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There's no dancing around it: this has been a very trying season so far for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans. Coming out of an offseason filled with big name acquisitions, talk of rivals weakening and enough optimism to fly a weather balloon, the Big Blue Machine has stalled while those same rivals have proven as resilient as ever. The Rays continue to churn out pitchers off their assembly line, the Orioles are no fluke, the Yankees continue to win despite a 100 million payroll of injuries, and the Red Sox rebound has a mark of Felix Felicis to it. Especially irritating for Toronto fans is now watching the success of former skipper John Farrell's Red Sox team dancing atop the AL East. (Whatever, if they sneak into the World Series my Reds will crush them anyway.)  We came into this season thinking this was the year we would finally break through, instead the wall between us and the postseason appears as indestructible as ever.

Fortunately, we have a plan! Professor Frink?

"Hmmhay, ladies and gentlemen."

"Quit stalling! What's the plan??????"

The rumours around the team right now suggest they're looking to add a starting pitcher, while frankly I feel they should be doing the exact opposite of that. There are just too many starters in the system coming back from injury/head-trauma/a-different-kind-of-head-trauma that are going to need a good look in a major league rotation. Throwing whatever prospects we've got left at Matt Garza, who you must think is significantly less likely to stick around after this season than Josh Johnson, just doesn't make any sense to me. Then again, a lot of things this organization has done this season haven't made a whole lot of sense either.

Anyhow, there a few thoughts on this half season I'd like to get out of my mind. Some are good, some are bad, and some are Emilo Bonifacio.

---     Maybe Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey haven't pitched as well or as consistently as we expected (okay, there's no maybe about that one.) But one thing that has been as advertised is their fielding ability. Buehrle is really as good as it gets: he finishes his delivery with his body perfectly square to the hitter so he's in an excellent position to field the ball automatically. If he's involved in a play he knows exactly what to do, where to be, who to back up, no matter the situation. Dickey meanwhile has a more unconventional delivery (knuckleballs will do that) and so finishes with his body tilted a little bit towards first base. Dickey however, must have the quickest glove I've ever seen a pitcher have. Every time a ball is hit hard towards him all he does is stab his glove out at it, always snagging it and making an easy toss to first. The crazy part of me thinks he easily could be the best defensive first-baseman on this team because of that skill alone.

---     Brett Lawrie isn't having the year we hoped for. A lot of that is because of injuries (if the guy is ever able to play 140+ games in a season I'll be very, very surprised), in particular the one before the WBC that pretty much robbed him of a Spring Training. He's been trying to find his timing at the plate ever since, and his numbers are suffering greatly because of it.
    Trying to make him into a second baseman? Personally, I think he's athletic and quick enough to be quite good there, but this is a case of "If it ain't broken don't fix it." Taking a struggling hitter and asking him to change positions (from one he plays brilliantly) mid-season is not likely to help those struggles.

---    Colby Rasmus is probably my second favourite Blue Jay (behind Casey Janssen, who should not be traded. Just because.) His swing, when he actually hits the baseball, is gorgeous and he's as steady a centrefielder we've seen in these parts since a young Vernon Wells patrolled out there. What I think is most impressive about Rasmus however is that he must be the smartest baserunner on the team. His speed is pretty decent but every time he's on base and there's a bloop hit, there's Colby jogging into third base, having read the ball perfectly. There was a play against the Twins where Rasmus easily took an extra base just by lulling the centrefielder into making a lazy throw into the infield.

---    At this point, it's clear the Blue Jays are infatuated with Emilo Bonifacio. It's easy to see why: he's a switch hitter! (Except that he's not a particularly good hitter from either side of the plate.) He can play almost any defensive position! (Except he can't play any of those positions particularly skilfully.) He's fast! (Not as fast as Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose, Jose Reyes or even Brett Lawrie, it seems.)
    You know, there doesn't seem to be any non-performance reason to dislike Bonifacio (unlike say, Arencibia) but Emilo is by far my least favourite Blue Jay. I hate watching him bat (stop trying to bunt! !@!#$@#@#!!!!!) and he's the kind of fielder where you're impressed if he actually makes the play. Blue Jays, just let go, please. If you try to sneak him to AAA, will teams be shoving each other in line to take this guy? And if they do, good luck to them and Bonifacio.

