It’s been fun being back in the mailbag saddle for the past month surrounding the winter meetings in Las Vegas, but with the holiday season coming up and a lot of shoveling to be done in early January, my mailbag will once again be on hiatus for a month. The beginning of February leading into spring training marks the return, but there will be plenty of blogging material in the meantime. Happy Holidays to all baseball fans. And if there’s going to be coal in GM J.P. Ricciardi’s stocking on Christmas morning for, in Santa's opinion, being bad in 2008, we hopes it’s Cole Hamels.
Q: Hi Richard,
With Ricciardi confirming that the Jays will be reducing payroll by not utilizing A.J. Burnett's salary from last year, what will the reaction of Roy Halladay be? For the first time ever, Doc actually said some “close to negative” remarks about how the Jays were underperforming last year, and I can only bet that he is one teed off pitcher after hearing Ricciardi's comments about reducing budget. Barring a miracle of the Jays competing in the East in '09, any chance that Halladay requests a trade? I don't see him being that type of person, but after a while, surely enough is enough.
Zaki Ameen, Mississauga
A: One thing that is always overlooked about the Jays’ ’09 payroll that should lessen the fan anguish (but never does) is that even though it will be reduced in total dollars from last year, the 25-man opening payroll will be the second-most expensive Jays’ roster in the 33-year club history. However, the gloom in looking ahead stems from key injuries to young pitchers, leading to the “woe-is-us” mentality.
As far as not spending the Burnett savings, who can blame Rogers management for their attitude toward handing over more money to Ricciardi? When was the last big-ticket item he brought in that was a really good long-term investment? Frank Thomas? Corey Koskie? Burnett? Maybe B.J. Ryan.
As for Halladay, he is a man of few words when it comes to public criticism of anyone or anything. But the Jays should be pro-active for once and as per Wednesday’s column in the Star, if they are not going to actually trade him to a contender this winter, they should take care of their most loyal employee with a creative new contract proposal.
Q: Richard, love your Jays coverage and I usually agree with your honest take on things, but in your latest, a plea that it's "Time for Blue Jays to trade Roy Halladay", there's one thing that makes me disagree with you here: J.P. is still the GM. Do you really trust him to trade Halladay and get something decent in return?
Darren M., Ajax, Ont.
A: Ricciardi’s trade record is not impressive. His best two trades may have been using his former employer, the A’s – his first deal ever, sending closer Billy Koch for ’02 rookie-of-the-year Eric Hinske and Justin Miller and then on November 18, ’03, sending Bobby Kielty to Oakland for Ted Lilly. Unfortunately Billy Beane’s A’s can’t afford Halladay. But wouldn’t the Angels or Dodgers or Braves or Mets or Red Sox love having Doc as their ace? If J.P. could just get a couple or three of these teams to come up with competing offers for Halladay, he might be able to make a pretty good deal.
Q: Hi Richard,
With the Yankees signing C.C. Sabathia and Burnett, both of whom are A-level free agents that declined arbitration, the Brewers and Jays are both supposed to receive New York's first round draft pick in addition to a sandwich pick between the first two rounds. Clearly there's a conflict here. I presume that one team gets New York's first rounder and the other gets New York's second rounder, but how does baseball decide which team gets what pick?
Alex Hirbod, Toronto
A: The Brewers get the Yankees’ first round pick and the Jays get their second. The reason is that the Elias Sports Bureau places Sabathia as a higher ranked “Type A” free agent than Burnett, therefore the team that loses the higher ranked player receives the higher ranked draft pick. It becomes more complicated if the Yankees sign another A player like Mark Teixeira.
The Yankees attitude clearly is, “We don’t need no stinkin’ draft picks.” They just wait until other teams develop the best players in the draft, lets them get some major league experience and then they buy them. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner are becoming like the early overbearing “Boss” incarnation of their father. They are buying the stairway to heaven. That strategy seldom works.
Q: Hello Richard,
The Halladay trade talk triggered me to go through some teams in the league and see what kind of package the Jays may be able to get for Roy. I basically took two players from each team to get a deal started. I'm going to post my favorites that I came up with and I'd like your opinion on each.
Atl - Jair Jurrgens & Yunel Escobar
Arz - Max Scherzer & Stephen Drew
Cubs - Jeff Samardzija & Felix Pie
LAA - Nick Adenhart & Brandon Wood
Cin - Homer Bailey & Jay Bruce
LAD - Clayton Kershaw & Blake Dewitt
These teams, with the exception of the Reds, IMO all have a shot at the playoffs next year. Any of these deals realistic enough to be pulled off? My personal favourite would be the deals with the Angels for Adenhart and Wood.
