The Bullpen: How much do the Jays need to spend to compete in 2014?
The 2013 Blue Jays may not have been the worst in franchise history, dating back to 1977, but with a team record payroll, ranking 10th highest in baseball on opening day, it easily may have been the most disappointing season in the franchise’s 37 seasons of play. The ’13 Jays, according to numbers compiled by the Associated Press, spent $118,244,575 (US) on 25 players, plus the disabled list.
And that Jays’ 2013 guaranteed dollar number on payroll could skyrocket in 2014 to about $134 million, even before attempting to add to GM Alex Anthopoulos’s fanciful wish list of: a high-priced starting pitcher for the rotation, a second-baseman, an outfielder and, perhaps, a new catcher.
Winning in 2014 will require clearing some of the current payroll and . . . imagination.
The Jays are already committed to spend $107.2 million for 13 players under long-term deals. In addition, veterans Adam Lind and Casey Janssen have club options adding up to $11 million. Also, outfielder Colby Rasmus, in his final year before free agency, will likely earn about $7 million in arbitration on a one-year deal. Brett Cecil, J.P. Arencibia and Esmil Rogers are also arbitration-eligible.
Fans will recognize that clearly the most disappointing aspect of the Jays in 2013 was the starting rotation, importing star veterans who dramatically disappointed. Unfortunately, the Jays are on the hook for a guaranteed $50.7 million in 2014 for those same starters — Mark Buehrle ($18M), R.A. Dickey ($12M), Brandon Morrow ($8M), Ricky Romero ($7.5M) and J.A. Happ ($5.2M).
Four other star Jays are guaranteed $8 million or more, including shortstop Jose Reyes ($16M), Jose Bautista ($14M), Edwin Encarnacion ($9M) and Melky Cabrera ($8M). Under this scenario, how can the Jays possibly afford to pick up the $7-million option for DH/1B Lind or the $4.0 million for closer Janssen? Rasmus, additionally, has had a solid season that will be rewarded in arbitration.
The wild-card in the Blue Jays payroll equation is that while Anthopoulos has said that there are no surprises moving forward and Rogers ownership has been aware from Day 1 that payroll must go up in 2014, simply from all the built-in raises, the unknown X factor has become the new Rogers CEO, a man named Guy Laurence, a Brit moving over from Vodaphone UK, a man with a reputation for cost-cutting, downsizing and outside-the-box corporate vision. The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, reported that by 2011, Vodaphone featured 7,150 employees, down from 9,500 when he took over in 2008.
What that rep of frugality means to the Jays is anyone’s guess, with Laurence scheduled to take over the reins in January 2014, but Anthopoulos and club president Paul Beeston may have a tough sales job on their hands. The biggest selling point is the solid media numbers posted by the 2013 Jays, reflecting their added spinoff value, as outlined in a recent piece by the Star’s Morgan Campbell.
Simply in terms of baseball, there are payroll and personnel questions that need to be answered. Anthopoulos has hinted that he is ready and willing to compete for another expensive starting pitcher if it seems it will take the Jays where they need to go. If he could agree to a multi-year contract with an upcoming free agent pitcher, he would have to ensure the contract was back-end loaded to ease the impact on 2014, with a hefty signing bonus that could be prorated over the length of the deal.
But that average salary would still necessarily have to be around $15 million per season, given the marketplace and that a qualifying offer for a player’s own team for prime free agents will be around $13 million. That list includes pitchers like Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza.
In order to create payroll flexibility, the Jays would optimally have to trade some of the current pieces this winter. For example, can they afford to carry all three of $8 million for Cabrera, the $7 million for Lind (club option) and the approximately $7 million for Rasmus (arbitration)?
Would they try and trade Buehrle who is a pro’s pro and a 200-innnings-per-year horse in the middle of the rotation, but is not a difference-maker at this stage of his career in terms of putting the club over the top and into the post-season? He is a complementary piece. They would have to eat a big chunk of Buehrle’s remaining $37 million for the next two years in order to move him.
