Jays mailbag: Vernon Wells and the mysterious $5 million
The Jays staged their annual State of the Franchise meeting at the Rogers Centre last week in front of 400-plus season-ticket holders.
The tone was far different than it ever had been in the final winters of their discontent from the J.P. Ricciardi years.
Other than the obvious lack of soon-to-be-broken promises for the upcoming season and minus the failed promises to build up an impressive pool of minor-league prospects, never fulfilled, the major differences between this Jays' pep rally and others from the past was in the tone of respect accorded the fans emanating from the Jays.
The fact is there are no more well-informed fans in baseball than Jays fans. The Jays' faithful has always understood that this is not a small market in terms of the ability to compete.
When Paul Beeston promised that the Jays at some point in the near future were willing to spend $140-150 million on payroll, the tendency was to believe it. The Jays won 85 games in 2010. They may not win 85 games in 2011, but they will be closer to contending for the playoffs, especially when an extra wild-card is added in each league for 2012. Am looking forwards to spring training. On to the mailbag.
Q. I love A.A's moves. But c'mon you cannot tell me he did not make a mistake signing Edwin Encarnacion when he could have signed a much better bat in either Manny Ramirez or Vladimir Guerrero. I know you are going to say well those guys can't play defence and A.A. wants to have guys who are not one dimensional and can run etc. But give me a break, these guys are much better hitters and both hit extremely well at Rogers Centre so their numbers would be incrementally better than Encarnacion as a DH/backup 1B.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
A. The question of Vlad Guerrero and his eventual 2011 destination becomes more about himself and his pride than anything else. In the wake of his fine regular season with the Rangers in 2010, helping them to the post-season, he was reportedly looking for three years, $24 million, turned down two years, $16 million and is apparently still haggling with the O's at one year, $8 million. He will probably settle for less at this stage, maybe with big performance bonuses. He badly misread the market.
Even though Guerrero will be 36 years old next week and he struggled in the post-season last year, at least the Rangers made it to the post-season with Vlad at DH. Clearly, he still can hit and has something left in the tank with a bat in his hand. He doesn't run well anymore and he proved in the Series last year, without a doubt, that he can no longer play the outfield, in fact, doesn't even want to play the outfield any more. The point is the Anthopoulos and the Jays were interested in finding someone to DH sooner in the off-season and for less money – and did so by signing Encarnacion.
As for Manny Ramirez, I would have preferred him over Encarnacion as Jays' DH for a one-year plus an option contract in which Manny was intent on re-establishing himself at age 38. He settled for $2 million in Tampa. Even in a down year, 2010, Manny posted an .870 OPS, on pace for 18 homers, 84 RBIs given a full season of ABs. The guy is a student of hitting and his work ethic in that regard would have been a good influence. Manny is in the same situation as Frank Thomas was when he was signed as an unwanted DH with the A's, the year before the Jays signed him to an unfortunate three-year deal. The key is to get them while they're trying to prove something to the world. I know that AA wanted to have someone on hand that could DH and possibly trade off with Adam Lind at first base if he fails to make the transition defensively. But Edwin is as much of a novice at first base as Lind, so it's a gamble anyway. The Jays believe that Edwin without the defensive stress of third base, can hit 30-plus homers.
Q. Richard. I keep hearing the Jays paid the Angels $5 Million in the Veron Wells trade but A.A. doesn't admit to it. When will the 100% TRUTH come out on this? Doesn't the commissioner's office release that type of info or doesn't it show up somewhere?
Scott Ross, Greenwood
A. The total secrecy umbrella under which Anthopoulos prefers to work is annoying at times, but the fact is that major-league teams are under no obligation to share the financial background implications of any trade. The only TRUTH that fans need to know is that Vernon Wells is an Angel and will report to spring training in Arizona and that Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera are, or in the case of Napoli, were Jays. Most GMs, especially in the situation of Angels' GM Tony Reagins, where he was being publicly criticized for the Wells deal, inheriting the final $86 million for four years of a bad contract, would want the world to know that he was getting an extra $5 million as part of the deal. My educated guess is that's what eventually happened, that the truth of the $5 million transfer was supposed to remain between the teams, but there was fan pressure in Anaheim and the Angels side leaked the info to make them not look so bad as being had in the deal. The Commissioner's Office and the players' union must be notified of all financial details, but it's not up to New York to release money numbers. Anthopoulos continues to refuse comment and I know is upset that the additional transfer of funds was leaked. Recall that the $6 million to the Phillies for Halladay also came out after the rest was announced.
