Welcome to the final baseball mailbag of 2011.
For the Jays in 2011 one of the best things that happened was the winter tour being revived. It was a slow process at first to get players involved, but the Jays that participated seemed to find a new appreciation of Canada and for Jays fans across the country.
The newfound cheering section is led by J.P., Arencibia, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and, of course, Brett Lawrie. The Jays should be hoping this has a spinoff effect with all their young polayers and future free agents making the prospect of playing in Canada not so much the Siberia it was perceived as when Mark Lemongello famously asked when traded to the Jays, “Do they speak American up there?”
Happy New Year and my resolution is to make sure I do a mailbag every week because I always find out what the real fans are thinking. All the best to my readers.
This is actually a non Blue Jays question for you. It's rather alarming to see the player exodus that is occurring in Oakland. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong when Oakland is starting to trade young controllable type players like Gonzalez and Bailey. I know Billy Beane is clamouring for a new stadium in San Jose, but the purging of young established major league players, and then turning the team into a glorified Triple A team is extremely unfair to the denizens of Oakland. Can Bud Selig not get involved in this somehow? At the end of the day, MLB is a product to market, and then sell, and the deterioration of this product in Oakland would surely raise some alarm bells in the commissioner's office, would it not not?
Zaki A., Milton
A-The A's off-season should be a concern but mainly for A's fans in terms of the ability to compete in 2012. However there's not much that can be done by Bud Selig because the trades that GM Billy Beane made for have been legitimate baseball trades bringing back decent packages of minor-league prospects for talented major-league players. The difference with the Charlie Finley's A's of the '70s is that there was a lot of cash involved and no players. That was the reasoning for then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepping in for the best interests of the game when the A's tried to sell outfielder Joe Rudi's contract. In this case, the citizens of San Jose are the ones that should be excited because by the time these A's are ready to compete, the team will likely be playing in Silicon Valley. The A's since the end of last season have lost all three starting outfielders and traded Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Craig Breslow, Andrew Bailey and Trystan Magnuson. In fact, production for the sequel to the movie Moneyball is underway. It's called Honey I Shrunk the A's and instead of Brad Pitt will star Pauly Shore.
So...several weeks away from training camp to begin and all AA has done is bring in Sergio Santos and Jeff Mathis. Is it so hard to sign Oswalt for one year plus an option? It seems other GMs beat AA this year in making trades. The OF is clogged up. I really don't see where AA is heading. Time is running out! I hope people stop taking about Darvish. No more please.
Happy Holidays Richard!
Kam H., Richmond Hill
A-I think free agent Roy Oswalt would be a good fit for the Jays, given what has happened to Anthopoulos and the winter of his malcontent. Oswalt, 34, is coming off injury and has now admitted that he would settle for a one year deal to prove himself and re-establish his credentials for one more free-agent contract next year. Oswalt has seven seasons of 200+ innings and would be a solid influence on Jays young starters. The Jays have a ton of young pitchers that are a years or two away. If Oswalt would sign for a year plus a mutual option at market value, it would be a solid move for the Jays in 2012. I think the market for Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez surprised Anthopoulos, because as we well know, he sets his own value on a player he is pursuing in terms of money or players and will not chase. That means he likely set less value on the two traded pitchers that he had interest in who each would have helped the Jays compete immediately. Considering how this winter's trade market has surprised AA, he would be well-advised to try a short-term free agent deal with Oswalt. If not Oswalt, then a little down the chart, fitting in as a No. 4 should be Rich Harden.
Q-Surprised you didn't mention Jon Niese of the Mets as a starting pitcher the Blue Jays would have interest in. Are the Jays committed to not trading the catching prospect D'Arnaud? Rumor had it that that's one of the people Sandy Alderson was targetting.
A-What am I missing about Jon Niese? He looks very similar to Brett Cecil in terms of age, experience and record and that's what the Jays are trying to upgrade on. As far as catcher Travis D'Arnaud and his availability, if there was an untouchable in the minor-league system, he might be the guy. The Eastern League MVP impressed manager John Farrell tremendously this past spring and when he is ready to play in the majors, having both J.P. Arencibia and D'Arnaud will be a nice problem to have.
The Jays are missing opportunities to build their fan base. Rogers has muddled the opportunity to catch the Yankees and Red Sox. Rogers is too cheap. I am tired of Anthopolous looking for 'young and controllable' players instead of getting the best players. Young and controllable really means cheap and not reach their peak and when they do, hope they sign somewhere else for draft picks. There is no commitment to winning in the organization and Anthopolous needs to take some public relations classes.
