Archive for the 'Jays Rumours' Category

Did Melky Cabrera Take Subtle Swipe at Teammate RA Dickey Via Twitter?

This was probably an innocent mistake but one Melky Cabrera favorite the following Tweet on Thursday, July 3, 2014:

This prompted a quick reply from an astute Blue Jays fan:

Read what you will into this.*

Even after his last start which was a complete game his stats for 2014 are less than stellar.  Through 112 IPs Dickey has a 4.10 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 4.68 FIP and 1.29 HR/9.  In 30.2 June IPs Dickey had an almost unfathomable 2.93 HR/9 as 28.6 of his fly balls left the yard.  There is a lot of talk on Twitter (always a reliable source of fandom) that Dickey needs to be taken out of the rotation.

Without a proper replacement there is absolutely no sense in taking out one of the few starting pitchers who can actually pitch 200+ innings.  I am worried that with a division on the line and an impatient fan base to please the Blue Jays are going to really push the envelope with our tender young arms Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison.  Stroman has barely reached the 100 inning mark as a professional and Hutchison is still fairly fresh of his Tommy John surgery and I am not sure how far he can be pushed.

RA Dickey is definitely here to stay.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing if he can live up to his ZIPS (rest of season) projections of 90 inning, 4.21 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.  Perhaps his last start will jump-start him into the second half of the season.  The Blue Jays are certainly counting on him.

*Today’s hack job brought to you by Jerry Springer.

Leaked MLB Trade Chat: Blue Jays Were Willing to Move Marcus Stroman For Bud Norris?

Have you ever wondered how active today’s general managers are in terms of discussing potential trades?  Have you wanted to know exactly how they communicate with one another and what they are discussing?  Well thanks to a Julian Assange like leak in the Astro’s front office you can now get a pretty solid look.

Dave Cameron posted this story on Fangraphs today and it is well worth a look for yourself if curious.  The Toronto Blue Jays were front and centre in discussions/negotiations and it appears the reputation of Alex Anthopoulos frequently ‘checking’ in on players and gauging value might be true.

Here are all of the details involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

1) Blue Jays were willing to part with at least Marcus Stroman for Bud Norris.

7/19/2013 “AA texted JL and asked what it would take for Norris.  AA said Aaron Sanchez is off the table but might be willing to talk about anyone else.”

7/29/2013 “AA texted JL and asked what a package around Stroman might look like.  JL said Stroman + Gose would be in consideration.”

Well consider this a bullet dodged.  The Astros were apparently asking for the moon for league average starting pitcher Bud Norris last season.  They asked the Orioles for Dylan Bundy and the Red Sox for Xander Bogaerts before finally settling on the much less exciting package of L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader from the Baltimore Orioles.

Bud Norris was awful for the Orioles last season in only 50.2 IPs (4.80 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) and though he has actually been pretty serviceable for them this year (87 IPs, 3.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.49 FIP) he is certainly not amazing.

If the Blue Jays valued any type of veteran starting pitcher that highly it seems quite likely they would be willing to give up nearly anything for Jeff Samardzija or David Price.  Hopefully they don’t jettison Marcus Stroman to the Chicago Cubs for Jason Hammel though I think it’s safe to assume Stroman’s value is a lot higher now than it was last summer.

I wonder if the Blue Jays brain trust had questions about Marcus Stroman’s attitude or worries about his potential as a starting pitcher around this time last year?   It seems the Jays were more than willing to add his name to trade discussions.

2) Blue Jays asked about the price of catcher Jason Castro – desperately wanting to upgrade over JP Arencibia in the off-season.

10/18/2013 “TOR reached out on Jason Castro.  They said their #1 priority this offseason is to upgrade over Arencibia.  They want to get a sense for what the price would be on Castro.”

Alex Anthopoulos is rumored to be extremely thorough and is an avid window shopper, asking about nearly any player in the league to gauge value and price.  No details were discussed surrounding price but you can believe Marcus Stroman + + + would have been required.  This type of inquiry is still fairly easy to wrap your head around JP Arencibia had one of the worst seasons in baseball and Jason Castro would have been a huge upgrade.

3) Blue Jays still viewed Brett Lawrie as a cornerstone heading into the 2014 season.

11/13/2013 “AA said Lawrie is untouchable.  Sounded like they might consider a smaller deal for Stroman but later in off-season.”

