Blue Jays mail bag
It was a sad week for baseball in Canada starting with the passing of Canadian scouting icon Jim Ridley last Friday. The 64-year-old had a passion for amateur baseball in this country that was unequalled and had lifelong friends in the scouting fraternity all over North America. Then on Tuesday, the sad news came that Jays’ owner Ted Rogers had died at home at the age of 75, surrounded by his family. Condolences go out to both the Ridley and Rogers families. It will surely be a subdued winter meetings for the Jays’ group officially starting next Monday as they look to make some deals or at least sow the seeds in preparation for the 2009 season. The usual Wednesday mailbag will continue through December 17 with additional blogging from the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
Forgive me if (GM) J.P. (Ricciardi) makes me a bit confused. It's not like he didn't know A.J. (Burnett) was gone and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the offence is shaky at best. However, all I ever hear is that we may just stand pat. Why does there seem to be no plan? I mean if you're going to content, get in the free agent game. If you're going to rebuild, just do it. How much longer does this tired fan base have to wait for some direction?
Peter Tomilson, Rothesay, NB
A: "Stand pat” worked for Pat Gillick in the ‘80s, when he went over a full calendar year without making a move on the major-league roster – but these Jays don’t have the infrastructure of prospects those Jays had. These Jays are surely teetering on the edge of rebuilding. The only three things keeping them from trading Roy Halladay and starting all over again are 1) Roy Halladay and the promises they made to him that they would continue to compete; 2) Ricciardi and the fact that no GM with two years left on his own contract wants to start a rebuild and then have to leave before it’s completed and 3) Cito Gaston and the fact that he was not named manager to be in charge of a rebuilding team. He does not have much patience for bad teams as he clearly showed from 1995-97.
Q: Since (Scott) Rolen appears to be untradeable, would they be better off moving him to DH? I know it's not ideal, but a move to DH would remove the wear and tear on his shoulder and perhaps improve his power output. If they can't sign anyone, they could at least play (Marco) Scutaro or (Joe) Inglett at 3b.
Rod Jerred, Stoney Creek
A: Rolen’s value as an everyday player is in large part due to his superior defensive abilities at third base. The prideful veteran will be working hard this off-season to adjust his swing to the limitations of his restrictive left shoulder. People criticize the media for giving Rolen a free pass despite his horrible debut season with the Jays. The fact is, at least he owns up to his shortcomings, making it difficult to pile on the guy. As you say, he is virtually untradeable, so given the amount of money he is making ($22 million over the next two years), he needs to play every day as long as he is healthy. Using him only as a DH would be like using your Blackberry only as a phone.
Q: I don't see the down side of signing A.J. to a 5-year deal for say $75 million. He has always been at worst an above average pitcher with potential for greatness. If that greatness comes through, then he is a steal, if it doesn't and he stays just an above average pitcher, there are a lot of teams that will take him off the Jays hands if the time comes to rebuild.
Gus Bolin, Peterborough
A: That’s crazy. The guy is 31-years-old and we’re still looking at “the potential for greatness”. The suggestion you make, handing over $15 million per year for the next five seasons would virtually end the Jays’ ability to improve the team in any other areas over that period – barring a trade of Vernon Wells - and end their chances of becoming competitive. In nine full seasons of major-league service, A.J. has 87 wins – including his 18 last year. That’s fewer than 10 W’s per year. Maybe - only maybe - from his new five-year $75 million contract, he would have one or two really good seasons and three in which he continues to show his “potential for greatness”. Not worth it. Burnett has spent a total of 530 days on the disabled over 10 different injury stints since 2000. That’s over three full seasons out of his nine as a major-leaguer. Bad odds. Bad investment.
Q: Hey Richard,
Why aren't the Jays a player in the Rafi Furcal free agency? He's the switch-hitting prototypical leadoff hitter who plays at a position where we really need some stability. Isn't it a no-brainer that J.P. should get involved?
Danny Cappe, Toronto
A: The 31-year-old shortstop is certainly a special player, with great defensive abilities and solid offensive skills, but he is the top shortstop available on the free agent market and the Jays have already said they are more interested in the next tier of free agents. If it was me, I would certainly at least ask what it would take. The Jays don’t even seem interested in Orlando Cabrera or any others at the position. The best thing about Furcal is that because of injuries last year, he didn't play enough to qualify as a Type A or B free agent where compensation is awarded. The fact they are not pursuing free agent shortstops perhaps leaves the door open for a healthy Aaron Hill to move back to his original position in ‘09.
