Saturday, March 24, 2012

One up, one down

In watching what the Jays were doing over the off-season, and now past the halfway point of spring training, I’ve been struck by one thing: Alex Anthopoulos and his staff really know what they’re doing. Here’s why…

1. On free agents, they didn’t pony up huge bucks on players who might bring short-term gain, but long-term financial pain. Poster boy: Prince Fielder. He would have been (based on his personal history) as good a fit here in Toronto as he seems to be in Detroit. He can hit, his skills at first base aren’t as bad as some profess, and he can hit. That’s why Detroit got him: for his bat. The downside is, he’s not going to be around in 9 years. The Tigers are most likely paying for a 4- or 5-year lease over 9 years. From his body shape, Prince is going to get as seriously heavy as his dad as time goes on. That’s not a good thing. As for other free agents (pitching), there was no one who was worth the price. I wouldn’t have shelled out the bucks for Darvish, either.

2. On the trade front, AA made one really solid move: he gave up a very promising pitcher for a very promising closer. Great move, born out by the fact the baseball’s prognosticators have said the trade amounted to grand theft. Elite closers are harder to come by than starters. The Jays desperately needed a really good closer. Santos is very likely just that. What do the Jays have an abundance of: promising starting pitchers. A big plus is that Santos had just signed a contract extension. By the end of 6 years, this trade could be right up their with Gillick’s trade for Carter and Alomar. As for trading for another starting pitcher, the other teams always wanted too much. Let’s get Michael Pineda from the Mariners. Great acquisition, right? That’s until you find out they wanted Brett Lawrie. Any wonder deals couldn’t be made? I’m thinking every team AA spoke with started with the words, “Well, sure, but we want Lawrie.”

3. On accurately assessing the parts the team did have at the beginning of spring training, it’s all shaking down the way it’s supposed to. Read between the lines and it was easy to see that if they both had good springs, Travis Snider would go back to Triple A and Thames would get the job. Based on what I’ve seen so far, Thames will get the nod. Why? Because Snider has torn up the Grapefruit League before. I believe he has what it takes to be an excellent acquisition for some team, but like Colby Rasmus, it may not be this one.

The Jays bullpen is rounding into shape in the same sort of fashion. It was easy to predict that Villanueva and Perez would get those last two spots. For starting pitching, the five (Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Alvarez and McGowan) will make the cut. They can’t not take McGowan because you can be he’ll be snatched up on waivers and he deserves the chance since both team and player have extended such effort to make it happen. The Jays have some great starting pitcher prospects just in the wings. Cecil makes the cut only because of his experience, but he’ll be on a short rope. If he falters, he’ll be gone and you should expect Drabek to take his place in that event.

So in the case of Snider and Thames, Cecil and Drabek, one will go up and the other will go down. All of them probably deserve to be on the Jays, but that’s baseball.

One last thing, I would so love to see Omar Vizquel make this team. You’ve got to feel bad for Mike McCoy, but Vizquel would add so much to the team, not just on the field but on the bench and in the club house. He’s just the guy the Jays need at this point in time – and he’s proven he can still do the job.

I was speaking with my friend Reete (boy, I hope I’ve spelled his name correctly) down at the St. Lawrence Market and he brought up the idea of Escobar being trade bait for some sort of upgrade. That’s kind of interesting. Hech is nearly ready. Wonder what the team could get for an excellent shortstop with some pop in his bat?

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