Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
By Matt Snyder
The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.
Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan
Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen
Important bench players
OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel
Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.
Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]
Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.
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Tags: 2012 spring training, Adam Lind, AL East, Ben Francisco, Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Brett Lawrie, Casey Janssen, Colby Rasmus, Dustin McGowan, Edwin Encarnacion, Eric Thames, Francisco Cordero, Henderson Alvarez, J.P. Arencibia, Jeff Mathis, Jose Bautista, Kelly Johnson, Kyle Drabek, Matt Snyder, Omar Vizquel, Rajai Davis, Ricky Romero, Sergio Santos, spring training, spring training 2012, Travis d'Arnaud, Travis Snider, Yunel Escobar
Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:39 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 9:44 am
By Matt Snyder
Blue Jays starting pitcher Brandon Morrow has been signed to a three-year contract extension worth $20 million, the club announced Tuesday (hat-tip MLB Trade Rumors). The deal is also said to include a $10 million option for the 2015 season -- meaning this deal buys out the last two years of arbitration and could eat up the first two years of possible free agency. The average annual value of the contract represents quite a raise for Morrow, who earned $2.3 million last season.
Morrow, 27, went 11-11 with a 4.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings last season. He has great stuff, seemingly capable of flirting with a no-hitter or hitting double digits in strikeouts on any given night. On the other hand, he's been unable to harness all that talent consistently, as he's just as capable of getting knocked around the yard. Witness a four-start stretch in September: Morrow gave up eight runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings to the Red Sox and followed up that effort by giving up seven hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Red Sox again. But in the next two starts -- against the Yankees and Rays, respectively -- Morrow went 15 combined shutout innings, only giving up six hits while striking out 17.
If the Jays can find a way to coax some consistency out of Morrow, this contract would be an absolute bargain. He figures to be the Blue Jays No. 2 starter this season behind Ricky Romero, so the Jays need Morrow to step up if they intend to compete in the tough AL East.
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Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:54 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 4:43 pm
By Matt Snyder
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule of this feature, click here.
The Seattle Mariners have finished last place in the AL West six of the past eight seasons. Would things have been different if management had done a better job of keeping the right organizational pieces? In a word: Yes. Check this out ...
1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Adam Jones, CF
6. Shin-Soo Choo, LF
7. Dustin Ackley, 2B
8. Raul Ibanez, 1B
9. Jason Varitek, C
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Michael Pineda
3. Doug Fister
4. Brandon Morrow
5. Joel Pineiro
Closer - J.J. Putz
Set up - Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Eric O'Flaherty, Brian Fuentes, Damaso Marte, George Sherrill
Long - Derek Lowe
Notable Bench Players
Adam Moore, Greg Dobbs, Bryan LaHair, Luis Valbuena, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero
Almost everything. The lineup is solid, the starting rotation is very good, the bullpen is great and there is some bench depth. There are superstars like King Felix and A-Rod with up-and-comers like Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Pineda. And 2011 first-rounder Danny Hultzen (starting pitcher) will soon be added to the mix.
Age in some areas. A-Rod, Ortiz, Ichiro and Ibanez are all in different levels of decline, but there's no doubt they're all certainly in decline. Catcher is also a problem, as we're left deciding between a has-been (Varitek) and a possible never-will-be (Moore). Pick your poison there.
As for the lineup, I tried to figure out how to best work it. Maybe swap Jones and A-Rod spots? I'd be OK with that, considering the seasons those two had in 2011. Also, Ichiro's OBP was terrible for a leadoff man last season (.310), but wouldn't it make the back-end of the lineup too punchless if you batted Ackley leadoff? With the way I left it, the leadoff spot is weak.