Would they be able to move Maicer Izturis and his $3 million, using the less expensive already-on-hand options of either Mune Kawasaki or Ryan Goins as the primary backup middle infielder?
The deepest, most valuable asset the Jays possess may be the bullpen where they have many effective pieces, pitchers that can be added to any trade to make it more appealing. The highest paid relievers in 2014 will be Janssen ($4 M) and Sergio Santos ($3.75M). Including Esmil Rogers, Cecil and Dustin McGowan, there are a dozen relievers with major league capability, for seven spots.
Core Jays players who are likely not going anywhere include Bautista, Reyes, Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Dickey. Anyone else is fair game. It will be a tumultuous off-season for Anthopoulos and one that will certainly not be greeted with as much fan enthusiasm as last winter’s love-fest. But if the young GM learned anything from his 2013 disaster, the on-field results in 2014 could be improved.
In the meantime, if manager John Gibbons survives, as was promised by the Jays’ shaken GM, there will likely be coaches sacrificed, to satisfy the unforgiving gods of season-ticket sales. Meanwhile ex-Jays’ manager John Farrell and his Red Sox are busy setting up their rotation for the playoffs.
THE LIST – TOP 15 OPENING DAY PAYROLLS IN 2013 AND THEIR WIN TOTALS
Following is a list, compiled by the Associated Press, of MLB team payrolls as of Opening Day. In boldface are 15, or half, of the teams that are still within 4.5 games of a wild-card spot. There are various ways of estimating team payroll, but AP dollar figures include prorated signing bonuses plus money owed from players sent away. Again, these are based on Opening Day rosters.
TEAM, PAYROLL, WINS
1-New York Yankees $228,995,945; 79
2-Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909; 86
3-Philadelphia $159,578,214; 69
4-Boston $158,967,286; 92
5-Detroit $149,046,844; 86
6-San Francisco $142,180,333; 69
7-Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250; 72
8-Texas $127,197,575; 81
9-Chicago White Sox $124,065,277; 58
10-Toronto $118,244,039; 68
11-St. Louis $116,702,085; 87
12-Washington $112,431,770; 79
13-Cincinnati $110,565,728; 84
14-Chicago Cubs $104,150,726; 63
15-Baltimore $ 91,793,333; 79
19-New York Mets $88,877,033
22-Kansas City $80,491,725
25-San Diego $71,689,900
28-Tampa Bay $57,030,272
THE CONVERSATION –
ALFREDO GRIFFIN AT THE END OF HIS ROAD IN A FINE CAREER
Back in the formative years of the Blue Jays franchise from ’79 to ’84 and then again in the early ’90s, Alfredo Griffin was part of the first wave of young Dominicans signed by the team and its Caribbean super scout, the late Epy Guerrero. Griffin eventually handed the shortstop position over to the athletic young Tony Fernandez when it was his time and Griff is still remembered by Jays fans of a certain age as one of the most likeable players of that era. Currently first-base coach with the Angels, I had the chance for a recent conversation with Griffin who was a Jays coach in the early years when I arrived to cover baseball in Toronto. Many times, while staying at the Jays’ team hotel, I would dutifully hand Alfredo a couple of messages at the ballpark that were wrongly routed to my room’s voicemail.
RICHARD GRIFFIN: Have you heard anything about Damaso Garcia, in terms of health, lately.
ALFREDO GRIFFIN : Yes, he’s in the same condition. He’s been in that situation for a long time now (following removal of a tumour on his brain 11 years ago). He doesn’t speak any more. He listens. He understands what you say. When you say yes, you grab his hand and he’ll squeeze you. When you say no, he won’t squeeze.
