Monday, 19 December 2011

A Flawed System?

Today it was announced the the Texas Rangers, not the Toronto Blue Jays won the bidding on Yu Darvish for a posting fee of $51.7 million. With many people around the baseball world projecting that the Blue Jays would be the winning team in the posting extravaganza, it got many many Jays fans excited for Darvish in Toronto only to be disappointed by the official reports. This brings up the question do the Jays really need to do this to us the fans? Do their policies need to be such that they hype up players only for hopes to be crushed?

When J.P. Ricciardi passed on the torch to Alex Anthopoulos in 2009 there was a new mindset and a new system put in place. This system has been effective over the past couple of years, but one piece has come to the forefront this offseason. This piece of the system being the Blue Jays front office's insistence on not commenting on any players on the market.

On one hand this system creates mystery and allows the Jays front office team to operate without the public eye to unhinge any ongoing negotiations. But on the other hand as we have seen this offseason the lack of comments on players just creates rumours of the Jays being linked to practically every player on the market. 

By even just a quick look at the Blue Jays feed on MLB Trade Rumors it shows that the Jays were linked to Carlos Beltran, Mat Latos, Dontrelle Willis, Prince Fielder, Darren Oliver, Gio Gonzalez, and those are only in the past week. Some teams are lucky to get linked to that many players in an entire offseason, yet alone in a week.

Some may point to the fact that the Jays have an incredibly large scouting staff as the reasoning, and I'm sure that is some of it, but with the Jays generally being a tight lipped organization it sure seems like some of this is being made up. Especially considering that generally the players that the Jays are linked to don't end up going to the Jays and the ones that aren't do. 

Take Sergio Santos for example, prior to the deal between the White Sox and Blue Jays there was literally no leak or rumour of him not only going to the Jays, but of him even being a trade candidate at all. The last post on Sergio Santos' feed on MLBTR before the trade came 2 months prior was talking about the team friendly extension that he signed with the team in September. 

So how is this bad you may ask well as we have seen with Yu Darvish this past week and presumably Prince Fielder in the future, the Jays become linked to these big name players by a couple sources, then those sources talk to other sources and soon enough everybody knows. Once that situation comes about we end up with all the Jays blogs (myself included) and radio shows talking up Darvish getting the fans all excited that maybe Rogers is going to open up their checkbooks and sign a big name player. The excitement itself is great, it creates interest in the Jays and brings new fans to the sport. 

The problem however is the after, as in what happens after we find out that often the Jays aren't the ones getting the big name player, they're the team waiting on the side in rebuilding mode. Granted the rebuilding part is good, it means the Jays are trying to create a contender for years to come, a statement the Blue Jays front office stands by, but if the current process is potentially turning away fans, doesn't there need to be change?

It is a debatable point as on one side you would think that to win the Jays need to make trades and that often requires privacy. But on the other and to win the Jays also need money and fans and by doing what they're doing they are turning fans away. We always hear the sentiment that when the Jays start winning the fans will come back to the games, but could the Jays be digging themselves into a hole they can't get out of?

While listening to Jays Talk with Mike Wilner shortly after the Darvish announcement you start to hear what the casual fans think. As flawed as some of their opinions may be, they still make  up a majority percentage of the fan base and will have a large opinion as such. On the same show another point is brought up about how the Jays never led anyone on during the Darvish process and that is the same thing you can say about any negotiations, because the Jays simply don't say anything and that is precisely the problem. They don't even say when they aren't interested in players because even if they don't like a player it could possibly taint future negotiations.

In thought that seems like a good idea because the Jays help themselves by not tainting player negotiations and help fans by not leading them on. The problem is that in practice being that by not saying anything rather than not leading fans on, instead the Jays leave it up to a whole bunch of reports from "anonymous sources" to dictate the Blue Jays front office's views on players. The Jays give their fans really no parameters as to what their interests in players or even types of players are.