---    Esmil Rogers is the surprise of the season, to me. It seems like you can take the pitcher out of Colorado and take the Colorado out of the pitcher after all. The league is going to make adjustments and it's up to Rogers to then adjust to that, but there's a lot to be impressed about. What I like most is how he seems completely unafraid to throw any of his pitches in any situation. 2-0 count? Here's the get-me-over breaking ball. Some pitchers never find that throughout their entire careers.

What do I expect or predict from the rest of the season? I dunno, that's why they play the games. That's why baseball is so magical. Anything could happen. This team could end up making the playoffs, because crazier things have unfolded in two and a half months.
   
Extra Innings

-----------------

In one of the first Game of The Week segments, I mentioned a trio of young promising pitchers in the National League all born within four months of each other in 1989. (Looking back now, I wish I'd done the research to mention some of the other great young pitchers emerging in the NL: Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez, Madison Bumgarner*) Anyhow, the trio I looked at were Matt Harvey of the New York Mets, Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds.

*also 1989, though you can argue he's certainly already emerged*

How are these three doing now?

Well Matt Harvey and Patrick Corbin made the National League All-Star team, and both were very much involved in that game.

Harvey of course was the starting pitcher for the NL, and after an early speed bump (injuring Robinson Cano in front of an NY crowd is quite a speed bump) he introduced the AL to his nasty power slider and two strikeout filled shutout innings followed. Harvey at the break has allowed only 119 baserunners in 130 innings, while 147 have struck out facing him.

Patrick Corbin also pitched a notable inning in that affair: the inning in which the American League broke the scoreless tie and took the lead they'd never relinquish. Corbin was charged with an All-Star game loss but that does nothing to diminish the success he's enjoyed so far this year. His W-L record of 11-1 surely catches the eye, but his .206 batting average against tells a story of more than just good luck. Seeing as he pitches for a first-place team you've got to think he's got a real chance to win 20 games, and as such probably a better chance than Harvey at nabbing a Cy Young (since voters seem to like those kinds of things.) Something interesting to keep an eye on in the second half.

Tony Cingrani did not make the All-Star team, for in fact he's had difficulties staying on the Cincinatti Reds team. That has hardly been any fault of his, however, since the Reds starters have been so superb this season that a young power lefty arm like Cingrani's is their sixth best option when everybody's healthy. In 15 games (10 starts) so far this season, he's been a bit homer-prone (1.4 per 9 innings pitched, 9 of 10 by RHB) but has not been easy to square up otherwise. (.206 average against, 77 strikeouts in 64 innings) With the injury to Johnny Cueto, Cingrani will get a good long chance to show a team in the middle of a playoff chase what he's got.
A First Half Flagpole | 24 comments | Create New Account
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Richard S.S. - Thursday, July 18 2013 @ 11:03 PM EDT (#276660) #
I heard Greg Zaun on Baseball Central (via Podcast) say he would keep: Reyes, Encarnacion, Bautista, Dickey, Janssen, Delabar, Cecil and maybe Rasmus. All the rest would be available for trade - for anything. Strangely enough I find I agree totally.

Peavy might be the acquisition A.A. goes after, of course if he could get Sale included, anything they want - give. Of course I wouldn't say no to Aramis Ramirez or Michael Young.
Ron - Thursday, July 18 2013 @ 11:55 PM EDT (#276661) #
AA isnít on the hot seat but he should be. Lots of people have criticized the new Jays (Dickey, Johnson, Buehrle, Bonifacio, Cabrera, Izturis)but I donít hear anybody criticizing the man who brought them to the Jays. The Jays under the guidance of JP Ricciardi had a better W-L record than AA. Iím also disappointed he wasnít able to sign 2 first round draft picks. AA also had one of the biggest trade chips when he took over in Halladay and he has very little to show for it. Drabek and Gose look like busts. DíArnaud was flipped to get Dickey but the trade wouldnít have happened if Syndergaard wasnít included. The Romero situation was also handled very poorly. Moving Lawrie to 2B is a head scratcher. Itís too early to reach a final verdict on any of his drafts but the returns so far have been underwhelming. What exactly did he see in Deck MGuire? I remember hearing him on the Fan 590 after the draft and he viewed him as as a potential front of the rotation starter. He also said the same thing for Drabek. Am I the only person that doesnít think Anthopoulos is some sort of genius ninja? It sure feels this way.
finch - Thursday, July 18 2013 @ 11:58 PM EDT (#276662) #
I would agree with Zaun...first time ever, except with the exception of RA Dickey.

