Welcome back, Jason Frasor.
The likeable righthander has accepted the Jays' offer of arbitration and will return on a one-year contract for 2011 – unless, that is, the Jays decide to avoid the hearing and offer him a couple of years at a reasonable and very affordable rate as a setup man and part-time closer.
Last summer Frasor truly believed he would be moving on, but the fact that he pitched well enough over the past two years to qualify as a Type A screwed him. Nobody was going to offer a good setup man a multi-year offer and have to give up a first, second or third round draft pick. Maybe he should have given up a couple of more bombs and dropped to a B. That's the Catch-22 of his position.
The system works very much against guys like Frasor. There were 51 relievers on the free agent market and 25 of them were either A or B meaning there was compensation attached. Every club has young guys that need to pitch in the majors. They ask themselves, “Is the difference in middle relief between Frasor and our own guy enough to give up a high draft pick?” Not likely. The coincidence is that the guy he was traded for in 2004, outfielder Jayson Werth, is about to hit the free-agent jackpot.
On to the mail bag.
Q: There is an article in the Ottawa Citizen saying that councillors from the City of Ottawa are talking to the Blue Jays organization about bringing an affiliated professional baseball team to Ottawa. There seems to be a certain level of interest from the organization since, according to the article, Blue Jays officials have already visited the Ottawa baseball stadium to inspect it. Do you think this is a feasible possibility? If so, what team could come to Ottawa? Triple A?
Marcelo Mills, Ottawa
A: Don't discount the story of the Jays coming to Ottawa. Even before he took over as Jays' GM in the summer of '09, I had a long conversation with Alex Anthopoulos as assistant GM about the demise of minor-league baseball in Canada. I was expecting him to hem and haw and go over the usual excuses of “exchange rate, working visas, lengthy travel, etc.” Instead he went on about how he could not understand the death of minor-league baseball north of the 49th either. How it was all American B.S. and if he took over as GM one day, that would be a priority to get the minors back into Canada. He has already done it once, moving the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts to Vancouver. Thankfully they did not remain the Lugnuts. That would be as oxymoronic as Utah Jazz. If it doesn't work out with Ottawa, I'm saying right here, right now that if an interested group in Montreal was to step up with a legitimate place to play and financial backing that the Jays would consider that as well for a Triple-A franchise. Ottawa is getting first crack, but the AAA-Las Vegas contract is for another two years. Proximity and lack of temptation for young players works in Ottawa's favour – although the Sirens of Gatineau beckon. There used to be an expression when I was growing up, “What happens in Hull, stays in Hull.” The Jays are willing to take their chances. When the Expos were in Ottawa, they could always call a player up in the morning and he'd be there by noon. That was also a help to winning on the field.
Q: With the possibility of losing three key relievers in the Jays' pen, what are the chances the Jays pursue Canadian Jessie Crain, a reliable reliever with a career 3.45 ERA? If not, what other relievers may Alex Anthopoulos target this off season through free agency?
Matthew Lee, Toronto
A: The three key relievers that may be lost so far this off-season must include Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs who both declined arbitration and lefty swing man Brian Tallet, who has now signed with the Cardinals. I'm guessing that the third key Jays reliever that you actually had in mind was Frasor, but now that he has accepted arbitration with the Jays he is officially on the 40-man roster under a one-year contract with just the dollar amount to be determined by an arbitrator. As for the Jays possible pursuit of the Toronto-born Jesse Crain, I would do it if I was Alex Anthopoulos. Crain, who grew up in Colorado and attended the University of Houston, has just three career saves, but has great stuff and made $2 million with the Twins in 2010, going 1-1, with a 3.04 ERA and one save in 71 appearances. He allowed 53 hits and 27 walks in 68 innings, with 62 strikeouts. With Crain and Frasor, the Jays could possibly go to spring training with the position of closer up for grabs, basically like they did last year with Frasor and Gregg. Because of the status of the Jays in 2011, as still under construction, there is no reason to believe they have any interest in relievers like Rafael Soriano, Matt Guerrier, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, or any other Type A reliever that would cost them a top draft pick. They do, however, have interest in Scott Downs if his options dwindle, but of all the Type A non-closing relievers on the market, he has the best chance of finding a multi-year deal with a contender.
Q: Just a quick question regarding your opinion of the current depth of talent at the position of catcher throughout the Blue Jays organization. With John Buck having re-signed with the Marlins and Miguel Olivo a free agent, the Blue Jays essentially have J.P. Arencibia, Jose Molina and Raul Chavez as their top tier talent in the catching spot. Considering Arencibia is still essentially untested at the major league level and Molina is strictly a back-up and Chavez a fill-in at best, what perceivable talent is there available within the organization that we could realistically see develop up to the major league level by 2012?
