Thursday, 28 July 2011

Thank You Adam Wainwright

2/3rds of an inning and your job is done.  What a life.
Photo by Herkie licensed under Creative Commons
As most all of you know yesterday the Blue Jays acquired a certain Colby Rasmus from the Cardinals for essentially Mark Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor, Zach Stewart, and Corey Patterson. Your first reaction is probably somewhere along the lines of why would the Jays give away so many solid players for only one guy who isn't even a starter.

Naw I'm just kidding you I have the same reaction as many others in praising the Silent Assassin for the use of his Jedi Mind Tricks towards the betterment of this team (Although if you are looking for some more laughs click this link --> TSN Colby Rasmus Trade Analysis and read the Jays bashing in the comments from all the hockey fans who didn't even know Colby before the trade).

Because we all know the conversation probably went something like this....
(AA brings two fingers across Mozeliak's face)

AA: These are not the relievers you are looking for

JM: These are not the relievers I am looking for

AA: You would like two 2012 free agents, a AAAA player and Scrabble for your bench warmer Colby Rasmus

JM: I would like two 2012 free agents, a AAAA player and Scrabble for my bench warmer Colby Rasmus

AA: Yes you are getting it now, just announce it to the press

JM: Yes, master

And there you have it Colby Rasmus becomes a Blue Jay.

Even though Anthopolous went to great lengths to acquire us our future center fielder, I think who us Jays fans really need to thank is a certain Adam Wainwright for giving us the chance to acquire such a talented young player  

Yes, Wainwright the 2010 Cy Young candidate who injured his arm and required Tommy John Surgery in this year's offseason. It seems like many people have forgot about him, but he was not only predicted to yet again be the ace for the Cards, but also another possible Cy Young candidate. So then to go from him to Kyle McLellan was a big let down for both the team and its fans. Though it was a bad situation it was only made worse when Albert Pujols decided to stop acting like Albert Pujols, even if he is starting to come around. 

The combination of these two things meant that the Cardinals were almost forced into a situation that would see them acquire another #3 starter to complement the unlikely performances of Carpenter, Lohse, and Garcia. This is due to the fact that the Cardinals are in essentially a three team race with America's Team and the Brewers plus there is the Reds still kicking around. Had the Cardinals had Wainwright and his extra 3-5 wins over McLellan than the Cards could have probably kept up with Rasmus' struggles and not have left themselves with a situation where they had to trade him away for another pitcher.

But no luckily for us with the whole Albert Pujols contract situation, the Cards are going all in this year, that means doing whatever necessary to get that pennant (Even if they are far away from the Giants, Phillies, and Braves). 

Granted TLR was trashing Colby in the media and talking about how he didn't listen to coaches and what not, which definitely helped to lower Colby's price and almost force the trading of Colby Rasmus. But even then that was no reason for Mozeliak to go selling, La Russa had a couple years left  You know what they say one man's trash is another man's treasure and in this case the trash was very cheap. 

So full credit to Alex and his genius negotiating, but really the true heros in Bluebird Land are Adam Wainwright and Tony La Russa, thus I crown both of thee honorary Blue Jays, even if La Russa wouldn't be allowed across the border, which we can only hope is the same for another Tony.

In AA We Trust

Monday, 11 July 2011

Blue Jays Mid-Season Milestones

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19)
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
As we reach the mid point in the season and we approach the All-Star break we see some pretty amazing things happening north of the border. After the huge Vote Jose campaign run by the Jays this year we saw Jose Bautista become the highest all time vote getter with almost 7.5 million votes for Tuesday's All-Star Game surpassing Ken Griffey Jr's 17 year old record of roughly 6 million votes.

This came after Bautista was snubbed from the mid summer classic in 2010, despite leading the league in home runs with 24 dingers before the break. Though to be fair at the time Jose was hitting only .237 and as we all know it wasn't like Jose Bautista was a household name. This year the Blue Jays definitely made sure that the reigning home run leader would not again be snubbed and as we have seen their massive campaigning not only got Jose to the game, but they have made Jose Bautista a household name across Canada and the United States.