RG; He came to Montreal and played with the Expos (in 1989) — after he was here — and I found him to be one of the most gracious gentlemen that I had dealt with, very mature and a good influence on the young players and I didn’t understand any of the difficult reputation that he had from here. I mean this is a prince of a man. In your opinion, has the understanding of Dominican and Latin players improved over the years? Because there always seemed to be a misunderstanding that they weren’t friendly, were uncommunicative, but Damo was a wonderful presence in the Expos clubhouse.
AG: Yes, Damo was my roommate playing in Toronto. It’s a misunderstanding because it’s a different culture. You come to a country that you’re not used to and you don’t speak the language well and sometimes in these sports, you want to say something and the way you say it, you speak too loud, you don’t know the manners. It’s tough to judge and when the words come out, that’s what you’re going to get. But Damo is a real gentleman. He liked to speak up. He liked to speak up and that’s a problem, a lot of people didn’t like. He liked to say what he feels, if it’s right or wrong. And maybe he could get caught up in that situation, you know. If you asked me, I never got involved in that situation because I didn’t say much. I kept my mouth shut.
RG: As a long-time coach . . . and I talked to you about it a couple of years ago and you still had managerial aspirations. Tony Pena, Felipe Alou and others broke the barrier for Dominicans, but when Tony quit the Royals it seemed to hurt the perception. Does the WBC, the Dominican winning the tournament (with Pena as manager), does that help Dominican candidates, the future of more island managers?
AG: Well, I think the future of Dominican managers is going to be limited because the new generation of baseball is demanding a lot of (analytical) things that I don’t think a lot of current coaches are prepared for. It’s going to be tough. I’m inside right now, going through that and I’m on my way out, so for them to become major-league managers they’re going to have to prepare themselves better than the way past managers prepare themselves.
RG: Is it like the statistical innovations you’re speaking of? Because I talked to Tim Wallach and he’s around the same generation and he was also worried that the chance had passed him by, because he’s in his 50s and an old-school baseball guy. Is that what it is, more old-school than the fact of Dominican?
AG: The new generation, the statistical stuff is changing the game dramatically. And it’s good for the game because whoever comes in and do what he needs to do — and the team wins, that’s the name of the game. My only point of view on this is that the game, you can do whatever you want upstairs, but the game on the field is not going to change. And everybody’s not an office person.
RG: Right. Can you tell the story for me the incident at the all-star game with you and Damaso and how that came about, because that wouldn’t happen any more either. You were his guest at the game
AG: After the break, after the all-star break, we opened up in Oakland. So Damaso is selected to go to the all-star game. His wife’s supposed to go with him, but she’s not here.
RG: So you became his guest.
AG: And we were roommates, we were partners, we go everywhere together. So he goes, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to bring someone with me. My wife’s not here. You’re coming with me because we’re playing in Oakland.’ So I said, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go, we’ll hang out.’ So we take off. I went with him to San Francisco. While I’m in San Francisco, I’m not at the party, just in the lobby, they’re having a party, I’m outside in the lobby and somebody comes over and says, ‘Oh my God, you’re the right man. You’re at the right place at the right time.’ I said, ‘Yeah what happened?’ They said, ‘Well Alan Trammell can’t play because he’s hurt and we’re trying to get a replacement. You’re my replacement right here.’ I said, ‘No problem.’ So . . .
RG: And your baseball stuff was already there because you were opening in Oakland after the break.
AG: Yes because we were opening up there. It was a great experience.
RG: The Blue Jays have a lot of young Latin players, a lot of young Dominicans, Moises Sierra and some others and I suggested to John Gibbons that because of the way that kids play in the Dominican, with fewer organized leagues, they may be behind in terms of fundamentals of the game when they come to North America, to pro ball and that Sierra might be excused for some of the things that he does. Is that the way you see it, that young Dominican kids because there’s not as many organized leagues growing up, that they are behind in the fundamentals of the game.
AG: No, I don’t think so. I disagree. When I played as a kid, yes. But not in this era. We have too many coaches that dedicate themselves to Little League teams back home. They show their Little League team players how to play the game the right way from Day 1, so it’s got to be less excuse now than in the past. Because there’s too many good teachers teaching and too many organized leagues for them not to learn the game properly.