Mitchell DesRoches, Kensington, PEI
A: This is clearly the best time of the year for Hot Stove fever. If you realistically leave Arizona and Cincinnati out of the list that you composed, that leaves Braves, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers. I agree with you about the Angels deal being the best of the four. I love Brandon Wood as a future. Second on my list would be the Braves proposal you outline because I love Jurrgens. Then third is the Dodgers and fourth the Cubs – unless you’re planning on lending former Notre Dame wide receiver Samardzija to the Argos. That quick list you put together just shows that if Ricciardi acts aggressively and gets two or three contenders interested in one player (Halladay) then he can work some magic. The worst that can happen is they say no and he keeps the best pitcher in the AL.
Q: Hi Richard,
Forget signing a (Matt) Clement. The real pitcher I want to see them sign isn't even going to pitch next year. Mad Dog himself, Greg Maddux. Could you imagine him teaching the likes of (Brett) Cecil, (Dave) Purcey et al down in his hometown, Vegas? That would have more of an impact than any tier 3 signing or three this year. (ya ya I know it probably won't happen, but we can dream can't we? Plus it would make our changing of AAA affiliates be sooooo much more palatable)
A: I was at the Maddux going-away press conference and it sure didn’t seem like he was going to be coming near any ballpark in this, the first year after his retirement. Dude just wants to play golf, go hunting, hang with his kids, plus have his wife continue to let him sleep in and make him lunch. A man of simple pleasures. And by the time Maddux is ready to come back to a ballpark, the Jays will likely have left Vegas as a Triple-A affiliate for somewhere closer to home and more conducive to nurturing young players.
Q: Hey RG,
I keep reading your thoughts regarding (Vernon) Wells and his unmovable contract. What about trading him to a team that doesn't necessarily care about payroll (i.e. the Yankees). With the loss of (Bobby) Abreu, Godzilla (Hideki Matsui) aging and Melky (Cabrera) taking a step backwards, couldn't the Bronx bombers use Wells? In return, the Jays rid themselves of a hefty contract and maybe get (Phil) Hughes, (Robinson) Cano in return.
Q: Hey RG,
Since Texas is losing (Milton) Bradley's contract, do you think they would make a move if offered Wells? I think Michael Young would be chirping into the ear of any upper-suit to get his boy in a Rangers uniform, Wells would be back home and the Jays would be unloading a big contract and maybe getting Matt Harrison in return. It's a win-win-win situation. What do you think?
Q: Hey RG,
What do you think about swapping Wells for (Jermaine) Dye and a prospect or two? The Jays would unload the lengthier and economically unkind contract and would only have to take on Dye's $11.5 million salary in 2009. This would leave the Jays open for some spending in 2010!
Keith McBain, Toronto
A: Hey, Keith,
It seems you have a problem with Vernon Wells. It would be a tough trade to complete for even an accomplished GM. Don’t forget, Vernon has a no-trade clause for the duration and an opt-out clause after the 2011 season, which would leave three years of $21 million on the table. The $23 million for 2010 plus three years at $21 mil’ for his less-than-superstar numbers seems daunting for any team to take on under these economic conditions, no matter whether Michael Young is his good friend and he lives in the Arlington area. I would love to be able to get Hughes and Cano for Wells and then move Aaron Hill over to shortstop. As for Dye, he wouldn’t be a very good fit for ’09 if the Jays are just going to write the season off and wait for 2010. But keep on thinking.
Q: Hey Richard, with all the talk of Milwaukee needing a closer and the Jays needing a SS, a trade of BJ Ryan for J.J. Hardy just makes sense to me. The Brewers have a stud shortstop prospect in Alcides Escobar and he should be able to step in for Hardy next season. J.P. needs to stop trying to be "creative" and just make the club better the obvious way, by trading what we have for what we need.
Ryan L., Keswick, Ont.
A: I have written about the potential of that Hardy for Ryan move with the Brewers. That could be the basis for an expanded trade, involving younger players. There is a feeling that Escobar is ready to step in at short in Milwaukee. The only problem is that the Brewers would still have to believe that they are contenders in ’09 for them to even consider obtaining a veteran closer like B.J. with two years and $20 million left on his contract. The Brew Crew has lost Sabathia and Ben Sheets from last year’s rotation, so they need to replace a lot before they consider Ryan. Last year, when they were on the cusp, they took a $10-million flyer on Eric Gagne, so you know that Ryan is not out of their price range if they believe they can win. Hardy, at 26, is a nice shortstop, with a solid offensive history. His 24 homers last year would have led the Jays.
