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Roster moves R Us.



Updated: 2018-02-21T08:59:01-05:00

 



Beyond the Top 40: Tom’s 2018 Just Missed List

2018-02-21T08:59:01-05:00

I’ve always liked the ‘Just Missed Out Lists’. Last year Matt and I did reviews of our past ‘just missed lists’. Mine is here. Matt’s here. My list for this year: Francisco Rios: He was on our list last year, #19. He had a poor season, 4.29 ERA in 86 innings at New Hampshire, with few strikeouts (63) and too many walks (39). He throws low-mid 90s fastball, has a good curve and slider and yet he’s not getting the results we’d expect. I was still kind of hopeful for him, many pitchers have a hard time on their first look at Double A, but the drop in strikeouts (going from 8.1/9 in 2016 to 6.6 last year) and the jump in walks (going from 2.2/9 to 4.1) isn’t good. He turns 23 in May, he needs a really good year to get back onto the prospect lists. Harold Ramirez: He was on our list last year, way up at #12 (in retrospect way too high) and he’s on a lot of lists still. He came over in the Francisco Liriano trade, from the Pirates, along with Reese McGuire, for Drew Hutchison. At one time he was a big prospect. Baseball America had him as number 95 on their top 100 prospect list before the 2016 season. He had a pretty lousy 2017 season, hitting .266/.320/.358, with 6 home runs and 5 steals. In 2016 he hit .311/.360/.407. We thought he might be a potential fourth outfielder, but, he doesn’t do much well. He has little power, not enough speed to steal bases and, though he has played all 3 outfield spots, his defense isn’t terrific. He’s 23 now and half a dozen outfielders have leaped over him on the ladder to the majors. He needs a very good year. Yorman Rodriguez: Yorman had a terrific 2017 season, He hit .333/.362/.414, with 3 home runs in 62 games, mostly for Bluefield. I had him on my just missed out list last year as well. Quite good numbers for a 19-year-old catcher. The reasons he missed out on the Top 40 list are: His .333 average was pretty empty, not much for power and it was driven by a high BABIP. He had 7 walks and 25 strikeouts. And, there are questions as to whether he should stay at catcher. His bat looks good for a catcher, for a first baseman, it’s kind of lacking. All that said, in 3 minor league seasons, he’s hit .329/.383/.434 in 190 games. If he can continue hitting and continue to play catcher, he’ll get on our list. Miguel Hiraldo: Miguel was a international signing, this summer, getting himself a $750,000 signing bonus. He’s a shortstop, though he might end up moving to second or the outfield. MLB.com says: He can play shortstop and there’s a chance he stays at the position, but there is also a belief that he might end up at third base. Second base is also a possible destination for the versatile fielder, as is the outfield. This much is certain: Hiraldo is a hit-first prospect and he has a chance to be a special player on offense. Scouts like Hiraldo’s approach and his swing. He’s a mature player with quick hands, a plan at the plate and he can hit the ball hard to all fields. He’s also been praised for his makeup and how he plays the game. When we get some stats to look at, we’ll see if he can make the list. Kevin Vicuna: Kevin was an international signing back in 2014. He’s, reportedly, played great defense at short, but hasn’t hit much yet. His glove has carried him up the ladder. He played in Vancouver, Lansing and Dunedin last year, hitting .269/.322/.303 with 16 walks, 68 strikeouts and 17 steals. If his bat could catch up to his glove.... Nick Hartman: Nick was our 9th round pick in 2016. He spent most of 2017 at Lansing, getting in 4 appearances in Dunedin at the end of the season. In total, he had a 2.76 ERA in 36 games. In 45.2 innings, he allowed 40 hits, 16 walks with 42 strikeouts. His fastball can hit 95 and he has a good curve. He’s 23, it would be good to see him move up a level or two this year. Kirby Snead: Kirby is a 23-year-old, lefty pitcher. Our 10th round pick in 2016, the pick right after Hartman. He had a 1.79 ERA, splitting time between Dunedin and Lansing. In 42 games, he pitched 55.1 innings, allowed[...]



