Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vladimir Guerrero to the Jays is a fit

Two Hall of Famers in one picture. Go figure. 

His is a name that hasn't been floated out there very much but Vladimir Guerrero could very well be a member of the Toronto Blue Jays by offseason's end. Haven't heard about it? No kidding. You didn't hear about Sergio Santos either.

You're stunned, I understand. Take a minute to digest what I just said. Where on earth did this Vladdy thing come up? Well, truth be told it hasn't - it's the product of your run of the mill baseball discussion and a "huh" moment. While it almost seems ridiculous that Guerrero is A) still playing and B) would be a target for the Jays, the marriage isn't as unlikely as you may think and I've now talked myself into thinking this could actually happen.

In fact, I've almost fallen in love with the idea. I'm your Michael Lewis and this is my Moneyball. (swoon)

It's no secret that the Jays need an additional big bat to give some added protection to likes of Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus (who Jon Morosi is convinced is the be all and end all of this season since the Jays didn't win Yu Darvish's negotiating rights) and Brett Lawrie.

You say: But Edwin Encarnacion is our designated hitter!
I say: Exactly.

Make no mistake here, I think EE has a great power stroke. The side camera angle on his swing when he goes yard is absolutely beautiful. That being said, he's not an everyday bat on a team which would like to win a ton of games at some point in time.

Enter Vladimir Guerrero.

I'll start with the baseball intangibles because those translate into wins and losses. On that note, I'll start with the negatives of Vladdy - he's old, he's an injury risk and he couldn't hold a candle to the Vlad of a decade ago.

Now that we're past that we can continue here.

Guerrero had a tough year in 2011 which can be largely chalked up to the fact that he played for the Baltimore Orioles who are inept in every way and the fact he's getting older. We have seen in the past, however, that a (VERY) hitter friendly home ballpark and a talented lineup can do wonders for someone at the end of their rope. Guerrero is looking for one last kick at the can to further cement his place in history, and what better place to do it than Toronto - in the country it all began, no less (more on that in a moment).

As of right now using the Bill James projections as a guide, Guerrero could walk on to the Jays and take the DH job with ease. Assuming Encarnacion is the man slated for the job right now, Guerrero is projected to top Encarnacion in both weighted runs created (68 vs. 55) and weighted runs above average (11.5 vs. 9.6) - both key metrics in determining a player's offensive value. In other words, Guerrero is expected to generate more offensive production than Encarnacion regardless of who he's playing for. Last time Guerrero played for a competent team in an offensively inclined ballpark - Texas, 2010 - he posted an OPS of .841 (despite having the second lowest batting average on balls in play of his career) with a wRC of 94 and wRAA of 20.2 - both solid numbers for a player well past his prime.

While I'm not saying that Guerrero is a lock to post those numbers again, I am saying that he should be given a long, hard look by Blue Jays brass given that he would be an immediate upgrade over Encarnacion. Moreover, Guerrero's OPS at Skydome over the past three seasons is the highest of any ballpark in which he has had more than 25 at-bats (1.020) - the next closest being Yankee Stadium where the Jays play once or twice I think - and even higher than that of The Ballpark in Arlington where he experienced a career resurgence. In other words, Vlad loves hitting at the Dome. The proof is in the pudding with his career OPS in Toronto at 1.011 through over 200 plate appearances.

I think it's fair to say at this point that the combination of his career stats and 2012 projections make this a risk worth taking. Internally however, it has always been clear that the Jays will only go in on players at a value they feel is fair. At this point in his career, Guerrero can only demand ageing DH money which is hardly a financial burden for this team to handle - we're not talking Prince Fielder earning $250 million over 12 seasons. In 2010 during his renaissance Guerrero was paid $5.5 million by the Rangers before taking a raise of $1.1 million from an Orioles team desperate for anyone to come play for them. Realistically, the Jays could offer Guerrero a one year deal at $6 million and get him to come play as their everyday DH. When you consider that Juan Rivera was hauling in $5.25 million, doesn't that seem like a risk worth taking?