I would trade Sanchez, Gose and Norris for Sale and Peavy. And next year, hopefully with 3 First Round picks, you restock the system with singable high school arms
John Northey - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:13 AM EDT (#276663) #
I'd trade any and all of the pen.  Janssen, Cecil, Delabar and Oliver should all have some value in a trade, maybe Loup as well.  Wagner and Perez probably wouldn't yet due to their pedigree (being minor league free agents last winter) and McGowan is a work in progress that I doubt the Jays are ready to send away.  If all 5 of the guys I list as trade ready are sent away then the pen would be McGowan (closer), Wagner, Perez, and from AAA you can pick from Mickey Storey (2.93 ERA in 43 IP with 2.3 BB/9 11.7 K 0.8 HR/9), John Stilson (1.82 ERA, 3.6 BB 7.7 K 0.4 HR), Brad Lincoln (we remember him), Joel Carreno (slaughtered AA, 2.65 ERA in AAA in 17 IP 2 HR 5 BB 24 SO), Tommy Hottovy* (0 R in 8 1/3 IP 3 BB 9 SO), and probably others I'm missing.  The depth in the pen is scary good, even before considering other starters who might become relievers ala Cecil and McGowan.  The rotation?  Any trades would be salary dumps to clear space for the future I'd think unless someone out there believes in Johnson still.  The offense?  I'd be nervous about trading anyone outside of Bonifacio or Davis as the rest are not easily replaced at the moment although if someone loves Rasmus I'd consider it if Pillar or Gose is truly ready to take over.
scottt - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 08:25 AM EDT (#276665) #
I'd trade Buehrle, for nothing, because soon he won't be worth his salary.

For JJ, I'm sure nobody will offer anything better than a first round pick for 2 months of a guy who has gone 1-5 with an era over 5.

What does that leave? Rogers? I'd hold on to him. Pretty much everyone else is under performing and recovering from some injury. 

I see the rotation on ESPN as being Rogers, Buehrle, Dickey and 2 question marks. More injuries?

uglyone - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 08:43 AM EDT (#276666) #
Not sure i can agree with zaun's "keep everyone who's playing well, trade everyone who's not" approach.

Everyone is tradeable but i wouldn't move guys like morrow and lawrie while their value's so low.

I'd move janssen and oliver, the only rp that cost anything. Jansen's likely at peak value, and with his lack of velo and his injury history i worry a out him going forward. We'd have to be getting a very good piece back for me to want to move ceci or delabar - they are cheap, controllable, have grade A stuff for rp, and there's not even a hint of flukiness about their statlines.

Of the hitters, the guy who might be worth trading now is lind. Ther than that the rest of them are either too valuable to trade (reyes, joey, ee, colby) struggling enough to make it selling low (melky, jp, lawrie), or valueless (boni).

Though come to think of it, all three of davis derosa and izzy could have value to a contender.

I'd probably do something like this:

Trade Away (replacement in brackets)

SP Johnson (romero/happ/hutchison)
RP Janssen (mcgowan/stilson/wagner/storey/carreno/perez)
RP Oliver (mcgowan/stilson/wagner/etc.)
DH Lind (?)
OF Davis (pillar/gose)
IF Izturis (kawasaki)
UT Derosa (jiminez)

I might not trade lind actually just because there'sno ready replacement. And boni would be ditched as well.


Trade For:

1 high-end SP who we can keep for a few years
John Northey - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 09:10 AM EDT (#276667) #
I think that there are the two questions...
1) what to trade away
2) what to get back

#1 I think we all agree on any reliever, even a package of them with Cecil/Delabar costing more than anyone else.  Others would be Johnson & Buehrle if anyone makes an offer of more than a sandwich pick for Johnson or is willing to eat Buehrle's salary (don't see either as likely).  Lind is always available imo but might again be hard as he is mainly a DH with a bit of 1B in him (maybe LF for a real desperate club) and has a very spotty track record.  Davis I could see someone wanting for their bench but he wouldn't bring back much.  DeRosa is the same as Davis but worth a bit less.  Bonifacio less still (as in near 0). 

