Sunday, 15 January 2012

Time to Play the Waiting Game

Depending on who you ask the 2011-2012 offseason for the Jays could be classified as any number of things. On one hand Anthopoulos hasn't addressed all of the pieces on his wish list, having only bolstered the bullpen, but not acquired the middle of the order bat and front of the rotation starter that I'm sure both he and the fans wanted. Though on the other hand he did address the most pressing need, the bullpen, by acquiring Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor through trade and signing Darren Oliver in free agency.

Some people would call that a quiet offseason, but those three changes to the 25 man roster are the same amount that the Yankees have made. Maybe the fans are just a wee bit spoiled from last offseason when there was five trades (6 if you count Olivo) plus another two major league signings, but theres no way anyone can expect that pace to continue. Last offseason many of those trades and signings were completed to fill roster spots, but this year is that really needed?

The Jays already have five solid guys in the infield (Arencibia, Lawrie, Escobar, Johnson, Lind) and another two in the outfield (Rasmus, Bautista) and that doesn't include the Thames/Snider battle in left field. Then in the rotation you could say three spots are filled with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Henderson Alvarez and then there is at least three worthy candidates to fill the last two spots. Granted you could always sign or trade for better players, but in a year that at least I don't think the Jays are ready to compete in, why not let the guys already there play?

If the Jays sign Prince Fielder, sure he'd be an upgrade over Lind, but to what extent? Lind does have "some" upside if you believe in his 2009 season and Fielder has downside in his inconsistencies. Then if the Jays trade for a front of the rotation starter it would be an upgrade and give the Jays some piece of mind, but again you have to think of what the other players could become.

Before the year Kyle Drabek had, some pegged him as a guy with #2 starter upside and before all his injuries Dustin McGowan had top of the rotation stuff. What's to say one of those two starters or even a player like Henderson Alvarez doesn't step it up and improve. Beyond that even a player like Brett Cecil could return from mediocrity, or a player like Brandon Morrow could finally live up to his peripheral stats. Of course this is for the most part highly unlikely, but with this much uncertainty in what the above players could do and also what players like Travis Snider, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, and even Brett Lawrie might do, why rush the process?

Looking at the Jays record last season they finished at exactly .500 a record of 81-81 and ten games out of a playoff spot. Some players will surely improve and having Brett Lawrie at third instead of Jayson Nix is definitely a plus, but how can we know how good the team will truly be? Using Sky Kalkman's WAR Calculator as well as the Bill James projections (via Fangraphs) I found that James puts the Jays' win count around 90 wins, but he also puts both the Yankees and Red Sox at around 105 wins meaning he thinks the Jays are still 15 games worse than the beasts of the east. Looking at other projections systems the sentiment seems to be similar.

In the latest Cairo projected standings (A projection system I generally like) they have the Jays at 78 wins and 15 games out of a playoff spot. No matter what projection system you use be it Bill James, Marcel's, PECOTA, Cairo, or even just your gut feeling, there is very little way to work the numbers such that they end up with the Jays in a playoff position. As well according to the two projection systems I cited, not even 2001 Barry Bonds would push the Jays into the playoffs in 2012.

With all that said there's no need to punt the season and call it quits now (like the Oakland A's), but rather take a wait and see approach and with knowledge gained in 2012 to put that towards a better team in 2013. By 2013 prospects like Anthony Gose, Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchison, and Travis d'Arnaud will likely be pushing for spots on the 25 man roster out of spring training. As well if the Jays feel like they are really one player away at the point a quick look at MLBTR's 2013 Free Agent Class page shows that top of the rotation starters Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Zack Greinke could all be potentially available with a more than formidable supporting cast of Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, and Brandon McCarthy all of which have had at least one 4 WAR season in the past two seasons.

Of course any number of these guys could be extended particularly Hamels and Cain, but with a more certain team going in to 2012, the Jays will have a better view on what their financial flexibility will be as well as their playoff proximity. Furthermore rather than attempting to acquire a top of the rotation starter in a weak market (i.e. 2011-2012 offseason) they would be doing it in a saturated pitching market. We saw what happened to a less saturated pitching market this year when Buster Olney tweeted that free agent starters Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, and Hiroki Kuroda were dropping their asking prices. As well as the major pay cut that Madson took because of a saturated closer market. All even more reason to wait out the 2012 season. And as an added bonus in 2013 there is the possibility that there may be two wildcard teams an indescribable addition to the Blue Jays playoff chances.

On the whole despite what some may believe the Jays haven't and won't really "need"anything this offseason. Anthopoulos recently responded to the question of whether or not the roster the Jays have now will be the one they have going in to spring training while on the FAN 590 stating that, "Right now I would say yes, but I'm hopeful that something breaks in the next 2-3 weeks." Some are hopeful that this means something will happen, but I take it as Anthopoulos just continuing the interest in the team, but still stating that he pretty much has his team set for spring training. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is your choice, but in my opinion I am more than happy with the Jays offseason. They addressed their biggest need without sacrificing too much of the future and they left themselves in a position to let players like Travis Snider the ability to work out their issues. Here's to a hopeful 2012 that gives us a better picture of what is to come in 2013 and beyond.

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  1. Matt

    Agree with most of what you have written here. Congrats on a well thought out and reasonable post. However I disagree with you on Lind ( or more accurately where the club will be forced to bat him). Lind has had just as many awful seasons as good ones and the jury is in that he just is not a is not a middle of the order bat. I mean he had a OBP under 300. OBP!!!!!! To compare Linds inconsistency to those of Fielder is a stretch at best. I'm happy the Jays did not get Feilder to a 9 year and 214M deal that they just won't be able to trade after year 4. But let's not compare Lind to Fielder.
    Acquiring a front of rotation starter would have been way too costly. I agree wait. However we just don't seem to have that impact bat in the minors. Love DArnuad, Gose and Marisnick but none of them are sure things.
    Overall I agree that the Jays need to go through this year to figure out just what they have and need. If we settle what Morrow/ Alvarez/ Drabek and McGowan are. We will be a lot further ahead. It's also crucial for us to figure out what we have in Rasmus and Snider. So this was not the year to spend freely. However I can't help but wonder what this lineup would look like with Feilder hitting 4th.....

  2. Totally agree with you. There's so many impatient fans out there. They fail to realize there is potential on the team now where players can improve themselves, thus bolting the team into a better win-lose record. Don't count out a July splash for Felix either....

  3. Of last season's trades, it's the macro trade that has set unrealistic expectations of making something happen, now that there is financial flexibility. That AA didn't go out and re-spend that money could mean saving it for a future year or more likely to pay its stars as they develop. I'm in agreement there is upside offensively by keeping the group together, but Its to be determined whether there are all stars at every position. The article is well titled as the waiting game is exactly what we'll see on the pitching side, probably for the next several years with the drafts being pitching heavy. Let the cream rise to the top.

  4. this team is shambles.

    AA is out of his depth, quite obviously.

    clear headed fans can see this. this blogosphere seems to be willfully blind.