Q. Hi Richard. I enjoy your blogs. I also am a big fan of AA. Last summer, I bailed from Toronto and the G20. The Jays gave up their home series with Philly by having it at their park. Was any thought given to having the series in Montreal? If not, why not? It would make sense given that they have good fans in Montreal and the PR would be terrific. I think the Jays missed a great opportunity there.
Warren Viegas, Toronto
A. It would have been great PR to play the series in Montreal, home of Canada's first major-league team, but there were several mitigating factors at play. First, when the Expos were actually playing at Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Installations Board had trouble getting the stadium ready to play. Imagine this set of circumstances. The lead time was for the Jays-Phillies series was not great and the baseball configuration of the field had been lost. The stadium scoreboard would have had to have been re-programmed and the logistics of major-league clubhouses and facilities, with batting cages, etc. was daunting. A second factor was that the Jays ended up negotiating to trade off that three-game series last June for a three-game series vs. the Phillies, the 2011 July 1 holiday weekend. That would not have been an option if they had chosen to play lasy year's series at a neutral site like Montreal.
Q. Describing Chad Jenkins as potential trade bait got me thinking. Two and a half questions:
1. Which Jays prospects would you not trade under pretty much any circumstances and which ones would you say you'd be willing to trade?
2. When will we see Anthony Gose and looking back, do you like the trade of Gose for Wallace?
Marc Oliver, Toronto
A. Chad Jenkins, a 23-year-old power righthander, was the Jays' first-round pick in 2009. He has a major-league quality slider and a low 90s fastball, but when the name Joe Blanton comes up as a good future comparison, then he's obviously tradeable. The Jays really do have a stockpile of quality pitching arms, so it's hard to say that any one of them, including Kyle Drabek, is untouchable. Of course, you have to trust that the top guys would only be moved in a deal that brought back quality in another area.
Part two of the question minor-league guys within the organization, in terms of position players that I would have trouble giving up? First is Adeiny Hechavarria since he was a major international coup for Anthopoulos and has been receiving hard-fought for major-league salary since being signed. He is the poster boy for the Jays re-entering the marketplace as “players” with the big boys for international free agents. I would want to at least have a look at him at the major-league level in my own organization. The other two youngsters I am fascinated by and would have trouble giving up are outfielders Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick. I love five tool guys that can both steal bases and hit for extra-base power and both these guys fit that bill. Gose, 20, and Marisnick, 19, are both at least 1,000-1,500 minor-league at-bats away from being contributing major-leaguers, but I would love to anticipate a 2014 starting outfield of Travis Snider in left, Gose in centre and Marisnick in right. That scenario, of course, would change if Jose Bautista signs a longterm deal with the Jays unless he stays at third base.
Q. Hi Richard: A question. Why not leave E.E. at third base? I know he makes errors on routine plays but we have also seen him make very difficult plays as well. There still are some capable free agent D.H.'s out there (how about Vladimir Guerrero?) that the Jays could acquire.
Marv Rose, Toronto
A. Assigning Encarnacion back to third base would be a sign of weakness or indecision in the Jays' master-plan as designed by AA. Consider that EE was designated for assignment last summer, then was let go on waivers after the season, both times as a third baseman. What makes him any better or form-fitting now than he was back then. When he was re-signed by the Jays in December it was with the understanding that he was the No. 1 DH and would learn to play first base in the winter and at spring training as his second position. They are looking at his bat and his potential to hit 30-40 home runs as his DH credibility. Of course with much of his 2010 success coming in two road series, if Edwin played all of his games at Minnesota's new outdoor stadium and in that bandbox in Phoenix he might hit 70 homers. As for Vlad fitting in with the Jays, moving Edwin to third base, I think everything the Jays are doing is for the future and Vlad would be about the present.
