I'll start by saying this: Having this creative space as an outlet is awesome. Having to manage a job and family and trying to post stuff on a regular basis is freaking hard. I had this written two weeks ago. Even sent a text to a friend saying that I was going to have two posts up in the next 24 hours. So 240 hours later....who ever said I was good at math...just missed a decimal point along the way. Any ways, on to the task at hand!
It was just over a year ago that Jose Bautista sat in the dugout at the spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida wearing a shirt that read HOME IS TORONTO. Those of us who follow the Blue Jays closely; probably weren’t surprised about the words that were coming out of his mouth shortly there after when asked about contract negotiations. "I’m not willing to negotiate even right now. I don’t think there should be any negotiation. I think I’ve proved myself and the question has been asked what will it take, and I’ve given them an answer. It is what it is. I’m not going to sit here and try to bargain for a couple of dollars." When followed up with questions about a possible hometown discount as he was one the longest tenured Jays; he simply added fuel to the fire: “Doesn’t exist. Not in my world. In my eyes, I’ve already given this organization a 5 year hometown discount already.”
You're kidding right...no?
Lets think about both of these quotes for a second. Both of them come across as an athlete so incredibly sure of himself that he’s willing to wager he’s going to get paid quite handsomely when free agency arrived for him the first time in November of 2016. Then again, why wouldn’t he wager on himself. He had been one of the best power hitters and a good defensive player for the previous 5 years. The market showed that guys like him got paid…and not just tiny amounts of money either. Problem was the Blue Jays front office knew it. They knew the asking price was far too high. Jose Bautista was the man who just a few months prior had delivered one of the most clutch moments in Canadian sporting history with his bat flip against Texas in the ALCS.
So that did happen...bit of a blur.
The market for him was going to be strong. It always worked that way. However, something funny happened along the way. Jose got a couple of nagging injuries along the way; his batting average dipped but his ability to get on base was still very strong. His defensive abilities severely dropped off though. The range just wasn’t there and one of the most feared arms from the outfield wasn’t so scary any more. That market….dried up before a lot of sluggers eyes this offseason.
I'm sorry...did that really happen?
We saw the market get flooded with aging superstars who could hit the ball a ton but couldn’t play defense any more. Was Jose one of the better bats available out there? Of course there was. What happened then? Well; let’s just say he has a way of getting under peoples skins. The Baltimore Orioles said publicly early on that they wound’t bring him in because “Our fans don’t like him and he’s a villain in this city.” How about the Texas Rangers…wait; hard to bring a guy in where everyone on your team hates him. The Yankees were getting younger; Boston filled any holes they already had. The teams that could spend money looked elsewhere than to the guy who had dominated pitching in the American League. It got to the point where news was coming out that Jose Bautista was telling teams that he’ was open to playing multiple positions; and it still didn’t work out.
Sorry, the Baltimore Orioles don't want you.
The calendar flipped to 2017 and there was still no work for Jose. There was one team that was still keeping in touch with him though; Toronto. Yes, the offseason here hasn’t gone exactly as planned. We wanted to get faster, more left handed a better bullpen and more athletic. Guess what? So does pretty much every single team in the majors; except Boston, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland. So like two people who just can’t quit each other; they circled back. News broke early this week that Jose was close to signing. How much? How many years? This is so exciting! All of those feelings flooded social media for a good 24 hours.
Blue Jays Nation when word of Bautista signing broke.
Then there were reports that numbers were causing the hangup. Was there a team option or a player option? Then a funny thing got said. Jose is turned down better offers from other teams because he wants to be a Blue Jay. Hmmm…was this all be drummed up by Joses agent Jay Alou? Was he taking queues from EE’s agent? Because if he was this was going very poorly. Then again Mr. Alou was the same agent who had a pitcher that the Jays coveted a couple of springs ago and was apparently close to signing here when he pulled the chute and went to Minnesota of all places! The Twins suck! So I’m sorry if I was very skeptical of this entire deal falling through quickly because we’ve been there before.
Just get it done!!
