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The 2007 roster is beginning to take shape, but its final construction is likely to depend on what actually happens in Florida this spring. Which isn't something we saw last year...

In 2006, the identities of 24 of the 25 players who would make the Opening Day roster were known to one and all before anyone even arrived in Dunedin. The sole question was whether the Jays would carry Guillermo Quiroz as a third catcher (he was out of options) or try to slip him through waivers at the end of the spring so they could add Pete Walker to the roster. As it turned out, that is exactly what they tried and they ended up losing Quiroz to the Mariners.

But this spring... jobs will be at stake!

So what do we know so far?

We know the nine everyday starters will be Zaun, Overbay, Hill, Clayton, Glaus, Rios, Wells, Johnson, and Thomas. We know Phillips, McDonald, and Stairs will be on the bench.

That's 12 players, and assuming the teams goes with the now standard seven man bullpen, there's only room for one more. What is needed, and who can fill the role?

Is Matt Stairs, at this stage of his career, really going to be the fourth outfielder? The only backup for Troy Glaus is John McDonald, who is also backing up the two middle infield spots. (And oh yes, on these small modern rosters, the versatility of players like Hinske and Hillenbrand is an extremely useful thing to have around.) Is there a backup for Lyle Overbay at all? There's Jason Phillips (129 games at 1B) and Matt Stairs (242 games at 1B). And the prospect of Stairs at 1B frightens me - the man is 5 foot 9. Plus both men have fairly important roles as the only extra catcher and outfielder on the team.

So who is the 13th man? John Hattig? He's a switch-hitter, he can play third. Could he learn to play first? How about Russ Adams? He brings a lefty bat, a bit of foot speed. (I'd think about giving Adams an outfielder's glove and have him shag some fly balls while we're at it.)

Other suggestions?

As for the pitchers...

Barring injury (wow, there's one big assumption), we can expect Halladay, Burnett, Chacin, and Thomson in the rotation. Fighting over the fifth job will be Towers, Janssen, and Marcum.

Dustin McGowan, much to my surprise, was granted a fourth option year by MLB. I very much hope the Jays stick him in the Syracuse rotation and forget about him. Just leave him alone until September. No bouncing back and forth between AAA and the majors, between the pen and the rotation. Let the kid pitch.

I actually expect Towers to win a starting job outright in the spring. Josh can be pretty formidable when he has his back to the wall and something to prove. Besides, he's had worse years than 2006 and bounced back. (I also think the most experienced of the candidates is the best bet to get his act together and have an impressive spring, and the job is really going to go to the guy who looks best in March.)

Ryan, Frasor, League, and Downs are obvious locks in the pen. I would assume that Rosario is a very good bet as well. Rosario was granted a fourth option year in 2006, but he's out of them now. He either makes the team or they have to risk losing him on a waiver claim. I'm sure that factor alone will be enough to at least get him as far as Opening Day.

Which leaves two more spots in the pen. The front-runners would be Accardo, Tallet, and Romero. I'm not sold on Accardo myself, but he does have a lively arm and he's had some success at the major league level. Tallet is the only guy who looks like a true LOOGY to me (Downs is the Long Man and emergency starter - Pete Walker's old job. Romero is still... uh, forming. Taking shape. In the process of becoming whatever he is to be.)

So these are the questions and they'll be answered in Florida. Who will be the 13th man, the 5th starter, the 6th and 7th relievers? We really don't know!

But I say it's going to be Hattig, Towers, Accardo, Tallet.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
China fan - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 07:46 AM EST (#161896) #
   Excellent analysis, but you've forgotten the newly acquired infielder Jason Smith.   As a Rule 5 acquisition, he must be kept on the roster for the full season, or the Jays lose him.  Ricciardi has said that Smith can play 3B as well as 2B and SS, so I'm guessing that he'll be the backup 3B.  He has a lot more major-league experience than Hattig and he has some moderate pop in his bat, with 5 home runs in 99 AB last season.  So, barring any further pickups, the only training-camp competition might be between Smith and Hattig for the final infield slot.
China fan - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 07:57 AM EST (#161897) #

  In his unremarkable up-and-down career in the majors since 2002, Smith has played primarily at 2B and SS, but he has also played 24 games at 3B and 7 games at 1B.   And at 6-foot-3, he is a lot taller than Matt Stairs, so he might be serviceable as a back-up to Overbay in an emergency.


