Blue Jays mail bag
It seems like the Jays may have been Fletcher-ized this week with the hiring of Paul Beeston as Chief Executive Officer for the first time since 1997. Just like the Leafs’ once and current GM Cliff Fletcher, who was hired supposedly on an "interim" basis (but is still there), Beeston claims he’s looking for his successor and hopefully, for selfish reasons, will be gone by spring training. Which year, Paul? Hey, Mr. Rogers, why not make him full-time and let Beeston continue to goof off and play golf or whatever he likes to do and just keep him on as permanent president and CEO. He would not put up with any more public gaffes by J.P. Ricciardi, the kind that would have embarrassed the late Peter Hardy, Peter Widdrington and all of the other former Jays’ leaders who considered Toronto and Jays’ fans as family. On to the mailbag.
Q-What are the chances of the Jays pursuing Orlando Hudson? I have heard that Aaron Hill is a natural shortstop and moving him to short has been suggested before. I figure with the upgrade of Hudson over David Eckstein and having Travis Snider and Adam Lind for a full season, instead of Shannon Stewart and Matt Stairs, the Jays would receive a major offensive upgrade and this could possibly counterbalance the seemingly dismal rotation.
Tyler Partridge, Guelph
A-Hudson is a three-time Gold Glover whose batting average has risen each of the past five years, peaking in 2008 at .305. The 30-year-old native of South Carolina made his mark with the Jays from 2002-05, traded to the D’backs after the ’05 season for Troy Glaus. But his moment as a Blue Jay has passed. He has become injury-prone and would be a risk. Hudson tore ligaments in his left wrist in ’07 and missed the final month and the post-season. He came back in ’08, but was injured on August 10, dislocating a bone in the same wrist and undergoes season-ending surgery. As such, a long-term contract with the O-Dog would be a risk that shaky GM J.P. Ricciardi would not likely be willing to take…especially given his history with Hudson, who at spring training of ’02 made a reference to J.P.’s pimp-like fashion sense. The next day he was shipped to the minor-league camp. Hudson was the greatest defensive second baseman the Jays have had since Robby Alomar. He was a terrific clubhouse presence, but with his likely asking price of $45 million for five years, the Jays would be better served spending their money elsewhere. I think it would be a great move, but that means Ricciardi would never do it.
You mention in this week’s bag that the Jays could explore the option of trading Alex Rios for a Lincecum-esq starter again this summer. I’m wondering what you think of this? Last summer I had zero faith in our hitting and thought the rotation was so strong - thus making the deal unnecessary. This summer however, I am all for it. I'm getting an eerie feeling that Rios will always leave potential out on the field and if we can grab a # 2 for him, we could slide Snider into RF, Lind to LF - and still have cash to chase a DH correct?
Colin Freeman, Vancouver
A-I felt the same way as you last winter, that another starter for Rios would have been superfluous, but now with so many question marks in the rotation and with at least one extra outfielder, it may be the right time to deal Rios for a No. 2 starter. The Rios deal has $69.1 million remaining through 2014, with a $13.5 million option for 2015. That is a reasonable contract for a major-market team that believes Rios will develop into a star. But you can’t be dealing for a prospect. The pitcher needs to be a player with at least a couple of years of major-league experience who can step into the No. 2 role right now. The Jays as of now are spending $70 million for 11 players for ’09. Rios is set to earn $5.9 million next year. There would be more financial flexibility for the Jays.
Q-One idea that popped into my head when Fernando Perez tagged up and scored the winning run in Game 2 of the ALCS is why don't players on a sac fly situation where they can easily see the ball assume the same stance as 100m sprinters do to give them that bit more speed? They could use the base as the starting blocks.
Greg Wells, Toronto
A-That’s a decent enough thought, but you never saw Usain Bolt having to look straight back over his left shoulder to locate the starter, watching carefully before a ball makes contact with a glove prior to starting his 100-metre dash. Sure the third-base coach could yell "Go!" to send the runner out of his sprinter’s starting stance, but most runners rely as much on their own timing, on their own view of ball meeting glove. Also, a lot of times a runner on a sac-fly has taken a lead and with his first move on a batted ball being towards the plate, has had to hustle back to the bag to tag up and sprint to the plate, precluding the ability and the time to take a sprinter’s stance. Besides, the other players on both teams would make fun of the first guy to use that method and he would never live it down.
