Blue Jays mail bag
The Jays are not yet in last place in ‘09, but they can see it from here.
Fact is, never in GM J.P. Ricciardi’s previous seven seasons has there been seen such despair from loyal fans as to the prospects of the Jays being able to compete. At least in his first year, 2002, fans cut him some slack because he was a man on a mission from Ted Rogers to get this organization back to being competitive while trimming the fat left by Gord Ash. Right or wrong, that was the perception fans had and even when the team won just 67 games in ’04, that was blamed on the injury bug and competing in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees. But last year when the Rays won the AL on a budget of $43.7 million - less than half the Jays’ payroll - it was time to quit whining and put up or shut up. Ricciardi has 117 days to make things right (by the way…Ted Rogers rest in peace).
On to the mail bag:
Q: Hello Richard!
With Jays pretty much writing off the '09 season, what do we really have to look forward to next year? The emergence of top prospects? The continued development of Brandon League and Dustin McGowan? Some home runs?
Ray Young, Toronto
A: There are still 117 days remaining until opening day. The Jays have time to do what they need to do, which is add a starting pitcher, add a bat, either at first base, DH or the outfield, add a veteran backup catcher and say 117 Hail Marys. Here’s the best-case scenario. The Jays get 20 wins from Halladay, 16 wins from Litsch, they find a veteran starter to win 14, Cecil develops into a 12-game winner and McGowan bounces back to win a dozen. That’s 74 wins from five starters. Add another five from other starters and 20 victories from the bullpen and you have a 99-win season and a playoff contender. Then the alarm clock goes off and you roll out of bed and go to work. Everything has to fall right for the Jays and Travis Snider and Adam Lind must be offensive studs.
Q: Richard, it is very sad that Mr. Rogers has passed away. Since he bought the Jays, he has brought us a lot of hope for the team. And he is the major reason that the Jays are still in Toronto. With this event, do you expect any change in the baseball operation, from personnel to budget? I will save my sarcastic comments for J.P. for next week.
Davy P., San Jose
A: You’re right about Ted Rogers and his impact on the Jays. Even though he was not a huge baseball fan and even though he left the day-to-day baseball decisions in the hands of people that did not come through in producing playoff teams, what Ted Rogers always understood was that by the mere act of winning, a team can generate the extra revenue back that it had spent in building a winner.
He only hesitated the first few years because he was told the team was a mess and the cupboard was bare in terms of talent. In addition, a winning team produced better TV ratings on the station he owned and a sports winner made the city happy.
He was first and foremost a huge fan of Toronto. That realization of a return from a winner on any investment is what happened when he finally allowed the team payroll to be bumped from $46 million in ’05 to $72 million to $82 million to $98 million last season. He would have continued to hand over the needed money if the promises to win had been actually fulfilled by the general manager. But once that failure to launch happened on the field and in the front office, and the economy headed south with the loonie firmly in tow, we are now seeing the unhappy results. Given the Jays’ position in the standings and the economy, all of this recessive drama was going to happen in ’09 whether Mr. Rogers was alive or not.
As for changes in personnel, I think that the chances of hiring a baseball-first president have diminished with the admission that the payroll is being slashed. The next hire will be a business-first prez with the mission of riding herd on the tighter budget of mid-$80s in terms of millions. That will impact the playing personnel. It’ll be the Leafs in spikes.
Q: As the Jays have an interim President, a GM with two seasons left, a perhaps interim manager in Gaston, an organization with little stomach for major internal/team rebuilding changes for the time being and the recent passing of Ted Rogers, would it be safe to project that for the next two seasons the Jays will drift somewhere between third and last place, as if in a lifeboat wherein leaks are patched with chewing tobacco and water bailed out furiously with Gatorade bottles while the currents drive them to god-knows-where?
Frederick Duquette, Edmonton
A: The literal translation from Latin into English for “interim” is “meanwhile”. That is a very fluid concept. Interim could be the three months that Paul Beeston claims he wants to be president; the one more year that J.P. Ricciardi has left as GM if things don’t go well; or the two years that Cito has if he decides he wants to hang in there. In fact all of life is interim. That’s about as philosophical as I get. In fact, I would think that Gaston did not think this was the way it was going to turn out for the Jays when he took them on a three-month surge down the stretch and then agreed to manage for two more years. If Gaston is stuck with young players that can’t play the game the way it was meant to be played and if his teams are losing and the GM and he don’t see eye-to-eye, then it could spiral down like the final Cito seasons did the first time around, in 1995-97. Excuse me, the last seafaring description in your question is making me a little queasy…or maybe it’s the Jays prospects for ’09 that are churning my stomach.
Q: Richard, Although it sounds like the Jays may stand pat this winter as it relates to big free-agent signings, but do you think someone like Jason Giambi could be had for relatively cheap (i.e. $8 to $10 million per season for say two years) as a true power hitting designated-hitter. Added bonus: he hits from the left side and could spell Lyle Overbay at first on occasion.
Ron Lindemann, Scarborough
A: I don’t think Jason Giambi is reasonable in the wake of the Frank Thomas debacle. The Jays overpaid for Thomas and ended up eating a Big Hurt Sandwich. Giambi has visibly gotten smaller in the last two years. As such, $8-10 million per year is too much. With Overbay hitting from the left side, a right-handed hitting player would be better in terms of finding days off for Overbay – assuming he is still a Jay by next spring.
Q: Hey Richard,
Was reading that Ron Gardenhire doesn't see Delmon Young as a starting outfielder with the Twins this year. Apparently the Twins are looking for a starting shortstop and some middle relief. What say you we give up one of Marco Scutaro or John MacDonald and one of our middle relievers for Young? Can't hurt to snag such a talented youngster. Right?
