barajas here today, Zaun tomorrow.
At the beginning of the week, it appeared that former Rangers catcher Rod Barajas would be joining the Jays, at somewhere between $2-3 million per season over two years.
Picking up Rod Barajas is kind of like stopping for a Big Mac.
It's not a very exciting meal and it doesn't have a lot of value. On the other hand, you know exactly what you're getting and you won't die of starvation.
Barajas is the prototypical number 8 hitter: .250 average, no speed, no walks, a little pop. He's also 31, so he's not getting any better.
Thus, there was much cause for rejoicing when Gregg Zaun, thought to be long zaun from Toronto, was suddenly back in the picture Tuesday morning, re-upping for $7.25 million over two years.
Zaun's not young but he's sturdy, a bull terrier behind the plate, and - what distinguishes him from other backstops - he has a knack for getting on base. Zaun can post a .350 OBP in his sleep, which is a huge advantage over every catcher not named Posada and Mauer.
Zaun seems to be a guy who realizes just how precious the fleeting gift of a major league career is. His outspokenness in the face of Shea Hillenbrand's ugly departure cemented him as a "good clubhouse guy."
Zaun may be a little more expensive than Barajas but he's worth every penny, and he's a great signing. Royce Clayton... not so much.Royce "Suitcase" Clayton
Clayton is sort of the prototypical #9 hitter: .250 average, no power, no walks, a little speed. He'll ply those skills for the Jays in 2007, his 10th major league team.
The best-case scenario here is that Russ Adams hits .450 in spring training and clamps onto the second base job like a Rottweiler on a barbecue-sauce encrusted toddler. That pushes Aaron Hill to short, and Clayton to share time off the bench with John MacDonald.
The offensive upside of a 26-year-old Adams is a lot more exciting than that of a 37-year-old Clayton. That said, should Adams crater again, Clayton is a much better everyday option at short than Johnny Mac, and he won't break the bank at $1.5 million. He has a legitimate shot at outhitting Alex Gonzalez, who signed a 3-year/$14 million pact with the Reds.
Sidenote: Is anybody else shocked to discover that Clayton is 144 hits away from 2,000?
No Cat - no problem
Frank Catalanotto had a nice four year run with the Blue Jays that ended this past Tuesday, as he signed a 3-year/$13 million pact with the Texas Rangers.
Catalanotto is a nifty little hitter (career .297/ .362/ .454), and last season's spike in walks was encouraging. But keep in mind:
- he's entering his age-33 season
- he doesn't hit lefties
- he doesn't play stellar defense
- his power is well below average for a left fielder
Add it all up, and the Jays will happily take the draft-pick compensation for the Cat, a type A free agent, rather than have him turn into another Shannon Stewart - a player similar in age and limitations that the Minnesota Twins paid $18 million for 3 underwhelming and injury-riddled seasons.
Of course, $4.3 million or so annually for Catalanotto isn't insane money. Now, $50 million/5 years for Gary Matthews Jr. and $45 million/5 years for Juan Pierre - that's
Gary Matthews is a terrific defensive outfielder.
He's also a career .263/.336/.419 hitter.
Who's had one good season (last year).
In a terrific hitter's park.
Where he'll no longer be playing.
You would think that by now teams would realize the pitfalls of signing a 31-year-old coming off a fluke career-year to a rich, long-term deal.
I suppose when you've had Darin Erstad and the ghost of Steve Finley in CF, you get a little desperate. The Angels are going to regret this is in a big way within two seasons.
Juan Pierre needs to hit .325 to be a good player and .300 to be passable. His career best slugging is 407, and that was accomplished in Colorado
Finally, there's Alfonso Soriano, who'll be averaging $17 million a year through his 38th birthday thanks to the Chicago Cubs. IF
Soriano's improved 2006 walk rate is for real, and IF he moves to centre field and IF he's effective there, then he might be worth that kind of money for at least a few seasons. As you can tell by the font size, that's a lot of big IFs. In short, they're (over)paying him like Carlos Beltran and, 40-40 or no, he's no Carlos Beltran.
What does all this mean for the Jays? The Frank Thomas signing is looking better and better by the day, and the chances of Vernon Wells remaining in Toronto beyond 2007 are starting to look awfully slim.
Jays sign Frank Thomas
For $18 million over 2 years, The Big Hurt is coming to Toronto.
That's a lot of money for a man who will be 39 in May, and is one of the least mobile men in all of baseball. Then again, you don't have to move all that fast after you've hit the ball 400 feet. Thomas had 39 homers last season, 23 of them in Oakland, a park that isn't nearly as homer friendly as the Rogers Centre. It's not out of the realm of possibilty that Thomas could reach 50 homers next season.
He will have to stay healthy, something he hasn't been able to do in 2 of the past 3 seasons. That said, he'll only be asked to DH, the Jays training staff did a nice job keeping Troy "Old Aches and Pains" Glaus on the field last season, and Thomas seemed to have a renewed motivation after the way he was dismissed by the White Sox.
So yes, this is a high risk, high reward move. But a younger player coming off a season in which he hit .270/.381/.545 wouldn't be available for this kind of money. The Jays have had some success signing older Hall of Fame DHs with injury histories. The last two were Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor. That seemed to work out ok.
The fact Ricciardi is splashing around this kind of money in November also suggests that his budget isn't quite as tight as he's let on publicly.
Finally, Thomas will become the first player to reach the 500 homer plateau as a Blue Jay. That is unless health issues prevent him picking up 13 homers over the next two seasons... in which case, move over Mike Sirotka, this will be the worst signing ever.
I'll keep this simple. Tom Cheek was the radio voice of every single Blue Jay's game from 1977-2004. That's 28 years straight.
Vote for Cheek to receive this year's Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. How he keeps being overlooked is a complete and utter travesty.www.baseballhalloffame.org
You can vote all month.