Toronto Baseball Guys
Jays Should Hawk a LOOGY
With the trade deadline days away - the first one, anyway - the Jays can't afford to be buyers. It's nice to be above .500 again, and 7.5 games back of the Wild Card isn't an impossible mountain to climb, but it's also not worth trading away any future building blocks.
There WILL be plenty of contenders looking to upgrade, and one of the most sought after commodities among league powers at deadline time is relief help. The Jays are stocked full of relievers with shiny ERAs who would look awfully attractive to a team looking to bolster its pen.
AGE IP ERA
Jeremy Accardo 25 41.1 2.61
Scott Downs 31 38.2 2.33
Casey Janssen 25 52.0 2.25
Jason Frasor 29 38.1 4.23
Brian Tallet 29 42.2 3.59
Brian Wolfe 26 16.1 2.20
Accardo and Janssen are both young and cheap, and while I'm not optimistic about Janssen's long-term viability as a set-up man unless he ups his strikeout rate, he's a serviceable arm worth hanging on to.
Despite their excellent numbers, both pitchers are relatively inexperienced at the major league level and might not be all that attractive to contenders in the heat of a pennant race. As we all know, relievers have to possess that veteran savvy that you only get having been "through the wars." You know, like Cardinals closer Adam Wainwright in last year's playoffs...
Tallet's been a pleasant surprise, dramatically cutting his walk rate - but I can't see his stock being all that high. He's also cheap enough to bring back to see if he can do it again.
That brings us to Downs and Frasor. Scott Downs has the veteran lustre and all the nifty peripheral stats you like to see in a reliever. Less than a hit per inning? Check. More than a strikeout per inning? Check. His walk rate isn't stellar but he is left-handed
. That's a commodity for which teams have generally been willing to (over)pay handsomely. After all, if you find yourself in a tight LCS game against David Ortiz or Grady Sizemore, what are you going to do? Who are you going to call upon to turn Carlos Guillen or Victor Martinez around? You need a L
Trading short-relievers, especially at deadline time, has resulted in some of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.
The Red Sox picked up veteran reliever Larry Andersen for a 3B prospect named Jeff Bagwell.
The same Red Sox later got somewhat even by trading veteran reliever Heathcliff Slocumb for P Derek Lowe AND
C Jason Varitek.
The whiff of a pennant is so intoxicating that teams will fall all over themselves giving up young players for that chance at October immortality. It's hard to appreciate he who might be the cornerstone of your franchise in five years when you're busy trying to win NOW
The Jays themselves shipped Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin to Seattle for Jose Cruz Jr., as the Mariners were convinced that shoring up the bullpen was the final piece of their championship puzzle.
What about the last time the Jays dealt a LOOGY? They sent Dan Plesac to the desert in exchange for P John Frascatore and Tony Batista, who would go on to set the Jays' single-season record for most homers by a shortstop AND
a third baseman.
J.P. Ricciardi should cash in Downs while he can. Frasor too, if the opportunity arises. He may not draw the same level of interest, but as a proven major league reliever you can rest assured there's a market for him. The Jays can always find more bullpen arms. Wolfe looks promising, Brandon League has just resurfaced, and there's another pretty decent lefty reliever due back next spring.
Somewhere, a team is ready to overpay. The next Jeff Bagwell may be out there. Or maybe just the next Tony Batista. In exchange for 20-25 more innings of Scott Downs, version 2007, that's a terribly small price to pay.
Flat Cap Fever
There's a disturbing fashion trend winding its way into Major League Baseball. Walk past any group of teenagers and you're likely to see young men wearing baseball caps. You might be struck by the fact that all of them have bought hats that are far too large for them.
Or so it seems. In fact, this is to allow the brim of the cap to remain flat, which is now the preferred manner in which to wear a baseball cap. Long gone are the days when bending a cap's brim was the first thing you'd do in order to "break it in."
There was a hint of this in last year's World Series, with the emergence of Cardinals hurler Anthony Reyes, who irons his hat to achieve this effect.
Which is fantastic, if you're looking for aiming for this kind of look:
Seriously, can you imagine Dave Stewart trying his patented "death stare" from under one of those? Bob Gibson would throw at his own head before sporting a look like this in public.
Now, there has always been the odd player who wears his hat with some degree of eccentricity. Hall of Famer "Sunny Jim" Bottomley wore his off to the side, as does Indians starter C.C. Sabathia. But there are some worrisome signs that this flat cap thing is spreading. During Sunday's Cardinals/Phillies game, Phillies reliever Mike Zagurski was sporting a cap, the brim of which could've been used to serve hors d'oeuvres.
Then there's the Blue Jays' own Jesse Litsch.
While it doesn't appear that he goes to quite the same lengths as Reyes, don't you wish that Vernon Wells or somebody would put a bend in that thing? Maybe Arnsberg could do it on his next mound visit.
The Baseball Gods seem to be doing their part to combat this fashion nightmare, as Reyes is currently 0-10 and was recently dispatched to the minors. Hopefully Zagurski and Litsch will see the light before they're back riding buses. If a top star adopts this look, it will spread like wildfire, and that could leave the future of Major League Baseball looking like this:
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Yankees a Sucker Bet
During the All-Star Break, with few scores to crank out aside from the CFL and Canada being shut out in the FIFA under-20 tournament, the Score posted World Series odds on one of their many tickers.
According to the most recent odds:
The New York Yankees, 1 game under .500, 11 games out of first in the division and 8.5 games out of the wild card, were 11-1 to reach the World Series.
The Toronto Blue Jays, 1 game under .500, 11 games out of first in the division and 8.5 games out of the wild card, were 125-1.
I know everyone gets distracted by the pinstripes, but exactly what makes the Yankees 10 times more likely to make the post-season? Just because certain members of the Yankee rotation are twice as old as those in the Jays' doesn't make them twice as likely to succeed in the second half, let alone ten times more likely.
If I were a Vegas gambler, I'd lay down a loonie or two on the Jays.
Thoughts at the Half
43-44 isn't exactly where you want to be at the All-Star Break, unless you happen to be the Kansas City Royals. But despite the disappointing record for a team that was hopeful of contention, there were some bright spots in the first half:
- Alex Rios' 2006 was no fluke.
- Aaron Hill may well deserve the Gold Glove at 2B.
- Matt Stairs seems to think its 1997.
- All of the "Plan B's" in the rotation: Tomo Ohka, John Thomson and Victor Zambrano, are off the roster, because:
- The young pitchers have delivered in a big way. Janssen, Tallet, Accardo and Downs have been great out of the pen, but the big story has been Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan. The easiest way to contend on an annual basis is to have cheap, effective starting pitchers and the Jays look to have two good ones.
The best news is that after all the trips to Dr. James Andrews, the Jays are still only 8.5 games out of a playoff spot, and no team that's 8.5 out at the break is really out of it. The Jays are a hot streak away from being a serious part of the wild card discussion. That said, they'll probably have to go about 50-25 to make the playoffs, and while that's possible - 2005 Astros, anyone? - it's hardly likely.
The Jays can't play the part of buyers at the trading deadline. If they come out of the break and take 6 or 7 from Boston and New York, then stand pat and take your chances. If they're no closer to the wild card in three weeks, then J.P. Ricciardi can look at dealing the likes of Troy Glaus or a reliever or two for young players. With the big names signed to long-term deals and the young players improving, the Jays aren't in a win-now, the-window-is-closing situation. It's not much fun to say "wait 'til next year," but that's the reality for 29 of 30 teams each season.