What to get?
1) controllable 2B/3B for the next 3 years at least
2) Ace for rotation (would cost a heck of a lot more than the Jays will offer I'm sure unless signing the Cuban free agent who probably will cost more $$$ than the Jays are willing to spend)
3) Maybe a new LF/DH/1B to replace Cabrera and/or Lind - has to again be under team control for 2013/14/15.
mathesond - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 09:22 AM EDT (#276668) #
Trade For: 1 high-end SP who we can keep for a few years

Just one?
Mike Green - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 09:40 AM EDT (#276671) #
Anyhow, there a few thoughts on this half season I'd like to get out of my mind. Some are good, some are bad, and some are Emilo Bonifacio.

Not sublime, so I vote ridiculous.  Nice line, eephus.
John Northey - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#276673) #
Well, last winter the Jays tried trading for 3 and it didn't work out so well.  Right now looking forward it is very possible we have Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow in locked down slots with Rogers, Happ, Romero, Hutchinson, Drabek, Nolin, McGuire, Stroman all fighting for two slots, maybe one if Johnson resigns.  That is getting crowded yet few have trade value (Stroman, Nolin, Rogers are probably the only ones with any real trade value right now, maybe Johnson).

If you cannot get a high end starter then why bother when so many middle of the road options are here already, some with potential to be front end ones. 

Ryan Day - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 10:45 AM EDT (#276675) #
I think Bonifacio's definitely faster than Lawrie, and probably faster than Reyes; he just hasn't had many opportunities to really show it off - he's not on base often enough to steal, and no one is fast enough to beat out a weak grounder to 2b.
Mike Green - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#276676) #
I wouldn't use the phrase "locked-down" in relation to Morrow as a starter.  The club currently has Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow, Rogers, Romero, Happ, Nolin, Hutchison, McGowan and Stroman available for 2014. I doubt very much that all will be ready and able to throw 200 decent or better innings, but the odds are pretty good that you will have three who can give you 200 innings, two who can give you 150 innings and two who can give you 100 innings. And there are so many relief pitchers at hand, that you do have the possibility of extending one of them if the need arises.

I wouldn't be after pitching at all. 

Ryan Day - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 11:23 AM EDT (#276679) #
At this point, I'm starting to question whether Morrow is durable enough to be a starter. All of his talent doesn't mean much if you can't keep him on the field. He's 28, and his career high in innings pitched, by a significant margin, is 179. And he's not even that great, with a career ERA+ of 101.
ayjackson - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:33 PM EDT (#276686) #
Which of the contenders have competative balance lottery picks? Maybe you could move Josh Johnson for one of those.

I know Cleveland is after a LH Reliever, could you move Oliver and Perez for one?
ayjackson - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:39 PM EDT (#276687) #
"The club currently has Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow, Rogers, Romero, Happ, Nolin, Hutchison, McGowan and Stroman available for 2014."

Good opportunity for tandem starters.

S1 Dickey
S2 Buerhle
S3 Happ/McGowan
S4 Romero/Hutchison
S5 Morrow/Nolin

Bullpen: Janssen, Cecil, Delabar, Loup, LONGMAN

That's all we'd need for the pitching staff. I think it would be quite good.
Sano - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:41 PM EDT (#276688) #

AA has got to be after more starting pitchers.  He's stated many times before (and I think this season has proven him right) that you just cannot have enough starting pitching. Injuries and loss of form are impossible to predict but have struck the Jay's starters pretty consistently the past few years.

That said, I think he's also looking to solve our two most glaring holes in the field/lineup - C and the 2B/3B dilemma.  I think the Lawrie shift is an attempt to provide some more flexibility in that equation. If Lawrie can play 2B adequately then AA's options greatly expand and he can start looking for a 3B on the market.  I also agree with whoever questioned the wisdom of shifting Lawrie to second in the midst of one of his worst seasons hitting-wise, but I can see the logic in it long-term.  And to be honest, Lawrie's got more than enough altheticism to handle the shift easily.

As far as trades, I think AA's working on a shake-up which will probably involve trading some of the pen + maybe a fringe core player (Lind for e.g.) for someone who could form a part of the core moving forward. I don't have the knowledge of the trade market and MLB rosters to guess as to who that would be, but AA's shown a willingness to take bold moves in the past, so I don't doubt his willingness to do it again.

hypobole - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:55 PM EDT (#276692) #
ay, what chance is there the Jays would actually go the tandem route? Maybe I'm overly sceptical, but I would rate the chance at 0%.
Magpie - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:57 PM EDT (#276693) #
[Bonifacio's] he's the kind of fielder where you're impressed if he actually makes the play.

