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Stomping the Devil Rays 12-3 is a little like enjoying a super-nice sunny afternoon in early July. It feels great, it's just what you want -- but it's also not an iota less than what you had fully expected. This is why no team really feels great after beating Tampa -- this franchise is so bad that its opponents' expectations of victory are exceedingly high. We'll return to the topic of high expectations later on in this report.

I envy most of my fellow Rosterites, and not just because they're Renaissance men with chiseled features and scads of Intel stock. I envy them because they can produce extremely cool posts like this one from Jonny German yesterday. The Game Thread turned into an interesting discussion of Russ Adams, who himself is turning into one of the more interesting players in the Blue Jays lineup this season.

In some ways, Adams has come as advertised, and in other ways, he hasn't. His range at shortstop is excellent, even on the Rogers Centre's funny new surface, and he goes to his left extremely well. His arm is not the strongest, but he has worked hard on his positioning and mechanics, such that Brian Butterfield recently testified that he thinks Adams' arm is effectively stronger now than it was on Opening Day.

He's also making the expected number of rookie errors -- trying to force too many plays, firing acrobatically into the dirt or off-line in futile efforts to nail a baserunner. Only with time and experience will he learn which of those grounders to eat and which ones he should try anyway. Eric Hinske has been, on balance, a better than average receiver at first, so that has helped. Overall, Adams has been average defensively at short -- in fact, he's square in the middle of the pack among AL shortstops in defensive win shares. That's at least as good as the Jays could have hoped for coming into this season.

On offence, his on-base performance has been generally disappointing. His batting average has yet to crack .250 all season, quite unusual for a player who has rarely been south of .280 in his pro career. He's also walking fewer than once every ten at-bats, another surprise. At the same time, he's shown unexpected power when he pulls the ball: he now has 10 homers in his first 265 major-league at-bats, after hitting just 12 homers in more than 1,200 minor-league ABs.

Adams never slugged more than .408 for any full-season farm team, but his SLG stands at .432 this season and .458 for his young career. What's more, as has been discussed recently, his batting average on balls in play is remarkably low and his line-drive percentage is among the highest on the team, which suggests that he's been driving the ball pretty well, but his liners haven't been finding the gaps.

All of which is to say, Russ Adams has actually had a pretty good rookie season so far. His final numbers will be better than what you've seen so far; indeed, I'll predict right now that his second-half batting average will be in the .270-.280 range, with little corresponding drop in power. Even at that, his performance will probably be overshadowed by the more glamorous impact of Aaron Hill (like Adams, an intelligent and instinctive ballplayer in his own right). That's okay -- Adams will probably always be somewhat underrated, but he's still going to be a key member of this club going forward. There's a reason JP Ricciardi has placed him on the untradeable list. "Good little player," John Gibbons said of Adams after yesterday's 5-RBI game. "And he's only going to get better." That's right.

How about Josh Towers, then? It was pretty fun being in the Game Chat yesterday, as more than a dozen fans talked about Russ Adams, Rob Babcock, the weather, anything except the growing string of zeroes under Tampa Bay's "hits" column. Had Towers no-hit the Rays -- and if you're ever going to throw a no-no, this is the club to do it against -- he would have become only the second Blue Jay to accomplish the feat (Dave Stieb, of course, being the first).

It's been said before that Towers delivers feasts or famines, and that trend continued today. What needs to be remembered, however, is that despite his 5-7, 4.47 record, Towers has been lights-out for more than half his starts this season:

Starts allowing 0, 1 or 2 ER: 8
Starts allowing 3 or 4 ER: 3
Starts allowing 5 or more ER: 4

Josh Towers is having a very fine season for himself, and I think he's about to go on another run of strong pitching performances.

I don't have any quick hits today, unfortunately -- when the game's not televised, I don't get to notice nearly as many things as when RSN or TSN broadcasts the match. So instead of the usual bullet-point frenzy, we're going to dive right in to the main course.

The Cornerstones

Less than two and a half years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, 2003, the Toronto Blue Jays held a news conference to announce that two of their young players — 24-year-old third baseman Eric Hinske and 23-year-old centerfielder Vernon Wells — had signed five-year contracts for about $14.8 million each. Here are the numbers those two players had posted in 2002 — their first full seasons — to help convince the team the deals were worthwhile:

Hinske 2002
151 G, 566 AB, .279/.365/.481, 38 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 77 BB, 138 K

Wells 2002
159 G, 608 AB, .275/.305/.457, 34 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR, 100 RBI, 27 BB, 85 K

You would have been hard-pressed at the time to find anyone who thought these were bad decisions by the Blue Jays’ front office. There were concerns about Hinske’s defence, which had been shaky much of the year, and there were concerns about Wells’ plate discipline, which had never been great. Aside from one superlative season by Wells (spanning three different farm teams in 1999), neither player had posted a sterling minor-league record, either.

But by and large, there was much rejoicing: local fans and local media, in a rare show of unity, approved of the deals, as much for what they symbolized during a transitional time for the franchise as for the talent they locked up. The word “cornerstone” was thrown around a lot.

Today, not only is the bloom off the rose, but the rose is missing in action altogether. Here at Batter’s Box, where some of the most fair-minded Blue Jays fans can be found, even some Roster members are seriously considering what could be obtained by trading Vernon Wells or whether Eric Hinske must simply be designated for assignment. The new flavour of the month is Aaron Hill, a rookie with one-fifth the big-league plate appearances of Wells or Hinske, or perhaps (for his glove, at least) Orlando Hudson. It now seems likely that one of Hinske or Wells, who each had been widely expected to be key contributors to the next serious Blue Jay contender, will not be with the team this time next year.