David T., Mississauga
A-Actually, the Jays philosophy for building a fan base os the same as it is for building a roster. They could sign a big-name free agent that would get them some casual fans into the ballpark for a year or two, but would not help them win. However, those fans would leave again. They are looking for a young and controllable fan base that will stay with them for the long term. I believe that instead of calling Rogers cheap, maybe a better word is cautious, after the experience they had with J.P. Ricciardi and ending up eating $10 million for the final year of B.J. Ryan. Rogers would love to win, not becaise they love baseball, but because of the impact it would have on TV ratings and wireless purchasing of Jays' properties and access to programming. They would be willing to invest in players if they knew they could make money down the road. It's up to AA to convince them of that. Hasn't happened yet.
Q-AA has always said that he does not find good value in the free agent market since other teams overpay for pitchers. He emphasizes that we will pursue upgrades through trade instead. However, it seems to me that the trade market for top of the line pitchers is also over-priced. I think that both the Reds and the Nationals traded too many of their top prospects for Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. I can't blame AA for not netting either of these players - I'm glad he didn't since it probably would have meant having to trade away Alvarez, McGuire, D'Arnaud (or enter in names of other top Jay prospects), plus more. Do you think that AA has misread the trade market for pitchers? Wouldn't pursuing free agency (Jackson, Kuroda, Oswalt) make more sense for the Jays given that getting a top-end starter through trade will cost too many of the Jays top prospects?
Wade H., New Westminster, B.C.
A-I've always felt that the caveat in free agency was that you are paying for accomplishments done for the previous team, instead of what you believe they will be doing for you. I believe the whole process of free agency is changing as player agents and free agents see the landscape of what has happened this year. There is a huge number of talented players that have not got a sniff this winter in free agency. Look at Prince Fielder. The guy should have a job by now. I believe that starting this summer and next fall you will see young players in their later arbitration years before free agency signing long-term deals with their own team rather than exploring the dark and lonely world of free agency. Since there are fewer compensatory draft picks except for the truly elite, there is less incentive to letting players walk. As for the trade market, I agree that the Latos and Gonzalez markets were higher than anticipated and that may have set AA on his heels. I also agree that, especially in the case of Gonzalez, pitchers that the Jays would have had to give up to get him may end up being better tan Gio in three years. So why make that deal. If the Jays want to make a deal, AA will have to re-set his sights.
I feel like I'm in the extreme minority, but I feel that any of the criticism that Alex Anthopolous has received this offseason regarding spending in free agency or for not being so 'PR Friendly' is completely unwarranted for the following reasons...
1-The Jays in the past few years have spent more than just about anyone in international free agency, the draft and in scouting. They may not be the sexiest ways to spend money, but it's clear that 'payroll parameters' aren't an issue if they are being spent in the right places (not free agency).
2-Every major move the team has made in the last two years except for the Halladay deal were never reported by any writers or bloggers until the moment they happened. Similarly, many of the rumors that have surfaced about the Jays being interested in specific players have never come to fruition. In fact, many of the rumors surrounding the team have seemed to be more along the lines of fiction than anything that has come to be.
3-Regarding making splashes in free agency and in signing players to big money contracts, nobody seems to remember how well that worked for us in the latter years of the Ricciardi regime with BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett and Vernon Wells. In fact, history has shown that these big money contracts never pan out for the teams that sign them. Signing a player like Prince Fielder isn't the answer and I don't believe that the team as it is currently will be the team that is around on Opening Day. Don't we need to back off a bit as fans and recognize that the team as it is currently is in a better spot to win now and in the future than it was at this time last year?
Dan Mc., Toronto
A-I'm not sure that you're in the extreme minority in terms of your view of AA. I'm also not sure where the term “PR friendly” originated when it comes to Anthopoulos, but that was never the issue, even in the case of Yu Darvish. It's more a matter of managing and being consistent with expectations of when fans could expect the Jays to compete. Expectations were high and encouraged by the Jays that heading into the off-season they would do everything in their power to compete in 2012 -- while of course staying within the parameters of young and controllable. That's their identity. That's not necessarily competing at cross-purposes. If the Jays had been going seriously after Darvish, it would have signalled that once losing the posting bid, they would re-focus those resources on other options to improve, but if they weren't serious and were intent on keeping their wallet closed this off-season, then maybe 2013-14 is the target. Fans who are thinking about purchasing tickets for 2012 have al least some right to know. There is no problem in remaining quiet regarding talks with other GMs and players that they are in on, but not all GMs are like that. There are grandstanding GMs and agents out there and that's when the Jays get brought in to discussions without representation as having more interest than is warranted. On point No. 3, everyone remembers, especially Anthopoulos himself who was an assistant at the time of the B.J. Deal and learned from it. You are not giving Jays fans enough credit. They are a savvy bunch.
