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Your Bluebird Banter Bloggers 2008 Pre-Season Roundtable, Part III

That, of course, is Arthur's roundtable. I'm an Arthur fan, as he was Welsh (by most accounts), and the Welsh are just cool. Fflewddur Fflam! Besides, without the Welsh, it's debatable there'd be no England , therefore, no Canada or the U.S., and no baseball starting in 2 weeks! Certainly, Henry V would be a very different story. Read on as our brave knights debate the coming season, in Part III of our roundtable. For parts I and II, respectively, click here and here.

8. How do you think the Jays will do this season? Realistically, what are their chances to make the postseason? What is your projected order of finish for the AL East?

Mark W: A lot of things would have to go right for them to even sniff the playoffs. If they were in the NL, of course, the outlook would be much different. Fortunately, based on last year's plethora of offensive injuries and offensive disappointment's, there still exists quite a bit of room for realistic improvement.

My projected standings:

1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Blue Jays
4. Rays
5. Orioles

achengy: The Jays will likely be around .500 again but I think they'll improve on last season. The Jays will be in the race but ultimately lose to one of Detroit or Cleveland in my opinion. My projected order for the AL East is 1. Boston 2. Toronto 3. New York 4. Tampa Bay 5. Baltimore.

The decision to place New York in 3rd may get some people going but I think Joe Torre makes a huge difference. The rotation even with youngsters seems to struggle (except for Hughes imo). I see Igawa and Mussina sucking. I see Wang struggling to get back his composure after his struggles in the post-season and the steroid discussions definitely won't stop. I see the offense regressing as well.

Alpheus: It is a really difficult question to say how the Jays will do this season. Health permitted, they can possibly finish first, but realistically, I see them finishing no higher than 2nd in the AL East and even that is a reach. I will give them a 20% chance at best to make the postseason. The Red Sox are just too good right now for the Jays to surpass them. If one or more of the Yankees' young pitchers (Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy) tank this year, the Jays have a good chance in surpassing them, but the window is narrow. My projected order of finish: 1) Boston Red Sox 2) New York Yankees 3) Toronto Blue Jays 4) Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5) Baltimore Orioles.

Quinton : Projected standings in the AL East: 1 Sox, 2 Yanks, 3 Jays, 4 Rays, 5 Orioles

Hugo: Well, I wish I could say I was more optimistic than y'all, but I think the Red Sox are going to be very tough to beat this season. They have great pitching (even without Schilling) and a good mix of veterans and youth. I do think Ellsbury and Lowell won't be as good as they were last season, but I could see Matsuzaka, Drew, and Lugo being much better. The Yankees have a ton of question marks in terms of pitching but unlike many, I'm a Wang-believer, and their offense should still be good enough to get them where they need to go. I don't think it's impossible for the Jays to come in 2nd or even 1st, but I don't think it's likely either. And the Rays should be much better this season, with improved pitching and much-improved defense. Going from Harris and Upton up the middle to Bartlett and Iwamura could make a huge difference, and Longoria looks great. They'll probably have to wait another year or two, but you never know. The only team that really has no chance is the O's, but at least they're reloading the team, finally.

9. Should the Jays be around .500, as they always seem to be lately, in June, should they look to trade guys like Burnett (and who else if so) for prospects?

Quinton: I think if the Jays are around 500 in June it shouldn't be a time to start selling off. Injuries no doubt would be a factor, and perhaps a change in manager or a pitcher would be in need. I think this team is built for success and selling off in June doesn't give you fans much faith beyond June to keep ticket sales going and it's kind of alienating them. Perhaps when June comes I will have a better idea of what I think needs to change IMHO.

Alpheus: One of the things that I have been most critical of Ricciardi is his inability and seeming unwillingless to pull the plug on the team when it seems pretty clear the team has no shot in making the post season. Burnett is an obvious candidate that should be traded. I would count Frank Thomas as another. I would love to unload Vernon Wells but no one is dumb enough to take his albatross contract. Those players aside, none of our stopgap veterans (i.e. Eckstein) have much trade value, and those that do (i.e. Rolen, Overbay), we don't have any capable replacements from within.

achengy: I believe in 2009 we will we without Burnett anyway. Burnett should be in demand as he's an elite pitcher when healthy so I definitely will look to deal him but Riccardi and his mouth may lower his value (wtf is Riccardi thinking when you ridicule a player with an opt-out clause?). I think Sparky should be traded to make room for Lind. I'm not sure how much he should fetch but he'll definitely be a great asset on a playoff bound team.