Another big event this week was Jose's passing of George Bell's Blue Jays team record 29 home runs before the break, which Jose beat out with 2 home runs in the final game before the break to reach a total of 31 home runs. This puts him on pace for 62 on the season, which if he does hit 60 would be the first time in 10 years. The last time that milestone was reached was back in 2001 when Barry Bonds beat out Mark McGwire's single season home run record..

All of what Jose Bautista is doing is great for Blue Jays baseball today as they're bringing fans back to the Rogers Centre and getting the Jays more known across the league, but what I feel really matters is the how well the Jays farm system is doing and the team that it will make us in the future. There is no better examples of this than the fact that there was 3 of the Jays top prospects included on Baseball America's annual Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects list with Gose at #45, d'Arnaud at #29, and Lawrie at #10.

Lawrie who we know was acquired this offseason from the Brewers for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum was ranked 30 spots higher than the pre-season list. With the way that Marcum has performed this season it makes us Jays fans feel a little better to see Lawrie perform the way he did and make it this high on Baseball America's propsect list. It will be even better to finally see Lawrie in the majors now that he is almost done recovering from his hand injury.

Regarding Gose it is nice to see that Baseball America realizes this guy's potential. He was already known to have 3 super tools with his speed, arm, and fielding and none of those tools seem to have regressed at AA New Hampshire. Though it seems like in New Hampshire Gose has added some power with 9 home runs half way through the season and an ISO that has improved 34 points over his 2010 numbers.

 It seems like the only problem that people have with Gose is that he hits for a lower average than most leadoff hitters with his .264 mark. But when you look at the stats you see that right now the mean batting average for leadoff hitters in the MLB is .266, but the mean on base percentage for leadoff hitters in the MLB is .330 and Gose's OBP is 28 points higher at .358. A number that would rank sixth among MLB leadoff hitters. Finally considering that Gose's BAs and OBPs have remained very consistent throughout his minor league career their is no reason to believe that either of those numbers will regress to much in the majors. Which means that with his speed and power he could very well make an all-star leadoff hitter.

Finally with d'Arnaud it is nice to see him bounce back to a .300 batting average after having hit about .255 the past two years between A and high A. It is further looking like he will become the Jays catcher of the future. He may not have Arencibia power, but his power isn't bad, he can hit for a .300 average, and he has plus defensive skills. If Arencibia doesn't raise his average soon, then d'Arnaud may very well take his spot within the next season.

This just about wraps it up for the first half of the season. We end off seeing a struggling major league team with many holes in its lineup, but we see a thriving farm system with strengths in both pitching and hitting. Because of this we are seeing an increasing trend of americans recognizing the single Canadian team. Recognizing how good we are and how good we are going to be with big name prospects such as Lawrie, d'Arnaud, and Gose soon to make an impact on the big league roster.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Blue Jays Biggest Trade Chip?

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill (2)
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
At this point in the year it is saddening to say, but also safe to say that the Blue Jays will be sellers at this years trade deadline. But then the question is who to trade, because the Jays team right now consists of mainly young guys who hold the future of the team and the Jays definitely aren't in firesale mode so guys like Lind and Romero won't be traded. Though in my eyes the guys that the Jays could trade include Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Aaron Hill, Corey Patterson, and Carlos Villaneuva. Some of the guys on this list may be a little unlikely, but with the silent assassin as our general manager, you never know what could happen.

Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel
The reason that I clump these two guys together is that they are pretty similar in terms of play and contract. Both have about a 4.00 ERA and both their xFIPs suggest that their ERAs should be higher. Regarding the contracts of Dotel and Rauch, they are fairly similar both have the two players making about $3 million this year along with $3.5 million options for next. The options may be appealing to a team because it gives them an extra year of control and still at a formidable price. Some teams these guys could be shipped off to includes Detroit, St. Louis, and Texas, all teams who could use some bullpen help. These two are probably the more likely bullpen pieces to be traded. Though Anthopolous surely won't be giving either of these guys away as they do have an extra year of control and both project to be Type B free agents.

Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor
The reason I clump Francisco and Frasor together is because they too have contract similarities, as well they are two players I believe are more unlikely to be traded. The contracts of these two guys are one year each with no options at about $3.75 million a piece. Why I don't see them being traded is in Francisco's case, it seems like the Jays believe that he is and should be their closer, which I don't necessarily agree with, but whatever. As well it will be hard to trade away Frasor who has the longest tenure with the Jays of all current Blue Jays. Also the Jays need at least one solid bullpen piece to somewhat hold late leads. Even if the Jays do trade away Frasor, I know it will be a hard loss, but I think he would resign with them in the offseason.

Aaron Hill
We all know the story of Aaron Hill. The once great player, whose career seemed to have its climax in 2009, with everything after just getting worse and worse. I wrote more about this in the previous article "The Rise of One, The Fall of Another". But as I stated in that article I would welcome the trading of Hill to whatever team still believes in him. Though as I also stated I don't see that being a likely possibility. The reasons being as I stated that the Jays are weak when it comes to middle infielders, with only Hech in the higher part of the farm system. Then the fact that the 2B free agent class this year isn't great, though Anthopolous has had interest in the past in one free agent second basemen Kelly Johnson. But Johnson isn't exactly having an All-Star year either. So it leaves the Jays with the realization that if they trade Hill they won't have anything else to fill the spot other than John Macdonald who is great defensively, but isn't stellar with the bat.

Corey Patterson
Now to Corey, the former top prospect who never really panned out. The Jays saw him and gave him a shot with a minor league contract this year. Earlier in the year it didn't look bad because Patterson was performing and we were able to plug his bat into the lineup every once in a while with Snider and Bautista manning the corner outfield spots. Then Snider was demoted to AAA to "revamp" his swing. This left us with the understanding that we would have to plug either Juan or Corey into left field and we really couldn't afford Juan's catcher like figure trying to run around and attempt to adequately fill left field. So this left us with Corey Patterson, a guy who really shouldn't be a major league starter, but the Jays were almost forced to plug his bat into the lineup everyday. Though now that we have Thames and Snider in Toronto and Loewen in Vegas, we really have no need for Patterson and we can trade him away. He probably wouldn't bring much value but there is still teams who would give away a lower tier prospect for him. As was said in a Fangraphs article he could be this year's Cody Ross. Teams that may try to get Patterson includes the Diamondbacks and the Braves, both playoff contenders in need of an extra bat.

Carlos Villaneuva
Now finally to Carlos Villaneuva, a pitcher that I have heard no body really talk about in terms of trade, but a guy who is 5-1 with a 3.24 ERA  should garner some interest. Especially when teams know that the Jays may be looking to shed a pitcher whether its Jo-Jo or Villaneuva. Because the Jays have 2 guys in Litsch and Drabek who could be pitching in the majors come August as well as a stocked farm system with such top prospects as Zach Stewart, Henderson Alvarez, and Deck McGuire. So shedding a guy like Villaneuva who is pitching much better than he should be according to his xFIP of 4.13 wouldn't be such a bad thing, if the team is overpaying. If the Jays could get even a C level prospect for him than that would be more than enough. As well the fact that he only makes less than a million this year helps out. Teams like Cleveland, Detroit, and Arizona.

