It’s amazing how quickly the bloom has come off the rose for the Jays and their fans. The bouquets being tossed their way in April and early May have turned to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune here in June. But things are never as good as they seem nor as bad as they seem. A lot of readers are curious about Vernon Wells. Some wonder about Sammy Sosa. Others wonder if Alex Rios could really be as ignorant as he seemed off the field at the charity bash or on the field when he failed to tag up in the eighth. That’s the great thing about baseball. Yesterday’s bum is tomorrow’s hero. On to the mailbag.
Q: Hey Richard,
How many years/dollars does Vernon Wells have left on his contract? Is there any way the Jays can move him without eating a large chunk of salary? Do they put him on waivers to see if someone claims him like the Red Sox did with Manny a few years ago? With the ways things are going I'm sure he would appreciate a change of scene, maybe a new team could get him going. Are significant moves likely or will the Jays be in lockdown mode until the new GM is appointed?
Jonathan Spain, Toronto
A: According to the usually reliable Cot’s Baseball Contracts website, here are the details of Vernon’s remaining years and dollars. On March 1, next spring, the Jays will pay him $8.5 million as the final installment of his signing bonus. Then for 2010 season he gets $12.5 million. In 2011, his salary jumps up to $23 million. At that point he can unilaterally opt out of his contract, leaving the final three seasons of $21 million per year for 201-14 on the table. To do that, he would have to be completely out of his mind. So, the total commitment for Vernon remaining after this season is five years, $107 million.
Can the Jays trade him without eating a large chunk of salary? In one word, no. And say the Jays have to eat $7 million per year in order to trade him, then the man replacing him in centre field is costing the Jays’ his own salary-plus-seven mill, so why bother trading one of the best defenders in baseball. I have a feeling they’re stuck with him – unless he opts out after 2011. But why would he? GM J.P. Ricciardi called Carlos Delgado’s contract an albatross around the team’s neck. Wells’ deal is the elephant in the room. As for waivers, don’t worry. Wells will be on every waiver list from here on out as the Jays look for a dance partner to make a deal. It won’t happen.
Q: I know you have dealt with this question many times, but how much longer can the Blue Jays suffer with Vernon Wells? There is no question about his defensive capabilities, but his hitting is atrocious. For a number three or four guy, he is failing miserably with runners in scoring position and not much better with no one on base. Cito has done a great job with the team, but it’s time to either bench Vernon, move him down in the order, send him down to Syracuse to work on his hitting, or trade him and eat the contract. He adds little value to this team and in fact he probably hurts the team more than he helps and that's disappointing.
Joel Rosen, Toronto
A: How much longer can the Jays’ suffer with Vernon Wells? How about five years, three months and 20 days.
At some point, manager Cito Gaston is going to have to move him down in the batting order. They would love to be able to send him to Syracuse because their Triple-A team is now in Las Vegas and that means he would be with another organization.
Why would they eat his contract? Unlike NFL football, every dime of a multi-year contract is guaranteed. That being said, Vernon is showing signs of snapping out of his funk in the last two games and recall, he is averaging 92 RBIs per season for the seven years since 2002. If he gets hot and produces 20 HR, 80 RBI it will be less of an issue by the end of September – until next year’s slow start.
Q: Hi Richard,
With Vernon being so terrible, when do the questions of Performance Enhancing Drugs start? Looking at the history, its hard not to wonder about him. When he was having his big years there was no testing and baseball clearly didn't even care. Then as baseball starts to look at this issue, he starts to get injured more often and his numbers are in a freefall. Also, the Jays clubhouse has a bit of a history of having guys affiliated with PED's, Canseco and Clemens come to mind first. I'm not accusing him of anything, but it could help to explain some things. Your thoughts?
James Doyle, Tofino, B.C.
A: I am beginning to get over the heretofore obsession with performance-enhancing drugs – but only as they are reported prior to 2004. Anything fresh like Manny failing his test this spring is damning. As you point out, there was no testing back in the day and baseball (especially the union) clearly didn’t care. That, in hindsight, is the biggest cloud over the history of the Players’ Association, protecting and enabling the cheaters for all those years by fighting mandatory testing efforts by MLB.
In any case, there are many players that show the same pattern as Wells in that their most productive seasons were from ’98 to ’03. Mandatory testing kicked in in ’04. In ‘03 there was testing that was supposed to remain anonymous, meant simply as an indicator for both sides whether the union would agree to mandatory testing. The 104 positive results represented a high enough percentage of positive tests to introduce the new mandatory testing policy. The names on that list were never meant to be revealed. A-Rod and now Sammy Sosa are reported to be on that list of 104 cheaters. Nobody seems surprised.