Chuck - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 09:27 AM EST (#161900) #

I'm not second guessing Ricciardi's decision to unload Hinske last season, but is there a more suitable player to be sitting on Toronto's bench this season? A lefty bat with experience at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF is just what the team needs.

Craig B - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 10:28 AM EST (#161901) #
(I'd think about giving Adams an outfielder's glove and have him shag some fly balls while we're at it.)

I think Adams's upside is as a Tony Phillips type (with less power) and he definitely should be trying to become a jack-of-all-trades.

As for trading Hinske away, though he is a useful player I think it would be awfully unfair to Eric Hinske to keep him in Toronto and ask him to take a role as the 13th man.  Hinske gave the team everything he had for the better part of five years; the fair thing for Hinske was to let him go somewhere where he had a chance of making a meaningful contribution and having a meaningful job.
Gerry - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 10:57 AM EST (#161902) #
I agree that Towers is likely to bounce back.  I think Marcum is a better bullpen bet than Tallet, with Downs and Ryan the bullpen has two lefties.  My vote is Smith, Towers, Accardo and Marcum.
Pistol - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:41 AM EST (#161903) #
the fair thing for Hinske was to let him go somewhere where he had a chance of making a meaningful contribution and having a meaningful job

So now Hinske's in Boston in the same role that he was in with the Jays.

I think the Jays are expecting Jason Smith to handle a utility infield role.  They signed him to $500,000 contract which seemed odd to me for a Rule 5 guy.  Perhaps it's only paid if he's in the majors and there's no cost to sending him back.

I'm not too worried about who will be the 12 pitchers will be because ultimately the Jays will probably need everyone that is a candidate to be among the 12 and they can still send enough players down to Syracuse without losing them.
TamRa - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:48 AM EST (#161904) #

I have to agree about Hinske. If we had known then what we know now - especially in terms of available unspent cash - it would have been quite advisable to keep him.


In point of fact, it would not be at all unwise or embarassing to try to reaquire him (I'm sure the sox won't ask for the moon).


I'm also still hoping that there's a manuver left out there somewhere that gets Clayton out of our starting lineup. One wonders what would happen on the off chance that Adams came to ST and rocked at 2B?


I'd have to go with Tallet over Romero for now...I agree Towers ought to be a better bet to ace out the kids (if for no other reason than that the kids have more to prove at AAA than he does)


Barring a re-aquisition of Hinske, or something similar, I'd throw a ST invite at David Bell before I'd go to camp with nothing behind Glaus and Overbay but Hattig and Smith. Heck, I'd rather try and get Demitri young and risk him butchering 3B for 15 dyas if it came down to it. Not that he's going to sign to be a bench player (and since no one is talking about him maybe he's hurt?)


Anyway, all that said, I suspect that if it indeed comes down to Glaus on the DL for 15 days, you'll see Hill at 3B and Johnny Mac at 2B for the duration.


Chuck - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 12:27 PM EST (#161905) #

the fair thing for Hinske was to let him go somewhere where he had a chance of making a meaningful contribution and having a meaningful job.

I guess we disagree here. I see Hinske getting less playing time in Boston in 2007 than he would in Toronto.

He's Boston's 5th outfielder rather than Toronto's 4th (before Lind's inevitable promotion, anyway).

At 1B and 3B, Youkilis and Lowell seem reasonable bets for 150 games each. While Overbay is an excellent bet for 150 games, Glaus is probably less likely so (though he has, admittedly, averaged that for the past two years).

At DH, Ortiz has had a superb health record whereas we all know about Thomas.

I could easily envision Hinske starting between a third and half of the games playing for Toronto in 2007 (30 at DH, 25 at 1B/3B, 15-20 in LF), even without catastrophic injuries.

Mike Green - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 12:57 PM EST (#161906) #
I am hoping that by the time Opening Day rolls around, Adam Lind has won most of the leftfielder's job.   I am hoping, but not betting, that the rotation ends up as Halladay, Burnett, Chacin, Marcum and Janssen (I expect that Thomson will be given the 4th starter role unless he is absolutely terrible or hurt in spring training).  I am hoping, but not betting, that the bullpen ends up as Ryan, League, Frasor, Downs,  Davis Romero, Rosario and Accardo. Davis Romero is a significantly better pitcher than Brian Tallet.

My choices for the bench (with the talent on hand) would be McDonald, Phillips, Stairs and Reed Johnson.  None of this is likely to happen.

Instead, the likely decisions will be Thomson, Towers for the 4th and 5th starters, Tallet in place of Davis Romero, Lind in Syracuse, and McDonald, Phillips, Stairs and Jason Smith on the bench.  I try and try to be optimistic...

