Jays mailbag: How much would it take to get Matt Garza?
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.
By the way, I hope you guys enjoyed that mangy second-tier of turkeys we left over from our own Canadian Thanksgiving which is, of course, celebrated in October. Sure we don't have all the tradition, the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, tripleheader football, Black Friday and all that other stuff.
Instead, the history of Canadian Thanksgiving goes back to 1578 and explorer Martin Frobisher who was looking for the Northwest Passage when his fleet got lost in the ice near Baffin Island. After finally finding each other, before heading home, the lost explorers had a big meal and gave thanks. That Frobisher Bay, Nunavut experience started the tradition of thawing out frozen turkeys before consuming. In 1957, Canadian Parliament officially declared the second Monday in October to be Thanksgiving -- converted to U.S. that's Columbus Day.
Back to baseball and the Jays. At midnight the other night, the club finally released its own list of five free-agent players offered arbitration or declined.
The Jays' transactions missed the deadline for the newspaper but was in the baseball blog still below this mailbag, but, in any case, here's a summary of what the Jays did with their own list of free agents.
Jays FA Offered Arbitration: Type B free agents C Jose Molina, RHPs Frank Francisco & Jon Rauch and Type A second baseman Kelly Johnson.
Declined to Offer: Type B RHP Shawn Camp.
What it means: This is a transition year between the old CBA and the new and as such is unique. The Jays if they fail to sign any of their own free agents and they land elsewhere will land seven draft picks among approximately Top 60 overall through the end of the first round and supplemental first round:
Jays 2012 Draft: No. 17, their own pick, and No. 21 for failing to sign Tyler Beede their No. 1 last year...then between rounds 1-2 the Jays would gain two picks for Johnson and one each for Molina, Francisco and Rauch. Neither Johnson compensation pick will be from the signing team.
The Jays are not living in fear that any of their free agent players will actually accept arbitration. If it happens it happens. They have spots in the bullpen, as backup catcher or at second base. Any of those arbitration deals would be for one year only.
The least likely player to accept is Rauch and after changes under the new CBA have been made wherein the signing team does not give up its own draft choice, Johnson's chances of finding a multi-year deal have improved.
In fact, as counter-intuitive as it seems, the most likely to end up back with the Jays is Camp. They refused his arbitration and thus lost any chance at draft pick compensation. That was because he was earning $2.2 million in 2011 and would likely be awarded at least that in arbitration. Yes, the Jays would like him back but at a lower salary. The two sides will talk, but if Camp gets a better offer elsewhere, he will have to decide.
On to the mailbag.
What does the new MLB Labour-Management Agreement mean for the Jays? Was it a help or a hindrance with the direction they are going and the strategy they are presently employing?
Dean G., Redding, Cal.
A-First impression for the Jays is the new Basic Agreement cuts into much of what the club has been trying to accomplish in terms of building from the bottom up to compete and maintain a self-sustaining feeder-farm-system. The Jays since GM Alex Anthopoulos took over in '09 have muscled up more than others in amateur scouting in the U.S. and on the international scene, accumulating June draft choices for departing free agents and being in on major international prospects. The CBA stifles those efforts, levelling the playing field in the one area where creativity and elbow grease can make a difference.
The concept of a “salary cap” has always been something the Players Association has ruled out in knee-jerk fashion in all areas. Therefore when the owners suggested a hard slotting system for the June draft, which is just another way of saying a salary cap, the union's automatic response was no. As MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said on Tuesday: “We reserved the rights of drafted players to bargain.” Upon further review, hat is so much hooey. Drafted players are being held down in what clubs can pay under terms of the new deal. Throw the kids under the bus, they won't be union members until they make to the major leagues. The union feels good in standing strong, but the new deal is pretty much a salary cap, only giving the black hat to the clubs when they reach their allotted bonus total and must tell prospects they have no more money to hand out without risking huge fines and the loss of draft picks. Drafted players will be crawling over each other to be the first to take the money while it's still out there. Good for baseball's bottom line? Sure. Good for the industry? No.