Comparison to real 2011
The 2011 Mariners lost 95 games and this team above would have a shot at winning 95. You can take away from the older stars all you want, but with that pitching staff, the offense doesn't have to be great. It only has to be good, and it's easily good enough to get plenty of wins when only needing to put three or four runs on the board. Plus, as those older guys continue to decline, the likes of Jones, Ackley and Cabrera just get better. In Sunday's Homegrown Team, I said to expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom of the rankings (when we do them). This entry is the complete opposite. Expect to see the Mariners toward the top of the rankings. This is a great team. For now.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: Adam Jones, Adam Moore, AL West, Alex Rodriguez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Morrow, Brian Fuentes, Bryan LaHair, Carlos Peguero, Damaso Marte, Danny Hultzan, David Ortiz, Derek Lowe, Doug Fister, Dustin Ackley, Eric O'Flaherty, Felix Hernandez, George Sherrill, Greg Dobbs, Homegrown, Ichiro Suzuki, J.J. Putz, Jason Varitek, Joel Pineiro, Jose Lopez, Luis Valbuena, Mariners, Matt Snyder, Matt Thornton, Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Rafael Soriano, Raul Ibanez, Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:00 pm
By Matt Snyder
Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...
Team name: Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 81-81, 4th place in AL East, 16 games back
Manager: John Farrell
Best hitter: Jose Bautista -- .302/.447/.608, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 R
Best pitcher: Ricky Romero -- 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 178 K, 225 IP
2011 SEASON RECAP
The Jays played .500 ball pretty much throughout the season. By month, they were one game under .500, two over, three under, four over, two under and two under, respectively. That's the very definition of an average baseball team, but there are mitigating factors. Namely, the Jays are playing in the best division in baseball, trailing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. If you removed those three teams from the schedule, the Jays went 60-48. So you can argue this is already a very good baseball team caught in the wrong division. Of course, they aren't going to be getting out of the AL East anytime soon, so there's no use in thinking about what could be.
They're actually set up to have a legitimate shot at the division. The Yankees are aging and have pitching questions, the Rays have monetary issues, the Orioles aren't close yet and who knows what happens with the Red Sox? The Blue Jays will need steps forward from young players like Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil and either Colby Rasmus or Travis Snider. They also need to shore up the bullpen. The Blue Jays were ninth in the AL in bullpen ERA. Saves and blown saves are flawed stats, but 33 saves against 25 blown saves doesn't bode well in close games. Only the Astros had a worse save percentage in 2011. I'm not necessarily of the opinion that a team has to have one closer and always use him in save situations, because sometimes a three-run lead in the ninth doesn't need maximum protection, but each team should have one reliable guy to shut down the opposition and Toronto lacked that for most of the season.
The good news for the Blue Jays is that they are in position to increase the payroll, reportedly pretty significantly, in the next two seasons. That doesn't mean it's all happening now, but a big splash is coming.
Jose Molina, C
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B/DH ($3.5 million club option)
Shawn Camp, RP
Frank Francisco, RP
Jon Rauch, RP ($3.75 million club option)
Tags: Adam Lind, Adeiny Hechavarria, AL East, Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Brett Lawrie, Casey Janssen, Colby Rasmus, Dustin McGowan, Edwin Encarnacion, Eric Thames, Henderson Alvarez, J.P. Arencibia, Jesse Litsch, Joel Carreno, Jose Bautista, Kyle Drabek, Matt Snyder, Prince Fielder, R.I.P., Ricky Romero, Travis d'Arnaud, Travis Snider, Yunel Escobar
Posted on: September 23, 2011 4:52 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.