Let's not forget there is a personal connection between management and Guerrero as well. Alex Anthopoulos joined the Expos organization in 2000 when Guerrero's star was just beginning to rise in baseball. As essentially a volunteer player assistant, Anthopoulos would have been around Guerrero constantly, no doubt sorting the masses of fan mail I can only imagine he got each week. At the end of the day, if Guerrero is looking for a job as this offseason drags on it only makes sense that the guy who was once a personal assistant to Guerrero would be willing to give him a shot in a low risk, high reward type of move.

Make no mistake about it, Vladimir Guerrero could be a member of the Jays in 2012 and that would be a very good thing for the team and its fans. The fact you haven't heard anything just makes it more likely.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why the Jays should stay away from Gio Gonzalez

It happened. They missed the boat on the name everyone was hoping for. Yu Darvish is now left to negotiate a deal with the Texas Rangers while the Toronto Blue Jays are left to piece together the back end of a rotation which currently features Henderson Alvarez, Dustin McGowan and Brett Cecil among other contenders.

Is this the end of the world? Absolutely not. Each pitching option the Jays currently have certainly have the arsenal to put together a decent season. Is that the makings of a World Series calibre rotation? No way.

Toronto is officially back to the drawing board and looking at the pitching options available to them via trade or free agency. Common names that have popped up include the likes of Matt Garza and Gio Gonzalez among others. After narrowly missing out on a Mat Latos trade with San Diego, it's clear that the Jays are well aware of their pitching deficiencies. Relying on the development of youth has been a key point of the last two seasons and it has resulted in 166 wins in 324 games. While the team can't abandon the development of its youth, the focus of talent development is gradually shifting from turning prospects into major leaguers to turning major leaguers into winners. With the window of Jose Bautista as best player in baseball getting narrower each day, the impetus on the Bluebirds to put together the makings of a winner is growing.

With that in mind a key point needs to be imparted on Jays fans who have been tempted by the lore of Gonzalez - he's not worth what the Athletics are asking for. When you consider that the package they requested from the Florida Miami Marlins began with the likes of Mike Stanton and/or Logan Morrison, it's hard to imagine what the Jays could possibly surrender to meet the demands of Billy Beane and his staff. It has been said that Beane is looking for a deal similar to the return he got from Arizona when he dealt Dan Haren. This is a nice thought out of Oakland, but Gio Gonzalez is no Dan Haren and any package comparable to the Haren deal would be highway robbery. The only way I would be willing to see the Jays give up a Dan Haren package in 2011-12 is if they received the actual Dan Haren in return. You can bet with a reloaded Angels squad and finite amount of time to spend this much money, Haren is not on the block.

The lure of Gonzalez has been the flash he adds from the left side of the mound. Gonzalez has averaged an above league average K/9 inning ratio his entire career while keeping his WHIP roughly on par with his peers. Where things get alarming is his K/BB ratio which is roughly 2.0. In fact, since becoming a starter in the A's rotation, nobody has walked more batters per nine innings.

Sure, it's easy to take a look at the strikeout numbers and realize the raw talent Gonzalez has, that much is evident. However it's hard to project Gonzalez's numbers against AL East opponents in AL East ballparks. Keep in mind that this is a division loaded with - generally speaking - the best hitting lineups in all of baseball, not to mention that, according to ESPN's Park Factor ratings, every AL Easy ballpark with the exception of Tropicana Field in Tampa is more friendly to offence than Oakland, where Gonzalez has been plying his trade. Skydome (don't ever call it Rogers Centre) ranks fourth in all of baseball, just behind Boston's Fenway Park at three and ahead of Yankee Stadium at six. Baltimore's Camden Yards is in the mix as well at 12.

The fact of the matter is that while Gonzalez could theoretically be an upgrade over Cecil or McGowan, he ultimately is not worth the price it would take to pry him out of Oakland. This could be a package that sends some combination of Travis Snider, Rajai Davis, Adam Lind, etc. with young arms to Oakland, for Gonzalez's services. Does he have the potential to be an ace? Absolutely, but the Jays shouldn't be willing to mortgage that many pieces on the basis of a front-end of the rotation K-rate.