Q-I see very little discussion on keeping Johnny Mac in the shortstop role next year. The guy is a one-man highlight reel almost every game he plays. As for his at-bats...well somewhat of a different story! At what point can a team like the Jays afford to carry a .200 hitter whose defensive value is off the charts?
David Tait, Montreal
A-I love John McDonald and would be delighted to see him play him every day at shortstop. I’m with you. Every time McDonald is in the starting lineup I expect to see at least one defensive play that brings me out of my seat. He and Omar Vizquel, his mentor with the Indians, are the only two shortstops of this generation that have that aura. Ozzie Smith was like that. The fact of the matter is that Ricciardi believed when he signed J-Mac to a two-year, $3.8 million deal as a starter that he had eight other potent bats in the lineup and that would allow him to carry McDonald as an everyday player. The lineup Ricciardi once believed in last winter began as C-Gregg Zaun; 1B Lyle Overbay; 2B Aaron Hill; 3B Scott Rolen; SS McDonald; LF Stairs/Reed Johnson; CF Vernon Wells; RF Alex Rios. That was before Christmas. When the Jays signed David Eckstein it screwed up the synchronicity and then when they signed Stewart and released Johnson it became obvious there was no master plan and that it was all now seat of the pants. That was the beginning of the end for Johnny Mac as a starter. Now, it seems he has lost his job to Marco Scutaro. Good plan, Jays.
What kind chance is there of the Jays bring Manny Ramirez to Toronto? He hits really well in Toronto. I really think he could turn us into a contender as long as we sign A.J. (Burnett) or (Derek) Lowe. I know that we would need a spot for him but if you trade (Lyle) Overbay and B.J. Ryan for some young prospects, that would free up some salary to sign Manny and we could rotate Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Ramirez at first, DH and in left field. Would that work?
Ernesto Hernandez, Kitchener
A-That would be a bad idea. Manny was guaranteed $20 million for each of the next two years and asked out of that contract, Of course Manny’s next deal won’t be for less than that. After his starring playoff performance in Los Angeles, look for the 36-year-old flake to be looking for a package in the $70 million for three-year range. Ramirez would likely be looking for a) a team that does not play on artificial turf; b) a team with a Latin flavour in the clubhouse; c) a team that will be still playing in October. Strike three for the Jays. The problem with signing Burnett or Lowe is that either man would be asking for more money than Roy Halladay is earning with the Jays and that would not be right. The Jays would also have to renegotiate with Halladay because he deserves to always be the highest paid Jays pitcher as long as he is in Toronto.
Q-Hi there, Richard,
I was wondering, with all the question marks with the Jays rotation next year, what are the chances we see Gustavo Chacin back in the majors?
William Erichsen, Toronto
A-The 27-year-old Chacin would need a heart transplant before he could be considered for the Jays rotation again in ’09. He was taken off the 40-man roster last May. Chacion is one of the players to whom Roy Halladay was referring when I asked him this September if the Jays starting staff, if healthy, could be as good in ’09 as it began the ’08 season. Halladay replied in the affirmative but offered a warning to starting pitchers that quit working and just assume that good things will continue to happen in Year 2 and beyond without putting in the same effort. Chacin was in that category. On St. Patrick’s Day ’07, Chacin was picked up by Tampa Police for partying hardy and his Jays’ career went downhill from there. Chacin’s four-year major-league record of 25-15 is impressive, but his ’08 stats in the minors sucked. All the way back at A-Dunedin, Gus was 1-7 with a 7.88 ERA, allowing 72 hits and 12 walks in 45-2/3 innings, giving up nine homers. He’s got a long way to go in getting back to the bigs in ’09.
