Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Called up to the Dominican League?

Hey All,

I'm going to see what the Dominican League is all about (Well, as much as I can find out from the beach, or the bartenders...) I'll be back in a week, and I'll come up with a post or two then, based on whatever happens.

See you soon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Where do "Championship Closers Come From?"

With all the talk of closers lately, and the most recent Octavio Dotel rumors, I thought it would be worth looking at how "Championship" Closers are found. Alex Anthopoulos has repeately stated that he wants to build a perrenial contender in the AL East, and that he would like potential all-stars at each position. This obviously ties in with the 2010 off season, as there is an obvious gap at closer.

Most closers only have very short runs as "Dominant."  As Jays fans, we need look no further than B.J. Ryan, who was only good for long enough to cash in. This is more often the case than not. Francisco Rodriguez is moreso a tabloid story at this point than he was when he set records in LAA. Brad Lidge is barely keeping his job in Philly. The Red Sox are rumored to be shopping Jonathan Papelbon.

At first glance, one would assume that the Jays should try and cobble a bullpen together and transition players through the role. But, after a closer (not closer) look, it would offer the most benefit to the team to develop someone to take over the position.

Where to start? Looking at some recent champions is a great place to begin.

SF Giants: Brian Wilson was originally drafted as a starter at LSU, but underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing. He was moved to a relief role to save his arm and bring him to the majors more quickly.

NYY: Mariano Rivera was an international free agent signing. He was a short-stop who was moved to starting pitcher. He even started some games for the Yankees. Rivera also has undergone Tommy John surgery. Rivera was moved to the bullpen when his velocity increased (During the mid-90s???)

PHI: Brad Lidge was acquired via trade from the Astros. He was another big-upside pitcher who could not stay healthy in the minors. After having his rotator cuff rebuilt, he became a full time reliever.

BOS: Jonathan Papelbon was drafted as a closer, but immediately converted to a starting pitcher, which he was throughout the major leagues. He was tossed into the 'pen after he failed to win a starting gig out of spring training in 2006, and happened to win a permanent role as closer.

STL: After Jason Isrinhausen suffered a season-ending hip injury, Adam Wainwright stepped in for a shoprt stint as a (Fairly dominant) Closer. Wainwright was drafted and developed as a starter, and he was used in the St Louis bullpen as a way to keep him in the majors when there was no opening for him. (FYI: Isrinhausen was drafted as a starter, but had 3 arm surgeries, and was moved to relief. He was a free agent signing)

CHW: Bobby Jenks was claimed by the Sox off waivers after he brought beer on the bus for one of the Angels minor league affiliates. He was drafted as a starter, but again, elbow troubles forced him to move to relief.

So, in the last 5 years, every world series winning closer was developed by the major league team that won. (If you don't count Isringhausen, which I don't since he didn't pitch in the playoffs) In fact, you have to go back to the 2004 Red Sox  to find a World Series Champ with a closer acquired through free agency (Keith Foulke)

The next part of the question involves finding a player in the Jays organization that would fit the mold that seems to have been established in becoming a top closer (Developed as a starter, arm trouble, lively fastball? The last is questionable because Rivera gets the job done without it)

Many scouts, analysts and fans would be quick to throw Zach Stewart's name in to the mix. I would disagree as he, and Brett Cecil have proven that Pitchers drafted as closers can, and do make great starters. I can't think that anyone would want to move Cecil back to the 'pen.

David Purcey is an excellent candidate, and was able to take on progressively higher-leverage roles last year. At this point his is the favourite to emerge among current candidates.

Dustin McGowan fits the mold perfectly, but his health is still in jeopardy. If he could get healthy, I'd love to see him get a chance in relief.

Scott Richmond now has shoulder problems on his resume, but never relied on an overpowering fastball.

Jesse Litsh is an odd case. He has a Rivera-like cutter, and can also dial it up on his fastball (He's been clocked in the low-mid 90s) He can mix in a change. He may not have the body-type for the job, but he has the repertoire. He also has elbow-problems in his past. I didn't expect to ever say this, but he could be an excellent closer.

Kyle Drabek is also a name that many aren't considering now, but if his arm troubles ever were to come back, he would have the "stuff" for it.

Marc Rzepczinski could end up taking the Wainwright route to the Closer's role, if he can't win a job in spring training.

There is also a host of qualified starters in the minor leagues, but I think you get the point. The Jays need some stability at the back of the bullpen, and the best way to find it is to build from within. I'm becoming fonder and fonder of the Jesse Litsch idea, so much so that I may dedicate a separate post to it soon. JESSE LITSCH FOR CLOSER!! ..."And here comes Rojo to lock things down for the 9th..."

Also: Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @5thStarter

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SantAnthopoulous wants a closer: Get the HOFF!!

Wait... Uhhh.. Different Hoff.

In this case, I mean Trevor Hoffman. THE CLOSER-IEST CLOSER EVER. He is the all time saves leader, and is admittedly looking for a closing gig. 601 Saves and counting.

Now, I know that career saves numbers aren't everything. He had a TERRIBLE season last year, although he did manage to become the first ever reliever to reach 600 saves. He will also not command anything more than a 1-year, incentive laden deal.

Here's the biggest reason to go get "The Hoff-man": Mentorship. Closing games is all about mental strength. Hoff could be an excellent tutor to David Purcey, Josh Roenicke and any of the other young relief arms that the Jays have. It would provide the chance for a smooth transition for any of the current relievers into a closing role later in the season.

So there it is. A perfect stocking stuffer for the Blue Jays of the future. Trevor Hoffman.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 2011 Las Vegas 51s

As if I need to provide anyone with another reason to go to Vegas. Here's one anyway. Next year's Las Vegas 51s are going to be good. VERY good.

Despite the Blue Jays prior unwillingness to send top pitching prospects to Vegas, -The air is dry, so batted balls tend to fly farther, also the infield is dry, and plays about the same as concrete from all reports. Not helpful on BABIP.- This season the team will almost assuredly have to send 2-3 of their better pitching prospects to pitch in the desert. Kyle Drabek could be sent down for service time issues. Zach Stewart will have a chance to earn an MLB rotation spot, but will likely go to Vegas to help control his workload, with a possible eye to a call up later in the season. Brad Mills could be back as a leader. Scott Richmond will be in Vegas if he doesn't move to the bullpen. Robert Ray will have a chance to regain his lofty prospect status as well. All excellent options, many with MLB experience.

On the offensive side of the ball, Eric Thames is due for a promotion after his stellar campaign in New Hampshire. Adeiny Hechevaria would help the defense on the rock-hard infield.  Brett Lawrie is at least going to start the year in Vegas learning 3B, although he's publicly stated otherwise. Darin Mastroianni will likely be in Vegas if nothing else changes. The right side of the diamond is still in flux. The 51s will need a 1B, and if Emaus manages to crack the Mets opening day roster, they will need a 2B as well. Mike McCoy may be able to clear waivers, but I imagine a signing woul dbe in order. Right field is also currently looking to be open.

Adam Loewen could play RF, and David Cooper's strong second half could earn him the 1B job as well. An organizational move will probably be made for a 2B if Emaus doesn't come back.

Think about the upside that this team has. Mastroianni and Hechevaria at the top of the order. Thames, Lawrie, Cooper, Loewen in the power spots in the lineup, in a homer-friendly park. Thames is my early pick for next year's PCL MVP, but only if he doesn't spend considerable time with the Jays.

With Stewart, Mills, and Ray likely to be the first 3 in the rotation, they will be a force. Even in the PCL, they could post a combined ERA under 4. Depending on who else ends up not making the Jays, the rotation could be Major League Quality. Other options include Jo-Jo Reyes, and Marc Rzepcinski (If he doesn't win a rotation spot in Toronto)

The major question remaining is the bullpen. There will be some pieces that fall through from the Jays. Josh Roenicke was terrific toward the end of 2010 in closing games. Other relievers have options. The Blue Jays are also looking to add organizational depth. Ronald Uviedo has been excellent in winter ball, so he may find his way to Vegas. Alan Farina will also likely be in Vegas next year as well.

I had a discussion last night on Twitter (@5th Starter) as to which team would be better: The 2011 51s, or the 2011 Royals? Right now, I would say that the 51s look better to me. The team will definitely need to add an outfielder, and possibly some relievers. Second base is in flux with the departure of Brad Emaus, and there isn't anyone in the Jays' system to replace him. A healthy Scott Campbell could get a look, but after missing a year with injury, I expect he'll start lower to get his timing back.

