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Darren Oliver And Alan Ashby Not Expected To Be With Blue Jays When R.A. Dickey Starts On Opening Day

Cooper Neill

Darren Oliver's Retirement

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos does not expect 42-year old reliever Darren Oliver to be playing with the club come Opening Day 2013 and thinks he is going to retire, according to contributor Chris Toman, who spoke with Anthopoulos on Friday. Anthopoulos re-iterated what we already knew:

"When we signed him we knew there was a strong possibility that he would only play with us for one year. And toward the end of the year, he hinted many times that retiring was an option he was strongly considering."

Oliver went into the offseason telling the club and the press that he was considering retirement despite having signed a contract that included a $3 million club option for 2013, which the Blue Jays elected to pick up last fall.

This week, Oliver's agent Jeff Frye had told the's T.R. Sullivan that Oliver was going to retire unless they gave him a raise, although he may be willing to keep his current salary if he was traded to the Texas Rangers as he resides a half hour away from Arlington. This understandably caused many Blue Jays fans to be unhappy about the situation, and it generated quite the discussion right here on Bluebird Banter. Anthopoulos did not see these comments and was "visibly surprised" when Toman brought it to his attention saying:

"As far as restructuring his contract, I would never say never, but his contract is his contract. That's what we signed him to. I don't see us doing that."

Darren Oliver was fantastic last year--much better than any of us could have hoped, pitching in 56.2 innings with a 2.06 ERA (207 ERA+), a 1.024 WHIP, and accruing 1.9 bWAR. His last few years have been highly atypical of a player his age, improving almost every year since he was converted to a reliever in 2006. He is already being rewarded for his play last season: he signed a contract with the Blue Jays that included a one-year $3 million club option that was picked up. He wasn't too insulted by that number a year ago at this time (he signed on January 9, 2012). While the Blue Jays need a lefty like him in the bullpen, it would be a mistake if the club considered giving him a raise just because he asked for it--it would set a horrible precedent for other players. Although a raise probably won't be considered, I think that it is in Alex Anthopoulos' character to give the Rangers a phone call to see who they would offer in exchange for Oliver's remaining year. (How many Oliver-for-Jurickson Profar suggestions will we see?)

It is well within Oliver's right to retire if he believes he would be happier spending time with his family than playing. We shouldn't vilify him for making that choice. However, Oliver and Frye erred by taking this negotiation to the media by talking to T.R. Sullivan, Ken Rosenthal, and Jon Paul Morosi. I find that people react more to the way something is done than the action itself--there's something to say about tact.

All this said, I wouldn't mind him retiring, I wouldn't mind letting him pitch at home for appropriate compensation, and I would very much welcome his return to the club under the current terms.

Right now the lefties in the pen are Brett Cecil, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Loup. I would like to see Loup try to fill in Oliver's role, but I wouldn't bet on him pitching as well as he did in 2012 (2.64 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, 0.6 bWAR in 30.2 innings).

Astro Buns

Another member of the Blue Jays family will not be with the club in 2013. Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reported that Alan Ashby, who had been Jerry Howarth's radio partner for the past six seasons, will be re-joining the Houston Astros to do play-by-play and analysis on their television broadcasts. Ashby--nicknamed "Buns" in Toronto--was granted permission to interview with Houston last month. He resigned this past Monday with three years left on his contract. The National Post's John Lott spoke with the Houston resident, who said some real nice things about his time in Canada:

"I feel blessed and fortunate to be able to come home, giving my wife and me a chance to live at home now and work here in Houston. But – and the ‘but’ is huge – my six years in Toronto were absolutely the best, and I appreciate everybody, all the fans, everybody I was associated with at the ballpark. It was just the greatest experience."

He is very thankful for then-general manager of Toronto's sports radio station Fan 590 Nelson Millman for offering him a job after the Astros let him go after the 2005 season, calling it a "life-saving moment." The Fan's current program director Don Kollins had promised Ashby permission to make a lateral move to the Astros when the job opening arrived.

This offseason, John Farrell, Darren Oliver, and Alan Ashby all did not want to return to Toronto for 2013 despite being under contract. It is very interesting to see how differently fans reacted to the three departures--it almost seems that fans are more accepting of Ashby leaving because he handled it in an appropriate way (with class)!

I will miss listening to the Howarth-Ashby team on the radio this upcoming season, and I hope that the folks over at Crawfish Boxes will enjoy his straightforward commentary and criticism of the team and their players and coaches.

Thinking of replacements for the Blue Jays, Elliott threw out the names Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst, assuming that the Fan would like to see a former player in the booth. The Drunk Jays Fans' Andrew Stoeten and others on Twitter have suggested that Mike Wilner could be in play for the job. I'm a big fan of his when he hosts Blue Jays Talk, but I did not love his play-by-play work when he filled in from time-to-time. He wouldn't be the worst choice, but let's see what other names are floating out there (Russ Langer of the Las Vegas 51s? Ben Wagner of the Buffalo Bisons?).

Opening Day Starter

Alex Anthopoulos confirmed tonight that his newly-acquired knuckleballer will likely be the starter on April 2 against the Cleveland Indians:

Dickey will become the fifth Cy Young winner to start on Opening Day for the Blue Jays in the subsequent year: David Cone (1995 vs. Athletics), Pat Hentgen (1997 vs. White Sox), Roger Clemens (1998 vs. Twins), Roy Halladay (2004 vs. Tigers).