FanPost

Where do we go from here?

 

By now, unless you have been under a rock for the entire day (or at work, I suppose), you know that the AA and the Jays pulled off 2 trades that culminated in the Jays acquiring Colby Rasmus for Jason Frasor, Zach Stewart, Mark Rzepcynski, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, undisclosed amounts of cash, and an agreement to give large sums of money to Mark Teahen for a season and half.

The reaction to the trade was swift and unequivocal. BBBers rejoiced, denizens of Viva El Birdos cromited, and many outside observers loved what the Jays did here. The Cardinals and White Sox got what they wanted (present-day pitching help and salary relief, respectively) but the consensus was that the Jays got the upper hand and that the Cardinals, especially, were fleeced.

Not much I can say that hasn’t already been said here or elsewhere on our favourite series of tubes, but I absolutely love this trade. Love, love, love. That’s all.

But where does this leave the Jays going forward? The Jays currently stand 4th in the AL East, 13 games behind  the Red Sox and 11 behind New York for the AL Wild Card. Unless the Sox and Yankees (and the other teams ahead of us in the WC standing) all succumb to 1951 Dodgers-level collapses, the best we can hope for is to battle it out with Tampa for 3rd place in what is, again, the most competitive division in North American professional sports. So let’s, as we’ve become accustomed to for some time, look ahead to the future. If you are interested, follow me past the jump.

 

 

Compared to previous look-to-the-future daydreams, the current version of the future looks very bright, brighter than it did after last season and MUCH brighter than just before Alex Anthopolous took office. As Sky Kalkman explained, the Jays currently employ the best player in baseball, have a solid and still forming young core signed to team-friendly contracts, and a farm system that is solidly among the top 5 (probably top 1 or 2) in baseball. None of this was true even 2 years ago, and it is remarkable the transformation that has gone into the team.

I’m no prospects expert, and lots of people here and elsewhere have spoken about the strength of the Jays’ farm system, so we won’t delve into that right now. I think it’s time we started looking a little closer to the present, maybe even next year, and consider what options the Jays might have to bring the ever-elusive “contending year” into view. Given that we just locked up Bautista to a medium term deal, and he’s mashing the ball like no other, now is probably as good a time as any to go for broke.

The first thing to look at when considering options is salary obligations. AA has done a masterful job of shedding payroll and providing room for the Jays to acquire salary either to help facilitate a trade (such as taking on $10M worth of replacement-level Mark Teahen to help land Edwin Jackson, who was then flipped for Rasmus) or for acquiring new players (as we shall see below).

At present, the Jays have the following players under team control for 2012 and 2013. This includes players signed to long term contracts, and players under the team’s control who are either eligible for arbitration or subject to the reserve clause. I have included their 2012 salary (in millions; reserve clause salaries listed as 0.5M) or estimates of likely arbitration awards.

 

 

2012

 

2013

 

Salary

 

 

Bautista

14

 

14

Rasmus

3.5

 

6

Snider

2

 

4

Lawrie

0.5

 

0.5

Escobar

5

 

5

Lind

5.15

 

5.15

EE

3.5

 

0

Davis

2.75

 

3

JPA

0.5

 

0.5

Romero

5.25

 

7.75

Morrow

4

 

7

Drabek

0.5

 

0.5

Litsch

1

 

2

Cecil

1.5

 

3

Rauch

3.75

 

0

Hech

1.75

 

1.75

Teahen

5.5

 

0

Thames

0.5

 

0.5

Molina

1

 

0

Janssen

1.5

 

0

McGowan

0.5

 

0

Villanueva

2.5

 

0

Totals

66.15

 

60.65

 

This estimated 66 million buys the 2012 Jays an entire roster’s worth of position players aside from 2B (starting lineup plus utility OF, 2 utility IFs – Teahen and EE, and a backup C), 5 starting pitchers, 4 RPs, and Adeiny Hechevarria, who is on a major league contract playing in the minors. For 2013, the obligations are around 60M, since a few guys (Rauch, E5, Teahen) fall off and others get raises through negotiated contracts or arbitration. The 2013 analysis has no salaries for utility players (except for Davis, though the Jays can buy out his $3M salary for 500k, lowering the obligations quoted above to under $60M) or relievers. These together would probably cost <$10M. $0 means the player is a free agent before the 2013 season

For additional savings, we could also buy out the 2012 options of Rauch and/or E5 and go with cheaper options, such as guys currently in AAA. But for the sake of argument, I’m assuming that the Jays exercise those options.

By comparison, the Jays’ 2011 salary is about $70 million, but it was as high as $97M in 2008. Rogers has also been quoted as saying that the team/market could support a payroll of over $100M, even going as high as $140M when the team was ready to compete and conditions were right.

So, setting aside AA’s trade machinations, which are as impossible to predict as they are awesome, let’s check out some free agent options that might improve the team in the medium-term future, shall we?

A problem position for the Jays this year has been DH. Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion haven’t really done well this year, though EE has picked it up a bit of late. Eric Thames has also hit well since being called up. The salary considerations listed above includes both Thames and E5, who could combine to form a solid platoon DH. However, there are a couple of marquee power bats on the free agent market whose production is likely to blow away even what those guys could do in tandem – Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. I think Pujols will resign with the Cardinals, leaving Fielder as the prize catch. Pretty much whatever I say can apply to Pujols just as well as to Fielder.

