Blue Jays mailbag: Is it time to bring up Gose, Hechavarria and d'Arnaud?
It's Father's Day weekend. Of all the major pro sports, the NHL and MLB seem to boast the most family connections, generation after generation of players and their sons.
As such, Happy Father's Day to these Blue Jays father-son connections: Sandy Alomar (Sandy Jr. and Roberto); Jesse Barfield (Josh); Mickey Brantley (Michael); Sal Butera (Drew); Jose Cruz (Jose Jr.); Doug Drabek (Kyle); Cecil Fielder (Prince); Tom Fletcher (Darrin); Dave LaRoche (Adam, Andy); Clyde Mashore (Damon); Gary Matthews (Gary, Jr.); John Mayberry (John); Dave McKay (Cody); Hal McRae (Brian); Bob Oliver (Darren); Gary Roenicke (Josh); Dick Schofield (Dick); Diego Segui (David); Chris Speier (Justin); Ed Sprague (Ed); Mel Stottlemyre (Mel, Todd); Dennis Werth (Jayson); Maury Wills (Bump).
And a special Father's Day wish to Jays' manager John Farrell. His 21-year-old son Luke, last October was being treated for a re-occurring tumour on the back of his skull. He spent over a month at a state-of-the-art clinic in Boston accompanied by father John and mother, Sue. The junior at Northwestern U. in Chicago, started back to class in early December and resumed pitching for the Wildcats for the spring season. Luke has rebounded well and earned a pitching spot in the highly-regarded Cape Cod Summer League near Boston. For Luke and the Farrells' two other sons, it will be a Happy Father's Day.
Your mailbag rocks. Please do it regularly. Rather frustrating when I try to look for it on Fridays and came out emptyhanded. Questions:
1-The current Washington Nationals team, any leftover from the Expos era, whether they are players or management?
2-What so good about Bryce Harper? 19-year-old playing every day?! Who would you compare him to?
3-If you have to point your finger, who will you blame for the current Jays' mediocrity? AA's bad assessment of the AL East state? Farrell's lack of experience? Lack of leadership/maturity amongst players? It seems like they lost something from last year.
4-When JP was in charge, he tried to trade Rios for either Lincecum or Cain. I think he would still be around if he were able to get that done, agree? Was this rumour real or not? Supposed Rios did live up to his potential (5 tools), would you still make that trade -- an all-star fielder for an all-star pitcher?
5-What is so good about Buster Posey? Is our d'Arnaud as good? How can he earn respect of his pitchers being so young? And batting cleanup too? He is no I-Rod, no?
Thomas Lam, Richmond Hill
A-I can relate to your curiosity in that first question about any leftover Expos from '04 when the franchise left Canada. When the Nats were in Toronto this week, I was looking to find out exactly the answer to that query, because in my own mind, I don't really connect the Nats with Montreal any more. It's a total disconnect. In fact when I did a preview of the Nats series I forgot they were ever the Expos. I always find it strange whenever they honour an Expos star like Andre Dawson on the field.
There are just three Expos connections that I could find: Rosie the clubhouse manager, who started with the Expos in the '90s. John Dever the P.R. director who replaced P.J. Loyello, now a v-p with the Miami Marlins, who had replaced me back in '95. F.P. Santangelo is a TV broadcaster and used to be a terrific utility man with the Expos in the '90s before moving on to the Giants.
What is so good about Bryce Harper? Damn, he's good. I was really looking not to like him, to walk in the Nats clubhouse and see this arrogant, punk kid walking around like he owned the place. I wanted to dislike him after the SI cover at 16 years old, after the GQ interview, brief as it was, plus the fact that I was managing players his age, with my rep team in Oakville a year ago and could have used him on my team when the umpires screwed us out of a championship trophy in Michigan at the All-American Classic in June. But after seeing him in the Nats clubhouse treat the environment and the people around him with respect and after watching him play for three games, I think I'm a fan. He is going to be good for the game as long as he stays healthy.
Harper hit two ground balls so hard they accelerated past Kelly Johnson at second base for singles. His home run to centre off the “c” on their huge banner gave Blackberry an unexpected hard drive. In Game 2, with Lawrie stealing and not slowing down, Harper fielded a one-hop single in right and almost threw him out at third base. Then there was the drag bunt single that undressed Edwin at first base as he tried to field and tag in one motion ending up on his back in foul territory with the ball bouncing harmlessly away. That was the play that made me think Harper as Mickey Mantle. I saw Mantle play at the tail end of his career and that drag bunt was one of his signature plays. Harper has said that the 34 on his jersey is his 3+4=7 tribute to the Mick.
For Question 3, I blame the Jays' current mediocrity as an extension of last year's mediocrity when they finished 81-81. I blame the fact that AA came up short on the search for a veteran third starter, trying hard for Mat Latos and not so hard on Gio Gonzalez and coming up short in terms of satisfying the other teams' demands. He would have had to give up major-league ready talent for either guy and he felt that would be spinning his major-league wheels.
4-Yes, the conversations that Ricciardi had with the Giants for a starter were very real. But it was more a fishing expedition towards Brian Sabean with Alex Rios as the bait and when Lincecum ended up winning a Cy Young, the story became that the Jays could have had Lincecum for Rios, which is not quite true. Discussions between the Jays and Giants were ongoing and, at the time, Rios was at his trading peak. But there were many Giants names in the discussion that included Lincecum and Cain. The feeling was that the Giants, once discussions got more serious, would substitute other names in the mix to try and secure Rios. But it makes a good story.
5-Man you have a lot of questions. Buster Posey to me, if the Giants make the post-season, should be given serious NL MVP consideration. He's a rookie in '10 and they go to the World Series. He's hurt in '11 and they are awful. He's back healthy and they're in playoff position. Not much else needs to be said. As for d'Arnaud, the past two seasons at New Hampshire and Vegas he has started slowly and come on strong offensively. Behind the plate, he is a sponge, soaking up information and using it correctly. His arm is strong enough and his footwork on throws is solid. There's only one Pudge – actually two, in Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk. But the good thing for d'Arnaud is that Posey proved that a team can win with a rookie catcher behind the plate.
Maybe you can explain AA's thinking... I can understand wanting to give Cooper an extended audition...but keeping McCoy over Gomes seems to go the other way. Rajai over Vladdy still feels strange to me, and I really don't understand keeping Omar at .215 rather than bringing up a SS/2nd base of the future. We seem to be rebuilding, sorta, kinda, but not really! What's going on?
Peter Thomson, Elizabeth City, NC
A-”Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Those are the immortal words of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy discovers that the Wiz ain't so big and smart as he likes to let on. Such might be the case with AA as he manipulates his roster through the middle of a disappointing stretch. Let's go down the list of players that you mention:
Cooper is not being given an extended audition. He is keeping someone else's seat warm and filling in for a stalled Adam Lind and a departed Eric Thames.
The Gomes demotion was simple. They needed his versatility for the games in National League parks. They used the 10-day rule twice (a player can't be recalled for 10 days after he is optioned except in the case of replacing an injured player). The first time they sent Gomes to Vegas 12 days before they headed to their first NL park and recalled him 10 days later. The second time they saw that Morrow would likely have to go on the DL, so they sent Gomes to Vegas and recalled Aaron Laffey and Evan Crawford. Gomes went and hid out at the SkyDome Hotel for 24 hours and then miraculously re-appeared on the roster replacing Morrow (15-day DL). He lost Airline points but got some extra Marriott points. The Gomes demotions are more about rules than merit.
Vlad screwed up the best-laid plans. His impatience in terms of waiting until the Jays' interleague trips were over cost Vlad a chance with the Jays. It will be interesting to see if he gets a major-league job before June 25, the date the Jays head to Boston after the interleague ends. The Tigers might be a good landing spot, since Dave Dombrowski was the GM when he signed in MTL.
So now that the Jays season is over, who do they trade for prospects? I'm thinking anyone on a one-year deal, like Johnson, Oliver, Encarnacion, etc. Also CoCo if anyone bites (the number of GMs that believe in former closers is incredible), but I'm thinking he'd have to be waived. Though you could consider using him as an innings eater to save our young arms and get us a higher draft pick.
Rob B., Oshawa
A-The moment has not arrived yet, but there might come a time this season when the fan base needs a boost in order to remain the fan base.
In that case, if the Jays spiral out of the race in the next month look for any veteran on a one-year deal to be offered in trade to a legit contender. Darren Oliver is the kind of talent that contending teams are looking for down the stretch. Luis Perez and Evan Crawford can fill that LH relief role. If Johnson is traded, Hechavarria could begin his MLB career. I would not trade Edwin. I think AA wants him back but because of his injury history is not interested in negotiating during the season. As for CoCo Cordero, I love the guy and he has not been as bad as fans think. There is a mob mentality out there and all it takes is a groundswell of anti-CoCo crisping on platforms like the Wilner Show and the torches are lit and the pitchforks raised. “Bring me the head of Francisco Cordero!!” There is no doubt the next generation is pushing hard at Vegas.
What really happened with Guerrero? Is this good, bad or insignificant?
Chris M., Collingwood
A-It's insignificant, followed by bad. There would have been no problem for me in seeing him get a shot with the Jays. The guy can hit and the buzz would have been good for us in the media. See my blog earlier in the week for a full view on his departure.
Although the Jays are still in tight contention for a wild-card, one gets the ominous feeling from watching them the past three weeks that their fortunes are on the decline. I'm not sure with an under-performing Romero and Drabek, injuries to Morrow and Santos, with only Hutchinson really performing as expected or better, this staff can really contend. We also have question marks at 1B/DH (bye bye Vladdy) and LF which remain unanswered. How do you envision Anthopoulos addressing these issues over both the short- (deadline) and long-term (end of season)?
Brian Campbell, Ottawa
A-I'm believing now that every time the Jays starter warms up at the Rogers Centre, they should pipe in over the sound system the theme music from Jaws.
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the mound.”
In the last stretch of games there was Betemit's line drive off Morrow, Aviles's line drive off Alvarez, Morrow's stabbing pain in the left oblique that led him to the DL and Drabek's popping in his elbow, making him sound much like the Black Knight defending the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “It's just a flesh wound!”
Hutchison is performing well but he is on a 150-inning count. As for the other issues and the end of the season, I believe that whenever it is the Jays feel they are no longer in wild-card contention that the clock will start on the future stars like Hechavarria and Gose. The Jays need to know.
As much as I hate to see Morrow out for an extended period of time the curious conspiracy theorist in me is intrigued by the reaction of Ownership and Management in the next coming days and weeks. To me it seems like two roads can be taken, you ramp up any plans of bringing in Major league talent to the roster in order to stay competitive in the AL East Race or you start preparing your talking points for the end of the season along the lines of 'we battled inconsistency all year and the Morrow injury really put us back....yadda yadda, etc etc.'
My point being it is one thing to pass on a talent like Prince Fielder this past offseason when the asking price turned out to be understandably unreasonable but it is quite another to pass on pursuing pitching talent like Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and/or Wandy Rodriguez when your team is above .500 and 4 games out of first place in the standings midseason. Do you think this situation will lead to some insight into the collective minds of management and Rogers or am I reading too much into it? Getting back to my inner conspiracy theorist, If ownership resembled a Mark Cuban, Maverick type, who runs his team with a passion to win, we think we know what path would be taken while an owner constantly checking balance sheets and quarterly profit margins they might see this as just the excuse they need not to take on salary to stay competitive. Your thoughts? Derek from the East Coast
Derek Andrews, Fredericton
A-I don't believe the Jays will give up on this year til the mathematics dictate. As such, I can see them making a move for a starting pitcher before the middle of July, since they have injuries and Hutchison on an innings-limit. It would be a short-term acquisition with long-term possibilities. But after that, in August I can see the Jays throwing veteran one-year contracts overboard and bringing up their future core players to give them a better idea what they have to do in the off-season. If Hechavarria is a player, they may not need in '13 to go out and acquire a second baseman., If Gose is a player for the moment, they may not need to go out and find a leadoff man. The big question becomes behind the plate.