When looking at pitchers who may be more favourable options there are some intriguing options for the Jays. This list includes the likes of John Danks or Gavin Floyd from the White Sox - a team Anthopoulos openly enjoys dealing with in large part due to Kenny Williams' aggressiveness in the market. While neither would be under team control for extended periods of time - Floyd and Danks have expiring contracts - both have posted higher Wins Above Replacement levels (8-Floyd; 7.5-Danks) than Gonzalez (6.7). Williams has been very open about his desire to re-tool the White Sox but hasn't made trade demands that require a Stanton + Morrison (5.5 combined WAR) as a starting point.

In the free agent market, Roy Oswalt is available but hasn't been seriously linked to any suitors thus far. He is turning 35 in August and has dealt with some back issues. That being said, a steady, veteran arm in the rotation at the right price has never been a bad thing. From 2000-2010 Oswalt was second to only Roy Halladay in wins (take that statistic for what you will) and is another pitcher who has posted a higher WAR (7.1) than Gonzalez these past two seasons.

It is obvious through his moves thus far that Anthopoulos has been working under the radar this offseason. None of the moves that have actually come to fruition have been speculated upon. As I mentioned earlier, given the Jays involvement in pursuing Latos, they are clearly looking to upgrade their rotation. While Gonzalez has been talked about in connection with the Jays by several big name sources, it ultimately doesn't fit that the Jays would fork over the type of package Beane is pursuing given the potential return in Gonzalez.

Gio is a fit for the Jays in the sense that he is a controllable asset in his mid 20s with a semi-high ceiling. All told, however, his acquisition doesn't fit the bill of a franchise that is interested in keeping its high ceiling pieces together and especially when you consider the drawbacks which have prevented Gonzalez from reaching that ceiling (control) have not improved with age.

While Travis Snider has struggled at the big league level, it is important to recall that he is only 23 years old and has a lot of growth left as a ball player. Similarly, you can be sure that a package for Gonzalez would require one of Deck McGuire or Chad Jenkins - or a player of equal calibre and ceiling -  heading to Oakland in exchange. Once you start adding the pieces that the Athletics are looking for, the math to acquire Gonzalez just doesn't make sense.

While the Jays may be rumoured to have a stake in the Gio Gonzalez hunt, they ought to stay away. There is much better value to be found elsewhere for a franchise that has pride in finding it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Video: Yu Darvish

So the bidding for Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish is closed, and the winning bid to the Nippon Ham Fighters is said to be "sky high"

The Cubs, Rangers, Yankees and Blue Jays have all reportedly made bids, but what did they actually bid for?

Here is a look at just how nasty Darvish is, and can be next season in MLB.  The winning bid is expected to be announced soon, with that team having a 30-day window to get a deal done.

Friday, December 9, 2011

World Series Odds

What a difference a few moves make in Vegas after the Angels stunned the baseball world signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson Thursday morning.

A look at how the odds changed in one day show just what kind of impact a couple players can make, look at the Marlins as well, only in Vegas!

Odds to win 2012 World Series

Current                      Open
Phillies 3-1                    4-1
Angels 7-2                  18-1
Yankees 5-1                 5-1
Red Sox 7-1                 6-1
Rangers 8-1                  8-1
Braves 9-1                   12-1
Giants 10-1                  12-1
Rays 10-1                    15-1
Tigers 12-1                   12-1
Marlins 12-1                 55-1
D'Backs 20-1               25-1
Reds 20-1                     25-1
Brewers 20-1                20-1
Cardinals 20-1             10-1
Cubs 25-1                     55-1
Indians 25-1                  65-1
Rockies 25-1                 30-1
Dodgers 25-1                25-1
White Sox 35-1             35-1
Twins 40-1                    65-1
Blue Jays 40-1               50-1
Mariners 75-1               200-1
Astros 300-1                 400-1

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pujols to decide between the Marlins and Cardinals

The second night of the Winter Meetings started slow, and by mid-afternoon, the Blue Jays acquired closer Sergio Santos from the White Sox to get things going.