An opinion on AA more than question and perhaps you could give your thoughts . As much as AA has impressed me during his tenure as GM with his baseball moves I think what has impressed me most of all is his handling of the media and fans. Unlike his predecessor his is consistent and does not make emotive baseball moves. He is not seemingly affected by what the fans and media demand of him. He has a plan and is staying the course and for that we should be grateful. This winter has been an excellent demonstration of that. He has not bowed to the pressure of having to make a splash in free agency. When people call for a Fielder signing, post Darvish disappointment he has not budged (by the way how did that work out for the Angels last year when they panicked and traded for Vernon Wells?). So many people make pronouncements on what his obligations are to the fans. In my opinion his one and only obligation is to put a winning product on the field. The fan base may yearn for the Fielders and Darvishes of the world but ultimately success will be achieved through organic growth in a robust minor league system, continued intelligent trades and savvy free agent signings when the time is right. Kudos to AA for his approach thus far, the Jays are far closer to success then they were 3 years ago even if it isn't apparent to everyone. The future is bright, Jays fans should stay patient and most importantly enjoy the journey.
Jonathan S., Mississauga
A-He is consistent. He does not get fooled by an 85-win season or depressed by an 81-win season. He has a plan, but sometimes even he can miscalculate the landscape as he may have done in gauging the marketplace for guys like Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos. To his credit he didn't chase the carrot by reaching in for more of his own prospects to sweeten the pot. But now he needs to find another avenue to improve his rotation ahnd the cloick is ticking. The one great debate surrounds Prince Fielder. Prez Paul Beeston does not like deals longer than five years and also feels that the elite free agents want to play for a proven winner and that at this point any Jays' participation would merely serve to drive up the asking price elsewhere. That may be a somewhat cynical and defeatist view of free agency but it's what Paul believes and he is a key participant in what the Jays do in free agency.
Seriously now you wrote this article to ostensibly tell the Blue jays to move on? Is that a classic case of the pot calling the kettle .......Brian Burke broadcasts his trading and drafting goals and strategies and wonders why he can't some deals to close and here you are criticizing AA not playing with his cards face up. Really - this the article you went with. Com'on now. You guys, citing unnamed sources, said the Jays were the leading bidders for Darvish & now that you were proven to be wrong (darn B sources) you want full disclosure to silence the sound of your backpedaling.. WOW
John H., Toronto
A-AA is fine with playing his trade and free agency cards close to the vest. That has never been an issue and it works well for him. But in the very unique and once in a lifetime Darvish situation, there were sources in New York, Dallas, Japan, Toronto and elsewhere that believed the Jays would win the Darvish bid. Why were they considered frontrunners in so many places. It would be interesting to hear from AA and the Jays and would not affect anything that happens the rest of the winter. And yes they have no obligation to say what they actually bid, but people should read more than just a headline.
This whole Darvish scenario seems to me to be more of a media created diversion to force AA into being more open. I admit that it is nice to hear about the Jays but this expectation that all significant moves must happen at or close to the winter meetings or that one or two players are the only solutions to the Jays needs, is ridiculous. We all have to face the fact that this will be a slow build toward contention in whatever year the players come together to make it happen.
Matt M., St. Catharines
A-The media does not think deep enough and in concert enough to concoct a created diversion. This does not have to be a slow build, as has been proven in many other situations. As soon as a club convinces its fans that it has to be a slow build and be patient then they have you. #MapleLeafs.
With February fast approaching us and the Jays roster looking the same as it did at the end of the season with the exception of Santos, the Jays closer. As Fans what moves can we expect between now and February? It seems that the payroll for 2012 will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60-70 million, with the Fan base seemingly back into the wave of the Jays, wouldn't it be a disappointment if the payroll is around the same as last season? AA finally has the fans hearts beating and minds interested in the Jays again, it is time for the organization to realize that the fans are just chomping at the bit to get back to the ball park to support a winner. Lets Go Blue Jays.
Scott C., Niagara-on-the-Lake
A-I would think that there must be at least one move involving getting rid of an outfielder in trade. At this point, it looks like the search for another bat is on the backburner. The true need is for a rotation starter and whether that is in free agency or in trade remains to be seen. But the Jays have talked about keeping five outfielders which is ludicrous on a 13-man position player roster. I think at some point, maybe even at spring training, they will find a home for Mark Teahen elsewhere, even if it means eating some salary. He is owed $5.5 million for 2012. They have the same warm fuzzy feeling for Teahen that they had for Juan Rivera. It was a contract they took on to be able to complete a trade. The Jays have eight players that can play left field and only two that can play shortstop. They have Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Ben Francisco, Rajai Davis, Teahen, Kelly Johnson, Edwin Encarnacion and Mike McCoy. The other two outfielders, of course are Colby Rasmus in centre and Jose Bautista in right. The Jays also need middle relief help, but that could come through free agency or as a second player in another deal. Relief is a need, but not an issue.