I'm really beginning to wonder the authenticity in Paul Beeston's statement that he expects the Blue Jays to make the playoffs at least three times over the next five years. The fact of the matter is that it is becoming quite clear that Rogers is not willing to make the commitment to make this team a contender. Take for instance the Blue Jays silly stance on the fact that they will not go beyond their own self imposed player value. Because of this, they did not trade for market value for Mat Latos. They will not sign free agents beyond 5 years, and hence the loss of Prince Fielder. They will not go beyond their own value on signing international free agents and thus have lost out on Aroldis Chapman and Yu Darvish. Imagine if Rogers had opened up their vault, and in a perfect world added Fielder, Darvish, and Chapman to this year's roster. All the cost would have been is money, and in each case, the Jays could have had all three. The irony of it all is that all these three players would have fit the exact needs of the current Blue Jays roster: a power hitting first baseman, a starting pitcher, and an elite closer.
I've always felt that the biggest curse to Blue Jays fans is the success of Tampa Bay Rays. Since they have shown that they can win on a very tight budget, I begin to wonder if Rogers is thinking the same thing, and will continue to rein in their millions of Rogers customers dollars.
Zaki Ameen, Milton
A-The Latos situation is interesting. The Jays had a nice package of prospects on the table for San Diego, but the Padres pulled the trigger on the Reds deal without getting back to AA. The difference was that they knew all Anthopoulos had to offer was excellent prospects that were still at low Class-A and the Reds had players ready for the 40-man roster and guys that could play right now. It doesn't seem to have affected in a positive manner the Padres standings in the standings, but if the Jays had to give up current MLB talent for Latos, they felt it would not be something they could afford or wanted to do.
The rest of the points you make – Fielder would never have come here, even with the ability to go beyond five years, Chapman would have been nice and I think the Jays made a mistake on Darvish by not competing hard. But, really, most major-league teams' fan bases could have the same complaint about their own ownership. If the Jays do nothing to add a player before July 31, send me another question. I may have changed my mind. Maybe all Rogers want from the Jays is “wireless content.”
Q-Jays fan, temporarily living in Chicago for the summer. What's the latest on Santos??
Omair Rana, Chicago
A-Sergio Santos started throwing from a mound on Monday June 4. He threw again on Wednesday and Friday that week, but suffered a setback and had to take a step backwards and has not thrown since. He is still working out cardio and strength, but will resume from Square 1 when his shoulder settles down. That's not a good report, but the Jays are still putting up a brave front. No timetable.
Q-The Blue Jays have a pretty good team this year, is the rest of the league afraid there might be a repeat of the 1992-93, with the all bad calls against the Jays, are the umpires making sure that does not happen?
Shirley McArthure, Niagara Falls
A-There does not need to be a conspiracy of the men in blue. The umpires are just relying on their own short-tempered, elephant-like memory of Jays players reacting to calls. Do you think the Jays being in a World Series would be any worse than Tampa or Florida?
Q-When will Farrell pull the plug on Cordero? He's had a great career, but he's just not effective now. Yet Farrell has consistently gone to Cordero over Frasor in important situations. Cordero made sense when Santos first went down. But we've now seen that he doesn't have it anymore. Do you agree that Cordero should be moved down the depth chart? Personally, I'd consider cutting him loose and bringing up a kid. I was at one of the Boston games and the whole section groaned when Cordero got up in the bullpen. The natives are getting restless.
Kevin Siena, Toronto
A-Cordero's pitching has not been as bad as his record – as long as he stays out of the closing role. I recall a game where he gave up four hits in an inning. The first three were groundballs that found holes. The last one was a double off the wall. That's the one fans remember. Cordero clearly will be available in the final three months for any team that wants him. I think from what I've seen that he and Jason Frasor are pretty much interchangeable. There is no upside to cutting him loose. I think it's best to wait for some kind of an offer that will get some minor-league depth player in return.
I wanted to get your thoughts on Wandy Rodriguez. I personally think he would be a great fit as a No. 3 starter behind Romero and Morrow. He's a guy who can give you close to 200 IP, hasn't had an ERA over 3.60 in the last 5 seasons and is under team control through 2014. He will most likely be available come trade deadline day if he's not traded before then. What do you think the Jays would have to give up for him? In addition, what are some other names Jays fans should keep their eye on leading up to the July 31st trade deadline as a potential starting pitcher? Finally, IF they do manage to bring in another starter who do you think gets sent down/moved to the pen? Thanks! Keep up the great work!
