Time For The Blue Jays To Move Up

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The Blue Jays are looking for a closer. They also could use another bat and definitely need a starting pitcher to function as an anchor for the young starting rotation.

Let’s take a look at what they could and should do.

Closer.

With the top tier closer off the market as Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies and the Blue Jays reluctant to spend that amount of money on a short-reliever anyway, they have to look at the other options; these options might not be as splashy as the Papelbon signing, but they would fit into the Blue Jays budget and serve their purpose in the regular season.

The names of a lower tier/cheaper variety include the affordable, warted veterans Brad Lidge, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan.

Then there’s Heath Bell, who’s not young (34) and won’t demand as much as a Papelbon, Ryan Madson or Francisco Rodriguez.

The Blue Jays could wait and see if the market crashes on Madson or K-Rod; or they could try and make a trade for Joakim Soria, Huston Street or Carlos Marmol.

The prices for Soria and Marmol are likely to be exorbitant; I’d steer clear of Bell, Madson, Broxton, Capps and Street—they don’t fit for the Blue Jays.

That leaves Nathan and Lidge.

Lidge has had his highs and lows in the post-season; his confidence is hair-trigger and his injury history concerning; he’d be cheap and might be very, very good or very, very bad.

Nathan pitched well once he regained the job as stopper from Capps and in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, he’s a good gamble to regain his form at a highly affordable price.

What I would do: Sign Joe Nathan for 2-years, $11 million guaranteed with incentives to push it to $15 million and a mutual option for a 3rd year.

Starting pitcher.

In the summer when it looked like the Cardinals were going to clear salary to keep Albert Pujols, I suggested that the Blue Jays bring back the pitcher they drafted but non-tendered when he got hurt—Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter was signed by the Cardinals, allowed to recover, had his motion torn apart and rebuilt by Dave Duncan and developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past decade.

But Carpenter signed a contract extension with the Cardinals.

What the Blue Jays need is a horse. Someone to eat innings and set an example for the talented youngsters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Henderson Alvarez and current ace Ricky Romero.

There are pitchers like this available.

Mark Buehrle is team-oriented; can show the youngsters how to get by when they don’t have their good stuff; and when he’s on, he pitches no-hitters. He’d probably prefer to stay in Chicago (with the White Sox or Cubs); go to the Cardinals (who don’t have room for him barring a trade or three); or stay relatively close to the Mid-West. That shouldn’t dissuade the Blue Jays from pursuing him.

Hiroki Kuroda has wicked stuff and is mean, but it’s hard to see him leaving the West Coast.

Edwin Jackson is represented by Scott Boras and the Blue Jays won’t want to pay him—nor should they.

Roy Oswalt isn’t looking for a long term contract and won’t be interested in the pressure-packed, big city atmospheres of Boston or New York—he’d like to go to Texas or the Mid-West, but maybe he’d also listen to the Blue Jays.

Like Jackson, C.J. Wilson will cost more than they’d like to spend on a starting pitcher.

Javier Vazquez had major success in Canada with the Expos and was one of baseball’s best pitchers over the second half of last season for the Marlins; he has yet to decide whether he’ll pitch in 2012 (I suspect he will) and he’s had bad experiences in the American League overall and the American League East in particular with two hellish stints with the Yankees.

Trade candidates include Bronson Arroyo; Francisco Liriano; Trevor Cahill; Gio Gonzalez; Mike Pelfrey; Brett Myers; Wandy Rodriguez; and Joe Saunders.

All have positives and negatives. Of the group, the ones I’d serious pursue are Arroyo—he’s an innings-eater, is signed for $13 million through 2013, and has guts and experience in the AL East; Cahill—a sinkerballer who pounds the strike zone and has succeeded with a bad Athletics team; or Rodriguez—terrific stuff and an underrated competitor.

What I would do: Explore a trade for Arroyo and go after both Oswalt and Buehrle—see what the asking prices are, who wants to come to Toronto and will be the most reasonable.

A bat.

I would stay away from the massive financial commitment to Prince Fielder; I wouldn’t touch David Ortiz.

If Joey Votto is put on the market, any team would have to try getting him, but he’s going to cost a chunk of the farm system.

Here’s the best strategy: let Kelly Johnson leave; sign Carlos Beltran to play right field; shift Jose Bautista to third base; and move Brett Lawrie to second. When Beltran is the DH, they can play Edwin Encarnacion at third and have Bautista in right.

