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The always readable Jayson Stark, columnist at, has joined in the off-season pastime of matching free agents to possible destinations.

Seems to me that in the new era of bottom-line awareness, there will be no rush to throw fortunes at the feet of aging or injury-prone superstars, and teams are waiting to see what Thome, Maddux and Glavine get before making scaled-down bids for the "second tier." There may be quite a few players -- and their agents -- who wish they hadn't turned down previous offers, and (shades of Andre Dawson, back in the day of collusion) sign one-year contracts for a lot less dough at the last minute. The Blue Jays, who are still trying to retain Chris Carpenter with an incentive-laden deal, may also bring Steve Parris back (at a more reasonable cost) or pick up another bargain from the pitching leftovers.

Here's the no-frills complete list and another ESPN summary of the Top 50 free agents.
With the dust still settling from all the Jays' moves, the team purchased the contracts of six of its top prospects, and now has 36 players on its latest 40-man roster, reports the Globe and Mail. (If you don't want to read David Leeder's story, I've copied the list -- click the Full Article link.)
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The Blue Jays today announced their 2003 minor-league coaching staffs. You'll find a mix of new and familiar names on these lists. I'll be interested to see what Malave and Landreaux can do with what should be a far more talented Syracuse squad next year; some good results might get them a little major-league managerial buzz. Doubtless all you Expos fans remember Randy St. Claire, the team's Canuck protege of the early '80s. I'm sure he's a much better coach than he was a pitcher. :-)

In the lower minors, Von Joshua was a well-known name before joining the organization last year. Former Jays pitching coach Rick Langford has gone all the way down to Dunedin, where he'll have custody of some of the organization's most valuable young arms. And does anyone know how ex-Toronto trainer Tommy Craig wound up down in Auburn?

This item also serves as a reminder that two of the Jays' minor-league teams switched affiliates. The former AA Knoxville Smokies have moved north to New Haven to become the Ravens, while the Medicine Hat Blue Jays made a similar trip south to become the Appalachian League's Pulaski Jays.
This site was launched after the regular season, but we've had plenty to discuss, and so far, have neglected the topic of fantasy baseball. My gig as the Blue Jays fantasy correspondent on ESPN led to the creation of my Web site as a column archive, which spawned the Batter's Box, which seems to be taking on a life of its own. This entry returns to Square One.

Being an avid fan of real baseball can present minor conflicts for a fantasy owner. Some players have more Roto value than actual value (newest Marlin Juan Pierre, for example) while others I admire on the diamond (David Bell, Doug Mientkiewicz) are liabilities on most fantasy teams. There are an almost infinite number of possible variations on the original Rotisserie format, but they are nearly all based on comparing the stats "your" players accumulate in actual games to the numbers the other owners' rosters produce. If you're interested, or just curious, read on...
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Perfectly timed, as usual. Fiscally responsible, as always. J.P. Ricciardi played hardball with Billy Beane and acquired an experienced starter, for nothing more than a couple of iffy prospects.

Newest Blue Jay Cory Lidle was toiling in obscurity (a "swing man" in Tampa Bay) when Beane and his then-assistant Ricciardi put him in the Oakland rotation. Eyebrows were raised so high that foreheads were sprained, but the former journeyman responded to his new surroundings with a 13-6, 3.59 season. Something went wrong at the beginning of 2002; contributing to a team-wide slump, when Mulder was hurt, Hudson couldn't win and both the present and absent Giambis affected clubhouse chemistry, Lidle was 2-7 with a 5.30 ERA at the all-star break, and in danger of losing his job.

But that second half! A 6-3 record, 2.69 ERA, and a .201 opponents' average -- in August, during the A's amazing win streak, how about 5-0, 0.20 (not a typo) and .143? He spun a 7-inning 1-hitter against the Tigers, blanked the Yankees through 8 in the Bronx, shut out the White Sox for 7, then dominated the Indians with a complete game one-hit shutout, walking one and fanning 8. In his final two starts of a Cy Young month, the Royals and Twins each managed a lone run. Under the microscope of a pennant race in September, Lidle picked up several no-decisions, but kept his team in critical games.
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Okay, I know these kinds of articles are the sort of feel-good bumpf that marketing departments churn out in their sleep. Nonetheless, these two stories from the Jays' MLB site make for a nice read and provide a small degree of insight into the players who participate.