How did it come to this? How did worst-case scenarios for both players befall the team? And is it really as bad as all this? This seems like the right time to provide some history and context to these two players, in order to make sense of what the Jays will (and ought to) do next with them.

Let’s start by looking at the comments posted at Batter’s Box back when those five-year deals were signed. In those low-payroll days, where every penny of salary was counted and the memory of Alex Gonzalez’s contract was never far away, the primary concern for many posters was whether the Jays would benefit by buying out Wells’ and Hinske’s arbitration years (along with the discussion of the deals’ symbolic value):

“If Wells and Hinske both play at the levels they did last year, I don’t think the Jays are saving any money. If either (or both) really break out, there could be a fair amount of savings. — Pistol

“The best thing about the signings, to me, is that it is a clear indication that the Jays are committed to not ending up like the Expos, on a never-ending ‘youth movement’ treadmill.” — Craig B

There was also a degree of caution in the remarks many posters made regarding the young third baseman and centerfielder, a caution that not many current fans still retain:

“Let’s hope Vernon Wells doesn’t go [Terrence Long] on the Jays. While you can’t blame the A’s for signing Long to a long-term deal — because most of his teammates were getting similar contracts — it’s going to kill them if he keeps playing like he does.” — Gitz

“I think Hinske is pretty close to his ceiling already. Other than turning some of his 38 doubles into home runs and scoring and driving in more runs when he’s moved to a ‘power’ slot in the lineup, I don’t think Hinske will ever be a vastly different hitter from what we saw last year.

“Wells, though, is someone who could go any number of ways, and it’s a lot harder for me to decide what he’s going to do. Today, he’s Joe Carter with very nice centerfield defence. For the future, Torii Hunter seems to be the most appropriate comparison to me, but he’s about two years ahead of Hunter’s development schedule offensively.” — Robert Dudek

“It’s likely [that Hinske’s] line drives that are doubles today will start to creep over the fence a little more often. He probably won’t ever hit 40 HR, but I see him being consistently in the 30s. Other than that, I agree ... Hinske isn’t going to improve much beyond the great things he’s already doing today.” — Spicol

“I certainly hope that both will become major stars. Just based on probabilities, however, I’d say that it’s likelier that just one will become a star, and perhaps neither. Does either have a higher ceiling now than Shannon Stewart appeared to have after his age-24 rookie season? …

“[T]here is a ‘youth movement’ flavour to it, albeit a smart one, a la Cleveland Indians circa 1994 and Oakland A’s circa now. The Jays are paying relatively little — compared to equally skilled veterans — for what figures to be the best years of these players’ careers. Unless the Blue Jay business model changes dramatically in the next 5 years, however, I wouldn’t expect either to be re-signed once becoming FA’s (and perhaps, nor should they).” — Chuck van Den Corput

Only one poster exhibited unbridled enthusiasm about the signings:

“There’s no doubt in my mind the team will save money with these deals — both Hinske and Wells are going to put up better numbers at more important defensive positions over the next few years than [Shannon] Stewart did in his first half-dozen seasons. Hinske needs only to increase his average and continue to improve his defence in order to reach Scott Rolen territory, while Wells is already a 25-HR Gold-Glove-calibre centerfielder with some upside still to explore. …

“Hinske is not Homer Bush and Wells is not Raul Mondesi: the club will regret neither of these deals. A better comparison is Cleveland in the early ‘90s, and two guys named Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome.” — Take a wild guess which Rosterite wrote that.

But that upbeat poster wasn’t alone. Consider what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus had to say:

“[T]he Jays should make out very well here. Most players who had a year like Hinske’s 2002 at age 24, or Wells’ at age 23, would go on to be, at worst, solid major-league players for the next few years. In many cases, a five-year, $15-million contract (adjusted for the pay scale of the time) would have ended up being an amazing bargain. …

“I think the Blue Jays have done well to commit to these players. There are reasons to do so that go beyond the specific merit. The Jays can now sell Wells and Hinske to their fans as the cornerstones of what should be an exciting team, a contender. They get cost certainty, as well as roster certainty, with two of their best players through 2007, enabling them to budget around the pair.

“If the two develop as hoped, they’ll provide the kind of low-cost core that enables J.P. Ricciardi to sign the right free agents in 2004 and beyond, when the Jays should be overtaking the Red Sox and Yankees for AL East superiority. Overall, the signings are a calculated risk with minimal downside and significant upside.”

So here’s what happened in 2003:

Hinske 2003
124 G, 449 AB, .243/.329/.437, 45 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 59 BB, 104 K

Wells 2003
161 G, 678 AB, .317/.359/.550, 49 2B, 5 3B, 33 HR, 117 RBI, 42 BB, 80 K

Eric Hinske broke the hamate bone at the base of his right hand early in the season, but failed to tell anyone and tried to play through the pain. When he finally admitted the injury, he received a fair amount of criticism for allowing his desire to play (or a misplaced tough-guy machismo) to trump the good of his team. Still, there were positive signs in the debacle of his season: even with the injury, Hinske managed to belt out 45 doubles, and most observers took that as a sign that the slugging ability was still there; it had simply been muted by the injury. A strong bounce-back performance was expected in 2004.

Vernon Wells, on the other hand, exploded. His batting average soared, the home runs flew out of the park, and he threatened the franchise record for doubles in a season. Even his walk rate rose substantially, and although he didn’t take home a Gold Glove for his defence, his name was being discussed in that context. Altogether, he showed every sign of becoming an elite centrerfielder, and more great things were expected for 2004.