The night was filled with Albert Pujols rumours.  First, the Marlins offered 10 years and $220 million.  The Cardinals reportedly matched the 10 years and maybe the money.  The next twist was a mystery team entered the sweepstakes.  That team was never determined.  The Cubs and Angels were discussed.

Dustin Parkes over at Getting Blanked has the "mystery team" story. still has the Angels as the third team (mystery), but LA says "no way"

Some interesting tweets from all this news as well.

LeBron hopes to see Pujols join the Marlins.

Torii Hunter

And to all a good night!

Photo: courtesy: Getty

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Meetings Links

The Winter Meetings officially kick off Monday morning in Dallas, but yesterday morning, rumours really started to heat up with a report out of CBS Cleveland that Prince Fielder has narrowed his teams of choice down to three, the Rangers, the Brewers and yes, his first choice, the Toronto Blue Jays.  Keep in mind it's the radio station 92.3 The Fan, and not a site like CBSSports!

According the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, GM of the Brewers Doug Melvin has not changed or sweeten the pot in his offer to Prince Fielder.

The Miami Marlins have made another big splash, signing shortstop Jose Reyes to a 6-year deal worth $102-106 million, according to the Miami Herald.

The Cincinnati Reds are hoping to have second baseman Brandon Phillips signed to an extension by the end of the week and will Edinson Volquez be there next closer?  The blog examines.

To really make the Blue Jays feel as if it could be like the glory years again, other than change the jerseys to the old logo (check!) maybe they should consider a deal like the one Jays GM Pat Gillick pulled off in 1990 trading Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.  The New York Times examines the deal once again.  So what deal would be similar to the one that possibly put the Jays back on the map and made them World Series Champs?

The Reds have made it known that Yonder Alonso, their prized prospect and future first baseman is available, as Joey Votto is currently their first baseman and the guy the Reds  are saying will be staying put.  The Reds want starting pitching and the Blue Jays would like the Canadian, Votto, even after the Reds say he won't be dealt.  Would trading Brandon Morrow, Adam Lind and Henderson Alvarez be enough to land Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips?

The New Post looks at the Yankees shopping list.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who may be the next second baseman for the Blue Jays?

Yesterday we looked at the different options the Blue Jays have when it comes to finding closers. Today, we look at the different options at second base.

After dealing Aaron Hill to the Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson, many wondered if Aaron Hill would return to the club in 2012 along with fan favourite John McDonald, as GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't close that door at the press conference to announce the trade.  Hill's success in Arizona, hitting .315 in 33 games, helped lead them to the playoffs, and this off season was signed to a 2-year deal for $11 million.

Johnson was a nice attention to the Jays, and from a defensive standpoint, wasn't bad.  Offensively, Johnson hit .270 with 3 home runs in 33 games and was offered arbitration by the club a few weeks back.  He is still an option for the club, but who else is out there.

We examine the free agents at the position and look at the second baseman on each team for trade purposes.

Free agents: Andres Blanco, Orlando Cabrera, Alex Cora, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston Jr., Bill Hall, Kelly Johnson, Felipe Lopez, Jose Lopez, Aaron Miles, Nick Punto

Basically, a very weak group this off season.  Jays would only consider Johnson and possibly Cabrera out of this group.

Who's at second?

Orioles: Brian Roberts: salary $10 M, went through another injury filled season, this time with concussion issues.  A gamble if acquired

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia: salary $8.25 M, Boston would never trade their MVP, maybe if they offered Romero?  Kidding

White Sox: Gordon Beckham: salary, club renew, Beckham has been rumoured to be on the trading block.  Hit .230 with 10 home runs last season in 150 games.

Indians: Jason Kipnis: salary, league minimum: a rookie last year that showed flashes of being a good major league hitter.  Hit 7 homers in 36 games.  Indians would consider a deal for pitching

Tigers: Ramon Santiago: salary $2 M, just signed a new multi year deal and likely not going anywhere.

Royals: Johnny Giavotella: salary, league minimum, hit .247 as a rookie last season and is slated for the position again in 2012.