Mark W: Unless he implodes, Burnett seems destined to opt out of his contract. Unless J.P. can trade for a suitable package, he might as well just accept two draft picks as compensation, or try to re-sign him. My aversion towards very high spending on free agents has lessened somewhat, since I'm not sure what each team's financial ceiling is. Money appears to be overabundant in the game at the moment, so if a free agent acquisition would significantly improve the team, I'd be all for it.

Hugo: Great points, everybody. I would rather not see the Jays sputter to another finish without making any moves, but it didn't really hurt the team last season since they didn't lose anyone and they didn't have much to trade. I'd rather see A.J. moved for talent than draft picks, since I think draft picks can be a bit overrated, but of course if you can't get the players you want, you're better off taking the picks. Although I really like Overbay, if he is having a good season, it might be a good idea to try to move him. I say that because his contract is reasonable and he has 2 years left on it so he could get good value, and we might be looking at 1st base for Adam Lind next season if the Big Hurt has enough PAs for his option to vest and Travis Snider is ready for the big time in 2009. In that case, there wouldn't be much room for Lind. Downs could be a good candidate to get moved as well, particularly if Tallet and Parish continue to look capable - but he probably wouldn't fetch anything as good as the 2 picks (he was a type A free agent last season so if he has a good year this year he will be again).

10. What do you think about Ricciardi and Gibbons? Do you think the Jays can win with them, or should the team move on?

Chengy: I think Riccardi and Gibbons are average-below average at their jobs. We won't get anything out of them and we should move on. The fact that the Yankees and Red Sox are doing better then us in the standings with stronger farm teams is a slap in the face. We'll always be playing second fiddle to them if Ricciardi is at the helm.

Alpheus: I have never been a fan of Gibbons, I think he handles the bullpen poorly and personally I don't like his demeanor on the bench. I was very much hoping for him to get fired but that wish has never been granted to me. As for J.P. Ricciardi, he has made some good moves, but for a man who has such grand plans for the future, he really has not faired well in building a foundation for sustainable success in the present and the future. It is tough to criticize the Jays scouting as they have drafted some useful players (i.e. Marcum, Janssen, Lind, etc...), but we have not developed any difference makers in recent memory. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and the Tigers are willing to pay the big bucks for the big prospects, and they get rewarded with some of the deepest farm systems in the game. I wish the Jays could do the same. Aside from that, I feel like Ricciardi has done a very good job bringing in useful pieces to fill in the gaps, but has not done anything to wow me or dramatically improve the team.

Quinton: I think JP is arrogant and as a person I don't know if we would get along, however I do think he has done a good job, because believe me I don't want to discuss Gord Ash (grr). Gibbons I am not so sure, he has had some issues with players that have been widely public. Shea is a detractor on just about any ball club but I don't see Ted Lilly as a detraction from a positive team environment, but they are both gone now regardless. Gibby calls it how he sees it but that's not always good. Important to hold your players accountable for their performance but if this season isn't deemed a success I think its Gibby who needs to be held accountable.

Mark W: I'm somewhat apathetic toward Gibbons, and managers in general. I'm not quite convinced that they're all that important, to be honest. Awful managers -- i.e. Dusty Baker -- and great managers -- i.e. Earl Weaver -- aside, is there much separation between them?

I'm inclined to give Ricciardi more time at the helm. At this point, he seems to be structuring the team around pitching and defense, which is a strategic departure from Red Sox and Yankees. In order to truly compete with them, of course, he'll need to address the offense at some point, and the farm system needs a large overhaul.

Hugo: I can't really quantify the effect of a manager on a team. I've played on horrible teams with great managers, and great teams with lousy ones. I do think there is an effect, but it's very difficult to pin down. The players seem to respect Gibbons, which is good, and the atmosphere seems relatively relaxed. But sometimes I wonder if he is really getting the best out of them. Anyway, it's hard to say, so I prefer not to speculate. Tactically, he's not great, but despite my constant nagging of him in the Waxing Gibbons/Waning Gibbons columns last season, I don't think he's as poor a manager as some seem to. I don't like the way he seems to be too quick to yank some of his starters and leave others in for way too long. Regardless, I can't see Gibbons being asked back unless the team makes the playoffs.

As for Ricciardi, he's made some good moves, but I think the problem here is that the Jays need a GM better than average or slightly above to compete with the big guns in the AL East (who don't have bad GMs themselves). Ricciardi is basically competent but sometimes I'm afraid he lacks the inspiration to really put the team over the top. But he did trade Shea Hillenbrand for Jeremy Accardo, and that's awesome for so many reasons.

Well, fellas, that concludes our preseason roundtable. Thanks for participating and I look forward to continuing to talk baseball during the season!