Hinske 2004
155 G, 570 AB, .246/.312/.375, 23 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 54 BB, 109 K

Wells 2004
134 G, 536 AB, .272/.337/.472, 34 2B, 2 3B, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 51 BB, 83 K

You remember The Year From Hell, don’t you? The Blue Jays fell to last place in their division. Numerous players missed significant periods of time with injuries, most notably Roy Halladay and Carlos Delgado. For weeks on end, Dave Berg, Howie Clark and Frank Menechino were regular fixtures in the lineup.

But health wasn’t an issue for Eric Hinske: physically recovered from his broken bone, he nonetheless posted a broken season, finishing virtually dead-last in all offensive categories for major-league corner infielders. Observers suggested his approach at the plate was completely off, leaving him unable to adjust to pitchers’ new book on him. By season’s end, Hinske was so out of favour that the Jays signed Corey Koskie to play third base and, crossing their fingers, moved Hinske over to first base to replace the departing Delgado.

Wells had injury problem as well, but in 27 fewer games than in 2002, still managed to post almost exactly the same raw numbers as he did in his first full season. Opinion was divided on what, if anything, Wells’ 2004 performance meant. On the half-empty side, some people wondered whether 2003 was a premature career year. But on the half-full side, more people talked about the effects of the injury and, more importantly, the debilitating impact of the shredded lineup on everyone’s offence. At the end of the season, most fans wrote off pretty much everything that happened in 2004 and hoped that the new free-agent additions and the return of healthy personnel would mean Hinske and Wells would finally be able to establish themselves in 2005.

Hinske 2005 (inc)
74 G, .241/.326/.388, 13 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 30 BB, 70 K

Wells 2005 (inc)
75 G, .267/.317/.476, 13 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 38 RBI, 23 BB, 44 K

Halfway through 2005, this season has looked a whole lot like 2004 for both of these players. Look a little more closely, however, and you can see some variables at work in their month-by-month production.

Hinske 2005 OPS by month
April: 848
May: 801
June: 474

Wells 2005 OPS by month
April: 620
May: 836
June: 879

This year, both Wells and Hinske have been slightly better-than-average players for two months, and simply horrible players for one month. Hinske in particular is currently in free fall: he’s hitting .132/.264/.211 in June, a performance so bad that you simply have to believe that he’ll snap out of this funk; the question is whether he’ll return to an 800-850 OPS level, and if so, to which end of that range.

Wells has traditionally started slowly in April and gotten hot in May and June, and he has started 2005 by following that pattern. But while he has improved the last two months, his production has not climbed back to its past levels (although he is on a hot streak at this very moment). Wells is the only "slugger" left on the team these days, and so it’s reasonable to think he’s simply trying to do too much for this low-powered team and has been suffering for it. One can’t really draw any conclusions until a full season is in the books

But for both these players, it’s not just about the numbers anymore. For the first time since arriving in Toronto, Wells is feeling the heat. It started with a well-known play last week against the Orioles, when Wells leisurely strolled to retrieve a routine single by Miguel Tejada that the Baltimore shortstop accordingly turned into a hustle double. It intensified after some baserunning gaffes in the next few games, errors that could be (and have been) interpreted charitably as brain cramps and could be (and have been) interpreted less charitably as a lack of focus.

Wells missed a weekend series to be with his wife at the birth of their child, and anyone would find it difficult to switch back and forth between two equally (but very different) high-pressure situation as these. Still, Wells is discovering what Carlos Delgado learned: when you’re the biggest star on your team and you’re perceived as underperforming, everything about your personality and demeanour is going to undergo microscopic scrutiny.

Fans can only judge by what they see, and since they see only a small percentage of a player’s complete nature (and from a great distance), they have very little with which to draw conclusions. The temptation, however, is to draw conclusions anyway, and while that’s unfair for the player, it’s also the way life goes. Some players can handle that, and some can’t. We’re going to find out this year which type of player Wells is.

In his demeanour, Wells reminds me somewhat of Tim Wallach, whom I followed as a young Expos fan in the mid-1980s. Wells is certainly more animated than Wallach, who was so unexpressive as to make John Olerud seem wacky. Wallach never seemed to exert himself, get upset, or show the emotions that I, as a fan of that maddening club, felt so very strongly. So I came to regard him as a symbol of those underachieving Expos teams, and I treated him accordingly.

It was only years later, when reviewing his record in hindsight, that I realized what an extraordinary player Wallach was, probably the third-best third baseman of the time behind Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and George Brett. And I came to understand that he wouldn’t have been any better if he had showed a lot of emotion on the field. What he would have been, in fact, was Gary Carter, a player so publicly expressive that his teammates nicknamed him “Lights” (as in “Lights-Camera-Action”). It wasn’t a compliment.

Most fans, when pressed, would prefer a productive but quiet player over a mediocre but “rah-rah” one. Wells has, in the past, unquestionably been productive, and in disposition, he is very much the same Vernon Wells who slugged .550 in 2003. He has never been a bat-slamming Hinske or a pointing-to-the-sky Hudson; he doesn’t have Delgado’s charming grin or Reed Johnson’s sparkplug buzz. But up until he made a bad mistake against the Orioles that compromised his reputation as a solid player and positive clubhouse presence (remember that he took on union rep duties as a raw rookie), you would not find anyone questioning his character or his work ethic. But Wells has paid for that mistake, and he will continue to pay for a while longer until his bat fully recovers its potency.