Then on Tuesday news broke that it was official. Jose was coming back to the place that really gave him a chance to shine and be a part of something more. Was the contract a good one for him? No…not when the rumour at the start of the year was 5 years and $150 million. He’s going to make $18 million this year. Next year they have a mutual option. So if they Jays like what he does this year they’re going to want him back; but if he does well this year; there’s a pretty good chance he’ll test the free agent waters again looking for a bigger payday. The opposite is true as well. If he stinks up the joint the Jays can walk away and only have to pay him a $500,000 buyout. The third and final year is based on how he plays the first two years of the new deal. If he fills out the stat sheet the third year will be a guaranteed year.
The good news for Jays fans is that Mr. Joey Bats will be walking around with a chip on his shoulder all year the size of Prince Edward Island. Usually when he’s angry he plays better. Kind of like the Hulk. But if he isn’t playing the contract isn’t the end of the world because it basically will work out to a one year deal.
That's a pretty large chip.
Now, I’ve said a few bad things about Jose in my blogs…you can look back through them if you want...let's just say there's a lot. I’m happy he’s back. Sort of. I’m not a person who gets attached to players; you can’t when you follow a team. Not with free agency and the way trades work out. My two all time favourite athletes Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe Montana didn’t finish their careers with the teams they started them with and they are both legendary. If those guys can’t do it…then no one is safe. Back to my point. We needed help and he was the best available and it wasn’t going to cost the team draft picks or prospects so it was a no brainer. The asking price for players in trades was far too steep for the Jays so that’s how we got to this point.
Young Russ Atkins meeting with Jose to see if they can work it out.
The biggest problem I have with this deal is that during the press conference to announce that the deal had been complete, Russ Atkins mentioned that Ed Rogers had a meeting with him and mentioned that more money was being made available to sign Jose. First of all; why wasn’t more money made available for Edwin or more desirable free agents like Dexter Fowler and others? Secondly; why now? Did Mr. Rogers cave to public opinion? I mean the Jays fans were very vocal on social media about how unhappy they were Edwin leaving and some were vowing to switch to the other big telecommunications company if Jose wasn’t brought back. It just sucks to think that this extra cash was only made available because the public got upset. Jays fans deserve a winning team. Spending $20 million on a guy who may be (more likely than not) on the downside of his career over a guy like Dexter Fowler who is younger and checks off more boxes that the team was trying to fill is just disappointing. The company should have done better and sooner. Now we’re left wondering if this is just to sway public opinion and keep money flowing into Rogers because losing Jose would be too much for many people who only know him as the guy who did the bat flip.
Is this team better than the team we had last year? I’m not sure. We won’t know until they start playing games. Is this team better with Jose Bautista in the fold as opposed to without him on the team last week? Yes; and that’s all I can hope for going forward. We’re a bit better than we were before.
Like a bit better....I think.
On the plus side...pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!
Happy 2017 everyone! Good to be back after being on a hiatus for almost 4 weeks. Just because I wasn’t blogging for the past 4 weeks doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading almost every post about the Blue Jays on any website and social media account linked to the Jays that I could. It may or may not have driven my wife a little bit crazy. If anyone was going crazy though; it was me. I’ll get right to the point about it. People were still losing their mind that Edwin had left the Jays, how our season was doomed and this was all Shapiros and Atkins fault.
Even Captain Obvious knows this isn't true.
Let me touch on that last point there. Yes; Shapiro and Atkins may have misread the market for sluggers but so did Edwins agent. That’s why the Jays moved on as quick as they did and why EE said no to the offer. They were both right and at the same time they were both wrong. Do you understand? Ya, I don’t either but lets just go with it and move on.
Can you repeat that again?
