Earlier today, the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros pulled the trigger on a 10-player trade that saw the Jays depart with “The Franciscos,” Ben and Cordero, along with a slew of prospects. In return, pitchers J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon will arrive in Toronto, while 27-year-old reliever David Carpenter will head to Triple-A Las Vegas.
For a team in dire need of pitching help, it’s hard to knock bringing in two arms to help the Major League club right away. Happ will start in the bullpen, and be the first to join the rotation if needed, and Lyon returns to where it all began as a free agent-to-be having an average campaign. The glass half full take on this is that both Happ and Lyon are significantly better than Jesse Chavez and some of the other hapless souls who have been trotted out to the bump during this injury ravaged campaign.
But without trying to look for the silver lining, this is a confusing deal that has left me scratching my head.
While Happ showed promise in his first full season with the Phillies, that was many, many innings ago, and since being shuttled the Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal (along with current prospect Anthony Gose), he’s been getting beaten up playing in front of what amounts to a two-third Triple-A team.
What baffles me – and many other Blue Jays fans and followers I would imagine – is how general manager Alex Anthopoulos is willing to part with a grip of good prospects for a long-in-the-tooth reliever who likely won’t be back next year, a 27-year-old with control problems, and Happ when he’s seemingly unwilling to part with some of the more highly regarded prospects in order to get a better return? And it’s not like they gave up a handful of awful here either:
Asher Wojciechowski was rated #10 in the Blue Jays system by Baseball America after being #6 last year, and 19-year-old Joe Musgrove has a 1.12 ERA in rookie ball so far this year; the other pieces are catcher Carlos Perez and pitcher David Rollins.
Could Happ bounce back and have some value over the next couple years? Absolutely, and the fact that he’s under control for the next couple years is a positive in his favor. He finished as the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award in 2009, though the winner, Chris Coghlan has pretty well fallen off the face of the world. Happ hasn’t been anywhere near as good since, and while he’s a potential back-end-of-the-rotation guy, do we really need another Brett Cecil?
I don’t really get it.
If you’re going to part with some of the talent from the farm system, shouldn’t you be getting more in return than a potential swing guy, a reliever who will only be around until the season ends, and 27-year-old with fewer than 70 games under his belt and a career ERA north of 4.50? This might bring you an inch or two closer to snagging the second wild card spot this season – though there is still lots of work that needs to be done – and gives you a useful arm over the next couple years (Happ), but it’s not like this is a the deal that puts the Jays into the playoffs this year or next.
Additionally, it deviates from the “let’s stockpile prospect” plan that has Anthopoulos unwilling (at least for right now) to part with any of the arms other teams really like in order to bring better talented back to Toronto. There’s no parting with one or two kids who are a couple years away in order to land someone like Matt Garza, but shuttling a couple others who are less highly thought of in order to land a guy who looks like a #5 starter t best gets the green light?
It’s going to take a lot for me to get down on Anthopoulos considering he shuffled Vernon Wells and his ridiculous contract out of town, but unless he knows something about Happ or Carpenter no one else knows, this one doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Individually, I think the signing makes sense. Encarnacion has been a very consistent hitter since last July, is a good fit with Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, and Jose Bautista as the offensive core of this team now and in the next couple years, and has the versatility to be useful in the field as well if needed, though I envision him being a DH more than anything. Plus, he likes playing in Toronto, and the price
But when I look at this signing from a broader context, I not a big fan.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this (entirely possible) or just so shell-shocked from years of being average at best (also very likely), but I see re-signing a 29-year-old who was approaching free agency and probably coveted by a number of contenders as a misstep, and one that falls in line with the Jays ambition to “stay the course and build from within.”
For me, those two phrases translate to “not take any risks on guys from other teams and remain in the middle of the pack in the American League East for years to come.”
While he certainly wouldn’t have fetched a Mark Teixeira-to-Atlanta type haul, you’d have to imagine Encarnacion could have garnered (a) a prospect who had stalled with his big league club, much like he was when the Jays acquired him from Cincinnati for Scott Rolen or (b) a solid prospect or two who will be ready to contribute a year or two from now, right when the rest of the prized possessions in the Blue Jays farm system are ready to arrive. You certainly didn’t want to see him walk at the end of the season, but I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have been able to move him at the deadline.