Q: Hi Richard,
I know that there is a lot of concern with the Jays’ rotation this off-season and them not having a fulltime DH and shortstop. Do you think that the Jays would ever consider trading some of the players such as Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen and bring up some players by a trade for a first and third baseman? Also Travis Snider or Adam Lind is a must for a DH next year, they have shown their offensive stuff and deserve to be there. One last thing regarding the rotation, is there a chance that the Jays call up Gustavo Chacin from the minors? If he stays healthy, He can get you 10-15 wins and they should try and sign Jon Garland for cheap.
Kyle Rasksen, Bolton, Ont.
A: They will be listening to any good offers for Overbay in the off-season. There are teams that could use a first baseman that can hit .275, with 35 doubles, 20 homers and 75 RBIs, but the Jays aren’t one of them. They need more pop at the position, or a younger, developing star. Whichever team is interested in Overbay will be one that already has bashers and mashers at other positions around the diamond and needs a solid extra-base first baseman with mad defensive skills. As we have already discussed, Rolen is virtually untradeable.
As for Snider and Lind, there is a danger in anointing Travis as a major-league star after a couple of months of success. The danger is that in his first full season, after teams have had a chance to dissect game film and see him live a few times, that he becomes a .230 hitter with 200 strikeouts and good power. As for the former rising star Gustavo Chacin, it’s hard to say what stunk worse in ’08, Chacin the pitcher or Chacin the cologne. He was 1-7 and allowed 86 baserunners in 46 innings, with a 7.88 ERA at Class-A ball in Dunedin in ‘08. That’s a deep hole to climb out of and the fact that the Jays allowed him to become a free agent means he won’t be back. As for Jon Garland, he will not be signed on the cheap. He ranks pretty high on the free-agent list – behind C.C. Sabathia, Burnett, Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez and, maybe, Ben Sheets. Garland is the guy that I would go after, but it will cost you.
Q: With the recent free agent period, there's always talk of who the next Japanese import will be. How come the Blue Jays never involve themselves with offering contracts to these players? The gamble seems worth it considering the amount of imports that have worked out than the ones who haven't. Plus, it would give the team exposure in Japan and even in the U.S.
Graham Jack, Ottawa
A: I addressed that issue in Tuesday’s column, but the fact is that finding quality, ready-for-prime-time Japanese prospects is becoming tougher as the talent pool is drained by the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Mariners. I don't think it's worth the investment.
Q: We're looking at fourth place again behind the Rays, Sox and Yankees; although if the O's get Burnett and upgrade their pitching in general we could be the Big Hurt instead of playing the Big Hurt. Desperate times call for desperate measures: Trade Halladay? What do you think? After all we'd be doing him a favour.
Rene Vallieres, Salt Lake City
A: I agree with your – and Tippi Hedren’s - fear of the Birds. They don’t have Hitchcock, but these guys have a solid nucleus of hitters that, playing in their bandbox of a home ballpark, makes them dangerous. Now if they just added a couple of good starters to move in ahead of Jeremy Guthrie, Rad Liz and others on the way up, the stand-pat Jays might be in more trouble than they already are.
Q: Hi Richard,
Do you think J.P. would give trading Vernon some thought. Here is my thinking. Vernon has a huge contract and had a pretty decent year when he was in the lineup. But they won a lot of games without him (best record in May in all of baseball, then again sometime in the summer played really well with Vernon on the DL.) I figure by trading Vernon you can get a right fielder and a shortstop major league ready at least. I just don't think he brings as much to the team as everyone thinks. The best part about Vernon's game is his defence and having Rios play centre is just as good as far as I am concerned.
Chris Bourgeau, Toronto
A: I would certainly listen to anyone that wanted to discuss a deal for Wells. However, the structure of the contract with the first two years being so club friendly, has made it tough for another team to take it on without the Jays remaining on the hook for big chunks of change. The Jays owe him $117 million for the next six years, including bonuses. Wells has not proven to be the on-field and clubhouse leader that they thought he would become when they let Carlos Delgado walk away. If you could get something good and not have to eat too much of the contract, I would be comfortable with Rios in centre field. But that’s not going to happen this winter.
If the Jays don't sign another pitcher who can win 14-15 games can fans expect the team to be competitive for the wild card spot?
Glenn Rauhanen, Sudbury, Ont.
