Jays and the Trade Deadline

Here we are sitting middle of June, and the Jays are still pacing the AL East with a 41-30 record, they have a 4.5 game lead over both the New York Yankees, and Baltimore Orioles so with the trade deadline 45 days away of course its time to start speculating what the team will do. Most baseball pundits have the Jays pegged as buyers at the deadline believing they will still be in contention, and I have to agree with that assessment. Most Jays fans are waiting for this team to crash back to earth, but there offense is the real deal, and there pitching is doing what it needs putting up quality starts, and eating innings. Take a look back at the standings today in 2013 and you will see the Red Sox in first with a 42-29 record, they would finish the season at 97-65 and a World Series. Now I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself by saying the Jays are going to win it all, but a berth in the postseason doesn’t seem out of the question.

There has been a lot of talk about the Jays going out to try and land one of Jeff Samardzija, or David Price as they need a true ace in the rotation, but do they really? The Jays have the second best starters ERA in the AL currently tied with the Los Angeles Angels at 3.67, which has been more than serviceable to this point so why the need to pay the exorbitant price that a top line starter. The Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians qualified for the post season last year with a starters ERA of 3.99, and 3.92 respectively so it looks like the Jays are in good shape but will it hold up, most likely not. Not that I believe the Jays are in for a giant regression to the norm, Beurhle is really the only outlier here but his career ERA is in line with the rest of the team, the concern lies in Hutchinson never having pitched close to 180 innings (career high 149.1 innings in 2011) he’s on pace to throw 176 this season while coming off Tommy John surgery, and Marcus Stroman only having three big league starts under his belt.

For those reasons alone the Jays need to add another number 2-3 starter in the rotation, someone who will eat up innings and pitch to a mid three ERA. With that in mind I also think it will be hard for the Jays to find a willing partner with the assets they need in the American League, teams that will be sellers are already featuring younger starting pitching which they would be unwilling to part with, or teams will be clinging on to contention. Taking a look at the NL is a different story however, there will be several sellers with pitchers entering the final year of there contract, will be a free agent in 2016. Looking at this I found   five pitchers who the Jays should look at, Jason Hammel, AJ Burnett, Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, and Bronson Arroyo. All five of these guys will give you innings through the rest of the season pitching to an ERA in the mid 3’s to 4.00, have pitched in the AL, and more importantly have pitched in the postseason. While none of these are the sexy trade that fans may want they make the most sense for the Jays, all of them are either free agents at the end of this year, or under control for next season. The Jays will not have to give up the farm or part ways with some of there top prospects to land one of these players and that is what really is key here. If the Jays are able to land a starter at the deadline without having to lose any of Sanchez, Stroman, or Norris they will come out winning. If I were AA my first target would be Bartolo Colon, he’s one year removed pitching for Oakland, and you have done business with the Mets before, AA might be able to land Colon with a package of Liam Hendricks and Deck McGuire.

I know fans want them to go all in this year and land a David Price but you would be sacrificing the future and the chance at continued success. The Rangers, Athletics, Rays, Cardinals, and more have continued to win by developing young starters year in and year out and a trade for an “Ace” that isn’t a free agent at the end of the year will cost the Jays 4 of there top 15 prospects. Remember what Kansas gave up for Shields and he is half of what David Price is, the starting point for Samardzija was Hutchinson and one of Stroman/Sanchez. Is one chance at a World Series this year worth another 15 years of waiting? Not to me it isn’t the idea of losing Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, or Davis is more than the Jays farm could recover from. Also the idea of seeing the starting rotation in 2016 on opening day read Hutchinson, Stroman, Sanchez, Hoffman, Norris could be something more special than one year of David Price.


Jays Promote Aaron Sanchez

Yesterday news broke that the Toronto Blue Jays have promoted their top prospect Aaron Sanchez to Triple A Buffalo. Sanchez has posted a 3-4 record with an ERA of 3.82 in Double A New Hampshire this season, and while those numbers at first glance may make you scratch your head a closer look at his body of work will explain the promotion.

Many casual fans observers will say he has not dominated hitters yet at AA to deserve the promotion, or that his BB/9 are too high for him to continue to climb up the ladder, I decided to take a closer look at what Sanchez has done so far this season and through his minor league career. At every stop of the way Sanchez has posted outstanding numbers thus far in Buffalo his H/9 sits at 7.1, his HR/9 is 0.4, his opponent BAA is .219, K/9 is 7.8. Those are in line with each of his seasons through the minors, at this point you might have noticed I left out one glaring stat however his BB/9 which is currently at 5.5 for the year. This is the one issue that keeps knocking Sanchez back, his lack of command of his pitches especially his fastball has been the cause of concern. Outside of his tendency to give up walks he has continued to show the Blue Jays brass that he can take care of hitters in the minors, this is the reason he is being promoted. Moving up to AAA while give the Blue Jays a better idea of how he can handle better hitters, while continuing to work on his command. If he can move up to Buffalo and consistently puts up the same H/9, K/9, and limiting his HR’s the Jays will have a better idea of when he might be able to help out at the major league level.