So, if you're going to be inVegas, stop by Cashman field and cheer on the boys. If you're not already planing a Vegas trip this summer, it's the perfect reason to go.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dear Alex SantAnthopoulos

I'd imagine things are going to be pretty slow for the next few weeks, now that Zack Greinke is officially off the market. In an effort to create some worthwhile content, here are some thoughts that don't amount to enough for an article all on their own:

In the christmas spirit, I'd like to ask Alex SantAnthopolous to bring me a 3B, RF or bullpen arm. I'm ready to start making projections for next year, but I need to wait until the roster is set.

Also: Who is going to play 1B in Las Vegas now that Mike Jacobs has signed in Colorado? David Cooper? I hope so, and I hope he can continue his Romero-esque rise to the Jays, after being all but written off. Adam Loewen would also be an interesting possibility.

I'm going to do a full post this week on how scary-good the 51s could be this season. (Drabek, Stewart and Brad Mills will likely be the first 3 starters, even in a hitters' league, they will do well. The team could also have Eric Thams, Darin Mastroianni, Brett Lawrie and Adeiny Hecheverria)

SantAnthopoulos also promised me another relief pitcher, preferably a closer for next year. Looks like I'll have to accept a rain cheque for that one. Although, that said, I think our current lineup has good upside if managed properly.

What else do I need to do to get people to follow me on Twitter? (@5thStarter) Seriously, any advice is appreciated.

Also, coming in the new year: Facebook exclusive content on the 5th Starter Fan Page.(I'm like Rogers Media now: Moving exclusive content elswhere to make things difficult for passionate Jays fans.)

If you want to get me a christmas present (You know you do...) Follow me on Twitter. Like my facebook page, and if you have a Blogger account: Follow this blog publicly. I'm getting pathetic now, so I'll stop begging. At least until my next post...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advanced Media: Who Knew?

So, apparently there's all kinds of new ways to blog, and posting big, long blog posts is becoming passe. (So I'm told by the internet. Yes, I speak with it directly.)

Thank you to everyone who's liked me on facebook so far. It occured to me that if I post the link to the page, I might get more of you. Here's hoping:!/pages/The-5th-Starter-A-Toronto-Blue-Jays-Blog/183855784963256

Also, after reading Mat Germain's excellent summary of Blue Jay Players Twittering, and the guide that was so handily provided by Ian and the Blue Jay Hunter, I thought I'd try this new-fangled-twittery-thing. Again, here's the link:

I was really looking forward to reading some of Jose Bautista's work, but apparently the Blue Jays Management have required him to close his account, after some (correct) comments that the team should not trade Travis Snider, or Kyle Drabek.

I'm dissapointed in the Jays front office. A forward thinking team should be encouraging their players to interact with their fans. Especially when he's saying the same thing that fans and bloggers have been saying for the last month. This is the time to embrace the Blue Jays Youth movement. Young, high-upside players that will be with the team for the better part of the next decade. Snider, Drabek, Zach Stewart, Brett Lawrie, Adeiny Hechevaria, Anthony Gose. This is the model of sustained success that we, as fans, have bought into. Trading any of these players should yeild a return that would be equal or better in terms of talent AND years of team control.

Censorship is still an ongoing battle, it just appears that it has a new frontier.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eddie's Back, and I'm taking credit for it!

I Said it Here.

I Said it Here.

I Started by saying it Here.

Clearly, someone in the Blue Jays' front office is drinking my Cool-Aid. I've been all over bringing back Eddie since I started forcing my thoughts on people electronically. I suggested a first base platoon before he was ever put on waivers.

I'm taking all the credit for this.

As far as the contract goes: What a steal! almost half of what Encarnacion made last year? Yes please. A CLUB option, in case he realizes his full potential? Also yes.

Worst case scenario: Encarnacion is a streaky DH, or usefull bat-off-the-bench for $2.5 Million.

Best case scenario: Encarnacion realizes his full potential, hits 35-40 HR, and primarily DHs, while spelling Lind at 1B.

Perfect World Scenario: Encarnacion works dilligently over the remaining off-season and becomes an above-average defensive 3B, Hits 40+ HR, and brings his batting average up to the .270-.280 range. Realistic? No, but that's what everyone would have said if I had proposed the same type of thing for Jose Bautista last year.

Let's start fresh with Edwin. He's no longer E5, He's Eddie our DH.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Facebook Page?

So, In an effort to build awareness for the blog, I've created a facebook page:!/pages/The-5th-Starter-A-Toronto-Blue-Jays-Blog/183855784963256

Any suggestions? Is this a waste of time?

Just looking to bring some new audience members. Feel free to give it a "like" (Actually, jut do it.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The (Brief) HIstory of $100 Million Contracts

When Kevin Brown broke the $100 Million dollar mark for a Baseball contract before the 1999 season, most of the baseball world was shocked. His $105 Million, over 6 years, was almost a complete outlier, and set a precedent that has continued well into the new millennium. Interestingly, after only 10 years, the Kevin Brown deal now ranks as only the 24th largest contract in baseball history.

In honour of Cliff Lee's new mega-deal with the Phillies (you heard about that, right?) I thought I'd take a look at what kind of Return-On-Investment teams have received from dishing out these huge commitments.

In reverse order of total contract size:

Albert Pujols. $100 Million, 6 years (2004-2010, plus option for 2011) Cardinals
- Hard to argue that this deal hasn't worked out terrifically for the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols has put up a ridiculous 57.8 WAR over the duration of this deal, far surpassing the value of his salary in each year that he has been under contract. No question that any deal involving Pujols in his prime gets an A++. I'd be concerned if I were the Cardinals though, with regards to his next contract. Age could become a factor.

Carlos Lee, $100 Million, 5 Years (2007-2012) Astros
-It's hard to remember that in the first two seasons of this contract, Lee actually delivered more value than what he was paid, posting WARs near 4 in both years. Since then, however, this contract has become a complete albatross for the Astros. Lee actually managed to deliver negative WAR last year, and unless he suddenly turns things around, this contract is a total bust. I'll give it a D, since they did get 2 years of production.

Kevin Brown, $105 Million, 6 Years (1999-2005) Dodgers
-Surprisingly, not a total disaster. Brown turned in 3 of the 6 seasons with WARs  over 6. One of those seasons actually allowed the Dodgers to trade him to the Yankees for the last 2 years of the deal. The Yankees actually got the least amount of value from this contract, with Brown never contributing a WAR above 2.5 for them. I'll give the deal a C+ for the Dodgers, and a big F for the Yankees over the last 2 years.

Ken Griffey Jr, $116.5 Million, 9 Years (2000-2008) Reds
-When you hear that players don't want to play on turf because it shortens careers, Ken Griffey's time at the superdome should be the first example that comes to mind. He managed to earn this mega-deal with his great play in Seattle, but absolutely could not stay healthy with the Reds. He only posted one season that had a 5 WAR rating. The contract gets a D-, only because I'm allowing injuries to mitigate total failure.

Carlos Beltran, $119 Million, 8 Years (2005-2011) Mets
-When he's been healthy, Beltran has more than justified this deal. His injury problems over the last few seasons have made this deal look worse than it has been. When I looked him up, I expected this deal to be a disaster, but injuries aside, Beltran has been excellent for the Mets. Solid A.

Cliff Lee, $120 Million, 5 Years (2011-2015, Option for 2016) Phillies
- A little soon to judge this one. It has been widely reported that he signed for less than market value, so I guess the Phillies get some credit for that.

Matt Holliday, $120 Million, 7 Years (2010-2016) Cardinals
-The Cards got 6.9 WAR from Holliday in the first year of this deal, according to Fangraphs. It's off to a good start, provided that he ages well. I'll give it an A at this point.

Jason Giambi, $120 Million, 7 Years (2002-2008) Yankees
-Again, I had wanted to give this one a big F, but Giambi put up two solid seasons at the beginning of this deal. He was then injured, and never really came all the way back. He was steady, but unspectacular for the remainder of the deal, which did not justify the salary. I'll give them a D+ for getting 2 years.

Mike Hampton, $121 Million, 8 Years (2001-2008) Rockies
-Wow. This one was BAD. Hampton never delivered a season where his WAR was higher than 3.0. Just a total disaster. Although, the Rockies did manage to trade him to the Braves, so partial credit for that. Still, total F.

