Jays mailbag: Farrell for Francona?
We remember vividly the excitement generated by manager Ernie Whitt's first ever Team Canada entry into the Pan Am Games back in '99 in Winnipeg.
We were so excited that a team of Canadian minor-leaguers and amateurs could compete with the best countries from the Americas.
Canada won bronze in that Pan-Am Games, with catcher Andy Stewart hitting a key home run and infielder Stubby Clapp chipping in with a key bases-loaded single that beat Team USA. It's been 12 years since that heady moment -- a bronze on home soil.
It was the exact moment Canada realized it could be more than a footnote in international baseball. There have been some wonderful Team Canada moments since then.
There was the World Baseball Classic win over Buck Martinez's Team USA that had me and the Sun's Bob Elliott high-fiving each other in the stunned, hostile press box at Chase Field in Phoenix.
There was the close call at the '04 Athens Olympics when the wind robbed Canada of a potential game-changing homer against Cuba. But beyond that has been mostly elevated expectations and major disappointment for Team Canada...until now.
The run started in Panama at the World Cup of baseball with Canada going 5-1 in the preliminary round and emerging on top of Group A with wins over Japan and the U.S. settling for bronze.
It continued in Mexico where Whitt finally led his senior Canadian team to a gold medal. It's also an emotional culmination of passion and effort for Baseball Canada head man Greg Hamilton.
With the next Pan-Am Games in Toronto, it becomes a hot ticket already and will encourage kids to play at the upper levels in the hope of being part of that experience in four years. It was a long time coming for Hamilton and company, but will prove well worth it. Congratulations.
CLICK HERE to send Richard your Jays question and he'll answer a selection in the blog.
Q-I just finished reading your piece about Mike Napoli not making 10-games difference had the Jays kept him (needed to make the playoffs). I am wondering if in addition to the lack of a closer and 20 blown saves you'd like to reconsider the statement. I am willing to give credit where it is due, but A.A. makes mistakes, frankly, plenty. He started the year needing a second baseman, a reliable veteran starter, a closer and maybe a centre fielder and guess what? He still does. Let's try and be more objective. Turns out E7 can play DH, Lind isn't bad defensively, he found a 'stud' for 3B and Bautista's contract is a bargain - but this doesn't erase the fact the other needs were not addressed.
Rick Moffitt, Cambridge
A-I stand by the statement that Napoli's presence with the 2011 Jays in would not have been a significant difference maker towards a 90-win season and contending for a post-season berth. In fact it might have even retarded the development of J.P. Arecibia.
Yes Anthopoulos makes mistakes, but he seems to quickly understand those mistakes and try to correct them. His ego does not overpower his judgment unlike some previous Jays GMs. Let's go over your question point-by-point.
Napoli via trade was turned into Frank Francisco, who, whether you liked him or not, by the end of the season was the team's closer. His personal numbers were 17 saves and four blown saves. In the second half he posted a 1.26 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP. By the final five weeks of the season he was pretty lights-out reliable in the ninth inning.
The Jays bullpen led the AL with 30 wins and we, as fellow stats-geeks-in-arms, all know that wins by themselves are not the be-all and end-all for pitchers, especially when you're talking about the pen. But with 30 victories, of the Jays staff's 25 blown saves, many were turned into wins for relievers.
In fact, three times the bullpen was credited with two blown saves in the same game. If Napoli had stayed with the Jays at that point your closer would come from among Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Casey Janssen.
I'm sorry, that's not a 90-win pen.
At second base the Jays had a player with one contract season and two option years in Aaron Hill. It was just a couple of years ago Hill was an all-star and one of the fine young players in the game.
Both Hill and the ball club believed, or at least were hoping, that he could return to his personal glory years. It didn't happen and he was turned into Kelly Johnson, who will either return on a multi-year contract, return for one season or leave as a free agent gaining Type B draft pick compensation. No problem.
The Jays never felt they needed a reliable veteran starting pitcher in '11. That was a fan perception and that would have been with the thought of contending, which was not a Jays' reality in the front office last year.
However, if they do want to contend in 2012, they will need that reliable veteran starter you talk about. Last year was about finding which of their own young starting pitchers they would be able to count on going forward.
They needed to see as many of those homegrown pitchers perform at the major league level, given extended looks. Mission accomplished.
They now know what they have in Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and the rest. Nobody except fans ever said they needed a reliable veteran starter in 2011, so how could that count as a failure?
As for closer, why did you need a lights-out major-league elite closer if you are not going to contend. The shelf life of elite closers is fairly short, given rare exceptions, so why would you waste one of those top-tier bullpen bullets, one of those great closer years on a season in 2011 when you're not planning on contending? Save that signing for when you believe you're on the cusp of a championship.
As for the centre fielder, I recall in July taking e-mails and comments from hardcore knowledgeable fans that populate my readership. They were all hot and bothered about the availability of one Colby Rasmus and I agreed that if he was out there as trade fodder, then grab him.