Alex Martin, Guelph, Ont.
A: The problem with that concept is that the Twins gave up a huge package to the Rays to obtain Young, including Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett who both played key roles in the drive to the AL crown. For the Twins to turn around and give Young to the Jays for either shortstop, neither of whom would start for any other team, and a middle reliever makes no sense at all. Young is only 23 and under control for a song for four more years. It would have to be at least Jesse Litsch and Aaron Hill, which makes no sense for the Jays.
Q: Richard I was wondering if the rumours are true with the Padres and the Cards trade of (Khalil) Greene for a minor league reliever. Why doesn't J.P. trade from our great bullpen to get a SS like him? I mean Jason Frasor or Jeremy Accardo would be a better option for the Pads than some minor leaguer I would say. It is worth the risk?
Kurtis Dunlop, Moose Jaw, Sask.
A: There is logic behind your thinking. The Greene deal was completed December 5, the Friday before these meetings started for mediocre Triple-A, 26-year-old right-hander Mark Worrell. The fact that Greene was making just $6.5 million for ’09 and the Jays weren’t interested would seem to torch the idea that they are in serious running for Rafael Furcal, who already turned down $35 million for four years from the A’s.
Jason Frasor if he is not traded will likely be non-tendered. Jeremy Accardo is coming off injury and so far has been a one-year wonder with little enthusiasm shown from the Jays’ organization that he will be a component of the ’09 pen.
Q: For all the talk of the Jays' “inactivity” this off-season, haven't the Jays already made a very significant signing when they re-upped pitching coach Brian Arnsberg? I think he played a big part in the success of (Shaun) Marcum, (Casey) Janssen, Accardo, (Jesse) Litsch, etc, and none of them were first-round blue-chippers. I'm excited to see what he can do with the likes of (Ricky) Romero, (David) Purcey, (Brett) Cecil, (Bradley) Mills and the rest of the young guys coming up.
Adam Guilbault, Sudbury, Ont.
A: Arnsberg is not the best pitching coach in the majors. He’s good at relating to his players and almost adopting them as surrogate sons. Those that have success swear by him. To make it to this level, every major-league pitching coach has his assets and his weaknesses. Arnsberg is no different. You need the talent and the fact is that all the guys you mentioned have solid arms with good stuff. A lot of them have had to go on the DL and most of them have not excited the world of baseball by coming out of nowhere. A pitching coach alone will not get you to the next level.
What do you attribute to the loss of Alex Rios power numbers this year, and do you see the pop in his bat returning for the upcoming season?
Jared Weiss, Ocala, FL
A: The pop in his bat was already returning once the change was made to a new hitting coach. The problem with Rios and the former guy, Gary Denbo, was that all through his minor-league career Rios was a contact hitter. When he swung the bat, he usually hit the ball hard and put it in play. That should be good enough. This does not make you a guy that goes deep into counts and sees a lot of pitches. Under Denbo, he was taking pitches that he would normally swing at. He fell behind in the count regularly, left to become a defensive contact hitter, thus causing a loss of power and confidence. The birth of a first child never helps a young player’s focus. Look for Rios to bounce back in the power department and be at least a 25-25 guy, home runs and stolen bases.
Q: Hi Richard,
I know that Raul Ibanez used to be an attractive option for the Jays to acquire, but would the Jays consider signing him or any other type A free agent that was offered arbitration, knowing that it would cost them a high draft pick?
Alex Hirbod, Toronto
A: A high draft pick is only a deterrent of you draft the right players. Would you trade Russ Adams (’02), David Purcey (’04), or Ricky Romero (’05) for Ibanez? I would. If the Jays could trade Lyle Overbay and sign Ibanez, they could move Lind to first base and make Ibanez the DH, with Snider in left. With Vernon Wells in centre and Rios in right that would give them a nice lineup in the middle of the order. They won’t do it now, only because the money situation has apparently tied J.P. Ricciardi’s hands.
Q: Richard, I do not understand the doom and gloom atmosphere surrounding this team. I understand fiscal responsibility, but when I last checked J.P. is not an economist and when we signed A.J. and B.J., et al a few years ago when our dollar was in the same place it is now.
In terms of baseball, Toronto is a “if you build it (and they win) we will come”. I like this roster for the most part and we do not need to spend, spend, spend, but we need to make some obvious changes. Let the kids play (Adam Lind, Travis Snider, David Purcey), but plug the necessary holes. With the injuries to our pitching we need to get another arm. I like Jon Garland, because his name isn't being mentioned (possibly cheaper), he is young (29) and he is an innings eater. Let Lind and Snider split LF/DH and get a veteran right-handed OF to spell them and back-up catcher. We then hold our collective breath for McGowan to get back and see if Purcey, Romero, Janssen or even Cecil can contribute now. Also if we trade Ryan we can save $$$ and allow our in-house arms to take over (Accardo, League). Your thoughts?
Dan Kerr, Oshawa, Ont.
A: I like Garland too, but the Jays have shown no interest. They still feel this ’09 season is a one-year lull in the wild-card conversation and when Marcum and McGowan rejoin Halladay and Litsch, added to one more year of development for one out of Purcey, Cecil, Mills or Romero that they are back in the mix.
Will there be any fans left if they let ’09 get away to an under 70-win season and try and explain to fans to be more patient? Fans are sick and tired of being patient. J.P. said again yesterday that he has had no problem getting free agents since signing A.J. and B.J. because Toronto is a great place to play and a great place to live. Ricciardi has to walk the walk and live here or else stop using that sales pitch to free agents from his home in Worcester.
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