Angels: Howie Kendrick: salary roughly $5 M after arbitration, could always in the PCL, may be dealt for relief help.

Twins: Alexi Casilla: salary roughly $1 M after arbitration, probably not the route the Jays will take.

Yankees: Robonson Cano: salary $14 M, not going anywhere, that's for sure.

Athletics: Jemile Weeks: salary, club renew, hit .303 with 22 steals and would be a great addition.  Maybe a Andrew Bailey and Weeks swap for Adam Lind and Casey Janssen?

Mariners: Dustin Ackley: salary $2.1 M, their prized prospect will be at second for a while.

Rays: Ben Zobrist: salary $4.6 M, hit 20 home runs and is a major part of the offence, can play almost any position on the diamond.

Rangers: Ian Kinsler: salary $7.2 M, the often injured second baseman may just be the one player they can afford to trade if they want to go after Price Fielder.  His $7 million price tag is what the Jays are willing to spend.

D'Backs: Aaron Hill: salary $5.5 M, won't be coming back after the new deal.

Braves: Dan Uggla: salary $13.1 M, Jays tried to acquire him last off season, but Braves have him locked up for many years to come now.

Cubs: Darwin Barney: salary club renew, hit .276 in 143 games and was most noted for a great catch to end Dan Uggla's 33-game hitting streak.

Reds: Brandon Phillips: salary $12 M, the highest paid Red is looking for an extension, without one soon, he's a prime candidate for a deal.

Rockies: Chris Nelson, club renew, probably not their top choice, and therefore not the Jays either.

Astros: Jose Altuve, salary club renew, hit .359 in July, and .209 in September.

Dodgers: Mark Ellis: salary $4.5 M, Dodgers just signed him to new two year deal.

Marlins: Omar Infante: salary $4 M, just re-signed with the Marlins on a two year deal.  Never know with this team after all the money they have now, may be willing to move.

Brewers: Rickie Weeks: salary $11 M, a player the Jays should consider.  He could bat leadoff and if healthy could hit 30 home runs.  Would cost the Jays prospects...not Lawrie back to Brewers though!

Mets: Daniel Murphy: salary club renew, now this is player the Jays could take a chance on.  Hit .320 in 109 games with 24 walks and only 42 strikeouts.

Phillies: Chase Utley: salary $15.2 M, will remain in Philly

Pirates: Clint Barmes: salary $5 M, just signed new two year contract for $10.5 M with Pittsburgh

Cardinals: Daniel Descalso, salary, club renew, hit .264 in 148 games but only 1 home run.

Padres: Orlando Hudson: salary $5.5 M, a return of the O-Dog is a real possibility.  Injured a lot now though.

Giants: Freddy Sanchez: salary $6 M, can't see the one time Pirates player moving again.

Nationals: Danny Espinosa: salary club renew, came out of nowhere to hit 21 home runs and claimed starting gig at second.  Strikes out a ton though, 166 times in 158 games.

So there you have it, the second baseman of the Blue Jays future is in this post right now.  Just who is it going to be? The Winter Meeting next week will hopefully let us know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Closing options for the Blue Jays

Finding a closer for the 2012 Blue Jays is the top priority of the team for sure.  Management can't see another season where the bullpen is the weakest part of the team.

All along, ExtraBaseHit has predicted that Heath Bell will sign a 3-year deal worth $30-35 million.

Jonathan Papelbon was apparently the #1 choice, but he signed early with the Phillies, leaving Francisco Cordero, Heath Bell, Matt Capps and Ryan Madson as options on the free agent market.  Trading for Huston Street or Andrew Bailey is also an option.

Leo Nunez of the Marlins (or maybe you know him as Juan Carlos Oviedo) is another route they could go, maybe even calling on Hanley Ramirez last season (rumoured last year from DJF) may have sparked talks with Nunez.

The guys from the MLB Network break down the Blue Jays options.

Heath Bell was in the news late last night, as reports surfaced that he was close to making a decision on a new deal with an unknown team.  The Blue Jays and Marlins were mentioned.

Only, no one told Bell, who had this tweet.

Gotta love this time of year, and now with twitter, love it even more!