Josh Cymbalista, Thornhill
A-To me, I always thought that Rodriguez would have been a good offseason acquisition, but I don't think he's a No. 3 starter on a winning team. He'd be a solid No. 4 and if the Jays made a pitch for him at the deadline, he would give them a No. 4 that is under control through 2013 which is the final season of a three-year, $34-million deal, with another option for 2014. They could decide next winter to keep him or trade him. The Astros need young talent. The Jays have plenty of that. If it's not Rodriguez, I think the price for Ryan Dempster would be more reasonable than for Matt Garza. From the Brewers, Zack Greinke could be a nice short-term piece with time to make a long-term decision. The Jays and Brewers have had a good trading relationship, but players have a say in where they go. As for who goes to the pen, there is the innings-limit for Hutchison, plus the recent injuries to consider.
I enjoy the mailbag. It is my understanding that there are pay restrictions in place for the first year of a minor-league contract but after that the system is open. If this is correct, and with the new penalties in place for teams that exceed the MLB draft signing bonus, is there any indication that the Blue Jays or other teams may try to entice those hard-to-sign draft picks (like Anthony Alford) by paying them on the back end by offering rich minor league contracts.
Aaron Asee, Toronto
A-I'm pretty sure that MLB also monitors minor-league contracts and it would be pretty transparent if all of a sudden a second-year pro is pulling in a million bucks. What I worry about is that if GMs already were able to figure out how to beat the new system by drafting college seniors that are grateful just for the opportunity to play a year or two of A-ball, then they may have already figured out a way to beat the system in other ways that approximate the ideas that you suggest. Under the table?
Like the Scottish caddie at historic St. Andrew's who was asked by the blustery American tourist whose bag he was on: “What do you call a Mulligan over here in Scotland.” He replied: “Cheating.”
Q-Dear Mr Griffin,
What do you make of the withering of Brian Jeroloman ? He is performing (?) atrociously at New Hampshire. And, why on earth did the Jays sign Koby Clemens, given the logjam of genuine first base prospects in AAA and AA? Thank you.
Thea Varley, Toronto
A-Jeroloman's high point and his low point crashed together in Toronto in August-September 2011. The Suffern, N.Y., native late in '11 was called up to the major leagues (high point) and never got in a game (low point). Meanwhile, the tsunami of Jays' catching prospects had formed a tidal wave of talent on the horizon that has caught up to and swept over the 27-year-old who was once considered a prime Jays' major-league prospect. There is Arencibia, d'Arnaud, Carlos Perez, Yan Gomes and when A.J. Jimenez went down earlier in the year, they brought Sean Ochinko up to Double-A to catch.
As for Koby Clemens, he was added to the minor league ranks as a favour from Paul Beeston to Roger Clemens, who was with the Jays in '97-'98, surprising the world by choosing the Jays as his free-agency landing spot. Clemens and Beeston are friends. The Koby experiment seemed like it was coming to an end at spring training when it looked like there might not be a spot for him at any level, but injuries and the fact that he has some tools have kept him in the system.
Yesterday, my wife and I, retirees, watched the Jays nose under the .500 water line for the first time, and I suspect this bunch of deck chair shufflers will accelerate to the bottom, on merit.
We went to watch Strasburg pitch in any event, knowing he'd bury this weak Toronto bunch. It was a lovely sunny day, at least, and the beer (at $10 !) was cold. On two occasions we tried to buy food: the lineup for all food was approximately 15 minutes long, even during play, so we contented ourselves with the beer. Only one harried server worked each food counter. Isn't this mediocre organization smart enough to anticipate more customers on a day when the opposing pitcher is named Strasburg?
Must we be subjected to ear-piercing, gawd-awful "music" between each batter? Is the younger generation that bored? Do we require a command to "Make Noise" from the scoreboard? Our ears are still ringing. Doesn't this club need to create premium seating (not club boxes) for fans who want to watch the game away from the diaper changers (yes!), fans who arrive in the third inning, and the constant movement to the concession stands by the children and the grossly obese? Aren't we tired of AA's flanneling speeches that admit nothing? Doesn't he need to (quickly as possible ) package the likes of Drabek, Arencibia, Escobar, etc. onto another dull-witted organization? Are these enough questions? Thank You,
Selby Martin, Toronto
A-I hope the Blue Jays are paying attention. The music is one thing that is not going to change. Hey dude, the Big Band Era is over. Hip-hop rules.