What I don't really understand is why these events aren't reported in the local press.

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Jordan has already linked to the latest waste of newsprint by "Dr. Doom" of the Toronto Star, but today's Richard Griffin column is so offensive, I'm compelled to express my disgust on Page One of our little blog.

Griffin's piece compares a Mexican bird-dog, who stumbled over one all-star, to J.P. Ricciardi, whose expertise at assessing talent for the A's is well-documented, but conveniently ignored. Also omitted, in feeble support of the ludicrous assertion that Dodger scout Mike Brito (after 20 years) and the Jays' GM (after 12 months) are "tied" with one discovery each, are J.P.'s brilliant addition-by-subtraction moves (most notably the "untradeable" Mondesi) and his 2002 draft, praised by Baseball America as the best of any front office in the game.
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Before I had this space to vent, my family and friends had to endure my periodic outrage over Bud Selig and his gang of selfish idiots, and the other things "wrong" with baseball: arrogant (if not incompetent) umpires, inane broadcast crews, pandering official scorers and the lack of "team error" stats, and AL MVP voting, to name a few. Last year my anti-Ichiro tirade lasted for a week -- an opposite-field singles hitter who wasn't even the best player on his own team was named MVP, while Jason Giambi's fantastic season was overlooked by a band of myopic sportswriters.

Now we're told that Miguel Tejada is somehow "more valuable" than Alex Rodriguez. Since A-Rod was the clear-cut, obvious winner of the Silver Slugger award as best hitting shortstop, and finally displaced Omar Vizquel as the Gold Glove winner for best fielder at his position, I'm wondering just what Tejada does (other than offence and defence) to demonstrate his supposed superiority. Apparently, it's his good fortune at choosing teammates that include big-league pitchers. Is there anyone who believes the A's would have missed the playoffs with the "inferior" A-Rod at SS? It's not a team award, it's for the best individual; the player you pick first if they are all lined up against the playground fence.

Apparently, one walkoff homer to extend a team winning streak in a playoff race gets shown often enough on TV highlight packages to make a lasting impression on the peabrained. The AL beat writers have again managed the impossible: they've turned the league's most prestigious honour into an unfunny joke. If the Giants had missed the playoffs, their NL brethren who use the same "logic" would have ignored one of the greatest seasons ever and voted for someone other than Barry Bonds as MVP. Ridiculous! Do you hear me, Richard Griffin? You're wrong again, Dick.
A brief article in the Toronto Sun the other day suggested that one-time shortstop of the future Felipe Lopez may be on his way out of town, presumably as part of a deal for starting pitching. Assuming that a trade would bring back a reliable #2 or #3 starter, I'd be interested in people's views on the subject of dealing away F-Lo.
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As the GM meetings get underway in Tucson this week, everyone and their Furby agrees that the Blue Jays need pitching; more specifically, a #2 or #3 starter to provide some meat to a rotation with filet mignon at the front end and Quarter Pounders at the back. The consensus appears to be that these meetings will mostly be about laying groundwork, and that trades and (less likely) free-agent signings will take place at the winter meetings next month in Nashville.

Thereís not much more to be said about Roy Halladay, and Iíll leave the subject of potential trade acquisitions to a later column. This article is going to take a brief look at the in-house candidates to fill the five-man Toronto rotation next year -- the Royales with Cheese, if you will -- and inquire into whether any of these guys are likely to step up sufficiently to provide around 200 useful innings.
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If you're as starved for box scores as I am, you can follow the exhibition series in Japan, where Eric Hinske is the lone Blue Jay on the MLB all-star roster.

Hinske, in the familiar role of backing up Eric Chavez, might not play a lot, but sharing a dugout (and the entire experience) with the likes of Barry Bonds and Robbie Alomar is a great opportunity. Not that he lacks confidence or maturity at this stage of his career, but this can only help Eric's development.

The MLB team left a few decent pitchers at home (Johnson, Schilling, Martinez, Zito...) and the series matters more to the Japanese all-stars, so it's not like the outcome of these games is significant. Last year's Olympic hockey tournament was more compelling than any NHL series, so I would welcome a "real" World Cup of baseball. Team Canada, if everyone participated, would need a superb effort to finish in the top six, with the U.S. and Dominican Republic fielding star-studded teams, and Japan, Venezuela and Cuba among the more serious contenders for a medal. By the time (if?) young Canadian prospects like Adam Loewen, Jeff Francis and Justin Morneau are ready to compete at such a level, "our" superstar, Larry Walker, will be reduced to coaching and/or pinch-hitting.

