Q&A with Richard Griffin
To kick off baseball's busy winter season, Richard Griffin hosted a live chat.
You are truly missed. The biggest speculatory period is starting and you are on hiatus until the December Meetings. AARGH! I looked at offerings for Jake Peavy and I think Toronto has enough to make a deal, even if they have to sweeten Peavy’s Deal. Are Jesse Litsch, Jeremy Accardo, and two prospects (not hopefully Brett Cecil AND Travis Snider) enough for the deal?
Richard Spackman, Lethbridge, Alb.
A: It’s fair to say that the biggest thing about this job that I have missed since I suspended the mailbag after the World Series ended is the weekly interaction with baseball fans that has always helped me to understand what you guys are concerned about and are thinking. There’s no dipping my toe in the shallow end. I’m jumping right back in with this chat and then three more weeks of the regular mailbag through the Winter Meetings, then resuming again sometime in the new year.
As for Jake Peavy, the money situation is not an issue. His contract is guaranteed at $56 million for the next four years plus a buyout of $4 million on a $22 million option year in 2013. Considering that the Jays were prepared to offer A.J. Burnett $54 for four years, that shows the club’s capability of handling the deal. However the big caveat is that Peavy, under terms of the Basic Agreement, could choose to become a free agent after ’09 if he was traded, since he is currently in a long-term deal. That would be a disastrous decision for the Jays if they had already packaged a bunch of young, premium prospects for one year. Litsch and Accardo would not be the key to any deal. Cecil AND Snider would have to be included to interest the Padres and GM J.P. Ricciardi is not that….oh, never mind.
Q: Are you kidding, we picked Russ Adams ahead of (Scott) Kazmir, (Joe) Blanton, (Cole) Hamels and (Matt) Cain in 2002? Can you imagine (Roy) Halladay pitching alongside Hamels? I hope someone lost a job over THAT miscalculation! Yikes.
Okay, 3 guys I'd like to see in Jays' uniforms next year:
Mike Jacobs - a true power-hitting first baseman. He doesn't hit for a great average, but he brings that home run/RBI threat we are lacking.
Orlando Cabrera - a real shortstop, a real leadoff guy, a real ballplayer!
Derek Lowe - as much for the fact we need another quality starting pitcher as for the impact a strong veteran could have on some of the young pitchers we have. Unlike A.J. Burnett, Lowe might be able to teach them something other than shaving cream towels in the face!
And three guys I don't want to see in Jays' uniforms next year:
Lyle Overbay - we simply need more production from this position. Trade him along with my second choice, B.J. Ryan. I love the guy's intensity and totally respect how hard he worked to get back this year. But he is worth a lot in a trade and we need to start to think about winning now before the team dismantles itself after 2010. Finally, Manny Ramirez - he's great and would bring the power bat we all crave, but the money can be better spent in many other areas!
Richard, I'd love to hear who you would like to see (and not see) in Blue Jay blue next season!
Jon Empringham, Woodstock, Ont.
A: Gord Ash’s first ever draft pick as Jays GM was Halladay. Ricciardi’s was Adams. Yet at the same time J.P. was complaining about the empty cupboard he had been handed down as a farm system. Eight years later, his key players are Doc, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, three guys handed down by Gord Mother Hubbard. Nobody lost a job over the Adams call because it is always J.P.’s final decision. To his credit, he never blames others, but he has had good people quit because of the refusal to listen.
Cabrera and Lowe I agree with on guys I’d like to see, but Jacobs is one of those players that looks good from afar, but grows on you like a fungus is you see him every day.
Guys you don’t want to see? Overbay is a complementary player to a team with good hitting. Ryan is the most valuable trading chip on the deepest part of the Jays’ roster. Even talking about Manny was a cruel joke by the GM who knew there was no chance, but was basically just thinking out loud about his fantasies…which can be dangerous if your wife is around. Two more guys that I would like to see in a Jays uniform for the start of next year are Raul Ibanez as a left fieler and Eric Hinske as a utility man able to play first base and the corner outfield spots as well as desperation third base.
Q: Hi Richard, with the Red $ox and Yank$ getting heavily involved in the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes, shouldn't this be the time that J.P. pulls the plug, publicly, and moves on? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the Jays are a .500 team at best for next year. Is it time to do right by Halladay and trade him to a title contender for some blue chip prospects and a couple of "help now" players? Halladay is my favourite major leaguer, and I'm a die-hard Jays fan...but doesn't the current MLB landscape dictate a "rebuild" for the Jays? Thanks!