Toronto is one of those teams that is perpetually on the cusp; they have the potential to be in the mix if they get some good bounces and healthy seasons all around, but they’re never going to be the worst team in baseball. They’re not an upper echelon team, but they’re not in the lower third either; they’re happily in the middle where they can always be “one year away,” though that one year seems to always be next year.
Those teams never seem to take the next step; they’re always right in the middle of the pack, hovering near the .500 mark, waiting for a few key prospects to develop, only to have the turn into Travis Snider. Now maybe “Lunchbox” turns out to be a Quad-A guy like Nelson Cruz in a couple years, but right now, he’s a the latest guy to be tagged as a future star to come up short. That’s what standing pat and remaining in the position they’re in now brings in the future, especially in the American League East, where Tampa Bay has historically done a better job in the draft, New York and Boston are willing to spend money to fill holes, and Baltimore seems to be getting better with a couple top 10 prospects on the way up as well.
It’s like being the 7th or 8th seed in the NBA Playoffs every year â€” you’ve made it to the second season, but you’re not good enough to win it all, so instead, you get another middle of the pack draft pick, get incrementally better, but still remain behind the big boys with the potential of getting hurdled by a team that has been bad for three years in a row but is good now because they’ve added a trio of top 5 picks.
(Note: yes, it’s easier to get better quickly in the NBA where you need five people on the court and a 15-man roster, but I think you get the analogy.)
If the overall vision for this team is to build through the draft, collect prospects, and become a contender from within, why not add a couple more pieces through moving Encarnacion? Somebody on the fringes of contention has to be willing to part with a package of solid prospects (or a prospect and two big league pieces) for a power hitter at a reasonable price.
Instead, Encarnacion is back in the fold for another three years, the offense remains potent, and the sign behind the bar remains the same: free beer tomorrow.
Back when I lamented the Blue Jays signing of Matt Clement to an admittedly low risk contract, commentor Dave asked the questions, “Is the off-season over or something? Why so down?”
Well Dave, allow me to introduce the Blue Jays four latest acquisitions and then you tell me what I have to be happy about, m’kay?
Mike Maroth (pictured) he of the 21 loss season with the Tigers and a career mark of 50-67 with an ERA above 5.00. I know wins and losses are the best indicators, but when you lose 21, it’s a little bit telling…
Raul Chavez, career journeyman catcher in his mid 30s, good for about a .220 average and no pop whatsoever.
Randy Ruiz, another 30+ catcher, except this one has only recently (read: last year) cracked a Major League roster.
And the best of the bunch, Michael effing Barrett!
Not only is the guy injury prone, but he’s a goddamn cancer. Gotta love guys who punch their own teammates in the face… in the dugout… between innings…
Now, they’re all minor league contracts and so there is very little risk involved with any of them, but honestly, does anyone see any kind of actual reward being garnered from these plugs? Maroth hasn’t been healthy in two years, same with Barrett and Chavez and Ruiz are great catchers… in Triple A.
With that being said, I ask, “Is it okay to write off the 2009 season now?”
When Daniel Cabrera, a serious project even though he’s been in the league for the last five years, picks Washington over Toronto, that tells you something.
Not that I’m complaining; spending a season watching Cabrera miss the strike zone every fifth day would drive me insane, but considering he doesn’t fall into the “Banner Free Agent” category and the Jays still didn’t land him, we need to start being honest with one another about what to look for next season.
In a word: nothing.
The 2009 Blue Jays Season needs to be about zero expectations and taking the positives out of what is going to be a very difficult year.
Anyone who thinks otherwise probably believes the Maple Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup this season and that Santa Claus is real.
Facts are facts folks.
Tampa Bay made it to the World Series, they have an impressive young core of player and they are only going to keep getting better. BJ Upton is going to get better. Evan Longoria is going to get better. And the rotation is going to get better. A full season of David Price would make anyone better.
Boston is still Boston and despite some guys getting on in years, they seem to have the internal solutions to many of those issues and when they don’t, they have the money to find a fix elsewhere.
And New York bought themselves a shiny new 1-2 Punch at the top of the rotation and apparently aren’t done spending.
Hell, even Baltimore is going to be better as some of their talented kids have one more year of learning under their belt and opportunities to play on a regular basis with the big club.
What it all means is that best case scenario for the Jays this season is Fourth Place, unless there is some kind of plague that strikes Boston, New York and Tampa Bay during the spring and summer.
