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Thursday Bantering: Blue Jays scout Otani, Shapiro Speaks, Celery Wins

Your daily dose of Blue Jays news

MLB: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays had a few announcements yesterday, of which I recapped here.

Today is the last day for trades before the post season eligibility, so naturally we have some trades to report:

The Tigers have sent Justin Upton to the Angels, and Cameron Maybin is going from the Angels to the Astros. The Yankees also picked up catcher Erik Kratz from Cleveland in anticipation of the Sanchez/Romine suspensions.

Please feel free to share any other updates as they are released in the comments...

There’s some Blue Jays news trickling out today.

The Blue Jays are among the 15 teams that requested scout seats to see a player who has been dubbed “The Babe Ruth of Japan”, Shohei Otani.

Otani is a very special player, as he could function as both a front of the rotation ace, and a middle of the line-up bat. In 2016, he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs, and also boasts an ERA of 1.86 with a WHIP of 0.96 over 140 innings as a starter. His fastball can hit triple digits. Otani has struggled with injuries this year, specifically thigh and ankle issues. There’s a big read over at Sportsnet, if anyone wants to dive deeper into his story.

Otani is said to be under consideration to move over to North America in the off season, but at his age, MLB’s collective bargaining agreement restricts him to a signing bonus within a team’s international pool allotment. If he waits until he turns 25 in a couple years, he can sign for any amount as a regular free agent.

MLB published a half hour interview with team president and CEO, Mark Shapiro. In addition to a fair amount of talk on his background and his decision to accept the job in Toronto, there were a couple interesting tidbits in there that are worth sharing.

On plans for the Rogers Center renovations:

At the very simplest level, we want to transform it from a stadium to a ballpark. It was built in an era where symmetry and generic concrete structures was a big part, and we want to make it a baseball ballpark. That’s going to be a challenge because it’s got 4 walls and a roof, which I’m very happy about in April and May, but I think we can do it. It’s a great challenge

He explained why the Blue Jays did not choose to sell and rebuild at the 2017 deadline, again, because of the fan base that has been showing up for games:

We talked about what’s happened in Toronto, and we talked about how recent that really is, I do think when I look out at 3 million fans, the tens of thousands of fans that come here every night, and I think our job is to give them something to cheer about. If we have a chance, while the intellectual exercise may say we should probably blow it up and rebuild, that the decision you may arrive at may not be that. Because what we have here is so recent and so special that we need to do everything we humanly can to keep it open as we long as we can, yet still balance that with a sense of urgency to infuse talent every opportunity. So we’ve done that in small ways. We feel like we’re focusing on the duality right now, and at some point we may turn one way than the other. It may not be the fastest way, and it’s not the way that the Cubs and the Astros built what they’re doing, but it’s the way that fits our situation.

He threw a bit of shade at the way this current team was assembled (or maybe so, to the person who assembled it), and acknowledged there will be a “retool” at some point.

I don’t know how fragile [the number of fans attending games] is and we’d love to say we are never going to find out, but the reality is the way this team was built is going to cause some correction at some point - that we’ve kind of got to retool and go through, and regenerate a younger team at some point.

When asked when they would realistically consider a retool, and specifically whether they are going to keep or trade Josh Donaldson, Shapiro had this to say:

The next juncture to look at that will be the offseason. The next juncture after that will be the trade deadline. When we think that we no longer have the opportunity to build a contending team, whoever is there, we're going to have to consider, do we trade those guys? Not JD specifically, but whoever it is, we'll have to consider can we do things that help us when we're able to be a contender again?

He also discussed the state of the Jay farm system:

“[The Jays farm system is] much better than it was two years ago. Probably in the upper half, maybe closing in on the upper third -- but not where it needs to be. I think we're really excited about what's happening at [high Class A], at Dunedin, the Florida State League and below. Still concerned about Double-A and Triple-A, the depth of prospects there. I look at Dunedin, Lansing and our three short-season teams, and to have all three short-season teams in [the] postseason and well above .500 with talented players, to look at our left side of the infield in Dunedin, to look at Bo Bichette and Vladdy Guerrero Jr. and some of the other players there.

To know what it takes from having seen it in Cleveland; you don't just need two guys, you need waves of guys. And behind them, you need another wave of guys. I feel like that's coming. It's probably two to four years away that it's going to get here, but when it comes…we’ve got waves of guys coming. I'm encouraged by that.”

So, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future. It will be interesting to see how their off season moves align with what they’ve been saying here (which is more of what they’ve been publicly stating all season long, to be honest). Yes, the moves they made in the off season last year did not closely align with their previously goals of getting “younger and faster” (the Morales signing was not great, for one), but they’ve certainly done things since then that are much closer (Teoscar, and the prospects they got last year with Liriano to start). It will be interesting to see what they do with their $60m coming off the books in the off season, and if they follow through with their repeated intent to contend next year.

The Buffalo Bisons held a 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Coca-Cola field last night, and the turn out (16, 463) was incredible. What was even more incredible, was that the Bisons’ Celery (the team mascots are all buffalo wings sides), who had never won one of the mascot footraces in 449 tries, finally won his/her(?) very last race before retirement. This video is a thing of beauty:

Minor Leaguer was very happy.

Here’s our line-up for tonight. Looks like Smoak is out again, and Bautista has been dropped below Morales.

The Orioles have won 7 straight. Facing Boston after they lost 4 straight didn’t seem to help us out, so who really knows at this point. It’s a good opportunity to play spoiler at least.