Toronto Baseball Guys
Brett Lawrie and the Bench
It was disappointing to hear that Brett Lawrie will start the season on the disabled list. After all, this is the shiniest new Jays lineup in quite a while, and it's a shame that it won't be at its shiniest right out of the gate. The growing body of Lawrie injuries start to make one wonder if he's headed for a Cam Neely/Wendel Clark career path: excellent when healthy, but hard-pressed to stay healthy.
As Bill James has observed, staying healthy is a skill, and while it's too early to proclaim that Lawrie doesn't have that skill at just 23, his list of injuries and the fact that he attacks the game like a B.A.S.E. jumper without a chute leave some room for concern.
The heartening fact to take away from this news, is that the Jays will have a competent major leaguer in Lawrie's stead in Macier Izturis.
For the last couple few years, the Jays had John McDonald and Omar Vizquel as backup infielders. Great stories, wonderful individuals, terrific defenders and essentially useless with the bat.
This year, Alex Anthopoulos has provided his team with a serviceable bench. Here are all of the Blue Jays to come off the bench for at least 150 plate appearances over the past two seasons, along with their On-Base-Percentage Plus Slugging, adjusted for the league and park. 100 is average.
Mathis '12 227 71
Gose '12 189 70
Sierra '12 157 74
Vizquel '12 163 49
Rivera '11 275 80
Snider '11 202 65
McCoy '11 228 53
Molina '11 191 104
McDonald '11 182 70
Nix '11 151 49
Aside from Jose Molina's career year, there's not a lot there. Here's what the Jays will have coming off the bench this season, with their adjusted OPS over the past 4 years.
Some caveats apply.
- Derosa might be done at 37, though he's claiming to be fully healthy and did show some pop during the spring.
- Henry Blanco is 168 years old and wouldn't be called upon to carry the lion's share of catching duties, even if J.P. Arencibia gets trampled by a herd of wildebeests Opening Day.
- OPS+ does not take into account the speed of Davis or Bonifacio, which comprises the bulk of their value.
McDonald and Vizquel were fun to watch, but so are mascots. They don't necessarily help the ball club win. With a viable set of reserves backing up a revamped roster, the Jays are better equipped to handle injury than they've been in many years.
Labels: 2013, bench, Blue Jays, Brett Lawrie
Ricky Ro Gotta Go
The decision to send Ricky Romero to A ball to work out his issues is the right call for this team at this time. The team spent the off season building a winner, so allowing Romero to toy with his mechanics at the major league level sends the wrong message to a fan base that has been starved for a winner for 20 years. You are saying that we are only interested in trying to win 80% or our games.
Many other pitchers have had to do this, Roy Halladay and Mike Timlin come immediately to mind, so it is not the end of the world. Let's hope we get back Ricky circa 2011 and we have one of 5 or 6 best starting pitchers in baseball.
Labels: Blue Jays, Ricky Romero
Gibbons Not THAT Surprising a Hire
There were quite a few eyebrows raised when the Blue Jays chose John Gibbons to manage their revamped lineup. Retread managers, rehired by the club that fired them, are rare - particularly when they didn't win in their first go around.
Historically, only Bobby Cox, rehired by the Atlanta Braves after leading the Blue Jays to the 1985 AL East title, has been brought back to a team that fired him without winning a championship for that team. If Gibbons can repeat the success Cox had with the Braves in his second stint... well, that would do.
Gibbons was decent enough in his first go with the Jays, posting a 305-305 record, with some well-known bumps in the road, but hey, who HASN'T wanted to throttle Ted Lilly at some point? He's a braver choice than retreads like Jim Tracy or Jim Riggleman, and a known commodity for Alex Anthopoulos.
It shouldn't be a huge shock that the Jays would bring someone back. After all, over the years, they have brought back or reacquired:
- Paul Beeston
- Cito Gaston
- Jim Acker
- Pat Borders
- Jacob Brumfield
- Rob Butler
- Tony Castillo
- Howie Clark
- Rob Ducey
- Mark Eichhorn
- Tony Fernandez (x3)
- Jason Frasor
- Alfredo Griffin
- Pat Hentgen
- Ken Huckaby
- Cliff Johnson
- Doug Linton
- Brandon Lyons
- John MacDonald
- Candy Maldonado
- Trever Miller
- Chad Mottola
- Dan Plesac
- Luis Sojo
- Paul Spoljaric
- Shannon Stewart
- Dave Stieb
- Brian Tallet
- David Wells
- Dewayne Wise
- Chris Woodward
This is Team Prodigal Son, right down to Gregg Zaun and Jack Morris returning as analysts after finishing their careers elsewhere. There's a culture of "Once a Blue Jay, Always a Blue Jay" in the organization, with Gibbons as merely the latest beneficiary.
Labels: Alex Anthopoulos, Blue Jays, John Gibbons
Jays Win!... The Off-Season
Anytime a team goes from an also-ran 4th place finish to the odds-on World Series favourites in Las Vegas in the space of two months, the front office has clearly done something right. So it was with the Toronto Blue Jays this past winter.
Nobody hangs a banner for winning the off-season.
The undisputed winners of the off-season heading into 2011 were the Boston Red Sox, famously proclaimed as the "Best Team Ever." That didn't go so well.
Last year, The L.A. Angels "won" the off-season, signing the best available free agent hitter and pitcher. They later "won" the trade deadline, picking up Zack Greinke, and with Mike Trout's historic rookie season, they "won" just about everything except enough games to keep up with the minimum-wage Oakland A's.
So, cautious optimism for Blue Jays fans is probably in order. Granted, a lot MORE optimism than when the projected 2013 rotation was:
1. Ricky Romero (come on, he can't be this bad again, can he?)
2. Brandon Morrow
3. J.A. Happ
4. Hutchinson's coming back at some point, right?
5. Um.... Anybody have a health update on Jesse Litsch?
The most encouraging things about the flurry of offseason moves has less to do with the specific players involved and more to do with the principals behind them:
The Cupboard is Not Bare
Alex Anthopoulos cashed in a bunch of prospects to make these deals happen - but the Jays still have prospects. Anthony Gose and Aaron Sanchez are still here, as are a number of young arms, and the club will have a high draft pick (10th) this summer.
Albatross Free Zone
Sure, Jose Reyes looks pricey at $96 million for the 5 years left on his contract, but that's nothing
compared to a Prince Fielder or Pujolian deal. The Jays have maintained a lot of flexibility with their deals, and won't be regretting any ugly contracts in 2018.
Rogers Flexes Muscles
After years of hearing that "the money would be there" and simultaneously looking at our cell phone bills, Jays fans had to be glad to see ownership dip into its deep pockets. Rogers can spend with anyone in baseball, and while that shouldn't be an invitation to dole out any more Vernon Wells deals, willingness to spend certainly shouldn't hold the team back.
Not a One Year Wonder
This doesn't seem to be a one-year desperation push to contend. Rather, this seems like the beginning of a movement to collect the best players in baseball, much as the organization did in the late 80s and early 90s. With deep pockets, a reasonably young core and a vibrant player development system, this is a team that looks like it's about to enter a cycle of perpetual contention.
There may not be any trophies handed out for off-seasons, but that shouldn't prevent Jays fans rom getting very excited.
Labels: Blue Jays; R.A. Dickey; 2013; Alex Anthopoulos; off-season; Ricky Romero; Jose Reyes