As for Hinske, a new batting stance and some early success in 2005 staved off many fans’ concerns, and led them to believe that the move to first base had cleared Hinske’s mind of defensive worries and allowed him to concentrate on his hitting. But after an encouraging April (both for him and for the team), Hinske’s power dried up again and he’s now mired in a breathtakingly bad slump. The Jays have changed hitting coaches, batting order positions, and field positions for Hinske. None of it has restored him to the promise of his rookie year.

Was that promise justified? Consider this about Hinske: in his third month as a pro, he posted an 1117 OPS, a brilliant June 2002 that largely propelled him to Rookie of the Year Honours. As well, in April of that same year, he produced an 869 OPS. But those remain the two best OPS months of his entire career. In the other 18 months of his career, he has posted an 800+ OPS only six times, and 850+ only once; his “average” monthly OPS is 744 and his median total is 782-795.

In his second-last minor-league season, at Double-A, Hinske batted .282/.365/.521 for an OPS of 886. In his final minor-league season, at Triple-A, he batted .285/.380/.511 for an OPS of 891. Take into account the usual statistical erosion that accompanies a promotion to the majors, and his 750-800 range OPS totals in the big leagues -- replacement level or thereabouts -- aren't really a huge shock. All of which is to say, there is now enough evidence to support the conclusion that an approximate .270/.340/.435 level of production is all that one should expect from Eric Hinske.

Is that enough for a first baseman on a hopes-to-be-contending team? Peter Gammons points out that the average AL first-sacker is batting .264 and slugging .440 this season, after posting .266 and .450 numbers last year. The Jays have an average first baseman making pretty average first baseman’s money. There are worse things.

In the end, it’s all about expectations. Numerous big-league players have been coasting for years with mediocre performance because they were never expected to even hold down a regular job in The Show. Other players arrived with such fanfare that anything short of annual MVP numbers is considered a disappointment. These days, it seems, your best bet is to fly under the radar as much as you can, whether you're a ballplayer or not; it’s never been a better time to be on a “Most Underrated” list.

Eric Hinske and Vernon Wells were trumpeted as the cornerstones of the new Toronto Blue Jays in March 2003, because that’s what a new ownership and a new GM desperately needed them to be. Is it their fault that they turned out not to be cornerstones at all, but merely supporting pillars best suited for a complementary but not central role in the design? No. The Jays had a cornerstone player, and he’s now in Florida. They have a cornerstone pitcher, but he appears only once every five days. They might have a cornerstone in young Mr. Hill — but remember Hinske’s 1117 OPS in June 2002, and remember that high expectations will get the better of you almost every time.

Hinske and Wells are who they are: an intense, hard-working corner infielder with limited offensive upside, and a laconic yet professional above-average centerfielder who will never wear his heart on his sleeve. Let them be who they are, enjoy the good and ride out the bad. Everyone will be a lot happier.

Media Roundup

Here are the game reports (the Star's site isn't working this morning).

A Brandon League update (Sun) -- Judging from this brief Mike Ulmer profile, League has not developed Adam Peterson syndrome even after very rocky experiences in both the majors and the International League this year. He struggled badly on his demotion to the Skychiefs rotation, but has come around more while used in a relief role.

The jury is still out on the proper role for League at the moment, but Marty Pevey thinks he should start now, even if he relieves down the road, to get more chances to develop his nascent curveball and command his fastball and change. I think Pevey's right, but I'd still have League relieve most of this season to continue his adjustment to Triple-A, and give him some starts late in the year, posting him to the rotation to start 2006. There is no debate, however, that League will be a force in the majors when his time arrives.

He was nicer before he shaved off the beard (ESPN) - You've probably already seen the video of Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers shoving one cameraman out of his way and hurling epithets at another one yesterday. Think Rogers still has an outside shot at starting the All-Star Game? Me neither. Charges might eventually be laid against Rogers, who has been around long enough to know that you can abuse a teammate, a fan, a coach or even an owner and ride out the damage, but attacking a member of the media on tape means your act will be replayed worldwide every hour on the hour for quite some time.

Rogers has joined a couple of select rotations this week -- pitchers who have injured themselves striking an object in frustration (joining the likes of cart-kicking Oliver Perez, wall-punching Kevin Brown, and electric-fan-striking (I kid you not) John Tudor), as well as 40-year-old left-handers who've shoved cameramen out of their way (a rotation just formed this year, but it's anchored by Randy Johnson, so it looks pretty formidable).

Interesting matchup at Fenway (MLB) - The Jays will send Ted Lilly to the mound in the opener in Boston tomorrow, a team whose number he has had in the past. There's been a lot of talk about whether Lilly will be dealt away during the season, so it's fairly ironic that he'll be facing off against Matt Clement, the one who got away from the Blue Jays in the off-season. Clement, of course, is 9-1 and is a big reason why the Red Sox have surged into first place without the services of Curt Schilling.

With Clement posting those sterling numbers for the BoSox and Corey Koskie nursing his hand injury and poor numbers on the Jays' disabled list, it's not hard to figure out which free agent would have made the better catch for Toronto. Still, Koskie will deliver value to the Blue Jays, and if anything, his presence, coupled with the evident emergence of Aaron Hill, gives JP Ricciardi a lot of infield options this winter. JP of course wanted both these guys in Toronto uniforms, but things work out they way they work out. And whatever else, Clement's success in Boston does underline the wisdom of the Jays' pursuit of him this off-season.