Technically; you really can’t blame Shapiro and Atkins for much this offseason. Sure, they haven’t spent on big names but then again; when Dexter Fowler is the top outfielder available; that’s saying a lot about the market. People are complaining that the Jays need relievers; sure they do. But relievers come and they go. The top guys stick around for an extended period but the rest of them have their ups and downs. That’s why when Brett Cecil; who was both loved and hated by the fans within a 12 month period; got offered $32 million over 4 years he jumped at it. And it’s the same reason why management has sat out in this crazy times with the though that: “That’s far too rich for our blood.” Other fans are saying: “Well we need to be making other moves like trading for someone.” That sounds easy if you’re playing a video game but this isn’t a game. And we don’t have the trade chips in the minors to make a move for a big name. You can blame that on wonder boy Alex Anthopoulos. He knew that he had one shot in 2015 to win the World Series so he went all in and traded away pretty much all of our top prospects and left the cupboard bare for his successors. However, because he got the team to the playoffs for the first time in 20+ years he’s treated like a saint; when sometimes it needs to be remembered he may have compromised this teams future for one shot.
How all Jays fans looking at our prospect list this year compared to 2014.
I completely agree with what he did. When you have a chance you take it. We did and it didn’t work out. We came close again last year and it didn’t work out. So now most of the core is two years older and we lost some important pieces over the last two off seasons. David Price, Edwin, Cecil Dickey and Hawkins have all left on way or another. Michael Saunders is a free agent and it looks like he might be able to be resigned at a decent price because his second half last year was brutal. That brings me to Jose Bautista. He’s still available and he’s still apparently in constant contact with the Blue Jays. Makes sense. He loves it here (so did Edwin); he’s a hero in the city and really; there are no other offers out there at this time. The problem is; is that the Jays seem more than happy to move on from him and collect the draft pick compensation for him. I do believe if the market continues to collapse the Jays will try to sign him to a multi-year deal but it’s going to be in the $10-12 million range over 2 years with an option at some point. That I can get on board with. If it’s more than that; I think there’s no way they make a deal with him. They’ve come this far and it looks like they won’t be pressured by the fans or any one for that matter to make a move.
That brings me to my final point. I had a very good discussion with a family friend the other day…to the point where a few others told us we needed to stop talking about the Jays and hang out. This person said: “the Jays owe it to the fans who have been going to the games; or they are going to lose all the good will they’ve built up in the city.” Now, this person has been a passionate Jays fan since they first were founded so his words hit a little harder than anyone I’ve chatted with on Twitter. My reply was simple; I didn’t believe the Jays should overpay 2nd tier free agents in order to make fans happy. In fact; if the Jays went out and signed every free agent available and missed the playoffs would those fans who demand the Jays do something still be there? Of course they wouldn’t.
Fans are fickle. They show up when the team is winning and find better things to do when the team is losing.
The one things that puts people in the seats as Al Davis would say is “Just win baby.” The ownership owes it to the fans to be competitive; I agree with that. Management is different; they don’t owe anything to the fans. They have to project whats going to happen 5-10 years from now. Trying to win in the present while building for the future. This team has a lot of holes; so do most teams to be honest. All the Jays have to do is win and all will be forgiven about this slow offseason. I want our team to win just as much as anyone reading this or any person that calls themselves a die hard. I also want them to be competitive as long as possible. Right now with the current core; I don’t see it. They’ve got some young pieces but not enough…so if it means that the upcoming season is played as a lets see how we do and if it’s bad we trade all our older guys to get way younger; I’m ok with that. Will I be happy about it? No; but I have to be realistic and it’s been to be proactive and start rebuilding before it’s too late and our team ends up like the teams from the mid 90’s to 2013. Not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to get the top pick in the draft.
Oprah gets it.
With all that being said. Pitchers and catchers report on Valentines Day. That means it's only 31 days to go! So it looks like I'll be enjoying that day more than I normally would! Wait; that came out wrong...oh well.
Not that every other Valentines Day before this wasn't awesome....