With all that said don't take this as me trashing the Blue Jays front office, I don't mind the current system and I like the direction the Jays are taking. But something to think about with the current system is the toll that the fan base is taking. Anyways, since the Jays now won't get the chance to sign Darvish, here's to hoping they have a great rest of the offseason.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Thinking About Yu

I already made my case for why I think the Jays should aggressively pursue Darvish here, but with the posting amount and team likely to be announced for Darvish today, I thought I would give some final outside the box thoughts on the subject of Japanese superstar Yu Darvish. These thoughts are along the lines of my recent pondering on the extremely low, but potentially viable possibility that the team that wins the post ends up signing Darvish and then trading him away.

It may seem like an odd thought, but unlike many free agent starters Darvish would be by no means untradable because of a favourable contract and could actually become quite the hot commodity. The reasoning behind this being that because of the posting fee Darvish himself will not get paid outrageously because the team is paying Darvish as if the contract includes the posting fee, but if traded the team trading for Darvish would only have to pay for the actual contract given to Darvish not the posting fee. It's an outside the box thought, but I'll make the case for it anyways.

First off what is Yu Darvish's value? He doesn't really have any comps in terms of his stats as they are in the NPB and are much better than anything before him and there really is no comps in terms of a MLB ready Top 10 prospect being traded away for other prospects. On some level for the latter we can look towards a certain Reds first base prospect for some idea of what to expect as he has been a sought after trade commodity this offseason. The current asking price for Yonder Alonso seems to be somewhat along the lines of James Shields, but with the Rays looking at more of a Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis for Alonso. With even just one of those starters plus whatever other prospects the Reds would potentially obtain in a deal it can be considered a pretty large haul.

Then if we look at Darvish who like Yonder is somewhat of a prospect, but unlike Yonder who was only ranked at #73 on Baseball America's Top 100 list, Yu Darvish is much better. In 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka was ranked at #1 by Baseball America in their Top 100 List and Darvish is considered almost unanimously to be a better prospect and player than Dice-K. I doubt BA will rank Darvish above the likes of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Matt Moore, but I see no reason why he can't slot in at #4. Granted in this scenario Darvish is likely making $9 million a year and Alonso would only be making the MLB league minimum salary, so that would decrease his value a little bit, but teams pay for potential and Darvish has tons of it.

So then in a hypothetical situation where say the Pittsburgh Pirates for whatever reason win the posting fee for Darvish and then look to trade him to the Yankees. What would they get from the Yankees, Montero, Betances, Banuelos? I can't say for sure what the package would be as we don't have much of a feel for the interest of many of these teams, but the Yankees could have as much as Dellan Betances, Manny Banuelos, and Mason Williams to offer, if they believe in Darvish's talent and are in a win now situation.

The question then becomes whether taking the hit for the posting fee is worth the prospects in return. The posting fee has been projected to be anywhere from $30 million to as high as $70 million so it is tough to say. Though if the posting fee only ends up being on the low end and comes in at $30 million, would you then trade away a potential ace for a shot at a good set of prospects. With the new CBA the draft costs are already going to certainly go down, so couldn't this be a chance to exploit the system, essentially paying $30 million for a set of prospects. Because for a team like the Pirates who have spent excessively on the draft in the past few years, could this be one last chance to use the money they had set aside for the draft to acquire other prospects.

Overall I know this whole thought process does have many flaws such as the very good possibility that the posting fee could exceed $50 million, which would then essentially make this argument moot. But as I described for a team like the Pirates that always spends big on the draft this could be a chance to get around the new CBA to essentially pay for prospects. At this point it doesn't matter too much as whatever team wins the posting today will retain the sole negotiating rights to Yu Darvish with the hopes of signing him, but if this did happen and I doubt it will it would be a great way to stick it to the man, and by the man I mean Bud Selig.

But with all this said if the Blue Jays win the post and sign Darvish, I don't think I'd want them doing this as it probably wouldn't send a good message to the fans. Though enough of my opinion as a fan of the Jays or a fan of anyone else who reads this post would you or would you not be in support of what I said, why or why not?