Reds' Dunn is available (TSN) -- And speaking of player moves, it's time to reintroduce every Jays' fans favourite fantasy trade target. Ken Rosenthal reports that Cincinnatti is prepared to deal slugger Adam Dunn and lists several teams that would be interested and the packages they might offer. The Blue Jays aren't on Rosenthal's list (though they most certainly would have inquired), but here's what Rosenthal suggests might compose the other teams' offers:

Houston -- Jason Lane, Chris Burke, Ezequiel Astacio

Chicago Cubs -- Sergio Mitre, Todd Wellemeyer and a couple of others

Baltimore -- Daniel Cabrera, Jorge Julio, Larry Bigbie

NY Yankees -- Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, and -- well, er, that's pretty much the Yankee farm system right now.

Frankly, I think all these offers are too low -- if I were the Reds, I'd definitely hold out for more. The suggested Astro package would be fairly attractive -- I think the Reds might take that one if Houston also threw in Brad Lidge. But this list does indicate the minimum stakes Toronto would need to ante up to get into this game. An opening offer of Dave Bush, Brandon League, and Gabe Gross would probably get Cinci's attention. Here are your questions for today: would that be a good price for Toronto to offer? And would that get the deal done?

The Cornerstones | 43 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Marc Hulet - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 09:22 AM EDT (#121092) #
I would trade League for Dunn in a heartbeat. I think Bush would be an amazing pitcher in the National League once he gets some experience but you have to give something to get something... Gross, yeah I just don't think his future is all that bright. Trot Nixon would be his top, top ceiling. I'd be willing to trade Adams as well... I don't think he'll be a regular for more than 3-4 years before slipping into a very successful utility role. I would not trade Hill or Chacin.

Adams, League, Bush, Gross for Dunn and Bubba Nelson.

Speaking of trades, now that the Yanks have dumped Quantrill and Stanton off their roster, I would try to convince them they need Justin Speier and/or Scott Schoeneweis. I just don't like how much money the Jays have locked up in those two. My feeling is that you can always find a couple cheap minor leagues like a Joe Borowski, Scott Downs, Kelly Wunsch, Brendan Donnelly, etc. who can come out of no where and be successful for a year or two. Maybe Spike Lundberg?
Named For Hank - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 09:41 AM EDT (#121093) #
Since Clement came up, I should offer up a tiny teaser of our somewhat-delayed coverage of Alan Schwarz's talk about his book The Numbers Game at Rogers Centre. When J.P. Ricciardi showed up to answer questions, he was inevitably asked just how much the numbers influence his G.M. decisions. J.P. said that a good example would be the pursuit of Clement in the off-season: there were other guys who had more wins and a better ERA, but that Clement came out looking like the best available pitcher based on other numbers that the team thought were better predictors of future performance. So far, the season seems to be proving them right.

The above is Schwarz with Branch Rickey's grand unifying theory of baseball.

The article should be up on Tuesday.

Named For Hank - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:08 AM EDT (#121094) #
I'm watching the highlights this morning, and apparently Sheffield is saying that if he's traded to the Mets in that rumored blockbuster he won't play, and if they don't pay him, so what, he has lots of money.

Now, they didn't have tape of him saying this -- anyone have a link to an article with an actual quote?

I'm already not a Sheffield fan, but seriously...
westcoast dude - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:15 AM EDT (#121095) #
Say a prayer for Ted Lilly, who has the unenviable task of starting against Matt Clement tomorrow. But you know what? I like the matchup. Comparisons will inevitably be made between Adams and Ramirez, too. Big game, big series.
3RunHomer - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:40 AM EDT (#121100) #
I saw Dunn play this season and he's a slug in the outfield. You'd definitely want to move him to first, which makes sense for the Jays. But why would the Astros want him? They already have Berkman at first. Pat the Bat Burrell is another "outfielder" who would benefit from a move to first (or DH).
Sheldon - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:44 AM EDT (#121101) #
Its in the New York Times.

As always with you need to be registered to read it.
Sheldon - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:46 AM EDT (#121102) #
Whoops my last post was in response to NFH's question about Shefield.
Paul D - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 10:58 AM EDT (#121104) #
Nice game report Jordan, although I'm surprised that there was no mention of Ernie Whitt putting that fan in the Cobra Clutch!

Is anyone here going to the SABR convention in August?
I've been thinking about it, but I haven't made up my mind. On the one hand, it looks interesting, but it is kind of pricey. And since I don't have any close friends that would be interested, I wonder if I'll end up bored.

Anyone have any opinions?
Named For Hank - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:10 AM EDT (#121107) #
I was thinking about joining SABR and going to the convention, but I don't know if I'll have the time. May still join SABR.

Thanks, Sheldon, for the link. Sheff says

"I would never sit out. I would go play for them. It doesn't mean I'm going to be happy playing there. And if I'm unhappy, you don't want me on your team. It's just that simple. I'll make that known to anyone."
He says he previously said that stuff about sitting out and forfeiting his salary to try to convince other teams not to trade for him. Talk about a team player!
Pistol - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#121109) #
Here are your questions for today: would that be a good price for Toronto to offer? And would that get the deal done?

1. Yes. 2. Probably not. I would think the Reds would want more established players.

If the offer was Rios, Chacin, and Hudson I think it'd be getting a lot closer, if not something that'd get a deal done. Is anyone pulling the trigger on that?

I'd have to think about it some more (you'd be trading away a lot of cheap years) but I think it's interesting.