Even after a bit of a rough season (compared to expectations) the Blue Jays front office were not panicking.  They still feel Brett Lawrie is a potential leader of this ball club.  Prior to his injury I have been quite satisfied with the player he has become.  Stellar defense at two infield positions along with solid power shown at the plate make him fairly indispensable at this stage.  In 69 games he has hit 12 HRs to go with a respectable .419 SLG% and has amassed a solid 1.5 fWAR.

It goes without saying that I am certain the Blue Jays (and all other teams included in this report) are likely furious this type of data was leaked.  While it was anonymously uploaded by a rogue employee this type of thing shouldn’t happen.  You can also bet that teams will be looking into their own information and data security protocols quite closely as we speak.

The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

It certainly made for some interesting reading and was exciting enough to force this lazy blogger to actually write a new piece!

Jeff Samardzija Would Help Blue Jays, But Deal Cannot Include Drew Hutchison

With the Toronto Blue Jays playing some of their best baseball in years and currently leading the wide open AL East division speculation will once again heat up that the Jays are seeking help for their starting rotation.  The current rotation features RA Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, JA Happ and the recently called up Liam Hendricks who has taken the place of Dustin McGowan.

Dickey, Buehrle and Hutch have all performed admirably and perhaps above expectations thus far this season.  Happ has been strong recently but it is hard to envision and contending team showing complete faith in him given the rather weak track record in terms of major league success.  Hendricks was only recently called up and the fifth starter spot has been a sore spot all season.

This leads me to the point of this piece.  The Blue Jays will be looking for external help and all indications are they have at the very least kicked tires on acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs.  The man they call ‘Shark’ is having a career season in terms of ERA (1.46), WHIP (1.09) and ground ball rate (51.6%).

Samardzija, currently 29 years old is a very solid starting pitcher but if the rumored price of at least two of Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman I think Alex Anthopoulos should tread carefully.  First off trading one of our best current starting pitchers just to add another makes zero sense and perhaps the Cubs are trying to set an early high price to see if a team blinks first.

Second this would be buying a pitcher at likely the peak of his value.  Thru 68 innings in 2014 Shark has seen his K-rate dip to a career low 7.15 K/9 and his BABIP is at a career low .264 (career .294 mark) which has certainly helped his overall stat line.  His current HR/FB rate is 3.9% – which is not sustainable compared to his 10.5% career rate.  His strand rate is also at a career high 82% compared to his career rate of 72%.

This has all added up to a career best ERA and WHIP.  Now he has taken a bit of a different approach this season as witness by his pitch selection.  In 2013 he utilized his four-seam (straight) fastball 25.1% while in 2014 that has dropped to 17.1%.  This season he has tried to use his two-seam (sinking) fastball much more (39.6%) more than last year (27.7%).  This has helped lead to a higher overall groundball rate but overall he has not missed as many bats at in years past.

His current swinging strike rate is 8.2% (10.1% for his career) as batters are making higher overall contact.  Yes some of that is likely by design but it is never a good thing for a pitcher to suddenly start missing less bats.  According to Pitch FX data his fastball has seen about a one mile per hour dip – nothing huge but at age 29 his velocity will continue to decline going forward.

Finally bring any pitcher into the AL East and there is bound to be a bit of a learning curve.  Yes it is not the division it once was but that is more due to the injury prone starting rotations and not the overall level of offense.  There is no guarantee Samardzija comes over to the AL East and the Rogers Centre and pitches like an ace – which is the type of production needed to justify the current asking price.

I hope the price comes down but with so many teams still gunning for the playoffs that seems doubtful.  Shark would be a great addition to our rotation and could go a long way to solidifying our starting rotation but that addition cannot come at any cost.  If the price for Jeff Samardzija (3.46 xFIP, 1.5 WAR in 68 IPs) begins with Drew Hutchison (3.56 xFIP, 1.5 WAR in 60 IPs) the price is already much too steep and the answer must be no.

Riding with the Wind, ’14: Gunning for League Average

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve read about Ryan Goins.  It isn’t the first time that I’ve written about him, either.  Given his relative lack of familiarity before his call-up last season, a lot of virtual ink is being spilled about him now.  He was unnoticed in the minors because of his offense, which is, of course, why we’re all interested in him now.