Braves' tall task: Stephen Strasburg gets to pitch in a pennant race -- well, sort of. The Braves are trying to hold on to their two-game lead in the National League wild card race, but St. Louis' loss on Thursday gave Atlanta a little breathing room. With six games remaining, the Braves have a 75 percent shot of hanging on to the wild card, according to Coolstandings.com. It can't be too good to see Strasburg on the hill in such an important game. Strasburg hasn't recorded a victory since returning from Tommy John surgery, but that's through no fault of his own. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed two runs on nine hits in 14 innings, while striking out 11 batters and walking none. Atlanta beat Strasburg last season, getting to him for six hits and four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings. At that point, it was the most any team had scored against Strasburg. Tim Hudson, 15-10 with a 3.19 ERA, starts for Atlanta. Braves at Nationals, 7:05 p.m ET
Back home: Not only does it rhyme, but the Jays-Rays matchup has quite a bit on the line. For the first time in nearly two weeks, the Rays are back home. Tampa went 5-6 on their 11-game road trip to Baltimore, Boston and New York. Tampa Bay is slightly better at home (42-33, .560 winning percentage) than on the road (44-37, .543 winning percentage) and have won seven of their last eight games at Tropicana Field. David Price takes the mound for Tampa Bay after leaving his last start when he was hit in the chest by a ball. Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow is coming off an eight-inning scoreless performance against the Yankees, getting his first win since Aug. 17. Blue Jays at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET
Last chance: With a win on Friday, the Diamondbacks will clinch the National League West, but the game may be more important to the Giants. San Francisco probably needs to not only win the rest of its six remaining games, but also get some help along the way for a shot at the National League wild card. A loss tonight and the Giants not only are realistically out of the wild card race, but they're also mathematically out of the NL West race. Matt Cain is 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in five starts against Arizona this season and 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA at Chase Field. Arizona left-hander Joe Saunders was one out away from a shutout in his last start, Sunday in San Diego, and has won his last three starts. His last loss was to the Giants, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings on Sept. 2. Giants at Diamondbacks, 9:05 p.m. ETFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 2:53 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Sean Burroughs, Diamondbacks: Burroughs' first home run since April 30, 2005, accounted for the only two runs of Tuesday's 2-0 victory over the Nationals, snapping Arizona's six-game losing streak. Ian Kennedy pitched seven shutout innings, but it was Burroughs' shot with one on and one out in the seventh off of Jordan Zimmermann that was the story of the game. Burroughs, 30, hadn't been in the big leagues since 2006 before being called up earlier this year after a disappointing start to his career. Before signing with the Diamondbacks this past offseason, he was battling substance abuse.
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: Choo celebrated the birth of his third child Monday and then had a big day Tuesday, going 4 for 8 in a doubleheader against the Mariners, including a walk-off three-run homer in the first game that delivered the Indians a 7-5 victory and snapped a four-game losing streak for Cleveland. The Indians lost the second game, but Choo added another homer, as well as a triple in the nightcap. Choo finished the day with five RBI and even hit a double during Tuesday's earthquake. Indians manager Manny Acta called Choo earlier on Tuesday to make sure his outfielder was available to play -- luckily for the Indians, he was available.
Yonder Alonso, Reds: Dusty Baker gave Joey Votto a rare day off Tuesday, letting the rookie Alonso get the start in South Florida, where he grew up and played college ball at Miami. Not only did Alonso homer on the first pitch he saw on the night, but he also broke a tie with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth inning in front of his friends and family for a 8-6 Reds victory.
Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays: The Blue Jays' right-hander has some of the best stuff in the big leagues, but the 27-year-old has never found any kind of consistency. In his last start before Tuesday, Morrow struck out a dozen Mariners in six innings. Tuesday he gave up nearly that many hits in just 4 2/3 innings against the Royals. Kansas City had two doubles, a triple and two home runs among their 11 hits in the 25 batters Morrow faced in a 6-4 Toronto loss.
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Coming into the game, Lohse had allowed just three earned runs over his last 13 1/3 innings -- he gave up that many before he retired a batter on Tuesday on a three-run homer by Matt Kemp. Lohse allowed four more runs in the second inning and then a solo homer to Rod Barajas in the fourth inning. Lohse was lifted after three innings in St. Louis' 13-2 loss to the Dodgers.
White Sox: Sloppy play all around hurt Chicago in a 5-4 loss to the Angels, starting with two first-inning errors and then a mental mistake in the ninth. Peter Bourjos reached in the first inning on a throwing error by Alexei Ramirez and then scored on a fielding error by Juan Pierre in the same inning. In the seventh inning, catcher Tyler Flowers avoided a double play by taking off before Brent Morel's grounder, but got greedy by trying to advance to third where he was thrown out by first baseman Mark Trumbo to end the inning. Then in the ninth, second baseman Gordon Beckham failed to cover second on Alberto Callaspo's single, allowing Callaspo to advance to second base, taking away the double play. After an intentional walk to Maircer Izturis, Bourjos singled in the game-ending run.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: 3 Up 3 Down, AL Central, AL East, ALberto Callaspo, Alexi Ramirez, Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Gordon Beckham, Indians, Juan Pierre, Kyle Lohse, Matt Kemp, NL Central, NL West, Peter Bourjos, Reds, Sean Burroughs, Shin-Soo Choo, Tyler Flowers, White Sox, Yonder Alonso
Posted on: August 18, 2011 11:23 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
In one of the scariest things you'll see on a baseball field, Seattle's Casper Wells took a 97 mph fastball to the face. The good news is that it got "just" the tip of Wells' nose and X-rays showed no broken bones.