Glevin - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 12:58 PM EST (#161907) #

Usually, because of the way the games are spread out in April, many teams only use four starters. The Jays only have two off days in April which seems lower than usual. (Maybe I am imagining it). I think, like others that Smith is likely to make the team and that Towers is most likely to be the Jays' fifth starter but these are things that will only be decided in March.

Bones - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 01:35 PM EST (#161909) #
The thing about the Jays roster that I find very strange at this point is the presence of McDonald.  Seeing as they have above-average defenders at both middle infield spots (in Clayton's case this may not be true any longer, but he still carries that reputation, and I'm sure that Ricciardi believes it to be the case) why would they carry a player who's only value is as a late-inning defensive replacement?  Smith and Adams (pariah that he appears to be) would both be much better choices as the utility man, seeing as they are both able to swing a decent (and left-handed) bat at the major league level.  McDonald has his merits, but they really don't fit with this current Jays team.

As for Towers, I really don't see any reason for optimism.  He is likely past his prime (he turns 30 in February), has very marginal stuff for a major league starter and has exactly 1 full season as a quality major league pitcher on his resume (and as good as that season was, it screams fluke).  I have a hard time believing that he would still be a part of the organization if it wasn't for his contract.  I would like to see the team treat him as a sunk cost and let him go.  I could see him bouncing back to be a borderline servicable starting pitcher for an NL team playing in a big park with a good defensive OF (Mets, anyone?), but I think that throwing him to the wolves of the AL East in the Rogers Centre once again is a recipe for disaster.  I would much rather see the 5th spot go to either Janssen or Davis Romero (who seems to me has been unfairly pigeon-holed as a LH specialist, even though he had been a very effective minor league starter up until his switch to the bullpen this year).

Wildrose - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 02:16 PM EST (#161910) #
Better keep certain Bauxites from high buildings if this deal goes down .     

It does seem pretty far fetched however, and probably of little substance, but still it's out there.
Chuck - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 02:24 PM EST (#161911) #
The idea of a Devil Rays blog is in itself pretty far fetched.
Wildrose - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 02:36 PM EST (#161912) #
Dukes is a pretty solid prospect, but his off field behavior makes Lasting Milledge look like a choir boy.
Given Ricciardi's propensity for "character" guys I really doubt this rumor, but it would be remiss not to point it out.
AWeb - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 02:46 PM EST (#161913) #
The Jays don't need a great bench to win. Look at the Yankees over the last decasde. Last year, they had Miguel Cairo, Bubba Crosby, Andy Phillips, and Craig Wilson get about a year's worth of ABs, and they batted something like .230/.270/.360 (rough eyeballing of their numbers). Boston hasd even worse production from their bench guys, like Mirabelli, Kapler, Alex Cora, Lopez, and Hinske (who was decent, OPS+ of 99 with Boston).  Getting Mcdonald-like production from the bench isn't preferred, obviously, but it is pretty typical among the top AL East teams anyway. A bench isn't the key to a great  team, especially in the AL.  What the Jays need is a lucky injury-free (or at least minimal) year from their good players. This goes for the infield and starters especially.

Does anyone really think the Jays can afford to have a great backup option at every position? For one, a great backup option can usually find more money/playing time somewhere else. If the Jays need 3 months of playing time from a backup 3B, well, that's not good, but they could possibly trade for a stopgap 3B if the minors can't provide a better option than McDonald. They have 10 starter bait for lots of teams.And there's still more than a month until spriing training. Lots of time to construct a more sensible roster if they need to.
Ron - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 02:47 PM EST (#161914) #

I'm not second guessing Ricciardi's decision to unload Hinske last season, but is there a more suitable player to be sitting on Toronto's bench this season? A lefty bat with experience at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF is just what the team needs.

The Hinske trade was terrible when it happened and it still looks horrible right now. The Jays still don't have a legit backup 1B, 3B, and 4th OF. Hinske would have filled all those holes by himself. What makes the trade worse is that the Jays are also paying a part of his salary and he was dealt to a division rival.

Royce Clayton might be pushed to the bench if the Jays can upgrade the SS position through a trade.

Even though Rosario is out of options, if I was in charge, there's no chance in hell I would hand him a MLB job just because of  his situation. He should have to earn his roster spot based on performance just like everybody else.