The Blue Jays’ Incredible, Shrinking Future Payroll Commitments

2018-02-20T15:10:01-05:00

It has been well documented how weird an offseason it has been. For the Blue Jays, this has manifested most obviously in the unprecedented amount of business they have transacted in the New Year. The Jays were hardly alone in this respect, as it was a league wide phenomena. But it’s also been an abnormal in another way. With Spring Training underway, the offseason shopping should be mostly over other than perhaps a couple more minor additions. Thus far this offseason, the Blue Jays have not acquired or signed a single player to or with a guaranteed contract beyond the 2018 season. If that doesn’t change between now and Opening Day (and it very well could, this is a common time for extensions), it would be the first time that’s happened in nine years, since the 2008-09 offseason. This isn’t a completely unprecedented path, especially when the team is at a crossroads or undergoing a rebuild. When J.P. Riccardi took over in 2001, they didn’t make any multi-year commitments that winter, or really the next winter (they extended Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske in Spring Training for five years, but not buying any free agent years). As a result of this, the Blue Jays have essentially added no future salary commitments (which I define as all guaranteed payments beyond end of the current season). In trading for Yangervis Solarte and signing Jaime Garcia, they did commit themselves to $2.75-million of buyouts if they don’t pick 2019 options. And it’s in this level of future salary commitments where the Jays are in uncharted territory. At this point, the payroll commitments beyond 2018 stand at $90.4-million to seven players: Troy Tulowitzki ($38M), Russell Martin ($20M), Lourdes Gurriel ($17.4M), Kendrys Morales ($12M) and buyouts for Garcia, Solarte and Justin Smoak ($3M). Cot’s Contracts has detailed contract information going back to 2009, and this total is easily the smallest of those 10 years, with a peak of $253-million after the 2012 offseason. Using my own data, I extended back to the 2000 season to put this further in context: (The charts show the same data, I just couldn’t decide if a bar or line chart was easiest to read so included both) The current total of $90.4-million is the lowest since $69.4-million after the 2005 season. But even that understates how low the current tally is due to significant inflation in baseball salaries since then. One way to at least partially account for that is to look at the future commitments relative to the current year’s payroll. Even back in 2004 and 2005, future commitments were larger than each year’s Opening Day payroll. 2003 is the last year in which future commitments were less than the payroll, and only marginally. By comparison, the current future commitments are not even 60% of the roughly $160-million Opening Day payroll of the current roster. To get a comparable payroll situation to what currently exists, one has to go back to Opening Day 2002, when J.P. Riccardi had spent a winter tearing down the bloat built up during Gord Ash’s tenure. His slashing dramatially reduced future commitments to under $50-million, but there was a lot locked into the 2002 payroll that had to be run off (payroll fell from about $76-million to $50-million the next year). To be clear, this is not a criticism of the front office, simply an observation of interesting historical trends. The reality from 16 years ago is certainly not analogous to the current situation, though the end result might be similar. The Jays are looking contend in 2018, but if things go poorly a lot of the salary rolls off in 2018. The Jays will rebuild/reload/reset, with payroll likely dipping. But the Jays retain strategic flexibility as they’re not locked into a signifiant future obligations. Let’s break down the annual changes in future commitments a little more. In each annual cycle (basially from one Opening Day to the next), there’s three different buckets. Teams add to future commitments, via extensions, signings and t[...]