Speaking for a moment on Sanchez’s BB/9, the other idea might be having him work with a more veteran catcher, everyone mentions how much movement all of Sanchez’s pitches have, which might be a little tough for some younger catchers to get a handle on. Check out this post over at DJF by Kyle Matte on just how much movement Sanchez has on each of his pitches, those pitches just aren’t coming at you quickly they aren’t coming at you straight either. You will notice a lot of similarities in Matt Harvey, and just for comparison’s sake Matt Harvey’s final year in the minors was in Triple A Buffalo his stats that year before a promotion. 7-5, ERA of 3.68 H/9 7.9, HR/9 0.7 BB/9 3.9 K/9 9.2, when he moved up to the Mets his numbers mirrored his AAA stats, with the exception of his BB/9 which lowered to 1.6.

If Aaron Sanchez can continue to do what he has his entire minor league career in Buffalo, and working with the pitching coach, and some veteran catchers and can lower his BB/9 than the Blue Jays will be very happy and most likely be waiting for the day he takes the mound in a big league uniform.

How to fix the MLB schedule

There has been a lot of discussion this season in regards to the imbalanced MLB schedule. Now this is not a new problem, it has been around for years since the start of Interleague play. This year however since the Astros moved to the AL West we have seen Interleague play throughout the entire season as opposed to a few weeks in the middle of the year. The other talk is how we need to shorten the season as 162 games is just absurdly long.

So what are the issues well for starters the imbalance of Interleague play every division is paired up with a division from the opposite league. This can cause issues depending on the strength of the division, example the AL East is taking on the NL West this year, while the AL West is taking on the NL East. If you look at the combined winning percentages of the clubs you start to see the discrepancy, AL East .544% vs NL West .485% and AL West .482% vs NL Central .529%. Right there you can see how it starts to become a little unfair the AL East has 35-22 record and .614 winning percentage against the NL West this season. The AL West also has a winning record against the Central, 44-38, but a large part of that is Oakland having a 13-5 record in Interleague play.

Second issue is the use of the DH in the American League, and no DH in the National League, AL pitchers are asked to hit a few times a season, thus creating higher risk of injury while batting, and running the bases. The other big issue is not playing identical opponents as the rest of your division. The Blue Jays as part of there rivalry series played the division leading Atlanta Braves for four games, however Tampa Bay got to play the Marlins.

Because of this there are some that want Interleague play abolished, while there are certainly negatives, I don’t see MLB getting rid of it anytime soon due to the increase of revenue it provides. Secondly I worked within the format of a 162 game schedule as again I don’t believe MLB is going to be shortening the season and lose revenue.

Currently this is the breakdown of the MLB schedule for each team, 19 games VS your 4 divisional opponents (76 games), 6 or 7 games VS non-divisional opponents (66 games), and 20 Interleague games, for a total of 162 games.

Changes to make everything more even, 18 games VS your 4 divisional opponents (72 games), 6 games VS non-divisional opponents (60 games), 2 games VS each non-league opponent (30 games), for a total of 162 games.

These are some very small changes that can be made to balance everything out, for starters you don’t need 76 games versus your division to figure out the winner. I don’t think you need 72 but to stay within the format of 162 games you lose 1 game against each opponent and wind up with six 3 game series, 3 home and 3 away seems pretty even to me.

Secondly, I don’t think it’s even that some team can play Oakland and Detroit 7 times, while another team gets Houston and Minnesota 6 times. So we even this out, every team plays there non-divisional opponents 6 games each. Nine series will be a 3 game home and away series for 54 games. One series will be a 4 home and 2 away, or 2 home and 4 away and this is due to the changes in Interleague play to ensure everyone plays 81 home and 81 away games. This 4 and 2 series would be rotated every season.

Lastly Interleague play you play every non-leauge team for a 2 game series, ensuring every team will have the same opponents. Each team will play eight two game series on the road for 16 games, and seven two game series at home 14 games or switched, eight home and 7 road. This would rotate each year so the eight teams you played on the road would play on the road the following season, and the seven teams you played at home you would play on the road.

Interleague play is a good thing, it increases the visibility of all times across the league and its players, it makes the players more marketable around the country. You cannot deny that for eight National League teams seeing that Yankees, and Red Sox come to town would not boost revenue. I  have seen what happens in Toronto when teams like San Francisco, and Philadelphia come to town attendance skyrockets, which is increased revenue.

Until MLB decides to get rid of the DH or add it to the NL there is not much I can do about that; but I think a change to the schedule as outlined above would be a big step in the right direction to level the playing field for all teams. You could even use the winning record between the AL vs NL to determine world series home field advantage instead of the All-Star game but that’s another can of worms. Regardless changes need to be made, and it wouldn’t take all that much work to make it happen.

What Team Canada Could Look Like

With the announcement of the roster invitees for Team Canada’s orientation camps being posted, there has been numerous debate as to who Canada should select to represent us in Sochi. GM Yzerman has already stated that an emphasis will be placed on mobility and skating for players, due to the bigger ice. Olympic surfaces are 100ft wide compared to NHL surfaces are 85ft wide allowing for 15ft extra for players to display there skill. With that in mind Yzerman is already attempting to create a roster that will out skate, out skill, and outscore there opponents, Yzerman also will have the luxury of adding two roster spots, as this year the IIHF has increased the roster spots from 23 to 25. 