Andrew Illsley, Halifax
A: I have always believed that if the Jays are going to decide as an organization that it’s time to rebuild, that is the time they must trade Halladay. Ricciardi and Paul Godfrey made a promise to Doc that they would compete for a Wild Card while he was here and that’s why J.P. had to eat his words in July when he admitted on the field to a full boat of media members that they were out of it. He was not misquoted, but he momentarily forgot his “never give up” mantra. I agree with you. If you like Halladay as a man, then it would include seeing him traded to a contender if the Jays start to rebuild.
Q: Hi Richard,
I read this section every week faithfully. I hope by time you get this that A.J. has opted out and J.P. has signed Oliver Perez to a deal. Looking at the careers of A.J. and Perez I see some parallels in that both have great arms and strike people out but lack consistency. I would love to see what Perez could do learning from (pitching coach Brad) Arnsberg and Halladay? Your thoughts. Is this the type signing you would make for four years.
Dwayne Boddy, Edmonton
A: The Jays are moving on without Burnett, fulfilling half your wish, but Perez is not on J.P.’s radar. The 27-year-old lefty has never pitched in the AL, yet has an inflated 4.39 ERA and has just 55 wins in 174 starts, less than 1W/3GS. Not bad, but for a four-year deal at premium prices, the investment is too much of a gamble.
Q: How excited would you have been at the start of the season if someone told you that Matt Stairs would hit a key pinch-hit home run in a Championship Series to help land his team in the World Series for the first time since '93?
Matt Ventresca, Welland, Ont.
A: I remember Stairs walking into the Expos clubhouse his first day in the majors in May of ’92. The Expos had used six Canadians in their history to that point so the game notes that day welcomed him by claiming that the Expos were “buying the Stairs way to seven” (with apologies to Led Zeppelin). That was back when I considered myself a clever guy. In any case, Stairs was always one of my favourite players because he was always a “hoser” and a regular, friendly, funny guy. Yes, it was a thrill to watch him stand in the same batter’s box as Kirk Gibson and swing from his ass - as he always does - and launch a game-winning homer in the playoffs. If someone had told me pre-season he would do that, my response would have been “When was he traded?”
Q: Hi Richard,
I really enjoyed reading your Blue Jays mailbag this year and it's interesting to compare it with Mike Wilner's blog. The latter is frustratingly addictive, but by accepting so many posts, he really can't spend much time answering back and is often dismissive.
On the other hand, you offer a small sample size and your answers are considerate, thoughtful and insightful and a much better read. Or are you just being on your best behaviour? However, my real question is this: do you think you are on J.P. Ricciardi's Christmas card list this year?
Thanks again for some entertaining reading.
Rob Brander, Sydney, Australia
A: Is Wilner frustratingly addictive like sticking your tongue in a cavity to see if it still hurts? That type of addictive? As for my being considerate, thoughtful and incisive, I have four children who look to me for maturity. If I can’t offer them that then at least I can be on my best behaviour. I think I was on J.P.’s Christmas list the one year that he actually lived in the GTA, owning a home in Oakville, but now that it’s air mail from Worcester, the best I can hope for is that he considers me one of his three wise men.
Q: Richard, I have a tough time dealing with a month without your column. I don’t know what to do on Wed? Is this normal? On a more serious note, has anyone in the Jays thought about bring Russ Adams as a DH. This way we can open up the possibility of trading Alex Rios or Vernon Wells or Lyle Overbay. Do you think Adams has enough to play as a DH?
Davy P., San Jose
A: Hey, Wednesday is known as “hump day” for a reason. There’s one other thing you could have done during my off month. Just a suggestion. That’s what I’m here for, after all. To your main question, at some point, the idea of Russ Adams as a utility man-slash-DH might have been interesting for the Jays, but with J.P. still being the man in charge, I think he’s trying to forget about his first ever draft pick and so it’s “out of sight, out of mind” which is what Russ has driven home in the last six years. Travis Snider and Adam Lind are the main left field-DH guys at this point until hopefully they sign a veteran hitter with pop that can play the outfield or DH and then they have a nice problem with numbers.
Q: Hey Richard,
Would/Could Toronto ever be made into a National League team? Given that we're not American wouldn’t it make more logistical sense?
A. Porter, Toronto
A: With the popgun offence J.P. has assembled and with our status as the Vaughan of North America, “the country above the U.S.” we are better suited for the International League.
As a member of the BBWAA, what was your reaction to the fact that three voters left Roy Halladay off their AL Cy Young ballots? And this after three voters had voted for Edinson Volquez as NL Rookie of the Year, even though he was not eligible for the award having previously pitched more than 50 innings. Does something need to be done to prevent things like this from happening again? I mean people can have different opinions but some things are just objectively indefensible.