Mike Green - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:49 AM EDT (#121110) #
I don't have much to add to Jordan's excellent piece, but just a comment on the financial aspect. At the time the Hinske and Wells contracts were signed, JP had a couple of million in his annual budget left to be spent. This allowed him to front-end load the contract as compared with what the players would have been earning in the normal pre-arb and arb. phases. The benefit to the team was "cost certainty" in the arb. years, a not insignificant thing especially if a team is using an annual budgeting process.

If JP had had a 3 year budgeting process then, as he has now, I am not sure that the decision to offer long-term contracts would have been made. For one thing, the $1.5 million or so in extra salary in year 1 could have been banked towards possible surprise arbitration awards down the road.
edtjeerd - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#121111) #
Just to go off topic a second.

USAToday has a nice blurb about Doc and a brief history of his professional career.

Blue Jays' Halladay Back on the Ball
Pistol - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:21 PM EDT (#121114) #
There was a USA Today article that had a blurb on the Twins interest in Hudson and Hillenbrand:

"The Twins, wanting to improve their infield, have set their sights on Blue Jays infielders Shea Hillenbrand and second baseman Orlando Hudson"
Jonny German - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#121115) #
My feeling is that you can always find a couple cheap minor leagues like a Joe Borowski, Scott Downs, Kelly Wunsch, Brendan Donnelly, etc. who can come out of no where and be successful for a year or two.

Err... did you follow the Jays from 2002 to 2004? This is the first year of the Ricciardi era where the bullpen doesn't have several scrubs, and it's the first year it's been good. As for Speier - $2M is too much?!? Speier is the best value reliever the Jays have*. Yes, I like him that much better than Frasor & Chulk near the minimum.

*Walker's in the rotation, and his true level ability with the new & improved back is yet to be established... I'm ready to believe it's much higher than with the old back, but not that it's 1.50 ERA-good.
Mike Green - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:40 PM EDT (#121117) #
With the injury to Glenn Williams, the Twins do have need of a third baseman and Hillenbrand does have value there, while the Jays are stocked at the hot corner. I think we do have a happy coincidence of need and overabudance.

The Twins are not that high on Alex Romero (having left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft). He's 21 and hitting .270/.330/.444 after a rough start in double A, and plays a fairly good corner outfield. He's always had good plate discipline and his power is coming along. I'd love to see him in New Hampshire.
rtcaino - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:45 PM EDT (#121118) #
Why on God's green Earth would Baltimore have any interest in Dunn? Granted he would have been a way smarter addition/ investment than Sosa (aka Corky the Juice Pig). However, they already have one of the best offensive teams in the majors. And among contenders, they feature one of the more suspect pitching staffs.
sweat - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#121130) #
Dont the Jays already have enough young, average outfield prospects? I just don't see JP trading Shea for another scrub that he will have to leave exposed for the rule 5 anyway.
StephenT - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 01:40 PM EDT (#121131) #
Paul, I'm going to SABR this year. I've been to one other, in 2003, and it was great (brief summary at ).

The main misconception people have about SABR is they think it's mostly statistics-oriented people; it isn't really. During the research presentations, there usually were two going on at a time; typically one stats-oriented and another not. It might surprise some people that I usually chose the non-stats one (e.g. research that the word 'fan' is not from 'fanatic' but from wind-blowing 'fan'; rationale for Judge Landis' rulings; etc.); there aren't many people who can do interesting stats talks in my opinion (Bill James is rare).

fyi, there was a thread on SABR in general last year:
jvictor - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 01:49 PM EDT (#121132) #
Don't often post here, but I've been biting my toungue on the VW issue for too long. I aint gonna call for his head due to a distracted mistake here and there. I understand the newborn and all. I appreciate VW as a damn fine ball player. That said, I recall an article years ago in - I think - Baseball America, the gist of which was how Vernon gained motivation from people who had called him just a sighnability pick. How he wanted to prove those people wrong. I don't know if he was spraking from the heart or if it was a good quote. But i would like to see him play with that same type of p... and vinegar.
Tyler - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#121137) #
Good story Jordan, although I don't really follow you in these two paragraphs.

Take into account the usual statistical erosion that accompanies a promotion to the majors, and his 750-800 range OPS totals in the big leagues -- replacement level or thereabouts -- aren't really a huge shock. All of which is to say, there is now enough evidence to support the conclusion that an approximate .270/.340/.435 level of production is all that one should expect from Eric Hinske.

How in the heck can you expect .270/.340/.435 from Hinske at this point? He hasn't hit any of those bars in the past three years, and if you discard that one huge month from 2002, he may well not have made it then either. At this point, .250/.330/.400 seems like a more reasonable high end from him. Is that enough for a first baseman on a hopes-to-be-contending team? Peter Gammons points out that the average AL first-sacker is batting .264 and slugging .440 this season, after posting .266 and .450 numbers last year. The Jays have an average first baseman making pretty average first baseman’s money. There are worse things.

But that's just it...Hinske is nowhere near an average first baseman. He doesn't hit .266/.440. He's nowhere near it. He is 18th out of 23 qualified 1B in OBP and 21st out of 23 qualified 1B in SLG. That puts him dead last in terms of OPS amongst qualified 1B. Unless you want to bring forward a version of the Mike Scoscia "Erstad is so good defensively" argument, I don't see how you can claim that the Jays have anything near an average first baseman. He is, plain and simple, a disaster. At some point, it makes more sense just to ditch him, bite the bullet and try and find someone else who can actually hit. Does anyone know Calvin Pickering's phone number?