Q: Hey Richard, I continue to hear the Jays are interested In (Rafael) Furcal, which hasn't been a secret since mid-summer. Obviously the leadoff position is important to any team's success, and our lack of a leadoff hitter can be used as a reason we haven't taken the next step. I also think speed on the base paths is important and something we've lacked for a while. Now I know his OBS is horrible and he doesn't hit all that well but you can't ignore that Willy Taveras is available and stole 69 bases last year. His average was exceptionally low last year so we would essentially be buying him on the cheap. His contract is affordable. Finding a position for him would be the tricky part, nonetheless do you see value in adding him to the team. Finally instead of adding Furcal, which clearly is not happening, what about going after Felipe Lopez?
Marc Oliver, Guelph, Ont.
A: As you now probably know, the Furcal sweepstakes are down to the Braves and Dodgers, with the Braves thinking if they lose him that they’ve been screwed. On Tuesday night they thought they had a deal for three years plus a vesting option, but by Wednesday morning the Dodgers were back in the hunt after disappearing from the radar for about 10 days.
The Braves were thinking of moving Furcal to second base, which he would balk at and actually doesn’t seem to make much sense. Furcal has one of the strongest infield arms in baseball and to have him play second base is like using a flame-thrower on an anthill. Too much weapon for too little problem.
As for Taveras, the Jays in recent years have had no interest in Juan Pierre, Scott Podsednik or Corey Patterson. They don’t want a guy like Taveras. Speed on the bases might excite the fans too much. At the winter meetings, Cito Gaston just laughed when asked if the Jays would be stealing more bases in ’09. A guy like that would be good on a major-league bench with an occasional spot start.
To me, the perfect major-league bench would have a specialist in a) power; b) speed; c) infield defence; d) batting average; e) a defensive catcher. Of course that would mean cutting back to 11 pitchers – which is what they should be carrying anyway. But that’s just me.
Q: Hey Richard, long time listener, first time cal- uh, you know what I mean.
First of all, I'm nervous about 2009. I mean, really nervous. We have holes in our rotation, in the infield, at DH, as well as two up-and-comers who may or may not be able to replicate their 2008 success. With the AL East as competitive as ever, and the Orioles looking like they’re on the verge of something big, these surely are some dark days ahead for Jays Nation.
Now we get to the question: Ken Rosenthal at foxsports.com was saying in order to even think about acquiring Jake Peavy, the Cubs first need to clear some salary, to create what he calls "payroll flexibility." Ken suggests this would come in trading away RHP Jason Marquis. Reading over Marquis' 2008 stats, he seems like a pretty decent third or fourth starter, just what the Jays need to begin to fill out the rotation. Is Marquis a good fit for the Jays system? Is this who the Jays should be going after? And if not Marquis, then who?
Colin Rabyniuk, Newmarket
A: What concerns me the most for 2009 is that the Jays on their 40-man roster list just 15 position players – and they will carry 13 on Opening Day. I could make those cuts right now – Russ Adams and Buck Coats. Six weeks of spring training to make those moves?
As for the starting nine for the Jays, the average age on opening day is over 29-years-old, even with the 21-year-old Travis Snider in tow. On the bench, Joe Inglett is 30, Johnny Mac is 34, Jose Bautista is 28 and the new backup catcher will be a veteran. The only players younger than 25 on the Opening Day roster could be Snider and Jesse Litsch (24). On the entire 40-man roster, there are only five players under 25 as of April 1, 2009. The Yankees had 11 under 25 players on their 40-man roster before adding C.C. and A.J.
Marquis? Watching him pitch over the years in the Natoinal League, I don't think he's a guy that can come in and help the Jays a lot in 2009.
Q: Richard, Merry Xmas to you. I have a solution for the Jays financial problem! We should choose one of the positions, DH probably, and sell it to the public. For example, the Jays can put a price tag on DH as $10M (US$ only) and if someone can give the Jays 10M, then he could be the DH for Jays in 09. To make it okay to the union, we can pay the guy major league minimum and put him in A ball for 24 hours and then call him up. The Jays also have opening for the 4th and 5th starting pitcher. So we are looking at 30M potential income! And if this business model works, maybe all position should be sold. Plus, we probably will get the number 1 pick the year after. Yeah!
Davy P., San Jose
A: The concept is good, but the pesky players union always steps in when there’s fun to be had. A better variation of the same theme is to sell monthly packages on e-bay for the positions of: Jays president, Jays’ bench coach and Jays’ first-base coach. The president gig could earn the club the most money and might even come up with some good ideas. As for first-base coach, there won’t be much base stealing so just pat a guy on the butt every now and then, take his shin guard and make sure he doesn’t get picked off. Simple.
NOTE: The mail bag is taking a month off and will return in February. Click here to submit a question for Richard now and we'll throw it into the mix when the feature returns.