Q-Your column just now about the evolution of free agency was spot on. My belief is that baseball is making a fundamental shift as a result of every team employing stat geeks and "smarter" more business-savvy GM's. Regional sports networks, TV money, controlling players for 6 years, WAR, FIP are now part of the baseball lexicon. The question is, where does the game evolve into now? It would appear that the game has reached the point of efficient market hypothesis where the game is supposedly efficient because every team has the same level of scouting and development and thus information. But what's the next trend we will see in the game over the next 5-10 years?
Jason S., San Francisco
A-The next trend will see free agency become an afterthought and after four years with the team that developed them, the best players will be locked up at fair free agent prices. The Fielder situation with Scott Boras waiting until Albert Pujols signed then taking the spotlight has backfired and is almost embarrassing for Fielder – if, of course, talking $20 million per year for five years can ever be embarrassing. Plus, there are multiple players out there, with skills, that once dreamed of reaching free agency that are sitting on the open market with nary a sniff of interest at New Year's. Once the dream becomes a nightmare for union members, future players may lose their appetite for what was once a six-year reward. Even millionaires are scared of being homeless. At that point when the sign-your-own philosophy is entrenched, anyone that reaches six-year free agency will have a stigma of injury or there-must-be-a-problem, dropping free agency to the status of a Winners or Marshall's compared to Saks or Calvin Klein.
Q-Griffin... I highly respect you, and read everything you have to write. Enjoy everything you have to say. And with that comes certain subjects where I totally disagree with your views. You and everyone, need to get over the fact that Joey Votto will likely never become a Blue Jay. Have you ever talked to Joey? If so, have you asked him off the record if he wants to play in his home town? I can tell you... for certain, that unless there is a 180 turn in his person feelings towards this city, that Joey Votto will never become a Blue Jay... With this in mind...let's assuming Lind isnt who we hope he is... do you regret not going after a guy like Fielder now because Joey ain't coming home.
Jason H., Burlington
A-Free agency for Votto is two years away. The Etobicoke native is signed and under contract in Cincinnati and who knows what happens at first base for the Jays between now and then. You can't say never is never off of any current emotional feelings about a situation, no matter how real they are at the time. I talk smack about the Star every now and then and if you got me at the wrong moment you might wonder how I could ever work there. Nobody is saying that Votto is a do-or-die solution in two years, but the fact is that it is when he becomes a free agent and it is worth considering for the Jays.
Always trying to learn more about the rules of baseball in regards to player acquisitions, and you are an excellent source. In announcing Kelly Johnson's acceptance of arbitration, A.A. twice made reference to the fact it would not be a 'guaranteed' contract. If the Jays were to find an upgrade at second base before the season started, could they release Johnson? What would be the dollar cost in doing so? By the way, I for one am not disappointed they lost out on Darvish, considering the posting price tag.
Bruce S., Courtenay, B.C.
A-The rules of arbitration are that two figures are submitted to an independent arbitrator and he has to decide on one number or the other. There is no compromise. It is treated as a non-guaranteed one-year contract so that if a player is released a week before the season starts, he receives 17-percent of his salary or the equivalent of one month out of the six-month pay period.
I wish you seasons greetings and a very happy New Year 2012 - the year of supposed contention for the blue birds or may be not. Hope is fast fading. I salute you for demanding to know what the Jay's offer was for getting to talk to the Japanese pitcher who Texas bid a bit over 50M and won the bid to talk with him and offer him a contract. To-date no one knows what the Jay's bid was, if at all they bid at all or may be they bid incredibly low and got all that publicity that they were the highest bidders etc., which turned out to be just a lot of hoopla. Time is of the essence but perhaps not for the Jays 'powers that be' who are asleep at the wheel. They have not even made a feeble effort to try and get some half decent players to fill in the spots that needed to be filled. It is easy enough to just get bodies, but first rate players is something else. What a sham and disappointment to all those fans of the only baseball team in Canada.
Tony D., Toronto
A-The best excuse that the Jays may have for lack of movement is that they misread the trade market and were interested, but did not want to chase the asking price for players they wanted that ended up going somewhere else. If I was a fan on the verge of buying season tickets, I would want to know how hard the Jays were pushing to create a winning team for 2012 before I laid down my hard-earned cash. But they don't feel the need to even let that be known. They want the results on the field to speak for themselves, but by that time I may have decided not to buy season tickets. It will be interesting to see if the season-ticket holder love-fest of a year ago takes on a different more sombre tone this February.
Q-Are we related
Clarence Griffin, Penticton, B.C.
A-I don't think so. The Penticton side of my family are all pig farmers.