Anthopoulos made the move and dealt from the depth of the organization – which is pitching. Who knew that Rasmus was so mentally fragile that his skills would disappear like a frightened turtle. The feeling here is that given a fresh start at spring training that Rasmus will emerge towards what everyone thought he could be, but the GM surely saw the need for a centre fielder and went out and got him.
Q-What if Boston offers Farrell twice his current Blue Jay salary to be the Red Sox manager? Would that still considered a lateral move? Wouldn't Farrell in fact be "bettering" himself? Would the Blue Jays hold Farrell back from speaking to the Red Sox and if so, wouldn't that potentially harm their future relationship?
Perry Chasson, Thornhill
A-First of all, for Farrell, to know what the Red Sox are offering, it would have to be tampering by Boston since Farrell is under a three-year deal with the Jays and has been shut out from talking to anyone about becoming their manager with the Jays recent statement of a revised policy for “lateral moves”.
Have a problem with that policy? Hey, what's the purpose of a contract, not just in baseball but in any business.
Contracts are and should be a two-way agreement. If the Jays want to fire someone they are obliged to pay the balance of the contract. Shouldn't the club have protection from their employees just going around and looking for a better deal while still under contract.
Nobody twisted Farrell's arm to come to the Jays. In fact he chose the Jays as much as the Jays chose him. What has changed in that relationship? The question of Farrell leaving has become moot. Sneaking around behind your employer's back looking for more money is not the basis for harming a relationship, especially from employee – Farrell - to employer – Jays. Since that's your question, Farrell is happy.
The three following pitchers should be considered by AA for the No. 2 Pitcher in the Blue Jays rotation: Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santana or Dan Haren. All three are No. 1 or No. 2 quality pitchers. Granted, Hernandez will be expensive, but that team needs positional players — catcher, first baseman, outfielder and a high prospect pitcher. I believe one of the California pitchers is a better possibility.
Your thoughts. Thanks for your response
Steven Banks, Palm Beach Gardens
A-It's easy to go around baseball and cherry pick great starting pitchers and project them into your favourite team's rotation, but real life is not like owning a Fantasy League team where numbers are numbers and that's all that counts. First of all, if I was going to make a wish list from among your choices, I would have to go with King Felix one, Haren two and Santana three.
As far as Felix is concerned, the Mariners made a couple of nice trades and all of a sudden at the end of the year, they found they had real players at positions where at the beginning of the year they seemed horrible. But they own one of the great pitchers in baseball at the top of their rotation and they have him for three more years at $58 million. Hernandez is Henderson Alvarez's personal hero and it would be amazing to have them talking every day and the influence would be sublime, but it ain't gonna happen. To get Felix would require a core player, a core pitcher and top prospects. Not worth it.
With Haren, he has been one of my favourite pitchers for years. You look at him year by year and you go, oh well, that's nice. You look at his body of work for his career and you go, this guy might be a Hall-of-Fame pitcher. He has one more year with the Angels at $12.75 million, with a 2013 option for $15.3 million. That's exactly the type of contract that Anthopoulos is looking for to complete the upper end of his rotation, however the Angels are not the type of franchise that needs to deal salary because of financial issues. You're on the right track, though, but he's not they guy. Maybe if the Jays took that pesky Vernon Wells contract off their hands the Angels would consider it.
Ditto for Santana. The guy's a talent and he has a 2012 deal for $11.2 million with a club option for $13 million in 2013. He would look good in the Jays rotation, but the problem is the Jays are one of his patsies that he just throws his glove on the mound and it spells W. He would not be able to pitch against them anymore. These are the types of contracts AA is looking at. But the Angels are not in dump mode.
Where oh where has my mailbag gone? Now is the time to pull the trigger. How possible would it be for the Jays to make a splash and out of nowhere hire Tito to coach (I am sure Farrell is fine but Francona is an elite level upgrade who will draw free agents) and trade for Pedroia (a loyal Francona guy who seems distressed with the situation of his current team). Secondly, what about stealing CC when he opts out? Not only do we gain a great pitcher but we take him away from the Yankees. Money well spent. Work your magic my good man.
Mauro Cavazzon, Trail, B.C.
A-So let's see now. You go ahead and fire Farrell after forbidding him from looking elsewhere. Hire the guy that used to be Farrell's boss and that the same team that fired Francona the Sox then became interested in poaching Farrell who you now suddenly have made available to them. So basically it's a Francona for Farrell trade. Now you count on the fact that the summer of Pedroia's discontent can translate into coercing a trade to the Jays so he can go back to playing cribbage with Tito. Then the Jays have Francona and now the thinking is they can attract free agents like John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Jason Varitek, guys like that. Nice.
And about any possibility of C.C. Sabathia, if he opts out of his current deal, the Jays are not even on his personal radar. It's either the Yankees or the West Coast. He's an Oakland guy and all of his charity work and his family life is on the West Coast. Jays? For him, those are letters between I's and K's.
Very much appreciated your defence of Terry Francona and your spot on criticism of the Red Sox. Money covers a lot of mistakes: no one is perfect, but I consider the signing of "Dice- K" the stupidest move since the Cubs traded Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. You can say this is hindsight, but $50 million would buy 25 $2 million top draft choices, etc, etc. Rather like putting 20 per cent of your investment portfolio in one unproven stock. We'll see how smart Epstein is in Chicago.