Much has been discussed in various threads about whether the Jays should acquire Fielder. He has put up 25 offensive WAR in just under 6 major league seasons, including what he loses in baserunning. He will be 28 year old next year, so he’s just in his prime now. He’s a butcher on the basepaths and in the field, but as a DH the latter is not a problem. And even with his lack of footspeed, from 2007 to 2010 (i.e. discounting his rookie season and the current uncompleted one), he has averaged over 4.5 oWAR at 1B, which translates to about 4WAR as a DH. Even at this average (much of which was compiled before his prime), this is a huge upgrade over what the Jays currently have and Fielder could very well be even better over the next 4-5 seasons. Again, he is just entering his prime, and DHing full time should reduce the wear and tear his body will sustain. Given that he can’t play a position well at all and hasn’t quite been as insanely ridiculous over his career as Pujols, I figure he’ll be cheaper than Pujols. Adam Dunn, another good-hit, terrible-field slugger, signed for 4/56 (14M/yr) this offseason, but Dunn is quite a bit older, so Fielder should beat that somewhat. Let’s say he gets 5-6 years at about $18M per year.

My personal opinion, however, is that the Yankees will make Fielder a godfather offer and he’ll sign with them. The Yanks are suffering through a second-place season (the horror!) and have a big hole at DH, so Fielder seems a great way for them to plug yet more elite talent into their lineup.

So what else could the Jays do?

Probably the most glaring hole the Blue Jays have going into 2012 is at 2B. Aaron Hill has, to put it simply, stunk the past 2 seasons. He is under replacement level to date this year. He has a strangely structured contract requiring the Jays to pick up 2 options simultaneously at $8M per year (for 2012 and 2013) after this offseason, or allow him to become a free agent. I would be very surprised if the Jays pick up his options or offer him arbitration, though I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to trying to resign him at a much reduced price. Adeiny Hechevarria is down on the farm, but his bat probably isn’t good enough yet for him to make the bigs. If the Jays want to fill that hole on the cheap, he could do it (since his defense is apparently something to behold), but we are being profligate spenders here, so let’s dream a little.

So how can this hole be filled? Looking at Cot’s Contracts’ list of soon-to-be FA second basemen, one option that catches my eye immediately is Kelly Johnson of the Diamondbacks. He is coming off a bit of a down year, but has still put up 1.9 WAR so far this year (on pace for a 2.5-3WAR season). In 2010, he put up almost 6WAR, so he has upside.

In many ways, Johnson is what we all thought Aaron Hill should have been - a second baseman with pop. He’s a career .263 hitter (Hill .266), but he actually walks (.346 career OBA) whereas Hill doesn’t (.320 career). As well, Johnson has maintained his power numbers of late: His 2009-2011 ISO’s are .165(injury)/.212/.222 while Hill’s are .213/.189/.095. This year, Johnson is batting 224/307/447, but a lot of that is probably attributable to a .271 BABIP (.312 career). He’s a tick above average defensively for his career, too. In all, I think he comes out looking pretty good - his career averages put him at 3-4WAR for a full season and he has 5-6WAR upside. Dan Uggla, another 2B, signed this past offseason with Atlanta for 5/62. Uggla had the better track record, so I see Johnson getting a bit less than than, maybe 4/44.

If the two above scenarios come to pass, that would probably cost the Jays about an extra $30M per season, putting them just below the $100M salary mark for 2012 with only a couple RPs left to be acquired. Basically, the team could add Fielder and Johnson while paying only slightly more than the 2008 team (probably about the same accounting for inflation).

But the dreamer in me thinks Rogers has deeper pockets than that. What if they were willing to go up to $110M in salary – what could that get us. Dare I say it, but we could probably acquire Fielder and Jose Reyes, the remaining member of this year FA triumvirate. Reyes is currently in his age 29 season and has already put up 5.8WAR (~9WAR pace). From 2006-2010 and discounting his injured 2009, he has averaged over 5WAR. He did have a down year in 2010 (2.8WAR) but seems to have bounced back very nicely this year.

Acquiring Reyes would create a logjam at SS with him and Escobar. However, 2B is often referred to as the position for guys who can’t make it at SS, so guys who can make it there should be able to man the position well. Reyes has also played some 2B before, when the Mets acquired Kaz Matsui, so he has some experience. However, I doubt Reyes would sign with the Jays if they told him he wouldn’t be playing SS. So I think Escobar would be the man to move if Reyes was acquired.

So what would it take to get Fielder AND Reyes? Jayson Werth was last year’s marquee FA, and he got 7/126. Reyes will probably get more than that, I think, so let’s give him around 7/140, or $20M per season. He and Fielder would thus add around $38M to the Jays payroll obligations. For 2012, that would put them at $104M minus E5 for $101M. Between the minors and FA relievers, we could probably grab 3 RPs for $4M, putting the payroll around $105M, which is very doable if Rogers' previous comments are to be believed.

I personally like the Fielder/Johnson option, since it maintains a level of payroll flexibility going forward, even while substantially upgrading the present. I think that adding Fielder, Johnson, Rasmus, and Lawrie could improve the team at least 12 wins above this season (3 win bump from each over who they replaced). With some experience/improvement from starters like Cecil, Litsch, and Drabek and no more JoJo, etc, the 2012 Jays could very well be looking at 95+ wins.

I haven’t gone through the list of potential 2013 FAs, nor have I exhausted the possibilities for 2012. Of course, AA spends a lot more time looking at these things than I do (and is a lot smarter than me to boot), so he’s definitely come up with plans/combinations that I haven’t even fathomed. But my point is that the payroll flexibility that AA has developed, combined with the multitude of team-friendly contracts, cost-effective talent the Jays have acquired, and Rogers’ potential piles of money makes the Jays huge players even for marquee FAs in the years to come. As current arbitration-eligible players get too expensive, the wealth of farm talent, especially those players now in the low minors, will be ready to step in at that point and take over. So not only do the Jays have room to make plays for big name FAs, they have the talent to make it sustainable. This is what AA said he would set out to do when he took the Jays’ job, and in my opinion, he has accomplished that.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker