With the major-league baseball trade deadline without waivers approaching at the end of the month, two positives have emerged in terms of GM Alex Anthopoulos if he in fact desires to a) move Lyle Overbay in trade and look forward to the future of first base with the Jays or b) move John Buck in trade and look forward to the future of catching with the Jays. The positives are that Overbay has begin to be productive on a daily basis and Buck has been named to the All-Star team. That may increase the interest in both men.
It was interesting on Tuesday to see Adam Lind pre-game working intensely with infield coach Brian Butterfield on fielding groundballs with his first baseman's glove. That indicates that something may be imminent with Overbay and that they don't think Brett Wallace is quite ready to come up and take over first base on an everyday basis. The Jays also need to make room for Travis Snider and if Lind moves to first, it opens up a spot at DH.
The Jays also have to make a decision after the all-star break when Shaun Marcum returns to the active roster. Jesse Litsch is scheduled for the Sunday start heading into the break and that may be his make-or-break moment. He has gone bad-good-bad-good-bad in his five starts, which is okay considering he missed a full year, but manager Cito Gaston has thrown some doubt on his immediate Jays' future if he goes back-to-back bad.
Q: Hi Richard,
Well isn't this turning into an interesting year? Though they are losing ground, I can see the elements of a very good team in the young Jays, and I'm enjoying watching Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil grow into a what may become a very enviable rotation. I just watched the final Yankees game on Sunday, and my question is about the ruling for the inside-the-park home-run that happened when Wise lost the ball in the sun. Not taking anything away from Dewayne, who had an excellent game, but why wasn't that ruled an error? A final thought - I'm really enjoying watching Dewayne Wise and Fred Lewis. Do they have a long-term future with the club? Thanks for your thoughts.
Bryan Willis, Vancouver
A: It is indeed an interesting year, although it was a bit more interesting in April and May when balls were flying out of the yard and the Jays starters were going 6-8 innings and they were within spitting distance of first place. The youngest most exciting aspect of the major-league Jays is definitely the starting rotation and it offers GM Alex Anthopoulos the deepest inventory of talent from which to deal this off-season. Consider a depth chart in the 2010-11 off-season of 1-Shaun Marcum; 2-Romero; 3-Morrow; 4-Cecil; 5-Marc Rzepczynski; 6-Jesse Litsch; 7-Kyle Drabek; 8-Scott Richmond; 9-Zach Stewart; 10-Henderson Alvarez; 11 Chad Jenkins. If 2010 is a rebuilding year, it looks like 2011 will be a re-positioning year with the baseball brass finding the right manager and the right mix of players with 2012 the year to compete.
As for the inside-the-park homer, losing a ball in the sun or if the wind blows a ball away from a fielder that looked like he was camped under it or if he loses it in the lights or two guys call for it and nobody catches it are all usually called “base-hit” by most official scorers. The mere fact of getting leather on a ball does not make it an error. Lewis was a good addition in April by A.A. When the Jays were looking for speed and a leadoff man. Wise has turned into a nice fourth outfielder with mad defensive skills and enough of a bat to hit second whenever he gets the nod. But in terms of long-term prospects for either or both, long-term commitments by the Jays are not in their future.
Q: Until the July 3 debacle against the Yankees, I'd accepted the ups and downs of the season as part of the growing process of a young, rebuilding team. Then it occurred to me: the 2010 Blue Jays are not a young team. Of the players to receive an at-bat, they Yankees were, on average, eight months younger than the Jays.
Eleven Yankees batted in that game - four were 30 or older (Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriquez, and Posada). One may speculate about whether these guys are on the downside of their careers - however, if so, it's on the downside of great careers.
Ten Blue Jays got an at-bat in the same game. Only two (Hill and Encarnacion) are under 30. Older players for the Jays included Green (lifetime batting average of .231), McDonald (.237 lifetime), Bautista (also .237 lifetime), Buck (.239 lifetime), Gonzalez (.248 lifetime) and Wise (.216 lifetime). What's the rebuilding strategy behind acquiring and playing this many aging players whose lifetime record is somewhere below mediocre?
Mark Stobbe, Saskatoon
A: While Bautista is not yet 30 and John Buck just turned 30 on Wednesday, you have a point if one was to look at the major-league club as the only entity involved for an organization that claimed to be rebuilding. The Yankee 40-man roster indeed averages 28.2 years old while the Jays check in at 28.5. While that may seem contrary to organizational philosophy, let's have a look at what the Jays ideally see as a lineup for when they are contenders in 2012.
C-Buck and Molina now ... J.P. Arencibia in '12
1B-Lyle Overbay now ... Brett Wallace in '12
2B-Aaron Hill now ... Hill in '12
3B-Edwin Encarnacion now ... Jose Bautista in '12
SS-Alex Gonzalez now ... Adeiny Hechavarria in '12
LF-Fred Lewis now ... TBA in '12
CF-Vernon Wells now ... Wells in '12
RF-Bautista now ... Travis Snider in '12
DH-Adam Lind now ... Lind in '12
That will be a younger team that was allowed to develop in the minors because of the 2010 veterans playing this year.
Q: J.P. Arencibia's numbers are looking fantastic and he is now batting 3rd in the order for Vegas. Is it possible that he forces the hand of the Jays to move him up this year for some experience in preparation for the 2011 campaign?
Aaron Hickey, Sydney, Australia
A: This guys has emerged as the clear catcher of the future. When that is will be determined by what happens to John Buck later in the season. If there is an injury to Buck or if he's traded at the deadline, Arencibia would be called up and mentored by the classy veteran Jose Molina. Arencibia, a first round selection in 2007, is hitting .317 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs at AAA-Las Vegas, through Monday's games. He is hitting .430 in his last 23 games. The hesitation in bringing him to the majors right away is that the starting rotation is still learning their trade and having a rotation and their catcher all learning at the same time is tough. Arencibia at the latest will be up in September with a chance to catch a few games. He had off-season surgery for astigmatism and to correct a congenital kidney disorder both of which affected his play last year at Vegas.
Q: Dear Richard:
I have nothing against facial hair such as yours but I believe the athletes and others are overdoing it. When I look at the Blue Jays I see a bunch of bums (not all of them) and if you look like bums you play like bums. Look at the Yankees, all clean shaven. Years ago when the late Conn Smythe was in charge of the hockey Leafs his rule was that if you show up unshaven you're not playing. And every one of the players made sure that when they showed up for a game they looked like gentlemen. Maybe Cito Gaston should demand the same of his players and maybe, maybe they would look and start to play like the Yankees.
A: An interesting variation on the old “Reverse Sampson Theory”. If being neatly groomed was all it took to play like the Yankees, every MLB team would hire two trainers, one strength and conditioning coach and a couple of barbers on staff and save millions of dollars on veteran free agents. I agree with you in players taking pride in their appearance but the fact is that the reason you think they look like bums is not the scraggly beards, but the first-pitch popups to the infield with a runner on third and one out. The Yankees have always had a team rule on facial and the length of hair. Examples of players coming in and toeing the line with a huge change are Johnny Damon from the Red Sox and Jason Giambi from the A's. However with Conn Smythe you might have a point. Ever since the Leafs started allowing facial hair they have not won a Stanley Cup.
Q: Hi Richard,
The offensive woes wouldn't be so much of a concern if Hill and Lind were performing half as well as they did last year. With that in mind, is there ANY possibility that those two may be sent down (if they have options) to work their issues whatever they are because this is way too despicable and disturbing to watch those guys.
Kam Hoosh, Richmond Hill
A: Whatever ails Hill and Lind this year is between the ears and that head-space for rent remains the same whether you are in Toronto or Las Vegas. Question No. 1: Would being sent to Triple-A be advantageous for players that need to straighten themselves out mentally and in their response to smart major-league pitching that has made adjustments to them while they have not made the necessary adjustments back? Question No. 2: Who would the Jays play at second base and as DH while Hill and Lind are in the minors? The Jays are willing to have both players find themselves in the majors because this is a rebuilding year. Both are signed long-term and both need to find their confidence which they won't do in Vegas. They have to meet their personal challenge in the major leagues.
Q: Hi Richard,
I love your columns and your mail bag, keep up the great insight. My question is in regards to the draft and signing of players. I see the Jays signed a bunch of their draft picks in the first few weeks after the draft, but have no signings since the middle of June. Why is that? I know the high draft picks wait until near the deadline, but what about the other early picks? Also I see that a bunch a their early picks are signed, but I can only find a few in the farm system. Where are picks 2 and 3 Sanchez and Syndergaard? Why would they not be in the GCL or NYP? Lastly, what are the odds that McGuire will sign with the Jays?
Adam Russell, Beamsville
A: The high draft picks wait until close to the August 15 final deadline in order to find out what other players sign for. Nobody wants to be the first to set the signing-bonus bar. As for the Jays, they have signed seven of their top 21 picks and have sworn that they will not fail like they did last year to sign their big boys. Of course agents hear that talk and now they hold the hammer because the Jays have told their fans they will sign their top guys and can squeeze a few more dollars out of Anthopoulos. Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Dalton Pompey and Angel Gomez are the four youngest players signed out of the draft, all born in 1992. None of them has been assigned a team, instead they are at the Jays' minor-league complex learning what it is to be a professional ballplayer. They may play Instructional League in the Fall.
Q: Hi Richard,
I was doing some reading on Scott Boras and was wondering if you could clarify the "loophole" Boras was able to discover for his clients shortly after the 1996 First-Year player draft. From some of the stuff on the internet, I can only get information on what happened, but there isn't a clear explanation as to what the loophole was.
A: I seem to recall that after the '96 draft, Travis Lee, Matt White and a couple of other Boras clients were declared complete free agents after their teams did not make a formal contract offer in the allotted time. The rule has always been that every player drafted must be offered some sort of salary figure – usually ridiculously low – within about 10 days of the draft. That is usually accomplished by the area scout and even if the player doesn't sign, the rule has been followed. Back in '96 teams didn't pay that much attention to the exact timing – that is until Boras successfully sued for free agency for his clients. Teams have been careful ever since.
Q: How long will Jays fans need to put up with Encarnacion and his lack of effort like today (July 4) when his failure to run out his bunt attempt led to a crucial double play? When he got through waivers, it showed how poorly he is viewed by the rest of MLB. His contract is obviously a factor but why compound a mistake by keeping him around? Why not try out McDonald at third base or find someone (anyone) else in the minors? His lack of effort or brain cramps sends a bad message to the younger players.
Ian McLennan, Fort Frances
A: There is a difference of opinion on whether Encarnacion actually is guilty of anything wrong on the popped up bunt that A-Rod turned into a key double play with Edwin not leaving the batter's box thinking a) it might be caught or b) it was going to spin foul. The answer is yes he erred badly. Twelve-year old kids are taught to hustle out of the batters box and keep running until an umpire yells “Foul” or the play is ended. Just because he is a major leaguer does not excuse the lack of executing a basic tenet of the game. Especially after said player has just been shipped out to Triple-A amid rumours that part of the reason was lack of hustle. If Encarnacion had hustled out of the batter's box, A-Rod would have either caught the ball in the air allowing Lind the runners to return to their bases, or he would have picked it up and got one out at second base with runners at the corners and one out.