Q-Can you explain the criteria for a player being awarded a Gold Glove and a brief history of the award? I enjoy your weekly column and your honest opinions. Finally, I hope that someday Sportsnet will settle on a full time colour man to work with Jamie Campbell, instead of the revolving door policy they have now, and hopefully it won't be Rance Mulliniks. Bring back Buck Martinez (I know he's probably out of their price range, but I can dream). Maybe lure Kenny Singleton back. Currently with the beauty of TVO, I can sync up the TV broadcast with the Radio broadcast and get the best of both worlds.
Dave Kuzenko, Regina
A-A big misconception about the Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence at one’s position is that it’s another award that the media screws up (again) like when Rafael Palmeiro won at first base in 1999 after playing most of the season with the Rangers as DH. The fact is that the Gold Glove is voted on by the league’s manager and coaches. Ballots are distributed in the clubhouse in September and some coaches pay attention and really put thought into it, but too many just look at it and write the first name that comes into their head, usually based on past reputation, which is why it’s so difficult for young players to win a Gold Glove for the first time.
As for Sportsnet and a permanent colour man, it’s been a combination of things including nobody really winning the full-time job. Other factors are Sportsnet’s desire to save money on travel costs and Rance Mullinik’s personal schedule. Buck Martinez is very happy with the Orioles and XM Radio and TBS. Singleton is in a great position with the YES Network, doing games on TV and commuting by train on his off weeks to his home in Baltimore. Several years ago, George Steinbrenner called Singleton his best hire ever. The Jays can churn out quality broadcasters but can’t hang onto any of them.
Q-Richard - two unconnected questions that have been rolling around in my head for a while: 1) How do cancelled games that aren't made up affect player bonuses - for example if a player only needs two more at bats to reach a big bonus but his team plays one fewer game does he have any recourse? 2) With the all-star game going to extra innings this year and the talk of position players being called on to pitch - would the managers know in advance who has/could pitch? I can't get the picture out of my head of Terry Francona walking through the dugout in the 11th asking if anyone's interested in throwing the 13th.
C. McFadyen, Toronto
A-Cancelled games are cancelled games. It’s the luck of the draw, but the fact is no player has a big bonus based on at-bats or hits. There are, however, vested options included in contracts for a certain number of plate appearances like Frank Thomas had where once they reach that plateau then the next year’s contract kicks in. That’s the main reason ($10 million in ’09) that the Jays benched the Big Hurt, then took advantage of his predictable unhappiness to dump him. The respective managers in the All-Star Game are starting to hold back at least one starting pitcher until the end just in case there are extra innings. As far as position players taking the mound, one would always hope that an All-Star Game ends before it reaches that point. Then it is no longer an All-Star Game. It’s sort of like asking AL pitchers to hit in NL ballparks.
Q-Hi, Richard, love the column but now, on to the question: B.J. Upton - is he the embodiment of the true 5-tool player more or less than Alex Rios?
Robin Wong, Unionville
A-Upton is a better player than Rios. The throw he made from the centre field garage door at Fenway Park on Tuesday night all the way to first base on a line was impressive. He had just made a running catch and spun and fired flat-footed to first trying to get Jason Bay heading back to first. Rios cannot make that throw. Upton, who was drafted as a shortstop and moved to centre field in the second half of ’07, has come up huge in this post-season. At 24, Upton is three years younger than Rios. Upton hits for average, hits for power (now that his shoulder is healthy), steals bases, plays solid defence (although he coasts after too many flyballs) and throws well. He’s a better player than Rios.
What free agents do you see the Blue Jays targeting this off-season? Do you think Orlando Cabrera will end up a Blue Jay?
Marcus Hunke, Edmonton
A-I would love to see Orlando Cabrera in a Jays uniform next year as a free-agent signing. Everywhere he goes, the team goes to the post-season – except of course when he was breaking in with the Expos. He is a slick defender, runs well enough to bat at the top of the order and has extra-base power. He’s great with fans and would be a good influence on Rios and Jose Bautista. As for other free agents, I could see them inquiring about Jason Giambi, looking for another veteran catcher to back up Barajas, poking a stick at Raul Ibanez and talking to Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster and Jon Garland.
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