The Jays will not be able to manufacture draft choices like they did with Miguel Olivo or Kelly Johnson. A departing player now needs to spend the entire previous season with the same team to be compensation-worthy, and even then that team needs to make a one-year qualifying offer equal to the average of the Top 125 players in baseball from that season. Will the Royals or A's do that? This year that one-year offer would be $12.4 million. How else have the Jays been submarined? The new “competitive balance lottery” for extra draft picks after both the first and second rounds, rewards the lowest revenue stream teams, weighting chances of winning the lottery towards the most needy. Oh yeah, if you don't really want those extras picks because of the bonuses you might have to pay but you win the draw, you can trade those picks, something that has never been allowed in baseball.
The Jays' recent philosophy of choosing a bunch of high-ceilinged high schoolers and overpaying, buying them out of a college decision is out the window. You better throw in some safe college picks or you'll fly past your bonus allotment and suffer the repercussions. Jays scouts cannot be happy.
I'm very confused by this new CBA and how most smaller revenue generating teams agreed to this. While I celebrate labour peace across the board for baseball (and hope the hockey guys get it right next year), I don't understand some of the nuances of this deal.
1-International Free Agents: There is a $2.9 million cap on international free agent spending, but there is now a pool of money that teams can spend from? The worst team (by winning percentage) to spend $5 million, while the best team only can spend $1.8 million. Meanwhile you can trade these allocations. I know AA is salivating at more levers to pull in potential trades, but it seems like this cap is going to inhibit the Jays ability to continue gaining an advantage on the competition by spending money on the international market. Does this also mean that Yu Darvish definitely wants to get posted this year so his earnings won't be limited?
2-There are significant tax penalties for teams who go over slot in the domestic draft. 75 per cent tax on signings up to 5 per cent over recommendation, 75 per cent tax and loss of first round pick for signings from 5.1 per cent to 10 per cent over recommendation, 100 per cent tax and loss of first and second round picks for signing 10.1 to 15 per cent over recommendation, and finally, a 100% tax and loss of two first round picks for signing of greater than 15% over recommendation. Again, this seems to really hurt the Jays ability to go after high value/high risk guys such as Daniel Norris, who they drafted this year and went way over slot to sign.
Finally a broader point...why are Canadians still penalized by being included in the draft, while other international players from Japan, or the Latin American countries ability to choose which teams they can go to?
Jason S., San Francisco
A-Good question and we'll take it point by point. The smaller revenue teams were thrown a bone with the chance for extra draft picks for doing nothing in what's been called the “competitive balance lottery.” Picks no. 31-36 at the end of the first round and another six at the end of the second will be awarded in a game of chance. Hey, the NBA's not using their ping-pong balls. But there are other reasons to hate the agreement re the future signing of amateur free agents.
1-In the area of international scouting, this year everyone has $2.9 million to spend for all international signings in the period between July 2, 2012 and June 15, 2013. The years after that, teams that finish higher in the standings will have less money to spend than the crappy teams, but that International free agent money can now be traded, rewarding both laziness in scouting and poor play on the field. How far will that allotment go? Consider that the Jays spent $12 million two years ago for Adeiny Hechavarria and the Reds exceeded $25 million for Aroldis Chapman. Now it would seem that those moves would not be possible without huge penalties. Yu Darvish would be well-advised to ask for his Japanese contract to be posted right here, right now. Oh yeah, baseball feels better about itself by creating a program that will further prospects educational/vocational training after they finish their careers.
2-The penalties for the June draft as you have outlined above, are punitive and will certainly make teams think twice about going over their recommended total for bonuses – call it a cap. The individual numbers are arrived at in that baseball assigns a dollar value to each slot through the first 10 rounds. If you include supplemental picks, that's a total of about 350 different slot values. It's the same as they would have had in a hard slotting system, only now the fingers of restraint are pointed at the organizations whenever negotiations reach an impasse. It affects kids that have a chance to go to college or play another major sport. Consider in '11 if the Jays had a $10 million total assigned them. Had they signed first rounder Tyler Beede they would have been at around $12 million for the first 10 rounds. That means their penalty would have been 100-percent over slot, or $2 million, plus the loss of their No. 1 picks from 2012-13. A deterrent? Of course they would have told Beede to go to Vanderbilt or else have backed off some other premium pick in order to leave room for Beede.