An open tourney would keep baseball in the Olympics, and it's fun to speculate on the rosters if MLB extended its all-star break every four years, allowing the world's best to represent their countries.
Welcome, from your Batter's Box lineup: "Coach" Kent Williams, Jordan "Gideon" Furlong, Sean "Shrike" Whittaker, Craig B, Dave Till and Mick "MED" Doherty. We invite your comments; to join the ever-expanding roster and post articles, send an e-mail.
The free agent frenzy continues for the Blue Jays, who today announced the signing of 30-year-old journeyman OF Bruce Aven and 25-year-old righty Josh Towers to minor-league deals, with invitations to spring training. Aven has bounced around several organizations; his best year was 1999 with the Marlins, when he appeared in 137 games (more than half his career big-league total) and hit a solid .289-12-70 with an OPS of .814. It's hard to imagine him displacing a Toronto regular, but he should add to the depth in AAA and the spring competition for jobs.

Towers, more of a finesse guy than a thrower, had a frightening 7.90 ERA and gave up 11 HR in just 27.1 IP for Baltimore in the first few weeks of the 2002 season, and his AAA numbers weren't much better. On the other hand, he ran into seven innings of 1-hit ball by Derek Lowe in his debut, a Mark Buehrle 2-hitter through 7 IP in his next outing, and faced a sharp El Duque, who allowed just one run, in his third (and last) 2002 start. In a 15-3 pounding by the Red Sox May 1, Towers was hung out to dry, absorbing 10 earned runs in a 5-inning relief stint, then demoted. The 165-pounder did have a respectable 2001 with the Orioles, going 8-10 as a rookie with a 4.49 ERA in 24 games, 20 of them starts, so maybe he can recapture that form with a new organization. Don't hold your breath; neither of these acquisitions by the surprisingly active Jays will have an impact anywhere but Syracuse.
The first half of this entry, down at #32, provided an in-depth review of the 2002 seasons of Toronto's infield positions, using Baseball Prospectus-inspired statistics to measure the Jays' performance in the context of all other regulars at their position. In this concluding part, I take a look at the outfielders and DH. Explanations of the various statistical methods and terms are in Part 1. For various reasons, including the fact that most of the 2002 pitching staff will be parking their Camaros elsewhere than at Skydome next year, I won't be looking at the pitchers, other than to say that Roy Halladay rocks.

I'll also repeat my caveat from Part 1, which is that I'm about as mathematically adept as the chair you're sitting in. So I'd be happy to hear from you about errors in the calculations, or about any agreement, disagreement, movie deals or libel claims you might have related to these analyses. Allons-y:
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What is going on in the "minds" of the Orioles front office? Nice work by J.P., who is conducting a pre-emptive raid on selected free agents, to sign Howie Clark, a career .300 hitter in the big leagues. That's .302, to be precise, over 53 AB in a 14-game callup to Baltimore last year, 26 points better than any of their regulars. How's his batting eye? Try 41 walks and just 28 strikeouts in AAA Rochester, where he hit .309 in 418 AB, with "only" 7 HR and 43 RBI, but 21 doubles and 4 triples.

Only 28, and capable of filling in as a corner infielder or outfielder, Clark gives the Jays a decent lefty bat off the bench if he makes the club, and makes Syracuse more competitive if he doesn't, getting on base in front of Gabe Gross. Howie will go to Dunedin, out-hit Werth and Wise and see what happens. He can't be any worse than Shannon Stewart in LF, and could find himself in the DH mix if they ever let Josh Phelps carry a glove. My idea about Orlando Palmiero and Jordan's about Matt Stairs just lost a little urgency, unless (until?) Ricciardi trades Jose Cruz. Pedro Swann is the only one I can think of who shouldn't be pleased about this development.

Also signing a minor-league deal was Rob Ryan, ex-Sacramento River Cat (A's) who had a couple of cups of coffee with the Diamondbacks, and is almost certainly ticketed for Syracuse. Another lefty-swinging OF, he hit just .249 in the PCL last year. Just wondering; does J.P. ever take a day off?