Your talk with Paul Beeston reinforced my likely unfair prejudices about this man: poor grammar, and two repetitions of his Cliff Lee observations. I don't understand the high regard in which he is held: Again, probably unfair. I wish you had asked him about the poor food quality/high prices at the park; the return of Brian Tallet, etc. I am sure he has answers.
Keep up the fine work.
Selby Martin, Toronto
A-The thing about this Japanese posting thing, the process that landed Dice-K Matsuzaka in Boston is that an auction of any kind is unlike anything else when it comes to balancing value against cost.
There is a certain frenzy that possesses auction bidders. “How much am I bid for Elvis's streaky underwear?”
Gotta have it, dude.
For instance, who was to say that a Honus Wagner 1909 trading card was worth $2.35 million. The guy that bought it, that's who.
Well, just sitting on a table the card is not worth it, but put it up for auction and all of a sudden you have established its value. Same for pitchers like Dice-K. Incidentally, Honus Wagner had the same number of wins in 2011 as Dice-K for a lot less money.
For me, upon further inspection, the Yu Darvish situation is different than Matsuzaka. He and his agents have learned from the mistakes of Dice-K. The Red Sox right-hander, after he came over, refused to ever adjust to North American methods of conditioning and between-start routine. Plus, Dice-K as a younger pitcher never was seen as preparing for his next career in North America. Darvish is aware.
For instance, in high school, Dice-K led his Yokohama High School to a championship. Great. His routine according to his coach was to throw up to 1,000 pitches per week as a high schooler.
In the '98 Koshien tournament his team won five games to win the championship. Dice-K threw complete games in the first three wins of the tourney. Then in the game that made him legendary, in the very next game, Dice-K threw 17 innings, 250 pitches in a 9-7 win. No misprint. The day after that, in the championship game, he picked up the save. That's crazy. Now people wonder why he has arm problems. Darvish has learned from those lessons and the 25-year-old Japanese-Iranian star comes major-league ready for a 2-3 role in a rotation. Sure it will cost the winning team a lot of money, but there are revenue possibilities if an entity like Rogers Communications uses a little imagination.
Q-With the offseason fast approaching, do you see the Jays pursuing Jayson Heyward to play left field or trading for Votto? With the closers a plenty on the free agent market are the Jays going to chase any of the big names out there? Or do you think they will make a trade or two before hitting the market?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara on the Lake
A-The easiest question to answer is that, yes, the Jays will want to make a trade or two before hitting the free agent market for anything significant. They need to take a few more building steps before they can argue to Rogers ownership that they are ready to contend this year. That involves trades before the new year.
Club president Paul Beeston has indicated that at a certain point when they are poised to contend, Type A free agents, players for whom they give up a draft pick are not an obstacle. The farm system is already deep and at some point it has to be about the major-league team.
Your other question about the Braves' young outfielder Heyward is like a hundred other suggestions that come out of left field and have little substance. The Braves obviously weren't satisfied with what Heyward gave them in his second season as they blew the wild-card lead down the stretch, but there are a lot of great players that have had bumps
in the road in their early years with their team responding by offering a dose of tough love. It took outfielder Eric Davis a while to establish himself in the late '80s with the Reds and every winter there were trade rumours. Great talent, few at-bats, must be available. But when he finally got it, he became a force of nature and the Reds won a World Series. Being benched does not necessarily constitute a desire to make a trade. If a parent calls “time out” on a child and sends him to his room it does not mean they are abut to put him up for adoption.
Q-Your interview with Beeston was great. In 2015 or whenever Beeston retires for good, can you envision a situation where AA becomes president and one of his protégés becomes GM? AA's built a solid collection of young baseball management that could take over from him. Reminds me of the way Theo Epstein built the Red Sox.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
A-Beeston took a several years time out in his Jays' career and went to New York only to find that the streets aren't paved with gold.
The greatest thing he did in his years as Chief Operating Officer of baseball was get the players union and ownership talking and cooperating on projects involving players for the good of the game. Think about it. Since Beeston went to New York in the mid-'90s there has been none of the vitriol that marked earlier negotiations and not the sniff of another work stoppage.
As for his future retirement from the Jays, why would he? Rogers pays him good money, he comes to the office and listens to other people's problems. He goes to Rogers and updates the suits. He makes fans feel better. He plays golf all summer then comes to watch ball games. Why would he retire?
But, as for Anthopoulos, he would never be a good choice for president. He found his niche. He is too secretive and not open enough to be president.
As president, for instance, he would likely not let fans know how much Jays tickets cost because they don't really need to know till they get to the park, do they?.
He would not allow anyone to talk about or release the TV schedule because the danger is other teams might be able to watch Jays games on TV and get an advantage in scouting. Oh, I'm sorry the Jays already do that secrecy thing.
It's called Sportsnet-1. In any case, I do agree that a lot of AA's assistants will become good general managers, starting with Tony LaCava if the O's choose wisely.