Mike Green - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:13 PM EDT (#121138) #
Actually, sweat, the organization is not particularly strong in the outfield. And as for Romero being average, he's hitting at just below Aaron Hill's rate in double A last year (more power, less plate discipline) and he's a year younger than Aaron was. Holding one's own at double A at age 21 is very good.

Now, if we're speaking of average things...
sweat - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#121141) #
I guess his age make him better than average. my bad. I would hope that if the Jays move Shea they can get something that helps now, or next year.
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 02:35 PM EDT (#121142) #
Or to put it differently: There are 30 1Bs in MLB with over 167 PA. Out of those 30, Eric Hinske ranks 27th in VORP at 4.4.
Jordan - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#121143) #
How in the heck can you expect .270/.340/.435 from Hinske at this point? He hasn't hit any of those bars in the past three years, and if you discard that one huge month from 2002, he may well not have made it then either.

I'd say pretty much the opposite. A .340 on-base and .435 slugging projection is right around Hinske's career totals of .335 OBP and .425 SLG. Take out his federal-disaster-area June and those two sets of stats would match almost perfectly. In fact, June 2002 and June 2005 now cancel each other out quite nicely.

It wasn't hard for me to come up with that stat line -- I just looked at what Hinske had done before. Not to get hung up on monthly OPS, but a .340/.435 line gives you a 775 OPS, and that's below Hinske's career median monthly OPS of 782-795. The .270 projected batting average might seem high right now, but he was ahead of that pace through April and May, when he batted .289 and .291, respectively.

My point is that a .270/.340/.435 line is pretty much squarely within Hinske's offensive range; he might do a little better and he might do a little worse over the course of a full season, but that's what he's mostly capable of pulling off.

Yes, it's possible that he has cratered suddenly and completely, and that June represents his new normal. But I seriously doubt it. And DFA'ing a player based on one horrendous month, especially when there's no one to take his place, seems like an unwise thing to do. Wait till season's end before deciding if .270/.340/.435 isn't achievable; if you're the Jays, you might as well, seeing as how you're paying him anyway.

Jordan - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 03:15 PM EDT (#121144) #
Don't get me wrong, by the way -- I'm not saying Hinske is all that. There are indeed worse things than a mediocre first baseman -- you could be employing the ghost of Jason Giambi at $15M+ a season, for instance -- but you could also do much better -- say, Adam Dunn, Todd Helton at half the salary, or (sorry for raising it) Carlos Delgado. And if the Jays want to contend, they're going to need a lot more pop at first base and DH than they're getting now.

I'm just identifying Hinske's achievable range and advising Jays fans not to expect anything more than that.
Ron - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 03:15 PM EDT (#121145) #
I know Rosenthal was just throwing out names for Dunn but those "offers" are a joke from a Reds point of view. This ain't ESPN MLB 2k5 where you can really fleece other teams.

If the Astros came calling for Dunn, and if Oswalt isn't the first guy mentioned that's heading the other way I hang up the phone.

From a Reds perspective, I wouldn't deal with the Jays unless Doc is being offered. If I'm trading Dunn I want at least a number 1 pitcher in return. I have little to no interest in a package of players such as Gross/Chacin/Bush/Marcum/Rosario/League/Rios/etc....
VBF - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 03:17 PM EDT (#121146) #
Excellent, fair piece, Jordan, I couldn't have summed up all my feelings about Wells and Hinske in under 5000 words. :)

However, I do think Vernon Wells can be a cornerstone in the franchise-- I just think he needs another one to accompany him. He's not captain material, but his 'Bobby Orr' attitude makes him an excellent silent leader. They just need a Carlos Delgado figurehead, so Vernon doesn't have to feel obligated to be the voice in the clubhouse.

Let's not forget that in two weeks, his average could be in the high 270s, and that as of now, he is on pace for 30+ home runs.
alsiem - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#121150) #
Just to recap:

Gold Glover Vernon Wells:


Totally Crap Player that we should trade as his value is slipping. (according to some)

Adam Dunn:


Is so awesome that he's worth Holladay or Oswalt.

I think that it is incredibly difficult to evaluate talent. Half the time we wildly overvalue Jays due to homerism, the other half, we laude affection on other team's prospects that have all the same reward/risks that every minor league player has.

Is it just me or are there fewer trades these days? I wonder if trades are more prevalent when people act on instinct instead of masses of research.
VBF - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 04:27 PM EDT (#121152) #
Yea, I doubt they'd expect Halladay. Roy Halladay if he became a free agent today, would be the most sought after, paid for player on the market. Everybody knows he's worth much more than any Cincinnati package that they would be willing to put together.

To gain some perspective on trade talk and who we think would get a deal done, who is the most comparable player to Chacin in the NL? Gross? Rios? I don't intend to sound sarcastic but could anyone help me out?
CaramonLS - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:06 PM EDT (#121153) #
Disagree big time with your quote about Giambi Jordan.

Right now he has a .257/.409/.374 Line in 179 ABs. Torre was just recently quoted saying he thinks Giambi is returning to his old self again.

Hinske on the other hand has a .241/.326/.388 line in 245 Abs. Obviously the price tags are different, but Giambi isn't going to be the incredible failure everyone is making him out to be this season.

CaramonLS - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:12 PM EDT (#121154) #
Alsiem if you want to include stats in your arguement you should include an important one like OBP.