I mean, when “Mr. Look on the Bright Side“ Vernon Wells cops to the coming year being a challenge as he did in the Star the other day, you know we’re in for a long year.
But it’ll be worth it.
It’ll be another year of big league seasoning for Travis Snider and a first taste for guys like Cecil and Romero, with September samplers for Arencibia, Ahrens and others I’m sure.
Adam Lind will get tons of at-bats and probably a chance to learn a new position.
Ultimately, no one will be expecting anything from these guys, so the pressure will be off and they can just play baseball.
Probably some pretty hard to watch baseball from time to time, but baseball nonetheless.
While the teams with World Series dreams were busy rolling out three team trades that land them a second All-Star Calibre closer or finding a pinstriped circus tent to construct a new uniform from, Toronto’s biggest move of the off-season came in the form of Matt Clement.
Yes, the same Matt Clement that hasn’t pitched in the Majors in the past two years.
The good news for the Jays is that Clement and his people report he is completely healthy and ready to go.
Should you choose to believe that, please call me, I have some prime real estate available for you in Florida. Swampland? It’s not Swampland…
All kidding aside, I know it’s only a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training attached, but c’mon Toronto, couldn’t we do better than this?
I mean honestly, is Kip Wells that far out of our price range? What about Braden Looper? At least these guys have been delivering mediocre ERA’s against Major League competition the last couple years.
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In other awesome news, the Blue Jays have apparently identified a possible backup at catcher.
I tell ya – the hits just keep on coming!
Not only is he injury prone, but he’s a clubhouse cancer too!
Maybe they were just calling Barrett to see if he had former teammate Josh Bard’s number or something. I mean, they can’t seriously be interested in bringing this guy into the mix… can they?
First, can we all agree to officially rename this year’s Free Agent Period the Tepid Stove? I mean really, has anything of interest happened?
Now that that’s out of the way…
The Blue Jays Brass has either started reading my irregularly published columns here at Bugs & Cranks or my extensive training in predicting the future is starting to pay off as reports from the Jays website indicate that the team has meet with the agent for… wait for it… wait for it…
All jokes aside, the report states that Pavano’s agent has met with a number of teams and the Jays interest in the one-time highly-regarded Pavano is understandable.
After 2009 Cy Young Award Winner Roy Halladay (write that down), the rotation will consist of Jesse Litsch and some combination of David Purcey, probably Casey Janssen and whatever low-cost, potentially high-return alternatives the club can ink. Dustin McGowan is projected back in May.
Pavano to the Jays actually makes a great deal of sense and not just from the Blue Jays side.
Clearly, American Idle’s best years came during his two seasons in Florida, highlighted by the 2004 season when he delivered an 18-8 record with a 3.00 ERA and more than 220 innings of work.
His Pitching Coach during that initial year in sunny FLA? The Blue Jays Brad Arnsberg. And while people can argue that Pavano had his best success after Arnsberg left, he also had his best season to date during the first full year he spent under Arnie’s tutelage.
Seeing as no one is going to hand Pavano the kind of money the Yankees dropped into his bank account following that breakout 2004 campaign, his best bet is to take a contract with a team that gives him the best opportunity to fill a major role and contribute regular starts.
No disrespect to Jesse Litsch & Co. lining up behind Doc, but it’s not like the current incarnation of next year’s Blue Jays rotation is the most fearsome collection of pitchers ever assembled.
Both the team and the player would be taking a chance here and it could go either way.
Personally, I say sign him and hope for the best.
Expecting 2004 would be ridiculous, but something similar to 2003 (12-13, 4.30, 200 IP) wouldn’t be that bad, would it?
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You can tell the state of a franchise simply by the way the thought of signing Carl Pavano is dealt with here at Bugs & Cranks.
I’ve brought you this piece in favour of the Blue Jays bringing in Pavano, seeing as he can’t be worse than Victor Zambrano.
Returning Red Sox reporter and all around swell guy Dan Tobin delivers his thoughts here.
Guess which team has World Series dreams for 2009?
My original post for today will be delivered at a later date as more important things need to be covered today.
Earlier today, Ted Rogers, owner of the Toronto Blue Jays and Media Mogul, passed away at his home. He was 75-years-old.
While I have spent a good portion of my two years here at Bugs & Cranks slamming the Blue Jays, their management and their inability to make the playoffs, some of that is simply the ramblings of a frustrated fan. Some of it, of course, is strictly for entertainment sake and a little bit of it is actual disdain for the organization.