Martin Keogh, Toronto
A: Even though free agent Miguel Olivo has declined arbitration with the Jays, all it means is that the Jays must negotiate with him as a free agent on an equal footing with every other team and if he does sign elsewhere, they will receive a sandwich draft pick between the first and second round. But Olivo knows the Jays interest in him and knows it's on a short-term basis, maybe two years, plus an option. Then, their homegrown catching will be in charge. Since the World Series years, their depth at catcher in the farm system has never been better. Don't even count Chavez and realize that Molina's role as a 50-60 game backup is etched in stone. The Top four catchers on the farm include Arencibia (25), Travis D'Arnaud (22), Carlos Perez (20) and Brian Jeroloman (25). Baseball America ranked Arencibia, D'Arnaud and Perez among the Jays' Top 15 prospects in the 2010 Prospect Handbook, while Jeroloman is the most polished defender, slated to start at AAA-Las Vegas. It's a bright future.
Q: Don't you think the timing is right for the Jays to offer John McDonald an opportunity to play every day? If he's not the best choice at third base, why not move Hill to third and take advantage of McDonald's range at second? They'll have Davis when they want to bring speed off the bench and Bautista can stay in right where he's most valuable defensively. McDonald's bat showed promise in 2010, so why not make this move?
Chris M., Collingwood
A: McDonald's window of opportunty as a starting shortstop has closed. None of those scenarios makes any sense with the 36-year-old veteran ending up as a starting shortstop. The Jays are prepared to give Yunel Escobar every opportunity to start and contribute, but there is a caveat in that Escobar's performance tailed off as the season progressed, despite the euphoria of his initial 10 games. But they are reassured by knowing Johnny Mac is there as a steadying force and a mentor for the mercurial talents of the young Cuban shortstop. Hill could move to third base but it won't be to make room for McDonald at second base. McDonald is one of my five favourite Blue Jays ever, but he will not be the starting shortstop, nor does he expect to be given that opportunity. He is what he is.
Q: No question, just an observation. I find it odd no one has referenced, or at least I haven't read one, Dave Stieb's 1985 season numbers relative to Felix's numbers this season. I recall Stieb finishing 2nd in the Cy Young award voting but after looking it up he was actually 7th which is ridculous in hindsight. I recall that generating quite a buzz in Toronto at the time.
Ross Marshall, Toronto
A: I agree that a Cy seventh for Stieb in 1985 would not have happened today with the increased awareness of sabermetrics. Stieb's wins against replacement (WAR) ranked second only to Cy winner Bret Saberhagen that year, however his inflated bases-on-balls (95) would have cost him even with a modern review of his stats. It was an impressive season for Stieb as the Jays reached the post-season for the first time, but I don't think it matched up with Felix Hernandez 2010.
Q: Hello Richard,
In your opinion, what is the status of Dustin McGowan. I just love this guy. Do you think there is a chance he can recover to be anywhere close to the pitcher he once was. Thanks, Joe Badali, Aurora A-McGowan's continuing but ethereal presence in the Jays' organization reminds me of the storyline of the Nicole Kidman 2001 opus, The Others, involving the unseen parallel spiritual presence in the same house as the former Mrs. Tom Cruise and her two bratty kids. Sure we know about McGowan, the former first round pick, and his unfortunate recent injury history over the past two years, but his rehab has made him seemingly invisible. He is still in the building but only seems to be active when nobody else is around, avoiding the light and steering clear of others that may ask too many questions. It's both scary and sad. He is battling hard to get back from his labrum and rotator cuff shoulder woes (which are always worse than elbow) and the organization to its credit has stayed with him, giving him opportunity, but for every three steps forward he takes two back. Call it the Dr. James Andrews Waltz. Having not pitched since 2008 due to labrum and rotator cuff woes in his right shoulder, McGowan heard a pop as he was throwing this past June and had another surgery to repair damage. Few pitchers have come back from labrum problems after two years off. One exception is Gil Meche, who had the operation in 2000 and successfully resumed his career in 2003. But there are more failures than successes. Jays fans are familiar with Mike Sirotka who joined the Jays from the ChiSox after the 2000 season. He had tweaked his shoulder on a tour of Japan and the Jays didn't know that it was a labrum issue. He had surgery and in spring training of 2003 was cut by the Cubs in a comeback attempt. It ended up costing GM Gord Ash his job and led to the extra step in all trades of having a complete physical before any trade is official. Robb Nen was a top closer for the Giants before shoulder surgery in 2002. He never threw another big-league inning although he struggled for two years to come back. How about Mike Harkey, Jim Parque and former Jay, Robert Person? Q-There were news reports early in November that the Jays were not ruling out Kevin Gregg's return. Could you see the team handling back-to-back save situations by using him on the first night and then testing potential future closers (e.g. Zach Stewart, David Purcey) on the second? I enjoy the mail bag!