Can a team that dreams about contending carry such a black hole on offense?  Of course it can.  Can their dreams be realized?  Of course they can.  But will they?  That remains to be seen.  Ryan Goins is terrible offensively, there’s no two ways about it.  He has no power, he doesn’t walk, he strikes out too often, and, while that means there’s lots of room for improvement, there’s little chance that’ll happen, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

I’m on record as saying that over the course of his career his “output surged beyond the previous lower level almost across the board”.  He does a workman-like job, gets promoted, struggles briefly, and then improves upon his previous level.  I believe this betrays his mindset: it seems as if he’s out to prove people wrong.  I don’t know what kind of things are said to him, but he ain’t a big guy (5′ 10″, 185lbs.) for a pro ball player and, since bigger/stronger/faster prospects are generally favoured, we can make an educated guess.

He also isn’t a little guy who hits for unexpected power (Joe Morgan; Jimmy Wynn, who had one of the best nicknames ever–the ‘Toy Cannon’; etc.), or steals a lot of bases, or bunts well, or anything.  But there’s something tangible–his defense–and something intangible–his desire to prove himself, maybe?–that makes me think he can play at the ML.  But I could be DEAD WRONG.

We need some context, don’t we?  The following table shows how well the average ML 2B fared offensively in 2013.  We also included the averages from the two leagues.

2013 BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
MLB 7.3 16.6 .257 .316 .376 .305 91
AL 7.6 16.2 .260 .320 .377 .308 91
NL 7.0 16.9 .254 .313 .375 .303 90

*Table info courtesy of www.fangraphs.com.

The average 2B in MLB was a below-average offensive contributor which, given the nature and importance of the position, is acceptable to most teams.  After all, not everyone has or can afford a Robinson Cano on the right side of the infield.

Fair enough but where does that leave us?  Well, since there isn’t a lot of data from Ryan Goins’ major league career, we can look for comparisons and contrasts in the careers of others to give us a little bit of perspective.

Ryan Goins isn’t the only middle infielder in baseball history to struggle offensively.  As a matter of fact, it’s almost cliché that middle infielders don’t contribute much with the bat.  Players such as Cano, Roberto Alomar, Jeff Kent, and Joe Morgan are the exception rather than the rule.  Defense is crucial at shortstop and second base.

Knowing this, we took a look at some of the more well-known middle infielders who struggled to produce positively with the bat.  The following table shows how some of these defensively adept/offensively inept middle infielders fared in their first ML season.  Ryan Goins’ 2013 effort in AAA Buffalo is included for perspective.

  BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Goins, AAA 2013 6.9 20.3 .257 .311 .369 .311 90
Mazeroski, PIT 1956 6.5 8.7 .243 .293 .318 .278 67
Belanger, BAL 1968 7.5 21.5 .208 .272 .248 .243 61
Bowa, PHI 1970 3.6 8.3 .250 .277 .303 .262 56
Smith, SDP 1978 7.0 6.4 .258 .311 .312 .288 84
Vizquel, SEA 1989 6.5 9.3 .220 .273 .261 .249 51

*Table info courtesy of www.fangraphs.com.

Here are some remarks from this info and from the broader statistical picture not included in the table:

  • There’s only one 2B in the bunch—Mazeroski—but Goins fits well into both categories, being a converted shortstop;
  • There’s obviously a big leap from AAA to MLB, one that so many players never make, but this offers some context for Goins’ offensive output;
  • Not surprisingly, Ozzie Smith is the class of the field but even his numbers aren’t very impressive, though he played in Jack Murphy Stadium as a rookie;
  • Larry Bowa and Omar Vizquel contributed very little offensively to their teams (PHI and SEA, respectively);
  • Mark Belanger is the only one who debuted with a good team;
  • The group combined to give only 10 seasons of 100 wRC+ (or greater): Ozzie Smith was responsible for seven of those seasons, and Omar Vizuel was responsible for two of them;
  • Ozzie Smith’s first season of 100 wRC+ came in his 8th season in MLB;
  • Ryan Goins’ AAA season is strikingly similar to the 2013 ML average for 2B;
  • Ryan Goins’ AAA season also fits in very well with the debuts of these other middle infielders who were strong defensively/weak offensively.

Can we expect Ryan Goins to reproduce his AAA season from 2013?  I don’t think so.  He’s working diligently with Kevin Seitzer, but it will probably be a longer process than most people are patient enough to bear.  What we’re likely to see is something along the lines of what Larry Bowa and Omar Vizquel gave to their teams.