As for your question re Canadians in the draft, inclusion started around the time of Larry Walker's initial success in the late '80s. The feeling was that some teams were too far ahead when it came to scouting in Canada, the Expos and Jays included. So in order to level the playing field for the trailing teams that weren't scouting Canada well, baseball simply changed the rules. You would now have to use a draft pick to sign the same Canadian that you could have signed outside the draft before, penalizing the better scouting. The other reason Canada is treated differently than the Caribbean is the number of Canucks that are on scholarship to U.S. universities and junior colleges. That's legitimate right now, but back when the rule change was made those numbers were low. Besides, it looks like in the long run all international free agents will eventually be included in the draft.
I have a question I hope you can help me with. Why is it that when it comes to MVP voting the team's success comes into play, however, when it comes to the Cy, the teams success is irrelevant? I get the fact that to be the most "valuable" your team should probably succeed, but I think there is too much stock put into that fact. You can still be the most valuable to your team and NOT make the playoffs. Especially for the Jays and Bautista who have been fairly successful considering they compete against the best teams in MLB (AL East) for a majority of the season. It’s almost a given that two teams make it from the AL East because of the talent level. That should probably be taken into consideration for teams such as the Rays, Orioles and Jays who face $200 + million lineups. Is it time for a new Babe Ruth or Pete Rose (yeah right haha) award for best offensive player? Thanks and keep up the good fight.
Jeff I., Haliburton
A-This difference in what the award is called is likely what causes the difference in how the writers vote for each award. If the word Valuable was no longer included in MVP, it would be the best player that was always rewarded and all the angst about the need to play for a playoff team would disappear. Or if MVP was named after a former player like the Cy Young is. What if the MVP was instead named the Babe Ruth Award, sure it would re-define the criteria, but it would not eliminate pitchers from consideration because, remember, the Bambino began his career as one of the AL's top pitchers. On your further point, I don't think you can penalize or reward a player for the quality of the opponent he faces by division. Jays players should not be given a head start over anyone else in MVP voting because they play 54 games vs. the Yanks, Sox and Rays. You can only play the schedule. Hey, when the bug boys play the O's, most of the time they use their 4-5 pitchers in the rotation. How tough is that.
With the Red Sox struggling to find a manager, would it not be a good move for AA to see if Farrell is really interested in the Red Sox job? The Red Sox might be willing to give up something good (Clay Buchholz) for Farrell? AA then can sign another manager. Maybe Francona or someone else.
Brian M., Barrie
A-Make no mistake about it, Anthopoulos threw that suggestion out to the Sox before closing the door. Boston would have been crazy to agree. Think about it. First, they let their pitching coach go to the Jays to better himself as a manager, then after one season of mixed results at 81-81 they are suddenly going to give up potentially one of the AL's best young pitchers to get Farrell back. Not likely. Trust me. There are at least 100 men out there that would be great major-league managers, given the chance. It's just the right place at the right time. There's no need to trade players for your next manager.
I have a grammatical, a nit-picking question for you. I do not expect a reply. Why do you and most other sports media insist on using RBIs?? You do know it should be RBI?? The plural is on the "run/runs." You say "runs batted in" and not "run batted ins." It is a small point but a nagging one. Thanks.
Gary S., Orillia
A-That's a great question and one that has a legitimate answer. Back when I was a PR guy in Montreal, that RBI question always bothered me. In the mid-'80s I got a response from the people at Webster's. Their belief was that through constant use over time the three letter designation for a run-batted-in had become part of the vernacular, a word unto itself, therefore they saw it as legitimate to use RBIs as the plural. Since then, I have always used it that way. It's one of those things where either is acceptable.