Adrian Zenwirt, Toronto
A: There are several issues that need to be addressed here. It takes two to tango and I believe both sides are inclined to stay off the dance floor. On Gregg's part, he was not treated well by the Jays fans who were quick to jeer whenever he struggled to nail down a 1-2-3 save – being astute and knowledgeable fans. Then there was the issue of the manager Cito Gaston who twice removed his closer in the middle of a save opportunity before he had a chance to blow it. The first time Gregg reacted with anger and incredulity. The second time with a shrug and a resigned air. Then consider the fact the Jays refused his option year in October for one and also for two years, insisting they would like to see who was out there and, oh by the way, if we can't find anyone else better we'll get back to you. Try using that argument with your wife when asking for a trial separation. From the Jays' side, you pretty much have to stick with what they've been saying about still being interested in Gregg if you are going to offer arbitration. Otherwise it seems like a cold, ruthless ploy to get a sandwich pick – which of course it is. But what if they had said we have no interest and we're moving on and then he had accepted arbitration? Oops. The issue Gregg had of struggling on back-to-back nights is another issue. It's real and it's spectacular. It says here Gregg will not return under any circumstance with mutual feelings.
Q: With Jeter hitting the free agent market and the report he is looking for 6 years and huge dollars, I have a wishful thinking question. Would it make sense for the Jays to sign him for 2-4 years, have him move to 3rd base, bat 2nd and mentor the young players on how to be a winner. I would have to think a move like this would be very similar to the Jays of the early 90's bringing in Molitor and Winfield. With bringing in Jeter for that amount of years could work out well, for 1 or 2 years play 3rd base until Hechavarria is ready for the majors, then move Hill to 3rd, Adeiny to short, Escobar to 2nd and Jeter to DH. If my memory serves me correctly Molitor was a DH when he was with the Jays and he was never a power threat, he was the same kinda hitter Jeter is. The experience and leadership Jeter would bring to the clubhouse would be as a commercial says...priceless. Would AA look at a move like this?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara on the Lake
A: The Jays already have one classy player making $20+ million dollars that is not worth it with regard to performance on the field. Do they really need a second albatross contract in Jeter and make no mistake about it, he would not come to a non-playoff team for anything less than $20 million. As for moving to third base, the only team he will make a position move for is the Yankees. Next, with regard to clubhouse presence, it would be “...the Yankees do it this way...the Yankees do it that way.” and the Jays are trying to build their own brand right now. We saw how that backfired with Kevin Millar, who was helping promote the “Red Sox way” in his disastrous one-year stint with the Jays. A guy like Jeter does not consider himself a mentor and at that price he could not be treated as such. Molitor was looking to be a part of a winner before he packed it in. Jeter has been to the playoffs every October but one since his rookie year in '96 and does not need to go elsewhere. What Jeter needs to do is come to terms with both the Yankees and reality and get himself back in pinstripes for three years $45 million.
Q: During this Free Agent season with all the hotstove rumors going around and people speculating on contracts etc. One thing I have always wondered is how much influence the actual Players Association has in players' decisions. Example being Cliff Lee - I have read some articles that mention the PA will be pushing for him to get close to if not exceed CC Sabathia's per year price. How do they actually do that and can it be detrimental to a player to accept a contract perceived as "team friendly" Thanks !
Joel G., Almonte, Ont.
A: The Players Association has a huge influence on contracts and an inordinate influence with agents, who though they are all independent of the MLBPA are all sanctioned and closely aligned via meetings and e-mails, etc. One of the great baseball negotiating ironies is that collusion is a one-way street with clubs being fined for comparing notes, but agents can freely exchange info on offers they have received before any deal is done. Yeah, I know that's part of any collective bargaining agreement. The pressure from the union is tremendous not to give “home town discounts” because of the ripple effect it has on other free agents that may be comparable in years and production. One guy that I love as a man of principle that was criticized within the industry by players and agents was catcher Darren Fletcher who adored his time both in Montreal and Toronto and gave both teams breaks when it came to staying a little longer. He heard about it for years, treated almost like a reverse-scab. As for Cliff Lee getting CC money, I don't believe that will be a case of the union pushing him. This is his career moment to cash in and he earned it by getting two teams – the Phillies and the Rangers – to the World Series in the past two years and by issuing fewer four-balls than the Ryder Cup.
Q: Love the blog - thanks for keeping us baseball diehards up to date and entertained during the long off season! My question has to do with the MLB network. Do you know if there is any chance they bring the network to this side of the border? Why don't we have it? It would instantly be a favourite of mine, and I probably would pay whatever rip off fee Rogers would charge.
Isaac Oziel, Thornhill
A: Hey, before we get the MLB Network, how about Sportsnet ONE? I would in fact pay for both. How can you possibly lose bringing Hazel Mae and her MLB Network sports desk hosting duties back to TO. Surely that would count as Canadian content. I do believe people are working on it, but remember that making Canada happy has never been major league baseball's priority.