All we have heard recently in the news is that the Jays minor league is depleted and they don’t have any high end talent that other teams have which makes it harder for them to make trades. I won’t disagree with that here although we do have some interesting pieces who could eventually make it to the bigs; some sooner than later. The thing with players in the minors is that some guys who are called “can’t miss prospects” struggle mightily when they make it to the bigs and flame out quicker while others who went unnoticed excel for some reason when they get to the top level. I’m not going to say that’s going to happen with any of these guys but what people have to remember is that baseball is completely different when compared hockey, basketball and football. Very rarely will a player get drafted and make an immediate impact in his first few years of professional baseball. Most spend a lot of time in the minors learning more about the game and develop slowly before they are actually ready. So without rambling on; here is a look at our top 10 prospects in no specific order.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B
Yes; he is that Vlads son; and the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. His power is near the top of the chart as is his overall hitting ability. Some scouts have even gone as far to say as he was born to hit. Considering this past year he was the youngest in the league that he played he managed to walk almost as much as he struck out which is an incredible feat for a 17 year old. He has some speed; it grades out around average. Defensively he’s a work in progress. He has an arm rated at just above average and his defense is getting there. Considering this was his first year playing the hot corner there were bound to be some bumps and bruises along the way. ETA for Toronto: 2020
If he's half as good as his Dad...well that would make him better than 99.9% of the world.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B
How can you not want for a guy named Rowdy to make it to the bigs? His calling is his bat. Not near the level as the previous mentioned guy but then again; most aren’t. He had a great year in the minors this year with regards to his power. It’s the first time he’s really put it all together at the plate which has most scouts happy. Some however, fear that he is a swing and miss candidate but an OBP of close to .390 even with 92 strikeouts it’s an impressive feat. The two main problems that scouts see with Rowdy is that his defense is below average and his body type isn’t exactly what they see as working out long term. One can hope that he ends up like a former prospect (although not of the Jays but eventually came to us), Edwin Encarnacion. ETA for Toronto late: 2017
Sean Reid-Foley, SP
He’s our top rated pitcher with a fastball that sits between 92-95mpg but can get up to 98. His next best pitch is his slider which is rated above average and his next two pitches, the curve and the changeup sit at around average or below. His biggest issue has been control but this year he seemed to have a break through striking out 130 in 155.1 innings while only walking 38. He held hitters to a .190 batting average so that means he was dealing more often than not. He grades out as mid-rotation starter and should be arriving when either Estrada or Happ come off the books. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Anthony Alford, OF
Alford is an interesting case. He gave baseball a backseat to football while playing QB at Southern Miss. The Blue Jays drafted him and offered him a huge signing bonus but allowed him to continue to play football. After a couple of years, Alford finally gave up on football and turned to baseball. In his first full season he gave everyone a glimpse of what he was capable of and shot himself up a lot of scouts boards. This year however, he was injured a fair amount and took a step back. He’s on of the players most likely to be asked about in any trade talks because his speed is phenomenal, his defense is very good and he’s a tough out at the plate. It will be interesting to see where how he develops over the course of a full season. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Reese McGuire, C
One of two prospects acquired in the Francisco Liriano trade, McGuire is known as one of the best defensive catching prospects in baseball. His hitting is slowly coming around and that is the only thing at this point in time standing between him and a chance to be an everyday catcher when he finally reaches the big leagues. With a plus arm and plus defensive skills, don’t be shocked if he reaches the majors on an emergency call up basis later in 2017. ETA for Toronto: 2017 depending on injuries to the big league roster
I can do this.
Harold Ramirez, OF
The second prospect of the Liriano trade, all he has done is hit since he was drafted. He’s a great hitter but he profiles more as a corner outfield and not a centre fielder like he is now due to a below average arm and average defensive skills. ETA for Toronto: 2017
Max Pentecost, C
This is the last guy I’ll preview and a guy I’m really rooting for. He was one of the best hitters (finished 2nd overall) during the 2014 season in which he was drafted. Shortly after starting his professional career he injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the season. In January of 2015, something didn’t feel right in his surgically repaired shoulder and he went under the knife again causing him to miss all of that season. This year was his first back and he showed a lot of flashes of potential but was limited to only playing first base. If his shoulder is ever healthy again he could be fantastic behind the plate but with the Jays already having Reese McGuire ahead of him and then Martin on the big league club my bet is that he’s converted to first base. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Notable Mentions; ie. Wanted to write about them but didn't want this to be 7000 pages long.
Connor Greene, P(known more for his modelling and acting than his pitching at this point but has the ability to change that); Bo Bichette, 2B (yes, his Dad is Dante); Jon Harris, P(throws in the low 90’s); T.J. Zeuch, P (stands 6’7”, throws hard, so that works).