My personal indignation from the pre-testing Steroid Era has been muted through time. If a player, since then, has lied about his use of PEDs to lawyers or to the public, that’s’ more of what I have a problem with - players like Rafael Palmeiro, A-Rod, Sosa and others. All of a sudden, Mark McGwire, who refused to talk about any possible use of performance enhancers on his part, looks like the smartest guy in the room.
Q: Is there any way that Vernon Wells will be traded?
Joe M., Thorold
Q: Hi Richard,
In your opinion, what were the five worst contracts ever given out by the Jays? I'm thinking Wells' contract may end up being number one. Not only can't he hit when it matters, he is virtually untradeable unless we can buzz him into a Red Sox vs. Yanks commodity.
Martin Haurilak, Toronto
A: The Jays have given away some dandy contracts over the years. In my mind, here is the Top 7 in terms of squandered cash – relative to the time. I won’t put Wells on that list yet because the jury might still be considered out, given that he has time to regroup.
1. Joey Hamilton (’99-’01). 14-18 in 50 games. Three years, $17.0 million. Hamilton came highly recommended by assistant GM Dave Stewart who suggested the multi-year reward. He wavered between injured and mediocre.
2. Bill Caudill (’85-’86). 6-10, 16 saves. Three years, $4.0 million. The biggest contract mistake by the Pat Gillick regime, he never lived up to the role he was brought in for just as the Jays became an AL power.
3. Randy Myers (’98). 3-4, 28 saves. Three years, $18.0 million. The Jays were in a spending mode and tapped the free-agent market for a fearsome Orioles left-handed closer. After three months of eccentric behaviour, the Jays put him on waivers and the Padres grabbed him out of panic that the Braves might take him.
4. Erik Hanson (’96-’98). 13-20 in 49 games. Three years, $10 million. Injured for much of his tenure, he busied himself as Roger Clemens’ personal valet and golf partner on the road while he rehabbed. It was written in ’98 that only Tiger Woods made more money that year for just playing golf.
5. B.J. Ryan (’06-’09). 5-8, 75 saves. The five-year, $47 million contract was at the time the highest paid to a reliever. B.J. was injured for a year and has lost his closer’s role with another year to go on his deal. Jays like to tap O’s for overpriced left-handed closers.
6. Mike Sirotka (’01-‘02). Never played. Two years, $6.8 million. This trade may have cost Gord Ash his job as Jays’ GM. Sirotka apparently hurt himself on an MLB Japanese tour but the Jays traded for him sight unseen. Since then, physical exams on all players are mandatory before a deal is completed.
7. Frank Thomas (’07-’08). 29 HR, 106 RBI. Two years, $18.1 million. The Big Hurt was as one-dimensional as you can get by the time he got to the Jays. Ricciardi signed him a year too late. He clogged the bases and the lineup and was released after he could no longer play every day.
Q: Hi Richard,
Casey Janssen has been a strong asset in the Blue Jay in the past bullpen but has never really won a spot in the starting rotation. His current starting role was basically handed to him on his return from his injury. Why is he considered higher in the rotation than No. 5 starter Scott Richmond who has pitched much better based on his statistics.
Bob Mavin, Waterloo
A: I agree with you. I could never understand why Casey Janssen became a better starter in the minds of the Jays’ front office - while he was injured. Casey’s a great guy, but after a terrific season as a setup man in ’07, he came to training camp with the Jays ready to look at him as a rotation guy in ’08. He never got the chance, undergoing surgery on March 18 to repair a torn labrum. Then while he was out, especially after the loss of Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan, the club starting issuing the disinformation that Janssen was one of the key missing pieces in the rotation and when he came back healthy in ’09, all would be right with the world. He suffered a minor setback in Tampa vs. the Yankees and was set back again. As soon as he was ready, he returned to the Jays and was thrust into the rotation ahead of Richmond. Why?
Even pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, going back to the spring of ’08 was campaigning for Janssen to remain in the bullpen. Arnie caught some grief from GM J.P. Ricciardi for airing his dissenting views. Janssen’s major-league experience as a starter prior to this season was three years ago in 2006, going 6-10 with a 5.07 ERA, allowing opponents to bat .275 for the year. The belief here is that he would be better off back in the bullpen for the rest of this year.