There is one major difference that needs to be taken into account, though.  The difference is that the Blue Jays’ offense is much more capable of carrying Ryan Goins in 2014 than PHI was of carrying Bowa in 1970 or SEA was of carrying Vizquel in 1989.  The Phillies won 94 games in 1964 and bottomed out at 59 wins in 1972 (Steve Carlton’s 12.5 bWAR season).  Bowa’s rookie season occurred in the midst of that downward trend.  Vizquel’s 1989 Mariners had never enjoyed a winning season since joining MLB with TOR in 1977.

The real problem is whether the Blue Jays’ sketchy starting rotation can afford a black hole in the offense.  His defense will be a boon to the rotation.  However, it’s possible that Toronto gives up runs by the basketful in 2014, though this is arguably the best rotation supported by the greatest depth since Roy Halladay was the ace.

There are so many significant questions about the rotation—injuries, experience, consistency—that it would be foolhardy to expect them to resemble a championship staff.  This consideration, in concert with a run-rich home park (The Rog) in a division skewed heavily toward offensive production, may sound the death knell for the confidence they’ve placed in Ryan Goins.  After all, Stephen Drew is still out there.

I think his skills play at the ML level but, again, I could be dead wrong about this.  The more pertinent question, I think, is ‘if the Jays stumble out of the gate, will Ryan Goins be an early casualty?’ He’s 26 and may never mature offensively, but he may line up very well with the likes of Mazeroski (20), Belanger (24), Bowa (24), and Vizquel (22) over his career.  We dare not hope for him to be as good defensively as he was in his very brief debut, do we?  That’s Ozzie Smith territory and it’s sacred.  And we dare not hope that he’ll continue to improve offensively as the Wizard did, right?  Right…

Wes Kepstro

Riding with the Wind, ’14: Losing the Santana Sweepstakes…

According to multiple sources (www.mlbtraderumors.com, etc.), the Atlanta Braves have signed Ervin Santana to a one year deal to shore up their rotation after Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were hurt.  Gavin Floyd isn’t due to return from surgery until about the middle of the season so the Braves swooped in and snapped up the best remaining free agent starter.

The Toronto Blue Jays, after declaring early in the off season that improving the rotation was a priority, are left out in the cold.  Honestly, there are three observations that I would like to make.  First, Santana made a deal that is MUCH more likely to help his career by signing with Atlanta rather than the Jays or Orioles.  He’s mainly a fly ball pitcher.  The heavy offenses and the band boxes in the AL East would more likely hurt his value.  This seems like a very good move on his part, and I can’t fault him for it.

Second, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays’ front office (i.e. Paul Beeston) deserve all the criticism thrown at them.  They had multiple opportunities to improve their chances to take advantage of the so-called “three-year window” by using the resources that “will be there if we need them”, and did very little.  I like the acquisitions of Navarro and Kratz but more needed to be done, namely 2B and the rotation.  This latest turn of events even has more of the serious supporters–not just the casual fans–outraged.  Their complacency is bewildering.  Many have picked the Toronto Blue Jays to finish 5th in the AL East this season, based on their inactivity and the glaring holes in their line up.

Third, there’s the message that’s been sent to the players.  After the debacle of 2013, changes needed to be made.  It wasn’t a strong free agent crop outside of Robinson Cano, but there was plenty of value to be had.  The strange thing is that no trades were made either.  All the while, AA was decrying the market: prices were too high for the potential value received in return.  To wit: the Cubs wanted Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman in exchange for Jeff Samardzija.

But even the players believed that signing Ervin Santana would be a positive move–several of Santana’s friends on the Jays lobbied for him to sign with the Jays.  The players have reportedly been watching the various situations very closely to see what management would do.  Since they’ve done nothing substantial, the message to the players is __________.  If the players are jaded by the Jays inactivity and if the Jays acquire a reputation, what effect will this have on future deals?  Sure it’s speculative, but…

Yes, of course, there are still 162 games to play, and everyone (except projected 4th starter JA Happ) seems healthy.  And yes, this is much the same unit that had so many fans and pundits drooling last off season.  But things have changed, and they’ve changed pretty dramatically.  A 74-88 season after such high expectations will do that.  Just like the 2013 season, more was expected of the 2013-2014 off season but very little was delivered.