Be sure to comment and express your opinions below

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Friday, 9 December 2011

Anthopoulos' Blue Jays Christmas List

In Blue Jays beat writer Gregor Chisholm's most recent blog post he talked to Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos about his thoughts on Kelly Johnson, the Pujols contract, and most importantly Anthopoulos' objectives and wish list for the rest of this offseason. On the topic of his wish list for the rest of the offseason Anthopoulos said, “I think there are a lot of areas we could still address. You’d always love if you could add a bat to the middle of the lineup — that would be great. Realistically, I don’t know how possible that would be and right now I don’t see us being able to do that but things could change...I would love to add a mid to front rotation starter, again, that’s easier said than done because I think every team in the game is going to look to do something like that. We definitely still need to solidify our bullpen. We’ve taken care of the ninth inning but we still need to take care of the eighth inning and continue to build that depth.” In the spirit of the holiday season I thought I would go over a couple of options to fulfill all the items on the Jays GM's Christmas list.

Middle of the Order Bat
Currently the Blue Jays have two "middle of the order bats" in Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, but after some lack luster production from Lind in the second half and Edwin in the first half, Anthopoulos obviously wants an upgrade. To start the offseason there was two prime first base bats in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but with Pujols signing with the Angels and in the process reseting the market for Fielder, it has become a little bit more difficult. Despite that there is still some bats in both the trade market and free agency that Anthopoulos has the chance to go after, I'm just not sure he needs to, but nonetheless I looked at options anyways.

Ike Davis
2009 22 NYM-min A+,AA 114 488 58 128 31 3 20 71 0 2 57 112 .298 .381 .524 .906
2010 23 NYM NL 147 601 73 138 33 1 19 71 3 2 72 138 .264 .351 .440 .791 115
2011 24 NYM NL 36 149 20 39 8 1 7 25 0 0 17 31 .302 .383 .543 .925 155
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2011.

Recently we heard that the New York Mets are willing to listen to everyone on their roster save for David Wright, which would therefore include first baseman Ike Davis. Davis spent a majority of the past season on the disabled list, but prior to his injury in the month of April Davis had the 3rd highest wOBA in the MLB only after Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera. In that short time Ike Davis hit 7 home runs and was on a 30 home run pace despite playing in one of the worst hitters parks in the MLB. To go along with his Major League success Davis was ranked as the number 62 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2010 season. As the market has yet to be set for Ike Davis I can't really say what it would take to get to acquire the young cost-controllable first baseman, but I will guess something along the line of Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Perez.

Kendrys Morales
2008 25 LAA AL 27 66 7 13 2 0 3 8 0 1 4 7 .213 .273 .393 .666 72
2009 26 LAA AL 152 622 86 173 43 2 34 108 3 7 46 117 .306 .355 .569 .924 139
2010 27 LAA AL 51 211 29 56 5 0 11 39 0 1 12 31 .290 .346 .487 .833 129
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2011.

With the Pujols signing the MLB lost the best free agent option, but also presumably gained another great option in return. This is because with the signing the Angels now have four 1B/DH types in Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, and Kendrys Morales and with only Trumbo to move to third base, there is likely going to be one who is the odd man out. Granted Morales is coming off a season in which he was injured and the Angels would likely be selling low, but it doesn't seem like they have another option. Plus the sell low likely works in the Blue Jays favor. Like Davis there has been no set market yet, but if I had to guess I would say it could take the likes of Deck McGuire and say J.P. Arencibia.

Prince Fielder (In Depth Look)
2009 25 MIL NL 162 719 103 177 35 3 46 141 2 3 110 138 .299 .412 .602 1.014 166
2010 26 MIL NL 161 714 94 151 25 0 32 83 1 0 114 138 .261 .401 .471 .871 135
2011 27 MIL NL 162 692 95 170 36 1 38 120 1 1 107 106 .299 .415 .566 .981 164
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2011.

Since the Albert Pujols signing has gone through Prince Fielder has by default become the most sought after power bat. We have heard that the Cubs, Brewers, Jays, Mariners, Rangers, and even the Orioles could be players for Fielder. Currently the reports are such that Scott Boras is looking to get Fielder a 8 year 200 million deal, which would be out of the Jays price range as they have stated that they won't go past a 5 year deal at this point. There is still the possibility that the market for Fielder falls through and the Jays can become a player, but it is highly unlikely. Fielder would look great hitting behind Bautista, but I doubt it happens.