Ryan Howard, $125 Million, 5 Years (2012-2016) Phillies
-This extension hasn't even kicked in yet, and there are already some concerns. I hope Howard rebounds next year and learns to hit lefties. Otherwise, look out. Temporary grade of C, depending on Howard's ability to rebound.

Jayson Werth, $126 Million, 7 Years (2011-2017) Expos Nationals
-Just signed. Already baseball pundits around the league hate it. I hope he proves them wrong, but until he does, C-.

Vernon Wells, $126 Million, 7 Years (2008-2014) Blue Jays
- As a Jays fan, it's nice to see them so high up on this list. Although the contract hasn't returned full value, I can always point to it to prove the team's willingness to spend money. The first two years of his contract were alsmost total losses (1.5 WAR and 0 WAR respectively) Luckily, his contract was back loaded, so those years aren't as bad as they first appear. His 4.0 WAR last year is a good step in the right direction, but Wells will really need to deliver for the next 4 seasons if the Jays hope to get anything near full value. As it stands, I'm giving the deal a D. And that's just 'cause I'm a fan of the team.

Barry Zito, $126 Million, 7 Years (2007-2013) Giants
-7.4 WAR is definitely what the Giants had in mind when they signed Zito. They just didn't expect that that would be the total WAR he would put up over his first 4 seasons! Zito's contract is a huge anchor to a team that will soon need to re-sign some of its young stars. Solid F. Although, he has put up a better WAR total than Wells has over the contract length, so maybe I need to review VW's grade...

Alfonso Soriano, $136 Million, 8 Years (2007-2014) Cubs
- A trend is starting to emerge, where these deals tend to yield a grat first season. In this case, Soriano put up an excellent 6.9 WAR in year one of this deal. His production dipped to 4.3 WAR the next year, and the last two years Soriano has been hampered by injuries. He still has time to get healthy and earn some more of this deal. I'll give it a C, based on Soriano getting healthy.

Johan Santana, $137.5 Million, 6 Years (2008-2013) Mets
- He never returned to his dominance that he had with the Twins, which is undoubtedly why the Mets signed him. He's still been above-average as a Met, but that's not nearly good enough to justify his salary. Now injured, and unlikely to return until after the All Star break, this contract is looking pretty bad. I'll give it a D, as Santana has been good, not great, for a large salary.

Todd Helton, $141.5 Million, 9 Years (2003-2011) Rockies
-3 of the first 4 years of this deal were excellent. Helton has been a mainstay in Colorado, and delivered good value for his contract. 2008-9-10 however, he only managed 5.2 WAR combined. The Rockies will likely be happy to have his contract expire next year. I'll give them a C-, because they did get some good production early on.

Carl Crawford, $142 Million, 7 Years (2011-2017) Red Sox
- The common belief in the baseball world is that speed ages well. If you look a little higher on this list, you'll notice that was not the case for Ken Griffey Jr, or Alfonso Soriano. That said, the Sox got a good signing, and they look good for the next few years. B+.

Miguel Cabrera, $152.3 Million, 8 Years (2008-2015) Tigers
-Hard to be down on the signing of this season's MVP runner-up. He's only had one off-year in Detroit (3.0 WAR in 2008) but has been the cornerstone of their offense over the last 2 years. There is some debate as to how well he'll age, but if I'm evaluating this deal right now (and I am) then I give it an A.

Troy Tulowitzki, $157.75 Million, 10 Years (2011-2020) Rockies
 -Boy, do the Rockies ever throw some big money around. Their third appearance on this list is still too early to judge, but it's hard not to love a Short Stop that gives that kind of offensive production. An A for now.

Manny Ramirez, $160 Million, 8 Years (2001-2008) Red Sox
- Manny was a rock in left field for the Red Sox for most of the last decade. He was a cornerstone of two championship teams. Hard to argue against that, despite his hefty price tag. I'll give the deal a B-, as there was some 'friction' towards the end, and he head some mediocre campaigns sprinkled in as well.

CC Sabathia, $161 Million, 7 Years (2009-2015) Yankees
-Only two years in, but the deal looks great. Barring injury, CC will continue to be a work horse for the pinstripes. The deal gets an A+, as he already has a World Series ring with the Yankees.

Mark Teixera, $180 Million, 8 Years (2009-2016) Yankees
- I like this deal less than CC's, because of the extra year, and because Teixera is prone to slumps and slow starts. I expect his deal to look a bit worse than Sabathia's by the time they're over. I still grade this as a B for now, mostly due to the championship.

Joe Mauer, $181 Million, 8 Years (2011-2018) Twins
-Great to see the Twins keep a player that they've developed. The extension kicks in this coming season. I'm leery as to how well a catcher can hold up, but if anyone can do it, I'll bet on Mauer. I'll rate it an A-, just because they managed to keep him, and avoid free agency.

Derek Jeter, $189 Million, 10 Years (2001-2010) Yankees
-Jeter has been a superstar for the Yankees. He plays a premium defensive position, and gives solid offensive production at the top of the order. Other than last year, he's produced above 3 WAR for the duration of the contract. I have to give this one a grudging A.

Alex Rodriguez, $252 Million, 10 Years (2001-2010) Rangers
-The first 3 seasons of this deal were more than  worth it. Adding in the fact that the Rangers managed to unload the deal also makes it better. Rodriguez was nothing short of beastly for 7 of the first 8 years of this deal (and the down year, he still put up 4.3 WAR) He opted out of the final 2 years for the nextcontract on this list. For this specific contract, full value, A.

Alex Rodriguez, $275 Million, 10 Years (2008-2017) Yankees
-I have no idea how A-Rod's agent managed to get the Yankees to bidagainst themselves on this deal. No other team coul dhave afforded this deal, nor would they want to. Injuries have set in, and he's already a shell of his former self. I'd expect that he'll have one-or-two more excellent seasons, but nothing to nearly justify this contract. D-, only not a fail because of the marketing potential if he passes some major milestones.


So, what have we learned from this analysis? well, to start, many of these monster-deals are too new to completely judge. The ones that have enough time to accurately assess, however do not often pan-out. For players that are signed much younger (A-Rod, Pujols, Jeter) There is a high success rate. For true free-agent signings, the successes are fewer and farther between.

Let the buye beware.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Solving (most of) the Jays 2011 problems: Mike Napoli

As the fallout from the winter meetings continue, I find myself still wondering what the Toronto Blue Jays can do to improve the current roster, while preserving Alex Anthopoulos's vision of building a long-term competitor.

So, in the search to fill the current vacancies on the 2011 Blue Jays, without giving up the farm, I have come up with a great idea: Go get Mike Napoli.

Adam Lind is a huge question mark at first, and struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers last season. Mike Napoli plays a competent 1B, and MASHES lefties, posting an OPS over 1.000 last season, and having a .928 mark on his career.

JP Arencibia is a question mark as a catcher. Mike Napoli is below-average defensively as a catcher, but can spell the youngster and help ease his transition into the major leagues.

The team also needs a DH. When not filling in for either of the above, Napoli also has the profile to DH. He would provide solid middle-of-the-order production.

The real question is cost. What is Napoli still worth? His salary will go up through arbitration, and the Angels don't likely want to pay $4-6 Million for a backup catcher. I'm not sure what their needs are either. If they want to continue to solidify the 'pen, they could ask for Jason Frasor. He's another arbitration eligible player, and would add serious depth to the Angels bullpen.

What if they want prospects? They'd obviously need players that could contribute this season. Stewart? Thames? Mastroianni? maybe two of those three?

It's really hard to put a concrete value on Napoli, due to his role in LA. His value in Toronto would be enormously higher. He also fits for another reason: Nobody is reporting that the Jays are interested in him. Alex flies so far under the radar, that he could be working on this as you read this.

I'm on board. Doesn't mean that it will happen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Major League Baseball's Premiereship

Well, if the winter meetings proved anything, it's that Major League Baseball has clearly segregated itself into 3 nearly individual leagues. Follow my analogy for a minute:

The two Eastern leagues have clearly established themselves as the top flight. Once the Yankees get Cliff Lee (They will- They need him, and he needs the extra money they will inevitably guarantee) then all of the top free agents/trade targets will have landed in either the N.L. East, or the A.L East. Jayson Werth. Carl Crawford. Adrian Gonzalez. The list goes on and on.

The West divisions seem to have established themselves as a competent second division. There are a few big-ish spenders (LAA, SF, LAD, Even the Rockies are throwing money around.) but they mostly develop their own talent.