A: If the Jays don’t acquire another established starter, either by trade or in free agency, they are in serious trouble. Halladay: solid forever. Jesse Litsch: never been a No. 2. David Purcey: late bloomer still blooming. Casey Janssen: returning from injury and hasn’t started in two years. Shaun Marcum: out. Dustin McGowan: out until May, or June, maybe. Scott Richmond: this isn’t the Olympics. Ricky Romero: no Troy Tulowitzki. Brett Cecil: not even the Spanish Inquisition could stretch him out enough to be ready in time for ’09. Too many question marks.
There has been lots of speculation the Jays will not spend much on free agents this year because of the slide in the Canadian dollar. If this is true do you think its in the Jays best interest to trade players like Wells and Ryan because of their huge contracts going forward which would hinder the team from getting better given the payroll stays at 100 million. I believe Rios is more than capable of playing centre field with Lind and Snider playing the other outfield positions. Thanks!
Jeff Campbell, Brookfield
A: The payroll will not be $100 million, in which case a trade of Ryan over the winter becomes imperative. He is the most marketable player given the inflated price of the current crop of free agent closers and the easiest for the Jays to replace given the depth of their relief corps. Wells is not tradeable at this stage. Rios is.
Q: I don't see the Jays being a competitive team next year. Pitching is too thin (with AJ leaving, Marcum and McGowan injured, and BJ being BJ). Power is too thin (Wells, Rios, Hill?). Only thing we can bank on is Halladay and our Defence. What can be done to remedy these problems?
Vins Kan, Mississauga
A: The thin pitching is the biggest concern, because even though guys like Purcey and Jamssen could step up as starters for a short period of time, the season is a grind at 162 games and to be competitive in September, you need consistency in your starters over six months. Only Halladay among the current group has showed that consistency. As for defence, it’s the most important aspect of Rolen, Wells, Rios and Hill’s presence in the lineup even if they are struggling at the plate.
Q: I miss your column on Wednesdays! I’m a major Jays fan in NYC and I feel the Jays need to upgrade shortstop. There’s been a lot of talk here in NYC about trading Jose Reyes because of his attitude. He could be a Robbie Alomar type again for Toronto. What do you think of sending the Mets Ryan, Frasor, Tallet, John McDonald and Russ Adams for Reyes. I disagree with you needing a DH/outfield help. If they can upgrade at short with a Reyes I think the Jays can live with Snider and Lind in left and DH. Would love to know what you think?
Erzen Krivca, New York
A: I agree with Reyes being an Alomar type. I love Reyes' skills. But what you suggest is like offering a Ford F-150 and three Yugos for a Lamborghini. Quantity sometimes does not balance against quality. I do agree that Ryan would be a good fit for the Mets. He is a larger than life figure and has a positive influence on a bullpen by his mere presence. If the Mets would send a No. 3 starter the Jays way and another mid-level prospect, they might have a deal. Aaron Heilman’s in the Mets’ doghouse and wants a chance to start. That’s a start. Then throw in a prospect and take the whole Ryan contract.
Q: Hi Richard,
Long time reader and long-time Jays fan, I have a one idea/question. Keeping in mind the Jays strength is their bullpen and they probably lose A.J. I would call the Brewers about J.J. Hardy and offer a package of B.J., Scutaro and a prospect (especially if they were willing to pay Gagne 10 mil last year). That would give them about 22 million for starting pitching (with A.J. gone), to solidify their shortstop position, and allow them to go with a bullpen by committee with both Downs and Janssen remaining in the bullpen and then address the closer issue if they are in contention.
Daryn Lund, London, Ont.
A: That’s one that I like. The Brewers want 21-year-old Alcides Escobar to start at shortstop and they need a closer. If Hardy was acquired by the Jays it would make Scutaro redundant on a team with John McDonald, Jose Bautista and Joe Inglett as reserves. The Jays would like to give Brandon League a shot at closing, especially if they concede that ’09 is a reloading year.
Q: Hi Richard,
Was wondering what are the chances of the Baltimore Orioles dealing (Aubrey) Huff for a package of Overbay + Frasor or something along those lines? Considering that Huff has a reasonable contract, is a power bat who can play DH and 3B (filling in for Rolen when he gets injured again) and the Orioles lack bullpen depth as well as a first baseman, would you think a deal like this would interest them?
Irfan Ahmed, Toronto
A: The O’s looked brilliant in re-habbing the career of Aubrey Huff and have no reason now to turn around and trade him. The 31-year-old first-baseman-DH hit .304 with 32 homers and 108 RBIs in a hitters’ ballpark. He is making $8 million in the final season of a three-year deal and joins Luke Scott, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to give the O’s a nice middle of the order into the immediate future. Now if only they could sign A.J ...
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