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: 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: March 11, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 6:29 pm
By Evan Brunell
Now that Charlie Manuel is in the books with a two-year extension, the Phillies are turning to Ruben Amaro, the GM that has steered the club to two consecutive playoff berths after replacing Pat Gillick. Philly.com reports that Amaro's own extension is "lacking just the finishing touches."
That begs the question: what has been Amaro's best and worst moves to date? For all of the machinations that Amaro has done -- some of which were head-scratching -- it's impressive that there were a litany of candidates for Amaro's best moves, but aside from one painfully obvious move, none of his worst moves are truly terrible.
1. Welcome to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee! (And welcome back.)
At the trade deadline of 2009, Ruben Amaro pulled off a trade that cemented Philadelphia as a team to be feared. Lacking a clear ace, Lee predictably became a monster in the NL and helped lead Philadelphia to a second straight NL pennant. While Lee would be traded in the offseason (we'll get back to this), the impact he had on the club was immeasurable.
Even better is that Ben Francisco came along for the ride and provided an excellent bat off the bench as backup outfielder -- and now may be poised to open the year as the starting right fielder after a hot spring. In fact. Francisco may make this deal look even better if and when he finally settles in as a full-time player. Don't forget that he received a ton of playing time in Cleveland and showed he was capable of being a solid starter.
All the club gave up was Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp and Jason Donald. Carrasco looks like a fungible back-of-the-rotation pitcher while Marson shows no aptitude for hitting and figures to have a lengthy career as a backup catcher -- not a player to miss. Donald, meanwhile, has been getting all the playing time he can handle and doesn't look any better than a second-division starter best used as a utility player. Knapp could be the player that pays the deal off for Cleveland, but even he's in doubt with his checkered injury history.
Also counted in this category is bringing Lee back to town. While trading Lee to the Mariners ended up being a mistake, every ounce of credit is deserved by Amaro for being unafraid to tactically admit a mistake. After claiming Lee simply wanted too much to resign, they bounced him to Seattle and then opened the checkbook to bring him back and got a steal by convincing Lee to ink a five-year deal. While the average annual value of the deal is higher as a result (with a total value of $120 million), the Phillies did very well to only lock themselves into five years.
2. What's up, Doc?
Amaro wasn't done spinning blockbuster deals for starting pitchers, as he would bring in Roy Halladay five months later to be the new anchor of the team. All Halladay did in his first NL season was toss a perfect game against the Marlins and stifle the Reds during Game 1 of the NLDS with a no-hitter. He nailed down a Cy Young Award with a 2.44 ERA in 250 2/3 innings, posting a Lee-ian 7.30 BB/K ratio. In addition, Halladay did so while agreeing to a three-year, $60 million pact with a fourth-year option. Philadelphia had told Halladay they did not want to go beyond three guaranteed years, something they clearly changed their mind on with Lee, but regardless, they locked Doc up to a sweetheart of a deal.
So why does this rank below Lee? Simple: This time around, Amaro gave up a pretty decent package to snag Halladay. Kyle Drabek has already made his major-league debut and there is already talk of Drabek hitting 200 innings pitched in his first full season once 2011 rolls around. You can't project Drabek to be another Halladay, but the Jays did well to get a replacement for the top of the rotation. They also snagged outfielder Michael Taylor who was sent to Oakland for Brett Wallace. While Taylor bombed in Triple-A for the A's, he still remains a solid prospect worth watching. Wallace would later be dealt to Houston for center fielder Anthony Gose, a player the Jays had tried to get included in the Halladay deal that Amaro shipped away in the Roy Oswalt trade. Lastly, Toronto netted Travis D'Arnaud, who ranked No. 61 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects list and could be Toronto's catcher for a very long time.
But make no mistake about it: the Halladay deal was fantastic for Philadelphia, especially because Amaro clearly recognized the window of opportunity for Philadelphia to win was now, with well-established players capable of winning a World Series. Sure, these players Amaro dealt away could have helped the Phillies extend their winning window, but there are no guarantees of the future, plus Philadelphia still improbably has a strong farm system after decimating it in the Lee, Halladay and Oswalt trades.
3. Signing Chan-Ho Park
Yes, I couldn't think up a clever title for this one. But signing Park to a one-year, $2.5 million deal ended up paying off big time when Park was finally convinced to vacate the rotation in favor of the bullpen. By the time the South Korean arrived in Philadelphia, he had been a top starter for the Dodgers, a massive bust who made millions of dollars in Texas, rebuilt his value in San Diego, missed an entire year as a member of the Mets, then returned to L.A. and turned heads with his production out of the bullpen.
However, Park still wanted to start. Amaro granted his wish, but after seven disastrous starts in which Park put up a 7.29 ERA, he was exiled to the bullpen where he instantly became a weapon. In 50 relief innings, Park went on to whiff 52 and walk 16 while posting a 2.52 ERA. Unfortunately, that would be Park's only (so far) season in Philly as he insisted on another crack at the rotation. He would eventually go to the Yankees where he experienced bad luck, then returned to his strong self as a reliever in the nether regions known as Pittsburgh. Park will pitch in Japan for the 2011 season where, presumably, he will get his wish to start.
It may have just been one year, but the production Amaro received out of Park was invaluable in the march to the NL pennant. Not all successful moves are of the blockbuster variety. In many cases, it's the smaller, unheralded pieces that end up being crucial.
1. He did WHAT?
Yes, Ruben Amaro signed Ryan Howard to a massive five-year, $125 million deal in April, virtually a full two years before the deal will kick in. Who thought this was a good idea?
Howard was a fantastic player before 2010, but was entering his age-30 year. As someone who had a late start to his career and doesn't appear that he can hold up well thanks to old-people skills (tied up in walks and power), any slippage of Howard's power reduces his value significantly.