Canada has so much depth that we could easily have two teams compete at a high level, meaning there will be much shock and awe regarding the selections. The amount of talent at the centre position is disturbing which will force some players to the wing, and it doesn’t stop there the amount of top level defenceman is unmatched in this tournament. The biggest question mark will be in goal heading into Sochi, as a number of younger goalies have just burst onto the scene, and the veterans our heading out, lastly a number of top Canadian goalies are coming off down or injury plagued seasons. So without further ado, here are my choices for the team, I will try and explain my choices as I go along, starting with what I believe will be the easiest choices who plays on the blue line. 

Invited to camp: Weber, Subban, Doughty, Keith, Letang, Green, Phaneuf, Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Dan Hamhuis, Travis Hamonic, Marc Methot, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Seabrook, Marc Staal, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

2014 Selections: Keith – Seabrook, Doughty – Pietrangelo, Weber – Letang, Extras:Hamhuis – Subban

With the extra roster position I think they Yzerman will take an additional defence pairing, I can’t see Yzerman not keeping Keith and Seabrook together, they once again proved they are a dominating pair leading the Blackhawks to this years Cup. Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Weber are the best two way defenceman this country has. Hamhuis is the only other left handed shot selected here, and is responsible in both ends. Lastly Subban and Letang are interchangeable, but the edge goes to Letang here, both put up points but Letang has a few more years consistency and experience.

Now on to the forwards which I know people will be outraged but as mentioned before there are just two many good players, and we can only select 14 of them.

Invited to camp: Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Eric Staal, Tavares, Giroux, Bergeron, Richards, Jordan Staal, Lucic, Nash, Perry, Carter, St. Louis, Hall, Thornton, Duchene, Couture, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Brad Marchand, James Neal, Patrick Sharp

2014 Selections: Stamkos – Crosby – St. Louis, Perry – Getzlaf – E.Stall, Tavares – Toews – Giroux, Nash – Bergeron – Lucic Extras: Couture, Hall

The top three lines I believe are the closest thing to a lock, the top line of Stamkos, Crosby and St. Louis has so much speed and skill that keeping the three of them contained is going to cause fits. St. Louis proved he can still play at a high level, and is one of the best setup men in the league. Pairing that with Crosby and his regular linemate Stamkos they should have no problem putting the puck in the net. Perry, Getzlaf, and E.Stall have the chemistry of playing together in many WC and the last Olympics, they are all strong two way players who get up and down the ice and cause some trouble in the offensive zone. Tavares, Toews, Giroux bring both a great amount of skill, size and speed, the creativity of both Tavares and Giroux should compliment each other well. Nash, Bergeron, Lucic this is the only line were I know Bergeron will be the center the best two way forward in the game he will be your shutdown guy. Nash and Lucic get the nod as they are also talented in there own end, and can keep the puck out of the net and get in the way. In the offensive end they will get pucks on net and cause some traffic. Hall and Couture get the extra spots here both are young, fast and talented and will be leading the next Olympics so the experience will be invaluable, and can replace anyone of the wingers if needed.

Now that we have discussed all that time to look at the goaltending, which I know every Canadian looks at wonders not only whose going to be selected, but who is going to start. There are question marks aplenty in the crease with many Canadian goalies coming off injuries, down years, slumps or are just coming into there own. 

Invited to camp: Luongo, Crawford, Price, Holtby, Smith

2014 Selections: Luongo, Price, Crawford

Lets start by saying this Crawford, Smith and Holtby have a combined 1 game of international experience, so someone is going to get to join to learn about the experience. It becomes Crawford if he can continue his spectacular play from last season, and through the playoffs. Price comes based on his limited success in international play, and has been one of the better Canadian goalies, as long as he proves he is over his last season struggles and will back up Luongo. Thats right Luongo gets the start here, he is still one of the top Canadian goalies, has great numbers in international competition and was the starting goalie in the gold medal game. With the distraction of last season behind him, Luongo should go back to being his self and putting up respectable numbers. 

So there it is my predictions for Team Canada 2014, barring any injury I will be intrigued and following who will get the selections. Let the debating for the next six months begin, and here is hoping everyone has a great season. 

Jays expected not to sign 1st round pick

For the third time in the past five years the Blue Jays are expected not to sign first round pick Phil Bickford. Bickford was selected tenth overall and was considered a hard sign from the start as he had signed a letter of intent to play at Cal State Fullerton. GM Alex Anthopoulos was quick to point out on twitter to Mike Wilner  that this was not a money issue that prevented the signing. The Blue Jays will now lose the remaining slot value for Bickford which was $2,921,400, and will receive the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation for losing out on Bickford.

As mentioned before this marks the third time in five years the Blue Jays have been unable to sign a first round pick. They were unable to come to terms with 2009 first round pick James Paxton, and 2011 first rounder Tyler Beede. Paxton is currently a member of the Seattle Mariners organization, while Beede is a starting pitcher at Vanderbilt University.