Mid-Front of the Rotation Starter
Currently as the Jays rotation stands it looks to be Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Brett Cecil, and Dustin McGowan. With that rotation the Jays have a usable set of starters, but not one that is anywhere close to being a contending rotation in the AL East. With that said here are a few options to up the front of the rotation.

Yu Darvish (In Depth Look)
Link to Yu Darvish's "Japanese Baseball Players" Page

Darvish was recently posted by his team in the NPB the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and has become the most sought after pitcher on the market. It has been reported that the Red Sox, Rangers and Jays are the ones with the most interest, but in the posting system it only takes one team to change everything. With that said the Jays have had reported interest, mostly based on the fact that Anthopoulos himself went to see Darvish in Japan, but with the Jays policy of not commenting on any players it is impossible to know their true thoughts. I personally believe that Darvish will make a good transition to the big leagues and would love for them to pick him up, but with the posting system it is such a crapshoot anything could happen.

Jon Niese (In Depth Look)
Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS IP H R HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2009 22 NYM NL 1 1 4.21 5 25.2 27 12 1 9 18 98 1.403 9.5 0.4 3.2 6.3
2010 23 NYM NL 9 10 4.20 30 173.2 192 97 20 62 148 93 1.463 10.0 1.0 3.2 7.7
2011 24 NYM NL 11 11 4.40 26 157.1 178 88 14 44 138 84 1.411 10.2 0.8 2.5 7.9
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2011.

Niese rumours like Ike Davis rumours are a product of the Mets statement that they would be willing to trade everyone on their roster. Niese also like Davis is young and cost controllable and potentially an undervalued asset. He may take a little more than expected as he is supposedly sought after by multiple teams, but I believe he is worth it. Based on his peripheral stats as well his scouting reports he seems to be a good bet to become a future #2 starter, something the Jays could always use more of. In my other post I outlined that I thought it would take Travis Snider and Deck McGuire to acquire Niese, which may seem like a lot, but the pitching market is low and Niese is a lot better than you think.

Ervin Santana
2009 26 LAA AL 8 8 5.03 23 2 139.2 159 83 24 47 107 87 1.475 10.2 1.5 3.0 6.9
2010 27 LAA AL 17 10 3.92 33 1 222.2 221 104 27 73 169 102 1.320 8.9 1.1 3.0 6.8
2011 28 LAA AL 11 12 3.38 33 1 228.2 207 95 26 72 178 112 1.220 8.1 1.0 2.8 7.0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2011.

Before the offseason you would not have thought of Santana as a obvious trade candidate, but he is coming off a career season that the Angels could sell high on in an offseason with very little pitching. Plus with CJ Wilson being added to the Angels pitching staff Ervin Santana becomes expendable. First off of the three candidates listed Santana is probably a last resort as the Angels are selling high and Santana would likely cost much more than he is worth. As well on top of the sell high aspect Ervin Santana only has two years left on his contract and would be paid $11.2 million in 2012 and $13 million in 2013, likely above what both Niese and Darvish would get, for what could quite possibly be lesser production. The reason I see to acquire Ervin Santana is a better track record and therefore more probable production, but with Niese and Darvish you have the upside, which may appeal more to AA.

Solidifying the Bullpen
This offseason the bullpen is often brought up as the biggest thing that the Blue Jays need to address because of their "25 blown saves". As flawed as the argument is I'm not going to get into it and instead look at the bright side. First the Blue Jays acquired their closer for a little while in Sergio Santos and second the Jays have many young arms vying for a bullpen spot, which are both positives for the team. I'm sure Anthopoulos will acquire some middle reliever be it in trade or free agency, but picking the starters and positions players that the Jays will acquire is hard enough with The Silent Assassin as the Jays GM, trying to guess which relievers he acquires would be like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. Sergio Santos is a prime example, I bet you could count on one hand the number of people that projected that the Jays would trade for Santos. The Santos deal came out of nowhere just like the Rauch deal from last year as well as the Francisco trade, it's simply too hard to guess. All we as Jays fans can hope for is that the Blue Jays bullpen is better and has less blown saves, not because blown saves matter, but to silence the complainers who have no idea what they are talking about. 

What are your thoughts?
Be sure to post a comment below and let your opinion be known.

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