Q-Michael Cuddyer and Matt Garza are two names that could help the Jays. Cuddyer is a .800 OPS hitter and can play good defence at first while also providing a good backup option for both corner OF spots. Garza is on a team that needs replenish their farm system. Which pitchers and position players from the farm system would you be more inclined to trade? I'm thinking a package involving Deck McGuire, AJ Jimenez, Chad Jenkins and Travis Snider could get a deal done for Garza.
Jason S., San Francisco
A-I love Matt Garza as a reasonable mid-rotation option for the Jays and as you point out, the Cubs are in the business of looking to the future. As for prospects, Anthopoulos has always had the philosophy of not offering players for anyone that he wants. What he likes to do is find out generically “what would it take to acquire Player X” then allow the other GM to choose who he wants from among players in that category. AA is right and I have seen it over my 38 years in the game that given the choice, opposing GMs will most often make the wrong choice and if you suggest three players, the other GM will think the ones you're not offering are better. Give them their own rope.
Q-In the new labour agreement, teams will have to make a “qualifying offer” of a one-year guaranteed contract to their players eligible to become free agents in order to receive compensation if the player signs with another club. That amount will be at least $12.4 million. Does this knock a hole in AA's favoured way of accumulating draft picks? $12.4 million is far more than has been offered to lost type A and B Jays free agents in recent years. How should AA adapt to this new system if he wants to keep a focus on stockpiling draft picks?
Donald W., Los Gatos
A-This news CBA no doubt puts a crimp in what the Jays have been doing with the draft over the past two AA years. The Jays could possibly have seven of the first 60 picks this year but that is the end of their three-year draft bonanza. The only way to get compensatory picks now is that hefty qualifying offer to really primo free agents. The Jays don't play that game. Many teams won't. However, there is one new rule that leaves the door open a little for AA to get more draft picks. It is the phony baloney “competitive balance lottery” for low revenue and revenue sharing recipients. It seems these picks – Nos. 31-36 overall and the first six after the second round – are tradable, so if you find a team that doesn't want to pay the bonus and wants immediate return, you could trade for their lottery picks and accumulate draft choices that way. Otherwise the Jays have just been brought back to the pack.
Thanks for the piece on Charlie Lea. It brought back great memories of some heady days of Expos baseball in Montreal. I am wondering about Kyle Drabek's place on the staff. His performance and ability (or lack thereof) to cope with duress last year was disappointing. I feel like he has been passed by Alvarez and maybe even Carreno. However, the Jays hierarchy seem to have a lot invested in him. Do you think his name and pedigree pretty much guarantee that he will be in rotation when the team breaks spring training?
Rory P., Montreal
A-You're right about the Jays having a lot invested in Drabek. But he is a talented pitcher, he's just not very mature in his approach to a simple 100-pitch, three-hour focus. He has been passed on the Jays' depth chart by Alvarez and for the moment the Jays consider Carreno a bullpen guy. For Drabek – you are right on -- his name, his pedigree and, you can add his age, all work for him. He has no guarantee for a rotation spot coming out of '12 spring training, in fact I would say there is zero chance he will be in the opening day rotation. In this day and age with very few guys playing winter ball, his only chance to impress is spring training and look how that worked out for the Jays with Drabek last spring. They would rather have a chance to see him at Triple-A again and then look for an opening if he's good.
Q-Why would we let Jose Molina escape? He's way too valuable to the club in many areas. Third catcher, great bench and locker teammate. Hard to get that kind of experience when you're going with young catchers .and he's really close with the young pitchers.
George M., Ottawa
A-I hate to say that guys like Molina are a dime a dozen, but the Jays have always seemingly been able to find a legitimate backup catcher for their starter du jour. Before Molina they had Raul Chavez, before him Rod Barajas, before him Gregg Zaun, Sal Fasano, Ken Huckaby, etc. Besides, if Molina goes somewhere else, the Jays get a supplemental draft pick. It's the last roundup for AA. Still out there as potential backups are Snyder, Varitek, Shoppach, Bard and Pudge Rodriguez.