RG: So the coaches are guys that didn’t necessarily make it to the majors but were in North America then came back home to teach kids and coach?
AG: They’re now teaching.
RG: So there’s no excuse.
AG: There’s no excuse.
RG: Are you disappointed at all in the culture of performance-enhancing drugs and the number of Latin players and the number of Dominican players that get caught up in that? Is it a temptation for those young players because of poverty they may grow up in? Is that what happens on the island?
AG: It’s the same as going to school. You need to learn. Somebody has to step up and teach these players not to do wrong, not to do the thing that is wrong . . . and explaining why. Because a lot of people that come and get those players and tell them what to do, they tell them, ‘Oh, you’re not going to get caught. Don’t worry about a thing.’ It’s a problem because you know you’re gong to get stronger. You know you’re going to get better, you’re going to get bigger, stronger, you’re not going to get caught so you’re not afraid. Somebody has to do something. But it’s a matter of education. If I’m a player out of professional baseball and I think I have a chance to make it to the big leagues and I have something that’s going to help me, I’m going to do it.
RG: So the answer is that it’s in a transition period of education.
AG: It’s in a transition so people could teach the best type of young player not to get into this thing.
RG: Whenever you come back to Toronto with the Angels, everybody still remembers, fans of a certain age. Does that make you feel good?
AG: It makes me feel like a king. I go back to my country and I tell my friends down in the Dominican, I’m more welcome in Toronto than the Dominican Republic where I was born and raised. It’s a pleasure when I come to Toronto to see all the people that salute me and call my name and they say, ‘I remember you. Thank you for the memories.’ It makes me feel very good.
RG: That’s great and in terms of your own future as a coach in the game, do you want to keep going as long as you can or do you see the end coming>
AG: I’m at the end.
RG: Then you go back home and become one of those teachers of the game, of kids, that we talked about?
AG: I plan on doing that. Yes.
BLUE JAYS CORNER
FINDING POSITIVES NOT GETTING ANY EASIER
The Jays, after completing a successful 5-1 road trip to Phoenix and Minneapolis, came home and have gone 1-5 against the Angels and Orioles. Since winning the series finale at Houston on Aug. 25, the Jays are 11-8 in 19 games. Jays starters are 10-5 in those 19 games. The Jays are 6-7 in September — and are a combined 32 games above .500 in the 13 September and October games they have played since 2001, while the overall full-season record in that same time frame is 30 games under the break-even mark.
THE WEEK THAT WAS (0-3 vs. Angels; 1-2 vs. Orioles)
The Jays have 13 games remaining to be played against the Yankees (3), at Boston (3), the White Sox (1) and Baltimore (3) and finally back home against the Rays (3). The Jays need to win all 13 games to finish at .500 and can go 5-8 to equal last year’s disappointing 73 victories.
Highlights of the Angels series:
The opening game of the homestand was their worst loss, dropping a 12-6 decision to Jerome Williams. Mark Buehrle ended a streak of great starts for the Jays allowing eight runs and 12 hits in four innings. 1B Mark Trumbo was 5-for-5 with a home run and three doubles. SS Erick Aybar, LF Josh Hamilton and C Chris Ianetta all homered. Ricky Romero finally got the call to pitch out of the ’pen for the Jays and worked two decent innings, allowing one run. Anthony Gose had tied the game in the second inning with his first career grand slam against Williams.
On Wednesday, R.A. Dickey was handed a three-run lead in the first, but was unable to hold it against C.J. Wilson who seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Trumbo began the comeback to a 5-4 win in the second with a two-run homer and Kole Calhoun’s sacrifice fly against Steve Delabar in the eight proved to be the winner. Moises Sierra was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple
The Jays struggle continued on Thursday, as J.A. Happ allowed single runs in four straight innings before being removed with one Angel out in the fifth. He threw 87 pitches to record 13 outs. The Jays had another lead in this one, up 3-2 in the fourth, but Happ had trouble with the concept of shutdown innings. The winning run vs. Happ scored on back-to-back doubles by Aybar and Trout, choosing to pitch to the best young player in the game with first-base open.
