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According to this article from the Toronto Star the Expos finally received their 2003 payroll budget from the Office of the Commissioner yesterday.

JPR apparently is interested in acquiring Vazquez, who is arbitration-eligible, if the right package can be found. That seems unlikely to me, given that the Jays appear to be near their own payroll budget (acknowledged to be $45-55 million) and Vazquez will likely command more than the $4.8 million he got last year.

More and more, I think it might be Guerrero who will be traded out of Montreal, since that solves the payroll problem in nearly a single stroke. The lineup of potential buyers will be quite long if that is the case. Would the Jays be interested? Trading Cruz, Hinske and Lopez for Vlad and Fernando Tatis would be a blockbuster deal, but is there any way the Jays could take on an extra $11 million in salary?
Anyway, I am officially usurping Coach's prerogative, and welcoming myself to Batter's Box. Thanks Kent, for inviting me to contribute to one of the best (if youngest) baseball-related sites on the Net.

Some readers will know me from Baseball Primer as Craig B. (If you don't, what are you waiting for? "Primer" is the perfect accompaniment to Batter's Box, like donuts to our coffee. Mmmm... donuts...)

This Hamiltonian (as in the city, not as in physics) will be posting Blue Jays-related material as well as analysis and commentary on baseball as a whole... with maybe a few tirades at MLB thrown in. Having recently lost my favourite team (les Expos, nos amours) I have been in a raging mood of late.
Our friend Jayson Stark is back with another Rumblings column, kind of like Peter Gammons' Diamond Notes but without quite as many pulled-from-a-hat trade rumours. Jayson is still pretty pumped about his hometown Phillies, but he had a few words about the Blue Jays:
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I like dropping into the baseball boards at FanHome and ESPN now and again, if only because there's almost always one thread about trading Carlos Delgado. Usually it's along the lines of "what culd we get for Delagdo" (if you've been to these boards, you know the ones I mean), and is founded on a quick glance around baseball for a team with an opening at first base, a lot of money and some pretty good prospects. These days, those two teams are usually identified as the Indians and Dodgers.

Setting aside for a moment that each team has alternatives available (an inexpensive Ben Broussard in Cleveland, a has-to-play-somewhere Todd Hundley in LA) and that cheaper free agents (McGriff, Floyd) are on the market, these idle and ultimately harmless discussions overlook some important facts: (1) Delgado has a no-trade clause, (2) he has it for a reason and he'll use it, (3) his contract, even most of it, is virtually untradeable, and (4) Ricciardi doesn't intend to deal him.

It's this last point that's the most significant, and which is brought out more fully in a Sun column this morning. JP makes the point that Delgado is the only player in the lineup capable of filling the cleanup spot right now, and that what he brings to the table -- triple digits in runs, RBI and walks -- is not that easily replaceable. He's a pillar in the lineup around which players like Phelps, Wells and Hinske can lean and develop. The Jays are a better team now, and will be a better team in three years' time, by keeping Delgado happy and on the payroll than they would be otherwise.

Now, of course, JP would be even happier if he had Delgado's services for about $9 million less per season, and if he had the complete flexibility to trade him if a stupendous offer came along. And he also wouldn't mind if Carlos were a little more devoted to defence and baserunning. But I'd like the local Blockbuster to carry a copy of the original Die Hard, not the two execrable sequels. Life's not perfect, so you do what you can with what you have. Accepting that his salary is unchangeable and unmoveable till mid-2004 at the earliest, JP realizes that he has an asset in Delgado and he's going to make the most of it.
It's Blue Jays Week at Baseball America. Not only is the publication about to release its Top Ten Prospects in the Jays' farm system, but this week's issue includes a detailed article about JP Ricciardi, with a specific focus on the restructuring of the farm system.

I would encourage you to pick up the current issue at the newsstands, on sale till Dec. 22, and read the JP piece. It's not the easiest paper to find here in the frozen north, but a good local newsstand should have a copy. I usually find BA at (of all places) the Relay outlet at the Ottawa Airport, as well as at a marvellous periodicals store here in town called (I kid you not) Mags & Fags (they also sell cigarettes, you see). I'm not sure whether the Top Ten list is in the print edition, but it is available online. A year's subscription to the Net version is US$42, about half what you'd pay for the print edition for a lot of the same material.

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Just in time for the Winter Meetings (well, okay, two weeks in advance of them), here's the first instalment of a series of analyses of the Blue Jays' more interesting minor leaguers. Over the course of this off-season, leading up to the start of spring training, I'll provide capsule summaries of Jays prospects who posted noteworthy 2002 stat lines, as well as a few who were expected to but didn't. The series starts here with the Syracuse Skychiefs and will drill downwards through the system in the weeks to come.

First of all, the usual caveats. Your humble correspondent is no John Sickels, and I claim little first-hand knowledge of any of the players listed here. These observations are drawn largely from the numbers they posted, supplemented by delving through various accounts of their accomplishments, and are entirely my own long-distance assessments. Mainly, they're intended to update you on the players' performance and stimulate discussion on where their careers are headed within (or without) the organization. Feel free to agree emphatically or disagree profoundly as the mood strikes you.
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Forgive my weak attempt at word-play in my inaugural authorial entry. Wire services are reporting that ex-Jay Billy Koch and two Grade C prospects from Oakland's minor league system have been sent to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson and some cash.

Koch, who is arbitration-eligible and expected to command a salary in the 4M+ range for the next two seasons, is arguably a worse closer than Foulke, whose 6M contract concludes after this season. Predictably, Rob Neyer at ESPN (who wrote a well-researched column last year claiming that Foulke was in fact the most valuable relief pitcher in all of major-league baseball during the past three years)and Derek Zumsteg at BP have both commented negatively on Kenny Williams' acumen yet again, which inevitably leads to the further deterioration of Gord Ash's already-tattered reputation as a baseball executive. Wait, isn't he currently employed by the Selig mafia in Milwaukee?

It appears that Billy Beane has again made a shrewd transaction to earn the A's the best possible return from a deal where they gave up an expendable third baseman named Eric Hinske to the Jays. I suggest that all Jays fans should give thanks that the A's already employ the services of Mr. Chavez.
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Now that Jim Thome has finally made his choice of employer for the rest of his career, we can officially drop the green flag on this year's free-agent season. And not a moment too soon: not only were front-office executives throughout the game getting antsy, with the arbitration deadline of Dec. 7 and the Winter Meetings (Dec. 13-15) looming, but us kibbitzers in the underground baseball press have had almost nothing to talk about. :-)
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Inspired by Geoff's and Kent's recollections of how they came to be baseball and Blue Jays fans, I thought I'd start a separate thread where visitors could chime in with their own "Origins Of..." story. Guys, if you'd like to copy-and-paste and/or expand your stories to this thread, please do; or if you're satisfied with the links I've created, that's cool too.

Here we go....
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Decent summary here (from the Jays' official site) of the now-completed Arizona Fall League season and Toronto prospects in the winter leagues of Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Lefty reliever Scott Wiggins might have piched his way back onto the 40-man roster, and Gabe Gross partially salvaged a frustrating 2002, but the news about the young catchers isn't as good, as both Kevin Cash and Guillermo Quiroz are not hitting -- yet.

In BB #38, we discussed Kevin Goldstein's assessment of Toronto farmhands in The Prospect Report -- this link is to an ongoing summary of all MLB teams' Top Ten, and his AL analysis is complete.

I admit to parting with half a buck most days for the Toronto Star, despite Richard Griffin. And I like the Saturday Globe for the features. I refuse to buy the paper that claims to be "National" (and is, if the nation is Bay Street and Alberta) or the annoying tabloid, but sometimes people leave them on the subway, and I'll look anywhere on the Web for baseball news.

This link to Bob Elliott's latest Sun column is provided for a couple of reasons. Elliott, although his prose is mundane and his facts are occasionally wrong, seems to have good connections. He rarely resorts to commenting on rumours started by other reporters (the tactic that feeds baseball coverage in the Big Apple) and has often scooped his local rivals.