Q-Do you agree with me that the regular baseball season is a bit too draggy and that if pared down to, say, even 150 games that we might then see the World Series actually played in September? Part of the game's attraction, at least for those fans who attend the major-league parks, is that it is a summer sport, associated with sun and greenery. To see players blowing on their hands and fans bundled up in blankets and parkas, especially amidst the game's most prestigious event is in some respects, ambiance-wise, anti-climactic, and about the equivalent of going to the arctic for a sun tan. Certainly there are other options if one puts one's mind to it. I think the commish of baseball should strongly consider trying to find a way of seeing to the Fall Classic becoming a warmer, more visually aesthetic and classier experience than it has been in recent years. I'd like to get your thought on this. Thanks.
Darrell H., Guelph
A-No I don't agree. I have no idea what “draggy” means. You suggest cutting 12 games off the regular season schedule. That's six home games times 35,000 fans per date, times whatever the average ticket price is plus concessions, parking and the like. You would have to ask players to take a 7-percent pay cut and that ain't gonna happen. I could see the schedule starting the last week of March with early scheduling set for the traditionally warm-weather venues and domes, with maybe a mandatory three built-in split doubleheaders to condense the season. They are headed in that direction already with the new CBA mandating expanded rosters to 26 players for split and traditional doubleheaders. Since 1903 the Fall Classic other than during time of war has been an October event. How can we suggest that fans would rather see the World Series played in warmth and sunshine when it's never happene
Admire your insights! Trade places-(now-for -this answer )-with AA.:
To fill 6 Jays present needs!!
2-2nd Base-Indians-Jason Kipnis
4-Stud Pitcher-Astros-J.A. Happ
Analyze and Trade !
A-Let's see: 1-Yes; 2-I would do it; 3-Ain't gonna happen; 4-What are you smoking? Happ is not the answer; 5-Again, AGH. As closer, I would rather have Bailey than Huston Street, but if AA doesn't want to trade prospects, I like K-Rod as an expensive non-compensatory closer. The Giants are not interested in giving up offensive players. They already have enough trouble scoring runs. The Jays in a couple of years are going to have to make decisions on their own excess catchers. Why would they throw Conger into that mix. I would take Kipnis over Kelly Johnson or anyone that is currently in the Jays system, although in 2013 I would look at Hechavarria.
I read your article in Saturday’s sports section titled "Trade scenarios best bet for Jays". I have been hoping for such an article since free agency opened. You address all areas of weakness well with excellent options. My question has to do with your "Dream lineup for 2012". I love your dream lineup and with the salaries you attach to each player it fits under the Jays typical yearly budget. So why is it you quote under your dream lineup " not going to happen...but" ? Is it that these players would not want to play in Toronto? If so why not stretch the team payroll slightly and overpay? I do realize the Jays want to maintain Bautista as the top player at $14 million. Is it that landing so many prized additions is difficult? I can see that but if we landed most it would be a huge leap forward. As field of dreams stated "If you build it they will come ". The Jays have tried to grow the attendance with the addition of a single star player many times. I feel in will take a competitive team ( playoffs ) to bring the fans back. Your Dream team could do just that!
Carlo C., Oakville
A-Thanks Carlo, but yes, “not going to happen” is less about the Jays and more about the players and their ability to make choices. For instance, Yoenis Cespedes is a Cuban living in the Dominican, a completely free, free agent. The Marlins have Cuban born Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez in their excursionary group and a new stadium based in Little Havana. Buehrle is a great fit for the Jays but is interested in the midwest, especially St. Louis. They Jays would have to pay more than anyone else, which, of course they have done before. Darvish has yet to be posted, though he better do it soon, and when he does there is only one winner, one team allowed to negotiate with him. Brandon Phillips wants a long-term deal heading into his final season before free agency. Right now the Reds say they don't want to trade him. That could change any time, but that's why -- along with all the other things that would have to fall into place – it makes it a not going to happen scenario. It would be great, but...