Florida Auto Exchange Stadium gets new name

2018-02-20T11:48:50-05:00

The tongue-twister is no longer. After the seven-year, $181,000 naming rights deal with Florida Auto Exchange expired on October 1, 2017, the city of Dunedin has renamed the home of the Dunedin Blue Jays and spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays as “Dunedin Stadium,” returning to the name that graced the building from 1990 to 2003. Tom Young of Sportsnet 590 The Fan gave us a look at the new branding on Tuesday, one day after Toronto’s first full-squad workout of spring training. I’m here in Dunedin & I might be last person to know this but #BlueJays S.T. Stadium is no longer named Florida Auto Exchange! Guess I missed the memo! Take a look!! Meantime gathering #Jays radio gear to be in place & ready to go later this Friday webcast @Fan590 pic.twitter.com/oSxnKPuzHa— Tomyoung590 (@tomyoung590) February 19, 2018 The ballpark rests on the site of Toronto’s first spring training home, Grant Field, which was first used in 1930 before its demolition in 1989. Dunedin Stadium, as the park was then called, was built at the site of Grant Field in time for the 1990 spring training. From 2004 to 2008, the park was known as Knology Park in a deal for naming rights with the entertainment and communications company. For the 2009 and 2010 minor-league seasons, the park returned to the name of Dunedin Stadium, before Florida Auto Exchange purchased naming rights after the 2010 season. Interestingly, Florida Auto Exchange’s first proposal for the stadium name was Dr. Credit Stadium, as indicated in the official paperwork released by the city of Dunedin. Josh Donaldson commented on the status of his contract extension talks with the Blue Jays publicly yesterday, telling the assembled media that two two parties aren’t seeing “eye-to-eye.” “We’re not at the same type of area, the same ballpark, to make a discussion moving forward,” Donaldson told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. “I’m extremely happy with what’s transpired throughout this time. Mark [Shapiro] and Ross [Atkins] have been very upfront with me throughout this entire process.” When asked if he expects to become a free agent at the end of this season, Donaldson said that he did. Additionally, he said that he wouldn’t discuss his contract with the Blue Jays or the media during the season, as to focus on baseball. “Long term contracts [are] kind of a distant memory for me right now,” Donaldson told Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun. “I just kind of want to move forward past that and . . . really focus on winning games, because ultimately our goal is to win a World Series and I do not want to hinder that at all.” Other news: J.D. Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Boston Red Sox yesterday. The front-loaded contract includes a player opt-out after two years. Tom fully covered what the signing means for the Blue Jays in his post, which you can read here. MLB announced that there would be no pitch clock for the 2018 season, but that a maximum of six mound visits per nine innings would be instituted. Still, as Joel Sherman reports, it doesn’t seem like there is much of a penalty for visiting the mound a seventh time. Find Mark on Twitter @MarkColley. He can be contacted at markarcolley@gmail.com. [...]



J.D. Martinez signs with Red Sox

2018-02-19T18:04:38-05:00

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We knew it was coming.

J.D. Martinez signed a 5-year contract with the Red Sox. He’s going to get $110 million. $50 million over the first two years, so $25 million per. $60 million over the last three year, so $20 million a year for those three.

And, apparently, there are two player opt outs. I’d imagine after year two and then after year three or four.

I wonder if Josh Donaldson could be talked into a front loaded contract. It would make a fair bit of sense. If he wanted five years, make the first three worth more than the last two.

Of course, JD is 30, for the first season of this contract. Josh will be 33 for the first season of his next contract. But Josh has a longer stretch of great play.

This one makes the Red Sox better, never a good thing, but I wonder why they didn’t go after Edwin last year. If they had money for JD, they must have had money for Edwin.

And Jerrod Dyson signed a 2-year deal with the Diamondbacks.




Monday Bantering: Josh Donaldson is expecting to hit free agency

2018-02-19T15:36:48-05:00

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Josh Donaldson has told reporters that he’s going to ‘shut down’ contract extension talks with the Blue Jays. He said he expects to hit free agency next year.

There are a series of tweets from Jays writers in which it sounds like he is unhappy with how extension talks have gone:

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We’ve heard this one from many players:

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This sounds much like things Josh Bautista said two years ago. Each player think that he is the one that won’t age. I remember the stories about how Jose would age well because he keeps himself flexible.

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If he’s extremely comfortable in entering the free agent market, he hasn’t been paying attention. Sluggers on the wrong side of 30 haven’t been doing well. He might do better, but then I wouldn’t bet on it.