Michael Kostoff, Toronto
A: Hey, the BBWAA is not even as close as your own family and you probably know three family members that you think are idiots. As a former PR guy I have seen the difference between awards voting done by players and coaches and awards voting done by writers and I guarantee that the writers put a lot more effort into the thought process and the responsibility than do the players and coaches. Besides, they got it right with Cliff Lee. He’s not as good as Doc but he had a Cy Young year.
Q: Is Jon Garland a possibility or a good fit for the Jays? He is relatively young and all things considered he seems low risk. I also hope the Jays give their young bats like Lind and Snider a chance. I think they will thrive under Cito. Also, is there the outside possibility the Jays would consider trading Vernon Wells and if so where?
Justin Booth, Fort Frances, Ont.
A: I would love the Jays to pursue Garland, but in convo with Paul Godfrey, Cito and others, there has never been mention of Garland and I don’t know why not. Burnett was a PR stunt. Lowe was a serious thought. Garland should be the guy they pursue for multi-year.
Q: Hello Richard: This is not a question but more of a statement. It might be long and I know you chaps don't like long emails, but I can't say what I want to say in just a few words. I am a degenerate baseball fan (Blue Jays fan), I used to go to Maple Leaf stadium with my dad and when I got old enough I made many trips to Detroit and Cleveland to watch baseball. I take my winter vacation in the Dunedin area so I can watch Spring Training. I guess like anybody else, I don’t know where the game is headed. It is hard for me to remain a fan when the Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Yankees make a mockery of free agency. I don’t see how I can remain a fan any longer when these teams just outspend every other team to get the class of free agency, and leave the leftovers to their less wealthy partners. I certainly don’t object to players making as much money as they can for the security of their families, but it is now getting ridiculous when a guy like Burnett, leaves $20,000,000+ on the table to get MORE. What the hell am I doing spending my hard earned money to support this lunacy? Why is the Commissioner not stepping forward in the "Best interests of baseball" to stop this? The Tampa Bay Rays were a breath of fresh air, but soon all their players contracts will be due and again, the rich teams step in and scoop all the best players up and on and on and on it goes.
Well, for what its worth, I am getting of the baseball train to nowhere. I will not attend any more Blue Jays games and I told my wife to cancel our accommodations in March, we are going someplace else. I am frustrated beyond belief at the stupidity of small market fans to accept this any longer.
Joe Badali, Newmarket
A: Joe, I know from your frequent e-mails over the past couple of years how much of a baseball person you are and how frustrated you have been. But, baseball is a rollercoaster ride and you can’t just get off the rollercoaster every time it hits the bottom of the next screaming drop-zone with your stomach up in your throat; because you know you love it and the rollercoaster will gradually crawl its way to the top of the next crest and you’ll go through the same thrilling feeling again. But no matter the pit of the stomach sickness of that exact moment, rollercoaster fans always go back. Baseball fans are like that. It’s frustratingly addictive, to borrow the phrase of a previous posting.
I have found over the years that I no longer am rooting for organizations, player agents, or GMs. I find myself rooting for individual players who are still the same big kids they have always been and that makes it easier to forget about the ridiculous salaries, the outrageous manipulation by agents and the terrible lies of organizations to sell hope and tickets. I just think about Ryan Howard sitting at a picnic table by himself at spring training watching a little March Madness on TV and chatting with a bunch of Philly fans for as long as they needed him. I think of John McDonald and his commitment to returning Iraqi soldiers whose bodies have been ravaged by war. I think of the players that make hospital visits on the road without any club publicity because they know they can make a difference. Those are the guys that make it easy to remain a fan. Hang in there. Even A.J. is not really a bad guy. The contract makes him look that way.
Q: Hi Richard,
Looks like it will be a long winter for the Blue Jays this year and an even longer season next. Since we probably cannot expect much in the way of improvements for the team, is there any talk of going back to the retro uniforms on a full time basis? At least it will give fans warm memories of when this team competed on a yearly basis.
Dave Y., Newmarket
A: They might consider going back to the retro uniforms full-time since Cito and Paul Beeston are both back and since Matt Stairs is gone. The problem was he looked like a blueberry in the old unis. But I love the fact he’s finally got a ring.
Improvement can be had but they have to think “inside the box” and sign good veterans on their last legs to one-year deals while their injuries heal and their own prospects develop.
Q: Hi Richard,
Virtually everyone you included have said that A.J. is an injury risk and point out that he has had only two injury free seasons.
I heard interviews with Al Leiter and Brad Arnsberg and both said they felt that he had turned a corner and is a much more controlled pitcher.
Is it not possible that he is not so injury prone since he doesn’t rear back and throw as hard as he can when he gets behind hitters?
I would love to see him back in T.O. and he likes the Jays. It seems that a five-year deal may not be such a risk.
What are your thoughts?
Richard Armstrong, Little Rock, Ark.
A: First of all, Burnett does not "like" the Jays. A consideration is always family and his wife would rather play somewhere else. As such, when it’s a choice between city or wife, the answer’s usually obvious. Arnsberg is a drum-beater for his own boys and A.J. is one of them. As for Leiter, why is he an authority on tunring the corner on injuries? I believe that Burnett may have been nicked up as much this past season as he had in any other, but dude, this was a free-agent year that required him to show toughness and durability if he wanted the big bucks. That’s when you suck it up and play through pain. Sign another five-year deal and see what happens in years 1-3.
Q: Richard, to me the core problem with the Blue Jays over the past few years has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position, in the early season when it still matters. I could care less what they do when they are 15 games out.
They need at least one or two proven RBI guys or it doesn't matter if they re-sign Burnett, or anyone else for that matter because they won't win a thing.
Do you agree and if so who would you go after and give up to get them if they go the trade route?
Gary Fisher, Toronto
A: The only people who care that the Jays always seem to hit well when they are 15 games out are in the front office. They spend all winter pointing it out to potential ticket buyers as a reason that the Jays will contend when the fact is it’s always Groundhog Day with runners on third and less than two out. I would go after Raul Ibanez and Orlando Cabrera and settle for one of them. I would also wait until late January then sign a desperate veteran run producer on the cheap for one year plus an option.
A: Hey Richard,
Been looking at the skeletal starting rotation and was scared to see nothing after Jesse Litsch. Just a couple questions for you that could help ease my troubled mind.
With names like Mark Mulder, Mark Prior, Curt Schilling, Brad Penny and a couple others, are there any guys out there looking for a comeback opportunity that the Jays could target as a cheap fall back option? Are there any that they would want to? I look especially at Prior as he's still only 28 and before injuries struck he looked to be something special. I know J.P. went this way before with our beloved triumvirate of (Victor) Zambrano, (Tomo) Ohka, and (John) Thompson.
Alex Martin, Guelph, Ont.
A: I would consider for one year plus an option:
Kenny Rogers, always coveted by Ricciardi;
Pedro Martinez, who gained initial success in Canada;
Paul Byrd who could teach some of the Jays young soft tossers how to win while tossing soft.
Q: Hi Richard:
Love reading your columns and the mail bag. I have a simple question - What is Riccardi thinking of when I hear the Jays are targeting Milton Bradley? If he is trying to dismantle this team - great move J.P.! For all the offensive skills Bradley may bring to the table, he eliminates them with his injuries and cancerous attitude.
Seriously, run J.P. out of town before he has a chance to do more damage to this team.
John Valvano, Etobicoke
A: The rumour is that J.P. as a boy loved playing Yahtzee and so has a deep, subliminal love for Milton-Bradley. Unfortunately, the game company has fewer anger-management issues than the player. J.P. is lucky that nobody in Rogers management has the stomach right now for a serious GM search otherwise he would have been gone in October.
Q: Shouldn't the Jays just blow it up and start all over again (trade Halliday, Ryan, Overbay, Wells, and, dare to dream, Rolen)?
Pat Connors, T-Dot
A: As I have mentioned before, if blowing it up is what it’s going to be, then Halladay must be the first to go. They owe it to him. I believe that Wells and Rolen are untradeable at this present moment and Halladay is the team's heart and soul. The other two guys could go without a blow-up.
Q: Any reason that the Jays aren't looking to bring Orlando Hudson back? Aaron Hill could move back to SS and all our pitchers would be thrilled. Who do you see as the Jays starting first baseman this year? Please say that it won't be Lyle.
Tim Amor, Burlington
A: Ricciardi’s wardrobe has improved since O-Dog’s “Pimp Daddy” comments that got him sent to the minors back in the day, but J.P. has a long memory. As for Lyle, the Jays would be better off if they could ship him and put Lind at first base or bring in an RBI bat for the position. Lyle is a great guy, but definitely not their best option.
Q: Do you think David Purcey can have as much an impact on our team as Josh Danks has for the White Sox?
Tony Del Rio, Toronto
Q: Hi Richard,
Love the mailbag and have been a weekly reader for a few years. Good on you for taking on this venture. In your answer to Andrew Illsley of Halifax, you seem to suggest that rebuilding (and an accompanying trade of Halliday) is a possibility. Should the Beest decide to go that route, don't you think JP would have to be axed first and the re-build left to the next guy?