Exactly! He takes a step to his right, backgrounds a grounder, throws the batter out at first and I think "Hey! Not bad!" Except I might still be able to make that play. (On a good day. I still have them.)

The bar hasn't been set lower - it's fallen right to the ground.
BlueJayWay - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#276694) #
I hope they trade Janssen.  I love Casey but the odds seem high that in a couple years we'll look back and say, 'shoulda traded him when his value was high, in a year they weren't going anywhere anyway'.  The lack of real stuff and the shoulder issues are worrisome to me.

In fact just about anybody in the pen should be tradeable for the right deal.  It's sobering how fickle relief pitchers can be.



Mike Green - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 01:41 PM EDT (#276695) #
I agree with ayj that you can make a case for tandem starters, and I agree with hypobole that the chance of it actually happening is very low. 
AWeb - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 02:07 PM EDT (#276697) #

Toronto is in the worst position you can find yourself - paying a lot of money for a .500 team with a lot of tough roster choices.

Exceeded expectations:  Rasmus has been very good. Lind had a good couple of months and hurt his back (wait, this sounds familiar...). Relievers! Rogers for all of 8 starts.

Way worse than expectations - not just below, but way below: Dickey, Johnson, and Morrow have been terrible compared to a reasonable projection for them. Total WAR slightly less than 0. I was hoping Morrow and Johnson were the same type - either good, or injured. Instead, they've been bad and injured (Morrow moreso, obviously). collectively, these three have pitched like Ramon Ortiz did this year. At least we knew he was likely to be old and terrible. Lawrie, Bonifacio, Cabrera have combined for terrible defense and a .239/.282/.342 line. Total WAR for all three is 0.7 (somehow bbref likes Bonifacio's defense). Aside from Dickey, these guys are 23, 28, 28, 28, and 29 years old. It wasn't a crazy plan, but just terrible results. Is it wrong to just assume that the coaching and training staff aren't very good? One example - the Jays had massive success shifting last year, and responded by doing...less of it?

Izturis, Arencibia, Buerhle, Davis, Reyes - close enough to expectations I won't complain, although I forget Reyes in on the team sometimes.

If this was a simulated season, I would have hit the restart button on the general "I don't care if the computer says it's random, it's clearly out to get me" rule. I'm damned tired of checking the score at 8:30 (I'm out East), seeing another 3 run deficit, and just not bothering to tune in. If the bullpen was merely average, where the guys who have contributed more than 10IP without making a start have been worth 6.4WAR in 263 IP (I.e., a vintage Hallday season), and this team is way out of it. And maybe some of the choices are more clear.

uglyone - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 02:43 PM EDT (#276701) #
"Just one?"

Yeah, i wouldn't overreact too badly to our rotation imploding this year. Just like the red sox didn't last year.

I'd be more than happy heading into next year with one new frontline SP, with dickey/buehrle behind him, and all of morrow/romero/happ/rogers/hutchison/nolin/stroman/drabek battling it out for the last two spots.

I'd be pretty confident in getting much better SP performance out of that group next year.
Mike Green - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 02:50 PM EDT (#276702) #
backgrounds a grounder

actually, I think Bonifacio backgrounds a handler...any good player would do that!
uglyone - Friday, July 19 2013 @ 08:21 PM EDT (#276724) #
And just a note, while you don't love to be paying $30m a year for it, Dickey/Buerhle are both trending back down to solid 200+ ip / sub-4.50era years - the definition of solid innings eater - even in what are their worst seasons ever.

Since his first 2 starts of the year, Dickey's at 6.6ip/gs, 4.35era.

Since his first 2 starts of the year, Buehrle's at 6.3ip/gs, 4.40era.

And I'm guessing they continue to trend down towards that over the rest of the year.

Not great, and probably not worth $30m/yr, but still solid innings eaters, even in what is probably both of their worst career years.

Even then, if you wanted to go out and by a veteran you could count on for 200+ ip and a sub-4.50era, it would still cost you a pretty penny, like 10+ mil, maybe more.
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