Although today's trade-gossip piece completely ignores the Jays, the stuff about the Giants, if true, throws cold water on some of the previous speculation in this rectangle.
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I notice with some amusement that our "own" Gideon Clarke sent his comments on the latest Peter Gammons column to Clutch Hits. I'm guessing that's because Jordan's point, about P.G. being one of the few "mainstream" journalists who even acknowledges sabrmetrics, will stimulate more discussion there than here. (And my feelings aren't hurt; it's true.)

I agree with Gideon's aside that the Gammons list of free-agents-to-be is "wildly premature," and it's no doubt less than 100% accurate, but since it's the first concise list I've seen of the impending talent glut, I include it here for BB readers. Some of us regularly indulge in premature speculation, even if our wives don't appreciate it.


One of the truly fun things about being a baseball fan is trades: proposing hypothetical ones, anticipating rumoured ones, reading about the real ones (Who did they get? Who did they give up?), and debating for weeks afterwards about whether they were smart ones or dumb ones. Good times.

For the players, though, it's a different story. I don't think I'd enjoy being called into my boss's office and told I'd been dealt to a trucking magazine based outside Louisville in exchange for an art director and an advertorial to be named later. But that's life for major-league baseball players, and has always been so, well before they were making six figures a year, let alone seven. I don't care how much money you make: some things suck, and being made to change employers against your will is one of them.

This article, from the Blue Jays' MLB page, goes into interesting detail about the effect of the Cory Lidle deal on his family. I liked it because it's a pretty fresh angle on the same old "How are you dealing with the trade?" story. It's not much fun for the player, but it can be brutal on his wife, who likely has made friends, put down roots and established the family in the community while hubby is on the road six to eight months of the year. And speaking as someone who hates, hates moving, I have a lot of sympathy for Melanie Lidle. I also think a little more highly of Cory after hearing how he talks about his family. A nice little piece.

I don't quite as much care for the writer's cheap shots at Toronto weather. You know, Oakland isn't exactly Maui either, fella. When Dorothy Parker and Jason Giambi both diss your city, you shouldn't be casting stones.
Much of the attraction of fantasy baseball (for me, at least) is testing my talent evaluation skills against fellow baseball fans. Many people sincerely believe they could do a better job than the GM of "their" local major-league team, and if they live in Denver or Kansas City, they might be right.

Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin hates all general managers, it seems. Rich has a short memory, though. He led the mudslinging against former Blue Jay honcho Gord Ash, but now that his cross-hairs are trained on J.P. Ricciardi, has begun to praise the previous administration. In today's asinine column attacking the Red Sox for hiring 28-year-old Theo Epstein, Griffin actually suggests Dave Stewart would have been a better choice.

In another BB thread, Craig B posted his thoughts on Griffin's dubious "logic," and here's my response. I've resisted the obvious temptation to make "Epstein's Mother" jokes, but Griffin isn't kidding. Whatever credibility the man once had, he is systematically destroying with his transparent jealousy and irresponsible vendettas. Count me as one "rotisserie dweeb" who has had enough.
Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun devoted his weekend column to the "feel good" story of a 22-year-old pitcher from Mississauga who became the first Ontario college player, and just the second from a Canadian university, to be signed by a pro team.

Angus Roy played in the NCAA but went undrafted, and returned home to attend teacher's college at U of T. Of interest to me is that he was "discovered" by the Red Sox, and even more curiously, by a scout who was hired after a chance meeting at a college game in Florida. (Note to self: start chatting up strangers more often.)

Batter's Box contributors could be self-appointed "bird dogs" for the Blue Jays, whose Canadian scouts, according to Elliott, are significantly outnumbered by several other organizations. I suggest RHP John Lockwood of the Toronto Maple Leafs as a potential pro, but while he was dominating the Intercounty League this year with a 92 MPH fastball and nasty slider, it was the Braves holding the radar gun. Kids like Roy and Lockwood will be CBL stars if they stall at A or AA, but they deserve at least a chance in an MLB system.