Sandy Webster, St. Thomas, Ont.
A: Yes. But the word rebuilding is not strong enough as a reason for trading Doc. It would have to be an explosion. Rebuilding means you are trying to compete with different, likely younger parts surrounded by veterans. Explosion means the Marlins after they win a World Series.
Q: Hi Richard,
I enjoy your work. I am hopefully optimistic about the Jays chances to play meaningful games in Sept with Gaston taking some control of the team away from Ricciardi. Is this reasonable? What role do you think Janssen will play with the '09 team?
Marcus Heinrichs, Toronto
A: It is reasonable because Beeston is the man who made Gaston an historical success as the first African-American World Series winning manager in history. Both men understand their place in baseball history, while Ricciardi in five years will likely be forgotten.
Q: I envision the Jays doing absolutely nothing this off-season and it being a good thing for the team. Agree or disagree?
Nate Cloet, Goderich, Ont.
A: Disagree. The rest of the division is doing things. The Rays are just getting better through young stars maturing, but they are defending division champs. The Jays need to move. If they are not going to sign young stars to long-term deals they need to sign old stars to short term deals.
Q: Hi Richard,
What do you think of the Blue Jays going after Ben Sheets? What would they have to pay him? Would he fit in with the organization?
Michael Przybylowski, Sudbury
A: The Jays are like a bad hotel. They will short-Sheets their patrons. Ricciardi won’t discourage speculation on anyone that can help (recall Manny), but the reality is ...
Q: Will the Jays consider moving Aaron Hill back to shortstop (his original position) and letting Joe Inglett play second? Is Inglett ready to be an everyday player?
Sam Urman, Madrid, Spain
A: That’s a great question. I believe the Jays would be better with a healthy Aaron Hill at shortstop instead of Marco Scutaro, but I think that Inglett will never be ready to be a major-league starting second baseman. How about Hill at short and Scutaro platooning with Inglett until Justin Jackson is ready to be the starting shortstop in 2011?
Q: Enjoy reading the mail bag and have missed it for the month of November. My question is do you think J.P. will package B.J. Ryan in a trade to get a bat and a quality number 2 pitcher?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake
A: I hope that he does. Ryan is a better option for the Mets than overpaying either K-Rod or Brian Fuentes. B.J. is the kind of larger than life persona that New York fans would eat up. How about that Aaron Heilman guy and a prospect in return and give him a shot at the rotation which he deserves and wants.
Q: How good are the top prospects in the farm system now? How much can they impact the major league club next year? I speak of Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero, David Purcey who we saw last year. Any good position players coming up?
Mark Donaldson, Kingston, Ont.
A: The Jays have good prospects that are not ready for April ’09. Cecil is a year away but may be rushed. Romero is a roll of the dice only because of draft position. The best prospect but not for opening day is J.P. Arencibia who will be a Mike Piazza type of guy that makes up for defensive deficiencies with his offence. The rest of it is all post-All Star Game and beyond. Which is why one-year deals for former stars makes sense for the Jays in 2009.
Q: Richard, it is good to have you back.
What's the likelihood of breaking camp without Johnny Mac this year? It seems between Scutaro, Inglett, and Bautista the middle infield should lead to Mac's departure. Particularly if Aaron Hill will be back.
TC, Kingston, Ont.
A: I honestly believe that John McDonald will be traded before the season. He was Ricciardi’s flavour-of-the-month in ’07 when he signed a nice two-year deal, but J.P.’s commitment is like a pulled hamstring, day-to-day.
Q: I take it from reading your blog and other letters that I'm not the only one frustrated with the perpetual state of mediocrity that is the Jays. My question: What makes Blue Jay executives think that JP Ricciardi, given the massive resources allocated to the payroll the last 2 years, is going to field a competitive ball club with a reduced budget? This team is on a treadmill, and as a long-time fan I am losing my mind.
John B., Edmonton
A: The problem is that Jays’ management is more scared of the unknown – the process of hiring the right GM to replace J.P. - than they are of letting him work the remainder of his contract. There are plenty of Brian Burke’s out there in baseball, but every Canadian on the MLSE board can have an opinion on the Leafs GM. The guys in charge of the Jays have no similar experience to make them strong in this area.
Thanks for getting me back in the mood for the winter meetings and later my dudes and dudettes.
That's all for today. Thanks to everyone who participated. If your question didn't make it into today's session, be sure to check out Richard's regular mail bag every Wednesday for the next three weeks through baseball's winter meetings in this space.