.384 for Dunn
.317 for Wells

You can Also include Slg%

.476 Wells
.558 Dunn

RBIs are also a situational stat which are only relevent in certian cases. When a player like Adam Dunn Bats 5th or 6th the entire year vs. Wells who is locked into the 3 spot, it makes a big difference.
BCMike - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:14 PM EDT (#121155) #
Dunn vs Wells, your leaving out some key numbers:

Dunn .384 OBP .558 SLG
Wells .317 OBP .476 SLG

Major difference. That said Dunn is certainly not worth Halladay, and I wouldn't offer Oswalt either. However if I was the Reds I would want some proven ML talent and not a package of Jays prospects.
BCMike - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:15 PM EDT (#121156) #
Oops looks like I'm too slow, CaramonLS beat me to it :).
CaramonLS - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:31 PM EDT (#121158) #
With the Way Cinci's team is set up right now, I would think they would be interested in AAA or AA prospects with the almost surefire rebuilding mode they are going to enter.

Dunn/Casey are on their way out leaving them with next to no offense with the exception of the overpaid Griffey (who would be moved if they could). Their Rotation is a mess apart from Harang.

As for the Chacin comparison... a slightly better left Handed version of Jeff Suppan. Mark Redman maybe?

Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#121160) #
To gain some perspective on trade talk and who we think would get a deal done, who is the most comparable player to Chacin in the NL? Gross? Rios? I don't intend to sound sarcastic but could anyone help me out?

Outfielders 6-15, sorted by 2005 VORP

  6. Giles, RF
  7. Sheffield, RF
  8. Lee, LF
  9. Matsui, LF
 10. Edmonds, CF 
 11. Dunn, LF
 12. Damon, CF
 13. Drew, RF
 14. Alou, RF
 15. Gonzalez (Luis), LF
 55. Wells, CF
 63. Rios, RF
 74. Catalanotto, LF
 89. Johnson, LF
134. Gross, LF
169. Womack, LF
That should give you some idea of his value.

There's almost no chance that Dunn will be coming to the Jays. Does anyone think we could outbid the A's and Dodgers? Secondly, does anyone think trying to outbid the A's and Dodgers is a good idea? It'd be a classic case of the Winner's Curse.

Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 06:02 PM EDT (#121161) #
Oh.. I thought you asked who was the most comparable to Dunn in the AL. Whooops. :)
CaramonLS - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 07:24 PM EDT (#121170) #
What makes you think the A's are going to make a run at Dunn? Very un-Oakland like.

As for the Dodgers? Bradley, Werth, Drew makes up their OF. Werth needs to play more in order to blossem into an even better player (which I think he can be), Choi also needs to keep getting ABs. I'm a big Hee-Seop man though, and everyone might not share my opinions, but Choi can easily become a great 1B if given more of a chance.

Of course if the Dodgers get Dunn, I'd like to pick up the pieces from that deal (either Choi if he doesn't goto Cinci, or Casey if he goes to Cinci). One of them would have to be on the way out.

I'd be Willing to part with Chacin whose value I would say is absolutely through the roof right now (Cincy wants a pitching prospect). Of course I'm not too sure if they would go for that, but that remains to be seen. Even though some of the numbers are red flags or warning signs, the point is very few rookies have the poise to do what he is doing.

Stellers Jay - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 09:43 PM EDT (#121183) #
My 2 cents on Dunn.

I would prefer to save the prospects package and over pay for a free agent like Brian Giles or Hideki Matsui in the off season. Now obviously this is much easier said than done and either of those players could have zero interest in coming to Toronto. But, if you are giving up 3 or 4 good players to get Dunn, you sure as hell better sign him to a 4 or 5 year deal. Personally, I'd rather over pay Giles by 2 million per year than give up 4 good young players in a deal.
CaramonLS - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 11:15 PM EDT (#121191) #
I agree with that, I'd be working out a 5 year extension before the deal was done with his agent.

Still you are garenteed at least 2 years + a first round comp pick for him for those prospects you send over.
Thomas - Friday, July 01 2005 @ 12:26 AM EDT (#121198) #
Great piece, Jordan.

Yes, most of those packages shouldn't get Dunn and should be rejected in a heartbeat. But this is the Reds we are talking about. Watching their series of poor moves from this past offseason through to now, I wouldn't be surprised by anything they pulled. That front office has really made some very ill-advised decisions, from the signing of Eric Milton to the Kearns situation.
Thomas - Friday, July 01 2005 @ 12:30 AM EDT (#121199) #
Right now he has a .257/.409/.374 Line in 179 ABs. Torre was just recently quoted saying he thinks Giambi is returning to his old self again.

Giambi's OBP is still present, but that SLG is hardly reminiscent of the "old" Giambi (nor is that AVG, for a matter of fact). Giambi can still get on base, but he's being paid $15 million for what has been described as the emptiest OBP in baseball history. Given the way he runs now, the shape his body is in and the lack of other skills he possesses, I'm inclinded to agree.

VBF - Friday, July 01 2005 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#121225) #
Thanks guys for the cmoparison, but I was more or less looking for an exact comparison, stats somewhat aside. Like a player the same age as Chacin, and same situation (called up to the team this year, shows promise), just to see how familiar we are with another Chacin.

I think if we as fans mentioned Chacin in a deal for Dunn, some knowledgeable fans of Cinci wouldn't be too keen on it.
CeeBee - Friday, July 01 2005 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#121232) #
Giambi..... NO WAY Jose. Even at half his salary I wouldn't go near him.
Dunn..... only if the price is right. IMO that means having a window to sign him long term and it would have to be the right mix of prospects and established players. Not sure who those would be but I'm confident that JP won't do anything foolish. If it helps both teams thats fine, but I sure don't want to see the farm system ripped apart for ANY short term gain.
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