Below them are the two central divisions. Other than some drafted lottery-ticket jackpots (Pujols, Mauer, Greinke) there is very little talent in either central division. On top of that, they seem to be completely unable to attract top free agents.

The premiere divisions are getting stronger. The Blue Jays have emerged. The Orioles have re-loaded. The Nationals are spending money. The Marlins are graduating tremendous prospects. The Braves are poised for a long run of success. The Phillies are spending the profits from 2 World Series appearances. The Mets were quiet this year, but will resume their free-spending ways soon. Boston and the Yankees have the two top payrolls in baseball. Tampa has lost some big names, but will remain competitive.

Expanding baseball's playoff system will only continue to reward these weaker divisions. Balancing the schedule would help a little, but the weaker teams will continue to rack up wins against each other.

The system is broken, and here's my proposal to fix it:

Split the leagues in to two tiers. Take the 10 teams in the east (Exclude Tampa if they can't spend with the big boys. Florida too, once their prospects sign elsewhere) add 6 additional spots for teams in other divisions who are competitive. StL comes to mind, LAA and LAD fit as well. Texas, Colorado and San Francisco  make the most sense to fill out the remainder. If FLA/TB can't cut it, Detroit, the White Sox and Cubs would make terrific substitutes. There would be 4 divisions: 2 NL, 2 AL, with 4 teams each.

Play 162 games. See who emerges. Have the winners of each league playoff in the World Series. If necessary (Read: Profitable) have Divisional Series as well.

Whoever ends up in the bottom 2-4 positions after the regular season would be relegated to what would be the second tier of teams. Based on the current numbers, 14 teams would be left. I'd like to think that expansion would be possible so that both tiers could have the same number of teams. Montreal would fit well in a second division. Maybe Puerto Rico as well? Vancouver? BC is a terrific baseball community, producing some of the best players to come from Canada ever.

The top teams from tier 2 could be promoted, creating 4 more playoff games that would have terrific revenue-generating potential.

So there it is. It's a half-cooked idea, but what more can you expect with little to look forward to until February, when pitchers and catchers report? This is a collaborative effort, so if you see room for me to improve my plan before formal submission (Yeah... Right...) let me know.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buy Low Targets

Well, the winter meetings are finally done. The Jays elected to take a pass on picking someone in the Major-League portion of the Rule 5 draft, and as such, missed an opportunity to take a gamble on a potential high-upside player, with very little risk associated with them.

Since Mr Anthopoulos is always on the look out for potential stars that have low value associated with them, I thought I should see who's available, what they might cost, and why we should go after them.

Alex Gordon, KC:

Obviously the Jays are interested. Gordon has destroyed the competition at every level of the minor leages, with an OPS over 1.000 at AAA in both of his most recent stints. Why he has been unable to translate that success is anyone's guess, but he has definitely worn out his welcom in Kansas City.

I firmly believe that Gordon is the player that the Jays have been targeting in their clandestine meetings with KC, and that Gordon could be had for a package of middling prospects, or players who could contribute at the Major League Level. Brad Mills? Darin Mastroianni? A package of players of that ilk should be enough to bring Gordon to Toronto.

Brandon Wood, LAA:

Brandon Wood just finished another crushing of the Arizona Fall League. Admittedly, he was a 25-year-old, playing with mostly younger prospects. Against pitchers who were mostly trying to stretch out their arms. But, he continues to show flashes of the brilliance that made him so highly regarded as a prospect.

LAA seems unlikely to use him as anything more than a bench player next season, so his value is not overly high, aside from his lofty former-prospect status. They were known to be in the market for Carl Crawford, and now that he's no longer available, maybe they would take a chance on a guy like Eric Thames? Plus some prospect-ish pitching? Seems like a guy that would be worth the risk.

Andrew Miller, FA:

Available as a free agent now that he has been non-tendered. He's a minimum-cost former top prospect that could be an excellent swing-man, or could fully transition to the 'pen.

Fernando Martinez, NYM:

Ranked inside the Baseball America top-20 twice, and top-30 three times, before falling almost completely off the map last season. He has suffered some injuries, and from being rushed into the Mets lineup due to their injuries.

Blocked in LF by Jason Bay, and in CF by Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, Martinez appears to be without a position in New York. He has potential to be at least a 4-tool player (some question his arm strength) and could be a good fit in Toronto. The Mets are beginning a rebuilding phase, and JP Ricciardi is now in the fron office there. What better way for him to scoop up some of his favourite prospects from the Jays' system? Since Martinez is so young, he would likely still have a high cost but I doubt it would be unmanageable.

Mat Gamel, MLW:

Could the Jays and Brewers really make another trade this off-season? Maybe. Gamel has good range, and I could see a move to 1B becoming an option for him. He could still try 3B, and if his arm sorts itself out, he could become the answer for the Jays in the medium-term at that position.

Edwin Encarnacion, FA:

Waiver-claimed by Oakland, but then not tendered a contract. Edwin won't command nearly as much as his $4.75 from last season, and could be a nice sleeper signing. I am not giving up on this guy. Period. He has too much power potential. Now that I've written this, he will likely sign elsewhere in the coming days.

Yonder Alonso, CIN:

Had a brutal first half in AAA, after a hamate-bone surgery last off-season. Came back to life in the second half, but questions still remain. He's also blocked by a pretty good first baseman. Would likely command another top-prospect in return, but less than he would have a year ago, so now would be the time to buy.

Kyle Blanks, SD:

There were only two or three more highly-touted slugging prospects entering this season. Blanks is an enormous individual, and will not last long in the OF. He could DH, and learn to play 1B with Lind.

SD is running out of positions for him, so it may be a chance for them to get some more prospects in return. He would cost a lot, i.e. 1-2 top prospects.

Jordan Schaefer, ATL:

A very athletic player, but plagued by inconsistency. Schaefer, like JP Arencibia also had a strong debut in the Majors. Also like Arencibia, he then proceeded to strike out a tonne. Maybe the coaches could fix a hole in his swing? He would be a defensive upgrade in CF, though we've heard that Wells wants to stay there.

I'll keep this thread open for most of the off-season. Feel free to suggest others in the comments section.

EDIT 1: I've been thinking, and this list is light on pitchers. I know that the Jays aren't looking for pitching specifically, but it's never a bad thing to find another Brandon Morrow.

Joba Chamberlain:

This guy was 3rd on Baseball America's 2008 list. Ahead of Clay Bucholz, Colby Rasmus and our beloved Travis Snider. I know that nobody wants a Yankee castoff, and I personally am not a fan. That said, he's definitely a fallen star at this point.

Adam Miller:

He's been a top prospect in the Indians' organization for almost a half-decade. He's had troubles with his fingers, and before that, his elbow. His injury troubles have de-railed his career, but when he's healthy, he's electric. His fastball tops out at 98, so he could also help from the bullpen. Cleveland didn't bother to protect him, so he's not held in high regard there any longer. Maybe try a lowball offer and see what happens in spring training?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Pro-Prospect Rebuttal: Top Prospect Lists

It seems that I'm of two minds about prospects in the last few weeks. I decided that first round draft picks are a 1-in-3 shot at a major league player. Less than that for all-star talent. (Here's the article)

I was going to go further and jump off the prospect bandwagon, but something interesting happened: I started to look at top prospect lists for the last 5 years, and was SHOCKED at how accurate they were. I'm going to use Baseball America rankings, as they are easiest to find, and I want to have a consistent source.


1- Joe Mauer
2- Felix Hernandez
3- Delmon Young
4- Ian Stewart
5-Joel Guzman
6- Casey Kotchman
7-Scott Kazmir
8-Rickie Weeks
9-Andy Marte
10- Hanley Ramirez
11-Lastings Milledge
12-Dallas Mcpherson
13-Matt Cain
14- Jeff Francoeur
15-Prince Fielder
16- Adam Miller
17- Jason Kubel
18- Jeremy Hermida
19-Chad Billingsley
20- Jeff Niemann
21- Brian Dopirak
22-Calos Quentin
23-Jeff Francis
24- Nick Swisher
25- Jose Capellan

That's 8 current/former All-Stars, and almost all of the top-25 have been above-average major league players. Only about 5 of the top-25 could be considered "busts." that's a remarkable 80% success rate. Other notables from the 2005 top-100 include: Ryan Howard (27), JJ Hardy (28), Edwin Jackson (30), Zach Duke (34), Gavin Floyd (35), Brian McCann (44), Shin-Soo Choo (51), Franklin Gutierrez (54), Curtis Granderson (57), John Danks (59), James Loney (62), Aaron Hill (64), Nick Markakis (65), Cole Hamels (71), Billy Butler (75), Kendry Morales (76), Ubaldo Jimenez (82), Russell Martin (89), Jon Papelbon (91), Ian Kinsler (98)

So, based on no scientific conclusions about top-caliber players, I estimate that about 20% become top-caliber/All-star talent, and almost all become Major League Players.