I see the Jays starting rotation as Doc/AJ/Chacin/Thomson/Towers. Ryan, League, Frasor, Downs, and Accardo are locks in the pen. Unless Tallet is a complete dud in Spring Training, he will have a job. I see a battle between McGowan (the Jays can't make up their minds if he is a starter or a reliever), Rosario, Romero, and Roney for the 7th spot.

John Northey - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 06:01 PM EST (#161916) #
Now that would be interesting.  Duke is a high ceiling, high maintenance player.  ZiPS projects him as 262/340/439 guy in 2007 at 23 in LF.  A switch hitter (don't know which is the strong side) so he could probably mix in with anyone out there.  Mix him and Lind in LF with both getting AB's at 1B and DH as well (figure they could easily be taught 1B).  Johnson then would be available in trade to someone else as part of a package for a decent starter or shortstop.  Marcum is a good prospect but we have quite a few pitchers who are interchangable with him (Janssen, McGowan, Rosario, etc. all good prospects)  so using him to get another hitting prospect isn't a bad idea.  The other part of the deal is sending Josh Sowers to TB.  Sowers is entering his age 24 season and was at low A last year in the pen.  39 IP, 4.81 ERA, 21 K in 34 IP with 10 BB and doesn't sound like a top prospect to me (10th round in '05).

If I was JP and was offered this deal I'd check with anyone who knows Duke and see about how much of a risk he is to implode.  If the risk is endurable then I'd go for it.
Glevin - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 06:43 PM EST (#161917) #

"The Jays don't need a great bench to win. Look at the Yankees over the last decasde. Last year, they had Miguel Cairo, Bubba Crosby, Andy Phillips, and Craig Wilson get about a year's worth of ABs, and they batted something like .230/.270/.360 (rough eyeballing of their numbers)."

Tha Jays are not the Yankees though. The Yankees have virtual all-stars at 8 of 9 positions so if someone goes down, their offense can handle it. (Although their attachment to Cairo seems rather odd to me anyway). Teams other than the Yankees need to be able to cover injuries some especially in a case, like the Jays, where a couple of very key players (Glaus, Thomas) are very likely to miss time. Still, the Yankees and Boston had better benches than you let on. The Yankees had Melky Cabrera, Craig Wilson, and Bernie Williams on the bench at the end of the year and Boston had Pena and Hinske. Not great benches, but not nothing either. (I found the Stairs signing odd for the Jays bench as they already have Thomas who is purely a DH and to have two roster spots for guys who can't really play the field at all is not going to leave you with much flexability if you are going to carry 12 pitchers.)

SNB - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:00 PM EST (#161920) #

I'd rather pay $5M to keep someone capable of filling in adequately at two positions inhabited by injury-prone sluggers and as a useful extra guy in the outfield and at first base, than pay $2M to have him fill the same role on a division rival. I'd even go so far as to say Hinske would have a decent shot at 300+ ABs on this current roster (spot starts for Thomas, Glaus, Overbay, Rios; perhaps platooning with Johnson should he return to suckage vs RHP; and presumably a single at-bat for Clayton or Hill in the majority of close games in which he does not start).

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Hinske's contract was a sunk cost, but it wasn't what was dragging the team down. Did he deserve it? No. But would the team be better paying him to play for them or against them? He's not that bad.

If he was making a million dollars a year, he'd be embraced as a superior utility player. I think JP's greatest weakness is moderation - a bad contract is not the same thing as a horrible contract, and just dumping an average player because his contract is ungainly is not always a prudent move.

Joanna - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:27 PM EST (#161921) #

Lyle Overbay signed a new contract , according to the Globe and Mail.

4 years/24 million.

Well done, Doublyle.


huckamaniac - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:43 PM EST (#161922) #
Sean McAdam seems to oppose Keith Law's view of the Jays recent moves.
VBF - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:53 PM EST (#161923) #

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Hinske's contract was a sunk cost, but it wasn't what was dragging the team down.

In retrospect yes, but at the time, nobody can say with 100% confidence that JP Ricciardi didn't  anticipate a payroll jump. With the Hinske dropping, the Jays had bumped their offseason possible expenditure by a few million, which was significant at the time. It would have been money used to retain Zaun or Lilly, or anyone else for that matter.

If Ricciardi knew that he was getting a payroll hike at the trade deadline, I do not believe he would have traded Hinske--especially to the Red Sox. It certainly builds a case for letting management have a long-term rolling payroll.