Beltran’s contract demands are no longer going to be Borased because he and Boras parted ways in the summer; he won’t cost any draft picks because it was inserted into his contract he can’t be offered arbitration by his prior club; and he could DH when his knees aren’t feeling up to playing the outfield—it might be more often than it would normally be due to the artificial turf at the Rogers Center.

He’d be a more athletic, versatile and cheaper alternative to Fielder; and is a quiet leader who has performed in the big city and during pressure-packed moments. The big concern I’d have with Ortiz is that there’s a chance he’s a “Red Sox player” who won’t perform when removed from the venue where he made his name and became the Big Papi character. That “character” is also an issue—while the Red Sox are used to him, his outspokenness might be seen as an intrusion for a new, young club.

What I would do: Sign Beltran for 3-years, $40 million and make the position switches listed above.

The above maneuvers would fill the Blue Jays needs; leave them financial room to add as they need to at mid-season; and put them in a legitimate position to contend for a playoff spot rather than hope that if everything goes right, then maybe they’ll hang around the outskirts while knowing that they had little-to-no chance.

They have the talent now; the Red Sox are vulnerable; the Yankees are aging.

It’s time to move up.

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MLB Rumors And Strangeness

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If this is what we have to look forward to as the off-season beckons, you’d better get yourself a raincoat and a gas mask because it’s getting worse before it gets better.

Jed Hoyer to the Cubs?

Jon Heyman suggested this on Twitter, so it’s in the Joel Sherman-realm of the idiotically speculative; but if Hoyer, who’s been with the Padres for two years, is already considering leaving to join Theo Epstein as (one would presume) the GM of the Cubs to run them on a day-to-day basis, I have to ask what goes on in San Diego that Hoyer would want to bail so quickly? Are he and Epstein that close that they have to be near one another? Is there something wrong with his current job that he needs to leave? The Padres have a lot of young talent and good starting pitching, so if he’s bailing, I have to wonder if Jeff Moorad is interfering and making it an untenable, unattractive situation in which to stay.

The funniest thing in all of this maneuvering is that Epstein would presumably inhabit the role of his nemesis, Larry Lucchino, and hover over his former protege while he tries to do the GM grunt work.

A rift is inevitable.

Here’s some really weird logic.

In this posting on MLB Trade Rumors, the Blue Jays off-season outlook is explored.

The author doesn’t think as highly of the 2012 Blue Jays as I do with the “maybe” tone of their potential to contend as soon as next season; I’m saying right now that the Blue Jays will make a serious run at the playoffs in 2012.

What I don’t understand is the following statement regarding the closer situation and GM Alex Anthopoulos:

Anthopoulos said after the season that he expects the Blue Jays to go outside of the organization for bullpen help, either through trades or free agency. This makes sense, though the Jays have some internal options. B.J. Ryan‘s contract is off the books, but the memory of his contract lives on. I don’t expect the Jays to bid aggressively on the top free agent closers, especially those who cost draft picks.

The logic of this is what? That because a closer like Ryan—who was Cy Young Award-contending brilliant in his first season with the Blue Jays—got hurt and turned out to be a costly mistake, the Blue Jays should ignore any and all free agent closers?

Ryan also had one of the worst sets of mechanics I’ve ever seen in my entire life, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock when he needed Tommy John surgery.

This argument is akin to saying because the Blue Jays drafted infielder Russ Adams in 2002 and he didn’t work out and since they bypassed the chance to draft Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, that they should shun any infielder that comes up in the draft and take a pitcher instead.

It’s stupid.

The Blue Jays are thisclose to having a superior starting rotation with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek; the two things they need more than anything else are a legitimate closer and a veteran, 200-inning starting pitcher.

Jonathan Papelbon is out there and available; the Red Sox are in absolute disarray and have always been in question as to whether they were going all out to keep Papelbon; there’s an opportunity for the Blue Jays to make a rapid strike and get themselves an All Star closer with a history of dealing with pressure and getting the big outs in the post-season and simultaneously hurt one of their division rivals.

Barring a pursuit of Papelbon or Heath Bell, they could make a trade for a Joakim Soria or see if Epstein would be willing to move Carlos Marmol.

B.J. Ryan has nothing to do with anything unless they’re looking for reasons to avoid paying a closer. And that would make zero sense.

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