1- Delmon Young
2- Justin Upton
3- Brandon Wood
4- Jeremy Hermida
5- Steven Drew
6- Francisco Liriano
7- Chad Billingsley
8- Justin Verlander
9-Lastings Milledge
10-Matt Cain
11-Prince Fielder
12- Howie Kendrick
13-Alex Gordon
14- Andy Marte
15-Ryan Zimmermann
16- Ian Stewart
17-Conor Jackson
18- Jarrod Saltalamaccia
19-Andy Laroche
20-Carlos Quentin
21-Nick Markakis
22- Jon Lester
23-Chris Young (Centre Fielder)
24- Bobby Jenks
25- Troy Tulowitzki

Wow, this is an even more impressive prospect class. I'd say 10 or 11 of these guys are perrenial all-stars. There is obviously some year-over-year repeats and guys who've moved up, but a 50-55% all star rate is impressive. Interesting to note that Hanley Ramirez dropped to 30th once he was traded to Florida. I guess it's true that Boston prospects are just worth more... This year's class was easier to find, so if you want to see the rest of the group, follow this link. Another conservative estimate, but again, about 20% all-star calibre. (Ricky Romero also makes an appearance at #87)

1- Daisuke Matsuzaka
2- Alex Gordon
3- Delmon Young
4- Phil Hughes
5- Homer Bailey
6- Cameron Maybin
7- Evan Longoria
8-Brandon Wood
9- Justin Upton
10- Andrew Miller
11- Tim Lincecum
12- Chris Young
13- Andrew McCutcheon
14- Jay Bruce
15-Troy Tulowitzki
16- Yovanni Gallardo
17- Reid Brignac
18- Carlos Gonzalez
19- Andy LaRoche
20- Mike Pelfrey
21- Matt Garza
22- Fernando Martinez
23- Adam Miller
24- Clayton Kershaw
25- Billy Butler

Another stellar group that is already contributing all-stars. What is becoming even more interesting to me, is how many of these former-prospects are currently on different teams than they were at the time of ranking. The rest of the 2007 list is here. Adam Lind was 39th, Travis Snider 53rd, and Brandon Morrow 87th (which looks like a lucky number for the Jays).

1- Jay Bruce
2- Evan Longoria
3- Joba Chamberlain
4- Clay Bucholz
5- Colby Rasmus
6-Cameron Maybin
7-Franklin Morales
9-Homer Bailey
10- David Price
11- ***Travis Snider*** Yeah, that's right, BEFORE Matt "Sliced-Bread" Weiters
12-Matt Weiters
13- Jacoby Ellsbury
14- Andrew McCutcheon
15-Jake McGee
16- Brandon Wood
17- Wade Davis
18-Mike Moustakas
19- Elvis Andrus
20- Fernando Martinez
21- Rick Porcello
22-Carlos Gonzalez
23-Matt LaPorta
24- Nick Adenhart, R.I.P
25- Jordan Schaefer

Some, if not most of the players on this list are still works-in-progress, but the talent that has been displayed is pretty impressive. Once again, to see the rest, click here. Joey Votto makes his first appearance at #44, Gio Gonzalez continues his quest to play in every Major League organization, and if you are curious: Beau Mills was ranked #87. He is also un-protected in this year's Rule-5 draft. Coincedence? I think not. Early prediction has him playing 3B for the Jays in 2011.

It's much too early to play this game with the 2009 list, but here's some highights: Travis Snider was ranked 6th in '09, so he's still got some hype. JP Arencibia ranked 43rd before his down year. Brett Cecil was 72.Canadians, Nick Weglarz and Michael Saunders checked in at 58 and 65 respectively. Brett Lawrie was ranked 81st, Phillippe Aumont was 93rd. #87 was Freddie Freeman, but I doubt he's available right now.

2010 was published less than a year ago, and there are already some all-stars (Heyward) and World series champions on the list (Posey, Bumgarner). The Jays were well represented: (Drabek(25), Lawrie(59), D'Arnaud(81)) #87 was Lars Anderson, who may be redundant in Boston with the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez. Buy-low option? nah... but my superstition will have me keep an eye on him now.

In Summary, top prospects work out. Period. Go through and read the lists. You'll notice that I didn't even have to include team names beside the players listed. Almost all baseball fans know who they are already, speaking to the quality talents that they have developed into. Prospects do seem to move around quite a bit, and I may write a separate piece on that in the near future. But, for teams that can get and keep top prospects, the return is incredible. I'm sure that Alex Anthopoulos knows this, and will continue to go out and acquire these types of players.

No Longer On Board: The Zack Greinke makes me S.A.D edition

All these rumors about the Jays trading Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek (and more!?!?!?!?) for Zack Greinke are making me depressed.

I'm hoping it can be partly attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D- Not to be confused with Social Anxiety Disorder, which Zack Greinke would bring with him to Toronto), due to all the snow we've been getting, but I can't escape the depression that comes with the thought of giving up a future 30-.300-100 hitter in Travis Snider.

I'm still on the fence about Drabek. He's clearly got excellent stuff, a great pedigree, and a fiery competitive streak. But since he's not as 'home-grown' as Snider, I wouldn't be as devastated if he were dealt.

Also, since I've already calculated Greinke's surplus value, we know that Snider+Drabek is already an overpay. The years of control+arbitration are so valuable to any team. Especially a team full of question marks such as the Jays are right now. Snider is worth $13.8 Million just based on next year ALONE, with a conservative 2 WAR estimate. I'm not going to speculate on what his total value would be, because there are too many variables due to the arbitration process. But it's safe to assume that it would be close to Colby Rasmus's $64 Million value. They both have the same amount of service time, though Rasmus has more defensive value. To be conservative, I'll say he has HALF the value of Rasmus (He has more than that.) Based on these reasonable assumptions, (feel free to dispute me in the comments section) Travis Snider ALONE has as much surplus value as Zack Greinke. Adding Drabek makes the deal so one-sided that it's laughable. Any more than that and it becomes legendarily bad.

So, in the holiday spirit, I ask Alex Anthopoulos not to ruin the Jays by making any of these rumored deals.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What The Jays Got for Marcum:


So, by now you've probably read that the Toronto Blue Jays have traded Shawn Marcum. What most people won't know initially is just how awesome the return is.

Brett Lawrie is Canadian. I'm not overly concerned with this. He grew up in BC, and likely has been to more Mariners games than Jays Games.

What I do care about is the fact that the jays just got (arguably) the best Second Base prospect in all of baseball. Baseball America ranked him as the 15th best prospect OVERALL in their mid-season review. John Sickels graded him B+ before the season, and in his mid-year review insinuated that he would upgrade that ranking based on defensive improvements. All scouting reports have him as a fierce competitor, though he lacks defensive intensity. Keith Law called his swing "a prototypical left-handed sweet swing, from the right side."

This guy is a VERY impressive prospect. Be excited. Alex did well in getting this as a return.

As a side note, he apparently posted news of the trade to Toronto in his facebook status. I cannot confirm this, but it's cool that he's excited enough about it to post it.

I reserve the right to take all of this glowing praise back if word leaks that he's not involved in the deal, but it looks like as of now he will be coming to Toronto, he'll likely be added to the 40-man, and will start no lower than AA New Hampshire, though in all likelihood he'll go to Vegas for half the year, targeting a mid-season call up if he doesn't slump. He will definitely be at spring training, with Brian Butterfield glued to his hip. He will be a league average 2B (He also has enough arm-strength to play 3B) before he leaves on an assignment designed to do nothing more than delay his service time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why the Anti-Draft Plan Works.

After looking at the way Kenny Williams runs his teams in Chicago yesterday, and looking back on how poorly the Indians drafted when John Farrell was developing players for them, I thought I should look at the draft over the last decade.

All Stars:
-Adrian Gonzalez (1)
-Chase Utley (15)
-Adam Wainwright (29)

Useful Regulars:
-Rocco Baldelli (6)
-Kelly Johnson (38 Comp round)
-Dustin McGowan (33-Comp)
-Dustin Moseley (34-Comp)

Only 8 of the top 40 (about 20%) players chosen in 2000 made any significant contribution to a Major League Club in the last decade.
On to 2001:
All Stars:
-Joe Mauer (1)
-Mark Prior (2)
-Mark Teixera (5)
-David Wright (31-Comp Round)

Useful Regulars:
-Gavin Floyd (4)
-Casey Kotchman (13)
-Gabe Gross??? (15)
-Aaron Heilman (18)
-Mike Fontenot (19)
-Jeremy Sowers (20)
-Jeremy Bonderman (26)
-Noah Lowry (30)

There were 44 players taken in the first round of 2001. This time 12 players were considered worthy of mention. (27%)

All Stars:
-Zack Greinke (6)
-Prince Fielder(7)
-Joe Saunders (12)
-Scott Kazmir (15)
-Nick Swisher(16)
-Cole Hamels(17)
-Matt Cain(25)
**It makes me sad to know that we drafted Russel Adams with pick 14. 5 future all-stars were taken after him.

Useful Regulars:
-BJ Upton (2)
-Jeff Francis (9)
-Jeremy Hermida (11)
-Khalil Greene (13)
-Royce Ring (18)
-James Loney (19)
-Denard Span (20)
-Jeff Francoeur (23)
-Joe Blanton (24)
-Sergio Santos (27)
-Mark Teahen (39-Comp)

Wow. The '02 first round really produced. 18 of 41 draftees contributed at the ML Level. (44%)

All Stars:
-Nick Markakis (7)
-Aaron Hill (13)
-Chad Cordero (20) Yes, he was once an all-star, look it up if you don't believe me...
-Chad Billingsley (24)
-Carlos Quentin (29)
-Adam Jones (37-Comp)

-Delmon Young (1)
-Rickie Weeks (2)
-Paul Maholm (8)
-John Danks (9)
-Ian Stewart (10)
-Lastings Milledge (12) *Now that's he's been non-tendered, I could see him as a Jay...*
-Conor Jackson (19)
-David Aardsma (22)
-Daric Barton, Mitch Maier, Matt Murton and Jarrod Saltalamaccia were also first rounders, though their usefulness is debatable. 18/37 made it to the show. (48%)

All Stars:
-Justin Verlander (2)
-Jered Weaver (12)
-Phil Hughes (23)
-Huston Street (40-Comp)

-Phil Humber (3)
-Jeff Niemann (4)
-Billy Butler (14)
-Stephen Drew (15)
-David Purcey (16)
-Josh Fields (18) *I'm being generous here*
-Gio Gonzalez (38-Comp)

12/41 made it from the '04 draft. A pretty poor showing (29%)

All Stars:
-Justin Upton (1)
-Ryan Zimmermann (4)
-Ryan Braun (5)
-Ricky Romero (6) *Not yet, but soon*
-Troy Tulowitzki (7)
-Clay Bucholz (42-Comp)

-Alex Gordon (2) and Jeff Clement (3) are debateable
-Wade Townsend (8)
-Mike Pelfrey (9)
-Cameron Maybin (10)
-Andrew McCutcheon (11)
-Jay Bruce (12)
-Chris Volstad (16)
-Cliff Pennington (21)
-Jacoby Ellsbury (23)
-Matt Garza (25)
-Colby Rasmus (28)
-Travis Buck (36-Comp)

19/48 made it this year, a whopping 39.5%. A lot of quality though.

All Stars
-Evan Longoria (3)
-Tim Lincecum (10)

-Luke Hochevar (1)
-Brandon Morrow (5)
-Clayton Kershaw (7)
-Drew Stubbs (8)
-Max Scherzer (11)
-Travis Snider (14)
-Ian Kennedy (21)
-Daniel Bard (28)
-Emmanuel Burriss (33-Comp)
-Chris Coghlan (36-Comp)
-Joba Chamberlain (41)
-Chris Perez (42)

13/44 (29.5%)

The 2007 draft has not yet had time to be properly analyzed. That draft has already contributed 2 All Stars (David Price (1), Jason Heyward (15)) and a handful of players have reached the Majors (Weiters, Bumgarner, LaPorta, Arencibia, Porcello) but there are still players like Mike Moustakas that are in the upper minors and can change the entire perspective on the class. 2008-9-10 all face similar analysis issues.

That said, there is more than enough data to provide a sample size that is workable. Generally speaking, about 30-40 percent of first round (including comp round) players seem to make it to the Major Leagues. If you were running a team, that means that you only have to "get it right" in the first round once every 3 years. (oddly that's about all a hitter in baseball needs to do to be a hall-of-famer...)

Which means that giving up a first rounder isn't really a big deal. I no longer oppose any type-A free agent signings, because I'd bet that they work out much more often than the pick would anyway.

As a follow up, I was looking into top prospect rankings. I had hoped that they would have similar results as the draft: NOT SO. I'll post some information on top prospect lists in the coming days, but those tend to work out MUCH better.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Anti-Prospect GM: Kenny Williams

Everyone loves prospects. Salivating over what they will one day become. They're like babies: unlimited potential. Sadly, like the babies in this analogy, most never realize their full potential.

Nobody in baseball seems to understand this more than Chicago White Sox current General Manager Kenny Williams.

Williams became the General Manager of the White Sox in 2000, and he has built the team into a perrenial contender since. They won the 2005 World Series, and the 2008 AL Central division. Over a period of 10 years, one could call Williams a terrific success as a GM.

What prompted me to write a profile about Williams, is that he seems to HATE prospects, especially his own. In fact, the White Sox began this year without a single prospect in the top-100 in baseball, and then, when Daniel Hudson emerged as an undervalued prospect, Williams traded him too. Let's look at his history:

The first thing that stands out from my research is that Williams and his staff have been TERRIBLE at drafting. I mean, really, really, really bad. Other than 1st-rounder Gordon Beckham (Who has been rumored to be available in trade talks already this winter) Williams has drafted the following collection of standouts in the first round:
-Royce Ring, Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Lance Broadway, Kyle McCulloch, and Aaron Poreda (I'll leave out his 09/10 drafts as it's too soon to analyze those, but Chris Sale seems to be working out nicely)

Of the 9 1st rounders listed, only Becham is still with the team (for now) and only Ring and Poreda are regular contributors at the Major League level (Fields is with the Royals, but didn't offer much this past season) So it's not much surprise that the White Sox don't exactly have a loaded farm system. Despite that, they manage to convince other teams to trade proven Major League players for "prospects."

Here are some of the current White Sox acquired via trade (When I coul dfind who was dealt for them I listed it in Brackets, former 1st rounders in Bold):

Edwin Jackson (Dan Hudson, David Holmberg)
Juan Pierre (John Ely, Jon Link)
Mark Teahen (Chris Getz, Josh Fields)
Jake Peavy (Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, 2 others)
Mark Kotsay (Brian Anderson)
Ramon Castro (Lance Broadway)
Carlos Quentin (Chris Carter)
Gavin Floyd (Freddie Garcia) Gio Gonzalez came to Chicago in this trade, but was dealt for Nick Swisher. Nick Swisher was dealt to NYY and that return has not yielded a Major Leaguer yet.
John Danks (Brandon McCarthy)
Alex Rios (Straight Waiver Claim)

Williams also managed to grab Alexei Ramirez from Cuba, which did not cost him an asset. The White Sox also just gave away another 1st round pick by signing Adam Dunn, so there isn't likely to be another influx of talent in the deep 2011 draft.

Why bother looking so deeply at the GM of another team?

To prove that there are more ways than the draft-and-develop-and-over-value-your-prospects method that some teams (and fans) have been strongly advocating in the past few years. Williams has been surprisingly at or around the $100 Million mark, so he's not spending his way to success. His highest payroll was the 2008 AL Central championship team, coming in at $121 Million.

The other, and more key takeaway is that MOST PROSPECTS FAIL. Unless you plan to offer the argument that the White Sox employ a group of kindergarten children as a scouting staff, it is safe to assume that most of the prospects that Williams has traded away were highly regarded by intelligent baseball minds. Whether that was on draft day, or at another point in their development. Williams seems impervious to having a prospect develop into "the next big thing," yet always seems to extract maximum value for them in trades.