Highlights of the Orioles series loss:
The Jays inability to hold a lead continued Friday, blowing a 3-0 lead after six innings, allowing three in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Todd Redmond was cruising on a 75-pitch shutout through 6.1 innings, but after allowing a hit in the seventh, John Gibbons inexplicable replaced him with Dustin McGowan and the bullpen that allowed the game to be tied in the seventh on a big two-run double by C Steve Clevenger. Delabar handled the eighth inning and gave up two runs for his second loss of the homestand. Chris Davis hammered his 50th homer of the season, while Danny Valencia stroked a run-scoring single after Ryan Flaherty was walked intentionally.
On Saturday, the Jays actually won a close game. Colby Rasmus, making his second start off of the DL, slammed a two-run homer off the second-deck facade in right field to bring the Jays back from 3-2 down. Chris Tillman went the distance in taking the loss. Esmil Rogers posted a quality start after struggling with his control in the fourth. Sierra slammed a two-run double in the first.
On Sunday, the Jays had a chance to win the series with Buehrle pitching but he gave up a pair in the third on a first pitch double into the left field corner by Danny Valencia leading to a 3-1 defeat. The Jays last four losses have been by two runs or less.
Buehrle now needs 5.2 innings to reach 200 innings for the 13th straight season. The Jays don’t have much other than that to look forward to.
BLUE JAYS DOWN ON THE FARM
The Jays’ minor-league system finished a combined three games above .500 with A-Vancouver in the Northwest League the only league champion.
Leaders: HR-Mauro Gomez 29; SB-Mike McCoy 29; P/SO-Justin Germano 103
AA-NEW HAMPSHIRE (68-72)
Leaders: HR-Ryan Schimpf 23; SB-Kenny Wilson 16; P/SO-Deck McGuire 143
A-DUNEDIN (63-68; 0-2)
Leaders: HR-K.C. Hobson 19; SB-John Berti 56; P/SO-Scott Copeland 99
Leaders: HR-Kevin Patterson 18; SB-Dalton Pompey 38; P/SO-Taylor Cole 101
A-VANCOUVER (39-36; 6-1)
Leaders: HR-L.B. Dantzler 9; SB-Ian Parmley 23; P/SO-Kyle Anderson 58
Rk-BLUEFIELD (40-27; 0-2)
Leaders: HR-D.J. Davis 6; SB-D.J. Davis 13; P/SO-Chase DeJong 66
Rk-GULF COAST JAYS (28-32)
Leaders: HR-Franklin Barreto 4; SB-Franklin Barreto 10; P/SO-Jesus Tinoco 45
Rk-DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE JAYS (41-29)
Leaders: HR-Ronniel Demorizi 5; SB-Juan Fuente 30; P/SO-Miguel Castro 71
*Team had 136 SB in 70 games.
THIS DATE IN BASEBALL HISTORY:
Sept. 16:1996 – Paul Molitor of the Twins triples for his 3,000th career hit — at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The next day Molitor is thrilled to find a signed football of congratulations on his chair from another sports legend, Chiefs RB Marcus Allen . . . 1993 – Dave Winfield of the Twins collects his 3,000th hit, a single off Dennis Eckersley of the A’s . . . 1987 — This seems a date for once and future Jays World Series heroes when they were with other teams. Joe Carter of the Indians facing Seattle steals his 30th base to become the ninth member of the MLB 30-30 club in HR and SB.
Sept. 17: 1998 – LH Denny Neagle wins his 15th game for the Braves. He becomes the fifth Braves pitcher with at least 15 wins, joining Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Kevin Millwood.