Q: Hi Richard, I enjoy the letters written by Jays knowledgeable fans and your considerate responses. I am curious as to why, with such a lack of pitching, Mr. Ricciardi would go out and spend $4M or more to get a so-so hitter Cleveland had let go. What is his thinking? Now the need becomes more dire with Roy's groin twinge. What do you think Richard? Thanks.
Tony D'Souza, Toronto
A: I can’t argue with J.P. on this one. As a released player the Jays are only obliged to pay David Dellucci the pro-rated major-league minimum of $400,000. If there were competing bids for the services of the former Indians outfielder, then maybe the Jays had to sweeten the pot with a signing bonus, but it’s unlikely. Dellucci would have made his choice based on the easiest path back to the majors. Dellucci was making $4 million from the Tribe and they are still on the hook for that. Any salary the Jays pay him will be deducted from the Indians’ obligation. They still need to get a starting pitcher but the signing of Dellucci won’t get in the way of that.
Q: Hello, Richard,
After Randy Johnson got his 300th win, the number which seems to guarantee election to the Hall of Fame, a lot was made of how unlikely it is that many more pitchers will reach 300 wins. Does that mean that a pitcher like Roy Halladay, if he were to top out at 250 wins, might not get into the Hall of Fame?
Richard Fine, Toronto
A: No, that makes no sense. If that was the case, then the Hall-of-Fame would be closed to future starting pitchers. I think guys like Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Zach Greinke, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and others have a chance at 225 wins or more. The Hall-of-Fame will become more about comparison to players of your own era. Doc’s complete games would not be as impressive in the ’60s as they are now. But they are impressive.
Q: I submitted my all-star ballot and was surprised that Adam Lind was not on the ballot. I had to enter a vote for him as a write-in. In my view this gives Adam absolutely no chance of making the All Star AL line-up. You can choose three outfielders, and I bet most voters will check stats for at least one choice, and Adam would definitely get many votes if his name was on the stat list. Since it isn’t he won’t get any of these secondary votes. That's a shame.
Mark Hillard, Milton, Ont.
A: The inclusion of players on the all-star ballot is done before spring training. Each team suggests their starting lineup and MLB uses that as a guideline. Lind would be on but someone at the Jays didn’t push him hard enough. Fear not though. The fan ballot is good for the starting lineup, but after the top three, anyone having a breakthrough season has a chance no matter how many fan votes they receive. You have the player ballot and then the manager and leagues fill out the team, with one more player selected at the last minute in an online fan vote. Lind still has a chance.
Q: Hey Richard,
So I'm filling out an all-star ballot and I'm at AL shortstop. It's pretty obvious Jeter will be voted in and this year he actually deserves it. I’m looking for the next deserving candidate and the one person that pops out is Scutaro. Do you think there is a SS in the AL other than Jeter who is more deserving than Scutaro to make the all-star team? What are the chances he gets in with Halladay and Hill pretty good shots to make the team already?
Antonii Cisneros, Toronto
A: You’re right. Other than Jeter, who should win the fan ballot, Scutaro is the obvious choice as the backup, which would be a great accomplishment for him. But don’t count on it, because baseball has always been known to screw the Canadian teams whenever possible. Manager Joe Maddon might want his own guy Jason Bartlett or MLB might want Rangers’ rookie Elvis Andrus. I would say Scutaro has a far better chance than Hill, who must compete with Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano Alberto Callaspo, Brian Roberts and Jose Lopez.
Q: Hi Richard,
I have to tell you that Scott Rolen has fast become one of my favourite players this season. I can't even remember the last time the Blue Jays had someone with his defensive prowess manning third base since possibly Kelly Gruber. His accurate throws again and again are simply marvelous to watch. And the best part is that he's contributing at the plate this year, which makes one see why he was considered at one point to be one of the potential greats at that position when he was first drafted. I also understand that he's nothing short of a class act both on the field and off the field. So my question is this. With Rolen's contract up after 2010, and with the Blue Jays seemingly grooming Kevin Ahrens for that position, what is Rolen's long-term plan with this team, if there is any? I'm assuming it will all depend on his health. Thanks!
Zaki Ameen, Mississauga
A: Scott Rolen is the best defensive third baseman the Jays have ever had and may be one of the best ever in the majors. Brooks Robinson leads the way. Rolen prepares and is as focused as anyone on the team. As far as a contract beyond 2010, I get the feeling that there will be a mutual parting of ways after 2010. The artificial turf would play a role as well as the committed money to Wells, Rios and if they re-sign Halladay.
Click here to send Richard a question, and he'll answer a selection in his mailbag Wednesdays in this space. **Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Richard. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**