Wildrose - Saturday, January 13 2007 @ 11:59 PM EST (#161924) #
Link to the Overbay story, good pickup Joanne. Signed for very reasonable terms.
Michael - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 03:57 AM EST (#161927) #
Law's article is actually totally reasonable IMHO.

He points out there is moral hazard in GMs who are not long for their job signing players to huge, multi-year, defered money contracts.  He points out Cubs, Seattle, and SF as three teams who he thinks the GMs are on the way out and that the big splashes they've made in free agency or the bad prospect for veteran trades they've made are because the GMs want to win now at all costs, even if it costs the team for many future years.  The only reference to the Jays was that Wells deal is back loaded with more than 2/3 of the money going to VWells (assuming Wells picks up the 3 year option) occuring after JP's contract is up.  Law even goes out of his way to say that sometimes morgaging the future is worth it if it leads to playoffs or championships (the theory behind the Wells deal) but that at many other times it leads teams to make a mistake.

I agree that Law's been prickly about the Jays in the past in his articles and that it seems clear that JP/Law had a big blow up, but I think people are reading history into this piece if they think it is a swipe at JP piece.

China fan - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 05:21 AM EST (#161928) #

   I've always admired the rules about civility on Batter's Box.  So perhaps the comment about Keith Law being "a turd" could be withdrawn?  There are ways to disagree with someone without attacking them personally.   Moreover, it seems that the latest Keith Law article is not an example of "bitter vengeance" at all.   If someone wants to criticize an article, he should include an excerpt, so that we can judge it for ourselves.  (We can certainly judge that Keith Law was totally wrong about Vernon Wells, but that doesn't mean he is wrong about everything.)

   I also think that this site would be stronger if we're not always attacking the mainstream press and high-profile commentators.   Yes, I find that Richard Griffin can be annoying and often wrong, but the mainstream journalists have a lot of personal contact with Jays team members and managers, and they can contribute insights that are worthwhile and shouldn't be automatically rejected. 

Pistol - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 11:02 AM EST (#161931) #
1.  Please avoid the sophomoric name calling, as stated in the Code of Conduct in the FAQ.

2.  If you're going to comment on an article, be sure that you've read the article first.  In regards to the Law article it's a very valid point.  Wells' contract is very back-loaded.  I don't believe it was set up that way because JP's contract is up in 2010 - just that they're trying to squeeze more out of the team in the next few years.  Michael's summary captures the article pretty well.

3.  An Overbay thread will be opened shortly.
Pistol - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 11:46 AM EST (#161933) #
A tidbit in a recent Rosenthal columnRyan Franklin got an offer from the Jays, but accepted a lesser offer from the Cardinals ($1 million, $1 million in incentives).  Just speculating, the Jays may have made a similar offer to Franklin as they did to Thomson.  They look to be pretty similar pitchers at this point.
SheldonL - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 11:49 AM EST (#161935) #

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Hinske's contract was a sunk cost

At the time, Hinske had just hit 24 homers with 37 doubles, I believe, and batted .273 when he had stayed above .280 all season. There was a lot of promise in those numbers. Another player also had completed his first full season with 23 homers and 34 doubles with a .275 average. J.P signed took a calculated risk and signed then both to similar 5 year deals at about $15-16 mil.

One turned out to be a shadow of his former self and the other has evolved into a franchise player! Even if you alot $2 mil. a year for Hinske during the duration of his contract(I think one can fairly say his .260 average, 17 homers, 30 doubles, versatility were worth $2mil), Wells was worth significantly more than $4.4 mil a year (32-10=22, 22/5=4.4 aprox).

It was a good calculated risk than panned out in my opinion. I'd like to see more GMs make accords like these. I believe some of the smarter contracts out there belong to Harden, Crawford, Baldelli, and Sizemore to name a few. Now we can add Lyle Overbay to that list. He looks to be a good bet to more than fulfill $6mil a year for the next 4 years!

Now if we can only get Rios under a similar contract....

Anders - Sunday, January 14 2007 @ 02:58 PM EST (#161951) #
Yeah, just echoing similar sentiments about the Law article - while I think he has been slightly unfair to the Blue Jays, most of the article wasnt about the Jays, and the front page of the ESPN MLB section (with the picture of Vernon) would have been done by his editors, not him.

The point he made about GM's backloading deals was a valid one, given that many of them wont be around at the end of the contracts. However, inflation in baseball is about 10% a year - ie 10 million dollars this year isnt worth more than 10 million dollars next year - so a heavily backloaded deal is a bit more economical than a heavily frontloaded one.

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