Sept. 18: 1987 — 1B Darrell Evans of the Tigers becomes the first 40-year-old in history with 30 HR in a season. Three years ago, in 2010, Evans managed a Niagara Falls team of primarily Venezuelan youngsters in COBA against my Oakville A’s. We split four games . . . 1956 — On his way to a Triple Crown, Yankee CF Mickey Mantle slams 50 home runs for the first time, reaching the prestigious mark vs. Billy Pierce of the White Sox in extra innings. The win clinched the AL pennant.
Sept. 19: 1998 — SS Alex Rodriguez of the M’s slams his 40th HR to become the third player in MLB history with 40 HR and 40 SB . . . 1968 — Denny McLain of the Tigers wins his 31st game, becoming the first MLB hurler at that level since Lefty Grove of the A’s in 1931. He is still the last player to win 30.
Sept. 20: 1998 — Cal Ripken Jr. of the O’s decided it was time and took himself out in a game vs. the Yankees ending his consecutive games streak at 2,632. The streak began on May 30, 1982 . . . 1924 — Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Cubs works 12 innings vs. the Giants to win his 300th career game.
Sept. 21: 1987 — Darryl Strawberry of the Mets strokes his 30th HR to join Howard Johnson as the first 30-30 teammates in MLB history ... 1981 — Phillies LHP Steve Carlton fanned Andre Dawson of the Expos for K No. 3,118, the most in NL history. The Expos went on to win 1-0 in 17 innings then went on to beat the Phillies and Carlton in five games in the NLDS.
Sept. 22: 1990 — Cubs RF Andre Dawson steals his 300th career base joining Willie Mays as the only 300HR-300SB players in MLB history . . . 1968 — Cesar Tovar of the Twins played one inning at every position, including pitcher, joining Bert Campaneris of the A’s in accomplishing the feat ... 1957 — Duke Snider of the Dodgers hit HRs No. 39-40 which become the last two HRs ever at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn as the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles the next season.
MLB POWER RANKINGS (as of Sept. 15)
TEAM, Last Wk-Start of Spring
1-Boston Red Sox 1-16
The best team in baseball most powerful division
2-Oakland A’s 4-8
3-Atlanta Braves 3-2
4-St. Louis Cardinals 5-13
5-Detroit Tigers 2-7
6-Cincinnati Reds 8-9
7-Pittsburgh Pirates 9-28
8-Los Angeles Dodgers 7-5
9-Cleveland Indians 10-20
10-Texas Rangers 6-6
11-Tampa Bay Rays 11-10
12-Baltimore Orioles 12-11
13-Washington Nationals 15-4
14-Kansas City Royals 13-18
15-New York Yankees 14-14
16-Arizona Diamondbacks 16-17
17-Los Angeles Angels 17-12
18-New York Mets 20-27
19-Philadelphia Phillies 18-15
20-Toronto Blue Jays 19-3
21-San Francisco Giants 24-1
22-San Diego Padres 23-23
23-Colorado Rockies 22-25
24-Seattle Mariners 22-21
25-Milwaukee Brewers 26-22
26-Minnesota Twins 23-26
27-Chicago Cubs 27-24
28-Miami Marlins 28-29
29-Chicago White Sox 29-19
30-Houston Astros 30-30
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Jays were at home all week and TIFF continued in town with an invasion of the beautiful people, but the two pieces of sports news that truly had the city abuzz were that the Maple Leafs were back on the ice and that Canada in Davis Cup tennis had an outlandish opportunity to advance to the finals with what would have been an unlikely win over Serbia.
Unfortunately it was not to be as both Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospicil, with just one of the two tennis stars needing to win their singles matchup on Sunday, both came up short, with nagging injuries that slowed them down as the heavily favoured Serbs volleyed the Canadians out of the tourney.
By the way, it seems that separated at birth are Canadian doubles star Daniel Nestor and Charlie Sheen’s brother in the television series Two and a Half Men.