Wes Kepstro

Latest on the Ervin Santana Saga

MLBTR (and other media outlets) had prematurely reported that the Toronto Blue Jays signed the top remaining free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana to a one-year $14MM contract.  It appears that no deal is currently close with the Blue Jays, or any team for that matter.

Here are the latest headlines:

2:21pm: O’Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen’s injury, Brandon Beachy left today’s Spring Training start with biceps tightness.

10:17am: The Braves haven’t completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.

9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays’ players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose BautistaEdwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, “Come to Toronto.”

The conspiracy theorist in me feels that perhaps Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has never had any intention of signing Ervin Santana.  Anthopoulos is a chronic and notorious window shopper and perhaps he was hopeful that breaking this story would take some of the heat off him from a disgruntled fan base still sore with the team after last years debacle.  However this is pure speculation and probably not even good speculation.

If I was Ervin Santana and the goal was to put up another half way decent season to secure a long-term contract I would be hesitant to choose the Toronto Blue Jays.  Pitching a majority of my games in the AL East and possibly half of my starts at the Rogers Centre wouldn’t be the best business decision.

If the Atlanta Braves are interested and are offering a contract on par with Toronto I don’t see how they aren’t a heavy favorite to land him.

Blue Jays (Trying to) Sign Ervin Santana – One Year, $14MM

4:08pm: FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets that a source tells him that Santana could wait “days” before signing. 4:00 has come and gone, and there’s no news about his decision.

12:08pm: Rojas writes (Spanish-language) that Santana is deciding between the Jays, who have offered $14MM, and the Orioles, who have offered $13MM plus incentives.

11:43am: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets that Santana will sign with the Jays for $14MM by 4:00pm if he does not receive a better offer by then.

*UPDATE* The Blue Jays have agreed to terms with Ervin Santana on a one-year, $14MM deal, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets.

10:53am: The Blue Jays are “optimistic” about landing Santana, although they have not yet reached an agreement with him, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets.

It took this relatively big news to awaken a lazy blogger from his slumber?

When a guy like Ervin Santana can basically become our top pitcher it is slightly disconcerting but the reality is he likely would be our top pitcher in terms of WAR for 2014.

The rumor mill is in high gear this Saturday morning with multiple reliable sources reporting that the top remaining free agent starting pitcher is now seeking only a one year pact and the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the finalists for his services.

He is said to be looking for around $14MM on a one year deal as the off-season has been a bust for Santana’s representatives hoping to lock-in a multi-year contract.

Here is how Ervin Santana would stack up against the rest of the Blue Jays rotation hopefuls based on 2014 ZIPS projections:

ZIPS IP H HR BB K ERA WHIP WAR
E.Santana 185.0 184 27 55 147 4.26 1.29 1.7
R.A. Dickey 195.0 186 27 56 162 4.00 1.24 2.6
M.Buehrle 168.0 181 23 39 110 4.32 1.30 1.7
B.Morrow 125.0 113 15 39 137 3.87 1.29 2.2
J.A. Happ 125.0 124 17 56 112 4.68 1.44 1.4
T.Redmond 119.0 132 25 41 91 5.49 1.45 0.0

Well that is depressing.  Those are some hideous projections and while they are only best statistical estimates of past performance it is not an encouraging sign for the 2014 season.  Would Ervin Santana help?  Clearly.  Will Ervin Santana make the Blue Jays a contender?  Not even close.

I’m ambiguous on adding Ervin Santana.  As a fan I’d rather see a decent pitcher than a terrible one but if we aren’t going to contend and are instead looking ahead to 2015 (and beyond) why not give some of our younger arms a chance to show their skills in the bigs all season?

Might as well let Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin strut their stuff and work on building some confidence and at the very least give them more big league experience.

On the the other hand we could sign Ervin Santana for a three month showcase and deal him to a contender at the deadline.  If we could add a prospect who would project to be more valuable than the #50 overall selection we would forfeit (to sign Santana) that could end up as a net gain.

If he pitches well again the Blue Jays will surely offer him compensation and possibly gain a better draft pick in the process.  The more I write and the more I think about it the downside here is fairly minimal.  Make it happen AA!

What do you think?


AL Eastbound On Twitter!

  • Washington rolls from here. This might end up their toughest series IMO. Good job Buds. Still a great season. 1 day ago
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  • I can't believe it but I agree with Zaun here. This team needs to avoid firing up any opponent right now. Stroman needs Netflix and chill. 1 day ago
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