However, the truth is that the last eight years could have been worse had it not been for Mr. Rogers.
In the mid-90s, post-strike, when the Blue Jays were owned by Interbrew, they were horrible. Like, Baltimore Orioles horrible.
Then Rogers came along, initially in 2000 when he secured 80% ownership and finally taking complete ownership of the team in 2003, and things changed.
During his time with the team, the Blue Jays have enjoyed four winning seasons, including a streak of three in a row that we’re still riding.
He was the one with the deep pockets that allowed us to have the opportunity to compete with the big boys and bring in names like Ryan and Burnett and Thomas and keep Vernon Wells dressed in a Blue Jays uniform. While some of those signings and extentions may not have worked out as wonderfully as we all had hoped, the fact that we were able to have the chance is far better than anything the Blue Jays and their fans enjoyed during the Interbrew years and for that I am thankful.
No one knows the direction that Rogers Communications and the Blue Jays will take in the coming months with both the passing of the man at the top of both organization’s hierarchies and the ever unsteady economy behaving the way it has, but one thing is for sure:
The Blue Jays are in a better position post-Ted Rogers than they were pre-Ted Rogers and as a fan, that is all that should matter.
Rest in Peace Mr. Rogers… and thank-you, for everything.
Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Blue Jays chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America handed out their yearly awards to the team.
Is this really necessary?
All the choices were pretty obvious, as Roy Halladay took home Pitcher of the Year, Vernon Wells collected Player of the Year, Jesse “Dumbo” Carlson was Rookie of the Year and Adam Lind was Most Improved.
I know things are slow in the baseball world right now – what with no free agent signings to report and things barely simmering on the Hot Stove – but do we really need to hand out awards nearly two months after the season ended to a team that once again failed to live up to expectations?
This is like the Oklahoma Thunder rolling out their Player of the Year award to Kevin Durant later this season. You know, after they finish the year with the worst record in the history of the NBA. Great, I have a nice shiny trophy to go next to my 7 wins this season.
Besides, the fact that Vernon Wells managed to earn Player of the Year honours despite playing in just 108 games only goes to further pour salt in the wounds and highlight what kind of poor seasons guys like Alex Rios, Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen actually had.
Thanks for reminding me of how much of a letdown last season was… that’s exactly what I needed.
Today’s Hot Stove effort will focus on the guys who get the ball to open the game and starts with this caveat:
Re-signing AJ Burnett is my first choice.
I know AJ and I have had a tumultuous relationship during his time in Toronto, but the devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t, especially when it would cost a hell of a lot more to get a devil we don’t know that is anywhere near as talented as Burnett.
The crop of Starting Pitchers on the free agent market this off-season really presents themselves to me as a three tier group of guys and that’s excluding CC Sabathia as he is in a league of his own this winter in my books.
Tier One are the guys who are All-Star caliber pitchers that would make a nice second banana behind the Cy Young Runner-Up.
Tier Two are the guys who could go either way; you could get a great season at a moderate price or you could get Joey Hamilton Version 2.0.
What’s scariest about that last statement is that it still leaves Tier Three, the guys you throw a million dollars or two at, invite to Spring Training and see what happens. And see what happens means just that – you wait and see. You don’t toss them into the Starting Rotation at the expense of Josh Towers 8 months after they’ve had Tommy John Surgery regardless of if he was the centerpiece of the Mets trading Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay.
Now that everything is outlined properly, let’s start naming names.
D’you know what Jon Garland does? He wins games. 72 in the last five seasons to be exact. That’s an average of 14 a year with a couple half wins left over here and there.
It’s not always pretty and he doesn’t pile up the strikeouts, but as far as #2 options go, you could do a whole lot worse on the market this season.
The added bonus is that the Jays, and everyone else for that matter, might be able to catch a little discount on the former White Sox after he spent last season buried in the ultra-deep, ultra-talented Angels rotation.
It also doesn’t hurt that he’s on the happy side of 30 still either.
D’you know what Brad Penny does?
Bangs smoking hot broads like Alyssa Milano that are waaaaaay out of his league.
When he’s not doing that, he’s a pretty reliable pitcher all things considered.