To bring this back to the Toronto Blue Jays: I'm mostly preparing for the outrage that will inevitably occur once Alex Anthopoulos trades away one of his shiny prospect-prizes. If the Jays plan to compete at the Major League level, it will happen. The thing to remember is: Most of them fail anyway.

I'll take a look around at some other GMs over the winter. Epstein is pretty much the opposite of Williams, and he has a couple championships this decade as well, so that might make for a good comparison as well.

We traded for a basketball player?

Ohhhhhhhhh!!! HEYO!!! Officially first out of the gate with the hilarious comment about how two people have the same last name!!! (Although, it is kind of interesting that Charlie is also in Milwaukee....)

Today the Jays traded for Carlos Villanueva, who I am absolutely certain has no relation to the aforementioned Charlie. He will be used in our undermanned bullpen, and should deliver some nice value.

I have no idea who we had to give up for him, though I doubt it would be significant. The player to be named will likely have to be named after the rule 5 draft, as they are likely un-protected, and Milwaukee won't want to risk him being claimed.

There's no way to know how I feel about this yet, but as long as it didn't cost too much, Villanueva is a decent enough Major League reliever, and will no doubt contribute some solid innings for the Jays this year.

Alex Anthopoulos and Mike Wilner were both on the Fan590 today (Here's the link if you want to listen) I really found it interesting how forthcoming and genuine Alex seemed. He explained that in all but one case (I'd guess ManRam) that all the players that the Jays have been linked to this off season were total fabrications. This could be more of his media-trickery, but I tend to believe him regarding free-agents. Trade wise, there are some pretty credible journalists, and multiple sources that I will still give the benefit of the doubt.

He didn't tip his hand very much regarding next week's winter meetings (not that anyone expects him to...) but he seems very optimistic. He did mention that right now, "values are not in line with what we want to do." so he may look for other value acqusitions (i.e. Trades)

I'm starting to think that this winter might not, or maybe shouldn't be as active as most would like. The Jays might really need another year to see what they can get. There are prospects that need to emerge (Drabek, Snider, Arencibia) and Players that need to rebound (Hill, Lind, Escobar) as well as players who will need to maintain there performances from last year (Morrow, Cecil, Marcum, Romero, Wells, Bautista) As well as the question of who will be brought in to play 3rd/1st/DH.

To me, that's a lot of question marks. Closer to the season, I may re-evaluate this stance, but I firmly believe that next year's Jays will need a lot of luck to match this year's team. Obviously there is still a LOT of offseason left. I mostly think I'm just preparing myself for the possibility that this team still needs a year-or-two more before we become the perrenial contenders that Anthopoulos envisions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Compensation picks

John Tomase of the Boston Herald wrote an interesting article in this week's edition, highlighting  how the Red Sox have made out well with compensatory picks for letting their players go. I thought we should look at some of the Blue Jays Highlights as a comparison:

Aaron Sanchez - Marco Scutaro
Noah Syndergaard- James Paxton (Who was compensation for AJ Burnett)
Asher Wojciechowski- Rod Barajas

James Paxton- AJ Burnett. James did not sign, which led to another compensatory pick in the 2010 draft
Jake Marisnick- AJ Burnett


Kevin Ahrens- Frank Catalanotto!
Brett Cecil- Justin Speier
Justin Jackson- Frank Catalanotto
Trystan Magnuson- Ted Lilly

The Jays didn't gain any compensation picks, but Kyle Drabek was taken by the Phillies as compensation for Billy Wagner

Zach Jackson - Kelvim Escobar (Who cost us Michael Young) EDIT: Kelvim Escobar was signed by the Jays as an international free agent. Esteban Loiza cost us Michael Young. That actually hurts even more...

Dustin McGowan- Graeme Lloyd

So, in the last decade, The Jays actually did pretty poorly in terms of compensating for losing Free Agents. The last 2 drafts are too soon to pass judgement on, but looking at the years before that net out only 2 Major League caliber pitchers (Cecil, McGowan) and Adam Lind

Hopefully Anthopoulos' new philosophy on drafting upside over signability will yield some better compensation talent in future years. He's going to get more picks next year, so he'll have ample opportunity.

After reading what Theo Epstein has returned from his choices, and understanding that the Red Sox use the upside philosophy on their drafts, I am at least optimistic.

EDIT: Master Kembo from BlueBirdBanter points out that I missed Adam Lind, who was taken in the third round of the 2004 draft. He  was the second part of the Jays compensation for losing Kelvim Escobar. Turns out that 3rd round picks can be valuable. Also gives reason to be excited about Jake Marisnick.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Big Delicious Bowl of Trade Chips

Now that we've heard that Alex Antopoulos isn't chasing after Justin Upton, we can all take a deep breath and give Travis Snider a big-imaginary-Blue-Jays-Hug. I'm very, very happy that I'll get to see him in a Jays uniform next year, and I'm not overly concerned about our outfield depth.

After I looked at what Brad Mills would be worth in a Justin Upton trade (Here) I started to wonder if there would be a way to place a trade value on everyone, to get an estimate of what we could get, and who we have that's valuable.

As it so happens, sabermatrician Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore, has created an excel spreadsheet that allows for a dollar value to be placed on a player, based on WAR projections, and their current contract. Victor Wang of the Harball Times takes this another step further by compiling a mountain of data that gives a dollar value to all prospects based on John Sickels' rankings.

Since I've already explained that I like WAR, and I publicly follow John Sickels, you can easily conclude that I like these methods for valuing players. I'm going to take it another step further in assessing trade value, by adding a "Major League Ready" component. For Example, JP Arencibia would be more highly valued to some clubs in a trade, because he is ready to contribute at the highest level. Travis D'Arnaud and Carlos Perez may have a higher upside according to Sickels, so I feel the need to account for this in Valuing trades.

This was a mountain of data, and I've had to make some conservative WAR predictions (listed in Brackets) as well as some arbitration award estimates. Here is the data, with my analysis to follow. I'm listing them in order of MY perceived trade value, with the Kalkman number as reference.

Ricky Romero- 68.6 (4WAR average)
Adam Lind- 52.4 Million (Based on 3.5 WAR avg at First Base)
Aaron Hill- 23.6 Mill (3 WAR estimate)
Travis Snider-13.8 Mill (2 WAR) UPSIDE UPSIDE UPSIDE
Shawn Marcum- 19 Mill
Brandon Morrow-13.2 UPSIDE!
Yunel Escobar-17.7
Brett Cecil- 16.5
Kyle Drabek-15.9 -MLB Ready
Jose Bautista-15.2 (8 Mill arb estimate, 4 WAR?)
Deck Mcguire-15.2- Cant be traded yet
Zach Stewart- 15.2- MLB Ready
Rajai Davis- 12.4
Marc Rzepczinski- 11.6
JP Arencibia- 5.5- MLB Ready
Shawn Camp- 10.5
Casey Janssen-8.7
Jeremy Accardo-8.3
Adeiny Hechevarria-0.7- MLB Ready?
Woj, Sanchez, Syndergaard, Murphy- 7.3- All can't be traded yet
Jose Molina- 6.5
Travis D'Arnaud-5.5
Carlos Perez- 5.5
Eric Thamses- 5.5
Kellin Sweeney-5.5
Henderson Alvarez-2.1
Jake Marisnick-0.7

Wow, I made some adjustments based on MLB readiness, but I am amazed at how this list looks. Obviously the prospect values aren't 100% accurate, but that's what the project to deliver to the current club. I'm also amazed at how much value Lind and Hill have, even without all-star levels of production. Lind also gets a value boost by moving to the field, as his WAR positional adjustment is less punishing. Escobar and Morrow are WAY undervalued, because the data I used only estimates their value for next year, not counting all 3 years of arbitration eligibility that they have. Same for Snider (Who could be valued at nearly $100 Million if the arbitration process favours the Jays.)

Because of their team-friendly deals, Romero, Lind and Hill offer massive trade value, even at levels below their career highs. The cost-controlled prospects that are MLB ready also add a huge amount of value (Snider, Cecil, Rzep, Drabek, Deck) so I've moved off my willingness to trade those guys.