Q. Firstly, what AA has done so far with the franchise is nothing short of miraculous. My question is regarding 2012-2013. With the trade for Brett Lawrie there appears to be 4 players almost ready to cover 2B, SS & 3B with Lawrie, Yunel Escobar, Hechavarria and Aaron Hill. Does AA keep all 4 guys and rotate them through a bench spot? Does AA pick up Hill's options? Does AA trade Escobar away? Does Lawrie move to a corner outfield spot?
A. That is a tremendous question and an interesting dilemma for Anthopoulos and the Jays. The Hill option is interesting in and of itself, in that by the eve of Opening Day, by this March 31, they have to decide whether to keep his three option years (2012-14) at $8-8-10 million. If they choose not to do so, then by the end of the '11 season, September 28, they will have the right to only pick up just two options, 2012-13. If they don't even do that, then Hill joins the free-agent class of 2012 and the Jays can offer him arbitration. This is very interesting because, if Hill has a good enough season wherein he ranks as a Type A free agent by the end of the year, you could see AA letting him walk and taking the two draft picks. But if Aaron does have a bounceback season (yeah, I know he hit 26 homers), then you could also pick up the 2012-13 options, making him more desirable for another team in trade. I think AA will wait until the last minute, in late March, before making his first decision on Hill's options.
As for Escobar, the jury is still out on whether he is a long-term solution at Jays shortstop. He had a great debut couple of weeks in August with the Jays after the Alex Gonzalez trade, but then levelled off. He makes a lot of bonehad decisions on the bases and in the field. He's still young. Is Yunel the guy at short for the future or is the prized Cuban defector Adeiny on the fast raft to the majors?
The Jays surely have a lot invested in the 22-year-old Hechavarria, but if Escobar does turn out to be the real deal at short, then Hechavarria could still move to second base and what do you do with Hill? Or if Escobar flames out, then you could leave Hill at second and count on Hechavarria in 2012 and beyond as your shortstop. As far as Lawrie's future, at 21, they don't want to keep moving him around the diamond. The Jays are a little shallow at third base with the once heavily-touted Kevin Ahrens and his lack of steady development at the not-so-hot-corner. Therefore, it would behoove the ultra-cocky Lawrie to take to third base and run with it this spring. As we pointed out in an earlier answer, the Jays all of a sudden have some very hot outfield prospects a year or two (or three) away and if Lawrie was shifted to and learned to play the outfield just adequately what would you do with those guys when they're ready. The answer is for Lawrie to learn to play and learn to accept third base. In the short term, that would also allow Jose Bautista to play more right field, his best and favourite position.
Q. Probably been asked this already, but after Hawk, will there be another Expos cap in Cooperstown? Rock? Vlad? Walker? Pedro?
jonah_n Jonah N, via Twitter
A. Another good question. The Expos already have Gary Carter and Andre Dawson at Cooperstown wearing the Expos' cap. It was neither player's first choice, but the Hall and the players ultimately made the right decision. The potential HoF guys remaining that you mentioned?
Tim Raines when he makes it in will go in as an Expos because he was the NL equivalent to Rickey Henderson as a leadoff man in his Montreal years. Vlad Guerrero will go in with the Angels cap, even though it's a great story with the way the Expos found him and signed him and even though his best years as an outfielder and total-package, five-tool player were in Montreal...hmm, maybe he would go in as an Expos. Larry Walker would be a tossup between Expos and Rockies. Colorado would have a bigger claim other than the fact he is a Canadian and would join Fergie Jenkins as the only two Canadian players. That would be a tough call. I lean to the Rockies. As for Pedro Martinez, he would go in as a Red Sox. Just listening to him answer questions at a press conference for the Phillies at the World Series a couple of years ago, when speaking of his past it was all about the Red Sox.
Q. Hello Richard, I was wondering if you have heard anything about how many games are going to be broadcast on Sportsnet One?
Shawn Stirling, Burlington
A. It's a little early for a TV schedule, besides I'm sure Rogers Communications doesn't want to spoil the warm, fuzzy feelings of this winter with an announcement that is sure to be annoying to fans. Besides, I think there has been some resolution to the Sportsnet One issue. I think one of my boys told me we now get it on Cogeco. I know I didn't order it. Who knows, but we'll find out for you.