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I’m guessing not ‘extremely happy’. Extremely happy would mean he’s signed a contract. Or that’s the way I would think it would go.


MLB has released some rules designed to speed up games. Thankfully no pitch clock (yet), but there are limits on visits to the mound. Teams will be limited to 6 visits to the mound a game. The ‘visits’ will include trips to the mound by teammates, including the catcher. Games against the Yankees will be much different next year.


Troy Tulowitzki says his ankle feels better, but he hasn’t run on it much yet. He likely won’t be playing in the first few spring games. He’s got more than a month to be ready for opening day, but I’m sure the team won’t be pushing him hard.




Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: J.A. Happ

2018-02-19T14:08:51-05:00

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J.A. Happ‘s second go round with the Blue Jays has been so much better than the first go.

In 2016, he went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 3.2 fWAR.

2017, he had a bit of injury trouble, but went 10-11 with a 3.53 ERA and a 2.9 fWAR. His FIP was actually better in 2017 than 2016. It would be nice if he could pitch a little deeper into games, he averaged 5.8 innings per start, but we can’t have everything. .

When we signed him to the 3-year, $36 million contract. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled, but FanGraphs tells us he’s been worth $48.3 million over the first two years. So, I was wrong to worry.

Now that he’s in the last year of his contract, the troubles of this year’s free agent class must have J.A. wondering what will happen after this season ends. And more for him to think about, with both Happ and Estrada in the last year of their contracts, if the team falls out of the race, either or both could be shopped at the trade deadline.

Happ is 35 now. At some point he’ll start going into decline. But then, he’s really just become very good the last 3 years. He’s had an 11 year career, totaled 17.5 bWAR, but 10.5 of that has come in the last three seasons.

I’ve always thought that pitchers that come into their own in their 30s tend to age well. His ‘under age 30’ workload was lighter than most starters, as he bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, so maybe there is less wear and tear on his arm than your average pitcher. There hasn’t been a drop in his velocity, maybe he can be effective into his late 30s.

PECOTA projects Happ to have a 4.15 ERA in 27 starts and a 1.7 WAR. ZiPS is a little more optimistic, seeing a 3.85 ERA in 142 innings over 25 starts and a 2.7 WAR. Let’s hope ZiPS has it right.

Happ is starting to climb up our franchise leader boards. He is:

  • 19th in bWAR for pitchers at 9.8. A 1.9 WAR would get him to the 11th spot.
  • 12th in Wins at 49. His 3rd win this year will put him in the top 10.
  • 17th in Strikeouts at 561. 102 more would get him into the top 10.