For comparison, here are the same trade value factors for some popular trade targets:

Justin Upton- 58.1 Million (career avg is 4.5 WAR)
Colby Rasmus- 64.0 Million (4 years of team control)
Zach Greinke- 33.6 Million (his $13 Million salary brings him way down even at a 6 WAR prediction)

The conclusion is that in order to get these big pieces that are very, very valuable, it would cost the Jays some of their big pieces. The other conclusion is that Lind and Hill are still surprisingly valuable, despite down years. This also allows us to compare trade value when making proposals. ie: Romero + Snider proposal from JP Morosi for Upton a few days ago would be a total 1-sided trade in terms of value. Similarly, a proposal of Drabek + Stewart for Greinke actually nets out to nearly equal value (Surprise!)

If anyone has a trade target that they would like to estimate the value of, post it in the comments and I'll happily calculate the value of said player, and look at what combinations would be fair in a trade offer.

Happy Black Friday everyone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Forgotten Trade Bait: Brad Mills

It's been awfully quiet in Jays land over the past few days. Too quiet. I am sure that Alex Anthopoulos is working on something that will be brain-meltingly huge. Until then, I thought it would be worth looking at another undervalued prospect who is almost definitely trade-bait at this point in his Blue Jay career: Brad Mills.

The JP Ricciardi regime was so enamoured with Mills, that they drafted him twice, first in the 22nd round in 2006, and then in the 4th round in 2007.

He has mostly only made spot starts for the Jays at the Major League level, but has been very good at every minor league level. In three starts last season, he acquitted himself very well, posting a 5.64 ERA. He had one fantastic start against Baltimore (7 innings of shutout ball) and two rougher starts against Boston and Tampa Bay, who are, admittedly, much better than Baltimore.

Based on these appearances, we know two things: He is Major League Ready, and he performs well against mediocre-to-poor opponents.

Which leads me to my conclusion: He could be a very under-rated trade chip. Not a center-piece mind you, but a solid, ML ready contributor. I imagine he would do very well in Arizona (Or any team in the NL for that matter.)

Hear me out regarding his value in a trade: (for now, assume I am considering a Justin Upton trade) be objective: Kevin Towers needs Pitchers. Kevin Towers needs players that are ML ready, and cost-controlled. Mills is both of these things. Mills still has upside, as he was a top-10 Jays prospect before the influx of talent over the past year. Also, Mills has no real role left on the Jays. He's been passed by too many younger prospects, and I see his value as a starter. If he's to continue starting, it will have to be for another organization.

If including Mills allows the Jays to keep a higher-upside prospect, I say do it quickly. Drabek-Mills-Thames-Marisnick-H. Alvarez? Something like that? it would give ARZ exactly what they want in terms of talent, quantity, as well as some quality in Drabek and Alvarez, with upside in Thames and Mills (Both of whom are ML Ready)

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on Mills' value. Comments to follow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

John Sickels Loves the Farm

For those of you that have not already done so, go and check out John Sickels' blog Minor League Ball. He's a terrific scout, with a good pedigree (from what I've read.) My only problem with his work is that he is ULTRA conservative with his projections of prospects. That said, he's just released his professional assesment of the top-20 prospects in the Jays system. Since I'm not a plagiarist, you can go and read what he had to say here.

Considering how conservative his projections are, he LOVED the Jays' system. Admittedly, we only got one A- grade (Drabek), but we went until number 14 before we got out of the Bs! That translates to having 14 players that Sickels views as above-average at the Major League level.

I was disappointed in his rankings of Jake Marisnick and Adeiny Hechavarria. They both got C pluses, which is okay-ish, but most scouts are considerably higher on them. He said that he needed to see more professional at-bats before he could make an assesment.

Still, 14 players that could be occasional all-stars!

Now on to the negative aspect of this: 7 of those 14 are currently projected to be starting pitchers. Add that to the 5 that are on the Major League Roster (Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Rzepczinski) and clearly someone will have to be moved, either to relief, or to another team. 3 more of the top 14 are catchers. For those of you doing the math along with me, that means that the Jays have approximately 4 B prospects that aren't part of a battery. Even adding Marisnick and Hechavarria to this still leaves some considerable holes.

Luckily there is still plenty of offseason to wheel-and-deal. I've already posted my opinion on the Justin Upton Trade speculation, but if someone is after pitching or catching prospects, they should be calling the Jays. Conversely, the Jays' front office should be shopping around these marketable commodities to round out the system.

It should be an interesting next couple of months.

Friday, November 19, 2010

No Longer on Board: The Upton Edition

Yes, He is a great ball player.

Yes, He was taken first overall in 2005.

Yes, he fits the mold of players that Alex Anthopoulos loves.

Yes, He might make next year's team better.

All that said, I am no longer on the bandwagon to go out and get Justin Upton.

Why? you may ask. Because to my eye (which is totally unqualified to make these statements) any trade to acquire Upton is more than likely going to have to include Travis Snider. Unless the trade was straight up, I am NOT okay with that.

Snider has only 3 less career home runs than Upton, in over 300 less ABs. He plays LF in an above-average way, and will be the anchor of the heart of this lineup for many years to come. Upton has great on-base skills, and would be an ideal 3-hitter, but like "Chicks," I dig the long ball.

I could be brought back on-board with this, but only if I knew in my heart that Travis Snider would not be involved in the trade.

As a second note: I actually don't beilieve that this is going to happen. Any trade that Alex Anthopoulos has ever made, save the Halladay trade, has come completely out of the blue. The fact that there has been so much media coverage of this rumour, leads me to believe that the Jays aren't going to make this deal. Call it a hunch.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Second Day of the First Winter Meetings.

Ugh. Really? Rajai Davis? He who couldn't even be considered a regular on a miserable Oakland offense? He who got regula at bats only due to injuries?

Don't get me wrong. He will be an excellent 4th OF. He will likely even grab some extra at bats when Jose Bautista moves to 3B. Just don't ask me to be excited about this move.

I'm not even mad about what we gave up. We only lost two fringey middle relievers, so I'm not really all that upset. I just had so much more hope that these meetings would lead to Anthopoulos fleecing yet another GM who'll sell low on a young guy with a ton of upside (Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, Colby Rasmus.) What's worse, is thanks to our old loud-mouthed friend Ricciardi, nobody in the Jays current front office is allowed to even let out a peep of what's happening regarding trade or free agent discussions. This makes the hot-stove season pretty boring.

In other news, Alex continues to crap on my favourite scrap-heap players, granting Shawn Hill his unconditional release yesterday. I really was hoping that he could get a look as the 5th starter, or as a swingman in the 'pen. His upside justifies it. Instead, he's going to go and catch on with an NL club, and if he's healthy, he should have a solid year. Let's all pull for him to get his injury woes behind him and salvage his career.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The first round of Winter Meetings

So the first set of GM meetings is underway in Orlando. The hot stove has been buzzing like crazy. Since I'm super behind on posts (sorry) I thought I'd just give a quick take:

-John Sickels has his preliminary Jays top prospects list posted here. They're listed alphabetically. It's basically the same as Tammy's list (The Southpaw) He left out Michael McDade, and the commentors let him know.

-I already miss Edwin Encarnacion. Not his defence. I really belived that he could have contributed.

-I'm super glad Dan Uggla didn't get traded to Toronto, I don't see him as a good short term piece, or long term piece. Although Atlanta got him for almost nothing. Great trade for them. Kenny Rosenthal says the Jays offered Roenicke, Farquar and either Mastroianni or Ryan Goins (MLBTR)

-I'm all-in on Manny Ramirez. As soon as the White Sox decline to offer him arbitration. On a one-year redemption contract (a la Vlad Guerrero) I'd be satisfied with the value he would provide anywhere under $10 Million.

-News of the day: The Diamondbacks will listen to offers on Justin Upton. He just took the top spot on my off season wish list. (Above Colby Rasmus) Any 5 Players under Jays control (Who aren't named Snider or Morrow) would be my offer to them. ANY 5.

-The Red Sox are potentially willing to pay part of Papelbon's salary in a trade. The human rain delay would annoy me to death, but I'm intrigued.

-I'm also intrigued that the Chiba Lotte Marines have posted Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He is an OBP machine, and reportedly plays a good 2B. He's also only 26. I'm no expert, but this seems like a good candidate for a future leadoff hitter.

-San Diego now has about 8 Outfielders on their roster, I wonder if we could buy low on Kyle Blanks?

-The Marlins counteracted their poor return on Dan Uggla by signing John Buck. I wouldn't have believed that I'd be writing this a year ago, but he won me over. Look out for their young pitching staff next year.

-Last, but certainly not least, Roy Halladay won another Cy Young award. Obviously it was well deserved.