Take a look for yourself, MLB.com has the video here.
Wells, who entered the game having homered in his last four games, was 0 for 2 in the sixth inning when Brandon Marrow's fastball came up and in on Carp, hitting him on the tip of the nose.
"It just felt like my nose fell off pretty much," Wells told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times after the game. "I had a little bit of a headache. I couldn't see, which was scary. My eyes got all watered up and I couldn't see what was going on. It felt like it squared me up right in the face. But watching the replay, I kind of got out of the way.
"It was just really scary more than anything. Coming right at my face and I just couldn't get out of the way of it."
Morrow, 27, was the Mariners' first-round pick in the 2006 draft (fifth overall), but was traded to Toronto after three inconsistent seasons in Seattle following the 2009 season. Since moving to Toronto, he's had his ups and downs, but Wednesday he was at his best, striking out 12 and allowing just three hits in six innings.
However, after the game Morrow was thinking about Wells, and used Twitter to send his apology -- the Jays left to go to Oakland after the game, so he couldn't stick around. Here's Morrow's public apology:
While Morrow wasn't able to apologize in person, Wells seemed to be OK with the Twitter apology. Here's his response:
See how easy it is when everyone acts like an adult? Morrow wasn't trying to hit Wells, a pitch -- even on a night when he had great control -- got away from him and created a moment that was pretty scary for everyone who saw it, none more than Wells, I'm sure, but second on that list had to be Morrow. Even though Tony La Russa would likely disagree, this matter is closed and everything is OK.
HT to Yahoo's Big League Stew.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 12, 2011 12:42 am
Edited on: June 12, 2011 12:43 am
By Evan Brunell
Mike Moustakas, Royals -- The latest Royal phenom banged his first career home run in his second game up; he was hitless in two other at-bats and added a walk. The blast came on a solo shot that pulled the Royals within two of a game they would tie and go on to lose 7-5. He blasted a pitch middle-away over the right-field fence, and Angels right fielder Torii Hunter spoke to the fans and got the ball back for the rookie.
Chase Utley, Phillies -- Utley had a solo home run just like Moustakas, which brought the crowd some measure of relief. Manager Charlie Manuel said recently that he felt Utley was beginning to come out of spring-training mode and was ready to hit. Boom, home run. He was 2 for 5 with a double and four RBI all told, pushing his line to a un-Utley like .252/.341/.394. The Phillies broke open the game late against the Cubs, with Utley's two-run shot capping the 7-1 victory.
Mike Leake, Reds -- In a matchup between Tim Lincecum and Mike Leake, Lincecum will win 4 out of 5 times. Well, this was one of those other times as The Freak imploded and Leake shined against a decrepit Giants lineup by going eight strong with four hits, one walk and eight whiffs. Bad offense or not, stellar outing with 113 pitches, 72 for strikes. Leake's ERA dropped all the way to 4.06 and has earned himself some rope with a second straight strong start.
Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays -- Morrow had a very bad day, skittering his ERA up to 5.63 by coughing up nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Yikes. He added four strikeouts against three walks and quite a few Red Sox hitters had banner days. It turned into such a rout, Toronto put backup infielder Mike McCoy into the game to pitch, where he flashed a knuckleball en route to losing 16-4.
Colby Lewis, Rangers -- Lewis lasted much shorter than Morrow, only tossing 1 1/3 innings with 52 pitches allowing six runs, two walks and a whiff. David Bush stifled the Twins offense for 4 2/3 innings before leaving with an injury and was a laugher the entire game. That's two straight bad showings for Lewis. Is he slumping or is something else going on?
Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks -- Johnson deserves credit for punching in three runs on a double, but he did whiff in the four other at-bats. While striking out is really not any worse than grounding out, that many K's gets your attention. Johnson's hitting a moribund .221/.294/.442 and is trying to find the stroke that fueled his 26-homer season last year. He's been pulling out if it lately and has really been turning on the power but his batting average has gone backwards as of late. A couple lucky breaks, and things could be looking different.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.