I think that our overall biggest trade chip would have to be Carlos Villaneuva, just based on the way he has played this year and I do think that he could help a contending team such as Arizona who has been known to be looking to add smaller pieces at the deadline. Other guys who I do expect to be traded include Corey Patterson and Jon Rauch. The other guys still could get traded, but I think with the situation that those guys are in and how they both excelled early, they would be most likely to go. Though none of these trade chips will net us any top shelf picks, but they can still get some positive contributors to our farm system. Because you never know what you have in a player until you can fully evaluate him yourself and as Jose Bautista has shown, anything can happen. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Rise of One, The Fall of Another

Adam Lind and Vernon Wells
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
2009 was a year of wonder and great promise for Blue Jays fans alike. This is due to the fact that despite finishing 20 games out of the AL East lead with a 75-85 record three things happened that gave us Jays fans hope for the future. The first being that the surprisingly long tenure of J.P. Ricciardi was finally terminated; leaving the prodigy himself Alex Anthpolous to lead us to his dynasty. The second being that our 2006 1st round pick Ricky Romero was called up, and comprised a 13-9 record with a 4.03 ERA in the majors. Finally and most importantly was the emergence of what seemed like two fantastic players, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Both players were in the prime of their careers, both had over 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs and a better than .280 average that year and both players were even in MVP consideration for that 2009 season. These two players, Hill and Lind looked like they would be strong components of the Blue Jays teams for years to come.

Once 2010 came around everything changed. Both Lind and Hill's home run totals dropped by at least 10 homers, their ISOs  by more than 20, and their RBI totals by more than 40. Despite the major decreases in the power categories, power wasn't even the big issue. The issue was instead their  batting averages, which dropped by 70 points a piece. Based on the breakouts from these two players, there was definitely some expected regression from the their 2009 numbers but all of these stats dropping and a net WAR decrease of 6.9 between Lind and Hill is ridiculous. It isn't like Lind and Hill were some Bautista like figures who were presumably out of their prime, but somehow popped onto the MLB scene. Both were highly touted prospects and Hill had a similarly good season two years prior to the 2009 breakout. This fact that these two guys were known commodities gave some confidence to fans and the Blue Jays Front Office that Hill and Lind would return to prior form. In fact the front office had enough confidence in Lind to give him an extension at 4 years and $18 million. At the time at least to me it seemed like a lot to commit to a guy who just finished hitting .230, but the Jays obviously still believed in him and with extending him at that time they got him for a steal

Looking at both Hill and Lind's 2011 numbers you can see that the Jays were definitely right in locking up Lind early, but unfortunately we have also had to witness the lowest of the low for the once great player Aaron Hill. It really is quite unfortunate to see such a great player fall so far. I remember being at his very first game and seeing his first at bat. The pitcher had just intentionally walked Russ Adams to load up the bases and to put all the pressure on the rookie. Hill responded by hitting a bases clearing triple with a ball that just flew over the center fielders glove. Having seen him from the start makes it so much harder to see him playing this way. With only 4 home runs so far this year and a sub .250 average, Hill is doing bad and isn't showing signs of getting better, which is definitely going to make it a tough decision to pick up his options at the end of the year.

As for Lind I along with many other Jays fans are overjoyed to see him excelling at the level he is. Especially after having him sign that long term deal that I was skeptical of at first, but seeing him back to and possibly better than his 2009 self is great. At the rate he is going he should be able to beat out his 2009 35 home run total and his 114 RBI total, despite missing a significant amount of time on the DL earlier this season. Plus he is still holding a .310 batting average, which is 5 points higher than his 2009 number. Furthermore he is still only 27 and we have him under contract for another 2 years, plus three more option years at a fairly discounted price if this production is to continue.

Throughout the past 3 years the performances of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have been a little iffy, with Lind being good then bad then great and Hill being great then bad then worse. Though back in 2009 we saw that both of these guys can be All-Star players, we have seen Lind recapture that glory and I would hope that Hill can pull it together. In my opinion I would like to see Hill traded, but I don't believe that it really a possibility with the lack of free agent second-basemen this offseason.

Because of this the Jays will most likely accept Hill's 2012 option, but if the sub-par play continues then I could see the Jays turning down his 2013 option with Phillips in the free agent class that year and with Hechavarria possibly pushing to make the Jays squad. Overall it is interesting to see the polar opposite paths that these two players, Adam Lind and Aaron Hil, have taken over the past three years. In 2009 both were great, in 2010 neither could recreate. In 2011 the former Lind has returned, but as for Hill he has left us concerned.