Beyond the Top 40: Matt’s 2018 Just Missed List

2018-02-19T12:00:56-05:00

With the Top 40 itself now completed, we dive into the weeds this week to conclude with the annual look beyond the top 40. Today is my “just missed” list, Tom’s will follow on Wednesday, and Friday will conclude with a Top 5 of the “older“ prospects who missed the age cutoff. 2018: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-12 | 13-16 | 17-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 2017: Top 40 Index Looking at the less heralded, under-the-radar players in the system is one of my favourite parts of this process. The players on this list are generally either those that I had higher than Tom, were on the fringe and just got shuffled off the backend of the list, or are plausible candidates to make a big jump up the rankings next year. For this portion, I don’t include players without professional data at or above the GCL level (complex ball), though some obviously have the upside to be interesting and make future lists. Last year I reviewed my lists from 2015-16, the former pretty good in identifying some diamonds in the rough and the latter not so much. Last year’s falls somewhat in between. Osman Gutierrez started to put things together in Lansing last summer before being traded, and would have made the list. Rodrigo Orozco moved into the backend. Tom Robson started to harness his stuff before getting injured. Chris Hall and Kyle Weatherly performed well in Vancouver but struggled in shorter stints in Lansing. With that said, this year’s list. I was actually surprised by how many players I wanted to touch on, where there’s something interesting, so to some degree that’s probably a good sign of increased depth in the system. Connor Panas, OF, age 25 (DOB: 2/11/1993) Through the middle of 2017, Panas had shown some power and on-base ability but with a high strikeout rate and as a player who was always older for the league in which he was playing. Thus the overall production was unremarkable for a corner outfielder in context. But then he busted out in a big way, carrying the Dunedin offence down the stretch and in the playoffs (three HR in three games). From US Independence Day onwards, Panas mashed .322/.392/.607, hitting 17 home runs in 252 PA, and cutting his strikeout rate to 20% from 26%. This level of breakout simply can’t be ignored, and is why he’s on my list despite my retaining a strong degree of skepticism. One reason is that looking historically, a number of Blue Jays prospects have had big jumps in Dunedin that turned out to be aberrations. The FSL is a pitcher’s league, but Dunedin is a hitter’s park, especially for power. So 2018 in AA will be the real test of whether this is a legitimate breakout or a flash in the pan of fool’s gold. If he continues to slug against better pitching, he’ll make this way onto next year’s top 40. Maximo Castillo, RHP, age 18 (DOB: 5/4/1999) Castillo was signed in September 2015 for $10,000 and quickly made his way stateside in the middle of 2016 at age 17. His performance in the GCL was unremarkable, but showed enough to make the jump to Bluefield where he had a very nice 2017 in 51.1 innings over 11 starts. The headline number is 58 strikeouts against 7 walks, and that’s the basis for putting him here. His fastball works in the low 90s, and he got a lot of swings and misses on his breaking ball. I’d expect to see him at someone in 2018 in Lansing. Tom Robson, RHP, age 24 (DOB: 6/27/1993) Robson’s had quite the trek through the system and up and down our lists over the years, with injuries slowing his progress. He’s still got a big arm, but he’s struggled to harness his stuff in the bullpen over the last few years. After a slow start and messy outings in April last year, he seemed to do just that, with a 1.63 ERA in 27.2 innings from May onwards. He was consistently at 95-97 with his fastball, and piling up ground balls. Shortly after moving up to AA he went on the DL and missed the last 5 weeks. H[...]



Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Lourdes Gurriel

2018-02-18T14:39:17-05:00

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Off topic, but I’m really enjoying seeing the pictures of spring training in my twitter feed. If you aren’t following @frankgunnphoto you really should. Lots of great pics.

The Blue Jays signed Lourdes Gurriel to a seven-year $22 million contract in the winter before the 2017 season.

Lourdes played all the infield spots and left field in the Cuban National Series. Gurriel had great batting stats in Cuba. In 2016, he hit .344/.407/.560 with 10 home runs, 21 walks and 23 strikeouts in 59 games.

Last year my question was “will we see him in Toronto this year” and I said “I’d imagine we will, as long as he isn’t awful”. Well, maybe awful might be overstating it, but he wasn’t good, hitting .229/.268/.339 splitting time between Dunedin and New Hampshire last year. Actually, awful wouldn’t be overstating it. He did do much better in the AFL, .291/.309/.494, but that was in just 81 PA.

He dropped from 6th to 18th in our Top 40 prospect list, and 18th may have still been too high.

This year the question seems to be:

What is the plan for Lourdes?

The Jays seemed to be looking at him to be a super-utility player. Someone in the Ben Zobrist mode. After picking up Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte, it appears that role has been taken. Of course, with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis, it is likely there will be will be roster spots open at times.

Right now, what he has to do is have a better season and re-establish him as a prospect. I’d imagine they will have him start the season at Buffalo and have him sink or swim. Make him prove that he deserves a spot, if there is an injury on the MLB team. We can let one poor season slide.

If he has 2 poor seasons, well, there are a number of guys who will be overtaking him on the climb to the majors.

I am really curious to see how he does this year. A good year and he’d be back on the map, a bad year and it is hard to imagine he’d stay on the 40-man, other than he has a contract.

The team is paying him for the next 6 years:

18:$1M, 19:$1.5M, 20:$2.5M, 21:$3.5M, 22:$4.5M,23:$5.4M

So he is going to be some where in the organization for awhile.