The husky hurler was limited to 17 starts last season due to injury, but he was an All-Star the previous two seasons, has a live fastball and eats innings, amongst other things…
Penny’s name has been linked to Toronto before and he could serve as the next former Marlin to come to Toronto as Roy Halladay’s right hand man and finally have that break out year from start to finish that everyone has expected of him for some time.
I’d love to lump Freddy into the Tier Three Group, but that’s just not going to happen because Freddy won’t let it. There is no one he only gets a Spring Training invite, regardless of how little he’s pitched the last two seasons.
Before those two years, Garcia was a workhorse and I’m sure his agent will find someone willing to pay more than bargain basement pricing to give Garcia an opportunity to show he’s fully recovered from the arm injuries that have laid him up lately.
At the right price, I’d take a shot.
Not a #2 kind of guy, but would be that bad as a #3 or 4 guy in the Jays rotation.
Jennings is still young enough that he can be a serviceable back of the rotation type of pitcher, but he’s also far enough removed from what limited success he had in Colorado to be able to demand a generous salary.
That makes him a perfect second tier type of pitcher. He wasn’t what Houston envisioned last year and everyone outside of Houston knew they gave up way to much for him in the first place, but for a discounted dollar and a spot in the bottom half of the rotation, the former Rookie of the Year is worth a look.
Yes, I’m advocating giving “The American Idle” an opportunity.
I understand that he made all of 26 starts during his three seasons in New York and earned his nickname through lack of effort and performance.
All that being said, 2004 was either one of the greatest statistical anomaly seasons in the history of the game, right up their with Kent Bottenfield winning 18 games and being an All-Star in St. Louis, or he ends up being a colossal waste of time.
By definition, that is what this second tier of pitchers are meant to be, so for a reduced price, why not?
The Big Unit filed for Free Agency today and is ever-so-close to the 300 win plateau, needing five more in the win column to join the exclusive club.
Toronto needs a left handed starter for the rotation regardless of David Purcey and despite his advancing age, Johnson managed to make 30 starts for the D-backs last season.
20-25 at the back end of the rotation in Toronto would be adequate in my books.
He’s done in St. Louis and he very well could be done entirely. Is spending a million dollars and a plane ticket to Dunedin really that bad? I mean, the Jays gave the same to Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano a couple years ago and Mulder was a better pitcher than both those guys combined at one point in his career.
Chances are he re-ups in San Diego for an opportunity to keep eating his mom’s home cooking while he sits on the disabled list. Still, put a feeler out there. See if he’s interested. He was supposed to be The Next One. He’s been pretty damn good those 48 minutes of his career that he was healthy for. Again, you brought John Thomson to camp two years ago. This wouldn’t be any worse.
As mentioned at the close of yesterday’s post, Manny Ramirez was being given his own segment of the Blue Jays Hot Stove. This is happening for two reasons:
1) It gives me something to write about today and
2) Unlike the players mentioned yesterday, this one has no chance of happening.
Believe me when I tell you that nothing would make me happier than to see Manny Being Manny misplaying balls in leftfield for the Blue Jays next season. He is, unquestionably, exactly what the Blue Jays need in terms of a hitter for the middle of the order.
His 162 Game averages of .314/41/133 would be a monstrous addition to a lineup that occasionally fails to produce runs and even a down season like 2007 in Boston (.296/20/88) would be an upgrade over everyone in the lineup last year.
While Manny has stated before that he loves Toronto and he’s smashed the bejesus out of the ball every time he’s set foot in the Rogers Centre Batter’s Box, Toronto just doesn’t have Manny-type money laying around this off season.
Reports indicate that the Dodgers are willing to guarantee $45M of the $60M they reportedly offered Ramirez late last week. If the Jays don’t have funds to match a $15M per year offer to AJ Burnett, where are they going to come up with that kind of money for Manny?
They won’t and realistically, that is probably the best possible thing for the Blue Jays. Yes Ramirez would bring a powerful bat and added attendance to watch his antics, but Manny can also be a distraction and something tells me that he’s grown rather fond of playing baseball in October and we all know that isn’t going to happen in Toronto next season.
Instead, Toronto can pursue one of the players mentioned yesterday, ensure that Adam Lind gets regular at-bats and an opportunity to continue growing and go from there.
That is, unless Manny wants to give the Blue Jays some kind of Canadian dollar discount…
Tomorrow we look to the mound to see what arms are available to help fill out the starting rotation.
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