And that's what happened in 2010, as he hit "just" 31 home runs and 23 doubles. But hey, five triples. Howard will begin his massive deal at age 32, and it's hard to fathom anyone giving him five years and $125 million as a 32-year-old, even if he rebounds with a strong year. In addition, it's not as if Philadelphia got a discount. They could have easily waited a year and then locked Howard into the deal. This was just completely unnecessary and will unfortunately become known as a disastrous deal.
2. Driving off a Cliff (Lee)
Yes, Cliff Lee is Amaro's 1 and 1A best moves of his tenure, but trading Lee away continues to be a head-scratcher, doubly so given Lee's return as a free agent. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so what was the issue at the time?
Simply put, Lee was expected to command a huge extension and the overtures that Amaro/Philadelphia made were rebuffed. It doesn't appear that any thought was given to a deal that eventually ended up bringing Lee back, but that's purely speculation. What we do know is that the price Lee was thought to be commanding influenced the trade. In addition, Amaro wanted to restock the farm system after the initial Lee and Halladay deal.
But that's where he went off course, agreeing to import Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez for Lee. And simply put, none of these players appear to have the ceiling of the prospects Philly surrendured to get Lee. Aumont is a reliever who may never reach the majors, Gillies is a speedster with a questionable bat and questionable off-field issues and Ramirez is a mildly intriguing prospect. This is one trade that, from the day it was consummated (not unlike the Howard contract) was panned, and not just because of the concept behind the deal, but the return as well.
3. Jumping the gun on Ibanez
When Raul Ibanez was inked to a three-year, $31.5 million pact the day after Christmas of 2008, many didn't quite understand the deal, but it wasn't thought to be terrible. That changed quickly, as that was the offseason that the market corrected itself and many players were frozen out until well into the new year. If Ibanez had waited just a couple more weeks, he would have easily seen his market drop to no more than two guaranteed years, and it's unlikely he could have commanded $10 million per year.
Ibanez kicked off 2009 with an absolutely silly .309/.367/.649 mark in 289 plate appearances, but upon returning from a left groin strain, it was an entirely different year as Ibanez finished the drive with a .232/.326/.448 line, but he ended up with a ring. Last season, Ibanez continued where he left 2009 off, finishing with a .275/.349/.444 mark and 16 home runs -- lowest since 2004, when he also had 16, and also his lowest as a full-time starter. Couple that with his defense and inability to hit left-handed pitchers and Ibanez isn't quite living up to his deal as he enters the final year.
However, this is one deal that stood up better than most expected when it was signed. And if this is only Amaro's third worst move, he's doing fairly well. But that Howard contract...
Posted on: December 13, 2010 6:13 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 10:44 pm
The Nationals want to deal for a pitcher and are "aggressively pursuing" a trade for Matt Garza or Zack Greinke, a major-league source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post .
The Nationals like both pitchers, but have the problem that they don't exactly have the pieces either the Royals or Rays are looking for in return, especially since the team isn't ready to get rid of shortstop Ian Desmond (pictured) or starter Jordan Zimmermann.
"[Desmond] is a guy they think is going to be their shortstop for the next 10 years. That's a really tough guy for them [to trade]. It almost negates getting that pitcher," a source told Kilgore. "Everyone else [aside from Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth] is fair game. They're not going to move Desmond. They'd move [Danny] Espinosa in a heartbeat."
The Nats could get rid of Josh Willingham, but he's arbitration-eligible, Roger Bernadina and even relievers Drew Storen or Sean Burnett. The team could also move catcher Wilson Ramos.
"I don't see Washington having enough to do a deal with Kansas City," the source said. "I don't see that they have enough to offer unless they were willing to discuss a Desmond or a Jordan Zimmermann, and I don't see that happening. I can't see anyone else for Kansas City that gets them excited enough to do it."
The best fit for a Greinke deal, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes , could be Toronto, which has expressed interest in the right-hander. The Blue Jays have catching prospects Travis D'Arnaud, J.P. Arencibia and Carlos Perez, plus outfielders Anthony Gose and Travis Snider. The Jays have balked at giving the Royals Snider and Kyle Drabek, the pitcher they got for Roy Halladay.
Crasnick writes the Yankees and Rangers probably aren't a match for a Greinke trade.
The Brewers have also inquired, and the Reds were reportedly interested in Cliff Lee at the trade deadline last season. Cincinnati has the prospects, but not the payroll flexibility to be able to afford the $27 million left on Greinke's contract.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
Posted on: November 5, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:38 am
There's no better example of the instant impact Alex Anthopoulos has had on the Blue Jays than their No. 3 prospect as rated by Baseball America .
Outfielder Anthony Gose is third in the Toronto system, according to the magazine's annual rankings, but he's a relative newcomer. The Phillies acquired Gose from the Phillies in the three-team deal that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia and Brett Wallace to Houston. To get Wallace, the Blue Jays sent Michael Taylor to the A's. Taylor was one of the three prospects Toronto got from Philadelphia in exchange for Roy Halladay, along with Kyle Drabek (pictured) and Travis D'Arnaud.
Drabek, by the way, is the team's top prospect, according to the list, and D'Arnaud is fourth. Four of the team's top five prospects came in trades. In addition to Drabek, Gose and D'Arnaud, right-hander Zach Stewart came over from the Reds in the trade for Scott Rolen (that was before Anthopoulos came aboard).
Here's the Top 10:
1. Kyle Drabek, rhp
2. Deck McGuire, rhp
3. Anthony Gose, of
4. Travis D'Arnaud, c
5. Zach Stewart, rhp
6. Asher Wojciechowski, rhp
7. J.P. Arencibia, c
8. Carlos Perez, c
9. Aaron Sanchez, rhp
10. Jake Marisnick, of
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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