On Tuesday, Toronto signed 33-year-old right-hander John Thomson to a one-year deal worth $500,000. The contract also includes performances bonuses based on starts that could push Thomson’s salary up to around $4 million. Adding Thomson with an incentive-based deal is a good plan for the Jays. Toronto needs to replace the 180-odd innings that left with Ted Lilly’s departure and Thomson notched near or more than 200 innings in each of the 2003-04 seasons with Atlanta.
If he is truly over his history of injury woes — shoulder inflammation that cost him two months last year, a blister on his middle finger that sidelined him earlier in the season, mild elbow soreness near the end of last Spring Training, a more serious finger tendon injury that cost him three months in 2005, and surgery on his rotator cuff in ’99 — then this could be a bargain for Toronto. Should Thomson emerge as the No. 3 starter the Jays have been searching for, the Jays rotation could be in better shape than it was a year ago.
Also, if Thomson can successfully become the No. 3 starter, that would keep lefty Gustavo Chacin as the No. 4, which is where he is probably better suited. Thomson said he was under the impression that he was heading into Spring Training with a job to lose — not to compete for a job.
So if he pitches well, that leaves Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen, Josh Towers and Dustin McGowan left competing for the last rotation spot. Marcum appears to be the frontrunner. Toronto was impressed with how he finished last season and he was more consistent than the other three pitchers. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has already stated that McGowan will most likely begin at Triple-A (Toronto secured that fourth option year for him). Towers could be a solid fifth starter if he can find his 2005 form, but who knows how likely that is after his 2-10 showing a year ago. Towers and McGowan will have to really show something this spring to realistically have a shot.
–All Thomson had to say on his conference call today was that a couple of reasons he chose Toronto was that he has been impressed with the outfield defense, which is led by three-time Gold Glover Vernon Wells, and the pitcher liked the prospect of pitching to catcher Gregg Zaun. In fact, Thomson did say both of those things. Thomson added some other unnecessary shots at the Mets and catcher Paul Lo Duca, though. New York was the only club other than Toronto to offer Thomson a Major League contract, but the starter liked what he saw with the Jays better:
"As far as just looking at Paul Lo Duca across the field, I’m not really into how he acts behind the plate," Thomson said. "I know a bit about Gregg Zaun and I know he wants to win and he’s not going to let anything get in his way to do that, and I like that. And then with Vernon Wells in centre field, I’m not really concerned about the outfield with him out there. . . . Just watching the Mets outfield, if Cliff Floyd is out there it’s not a real good fit for him out there. He can hit the ball but as far as defence, he’s a little shaky. I just liked what’s happening in Toronto."
–The Globe and Mail’s Jeff Blair writes on his blog that, "The Blue Jays will invite [Robbie] Alomar to Toronto this summer to herald his induction onto the team’s Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre. The club wanted to do it this past season when the Philadelphia Phillies were in town for an interleague series between June 30-July 2 — Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and former president Paul Beeston were to be part of the ceremony — but couldn’t get all the ducks lined up."
—Also on Tuesday, Toronto agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $825,000 with reliever Jason Frasor, thus avoiding arbitration. Now, Scott Downs, Reed Johnson, Alex Rios and Lyle Overbay remain as the only unsigned arb-eligible players for the Jays. The Blue Jays have talked with the agents for each player and Toronto is considering the possibility of a multi-year deal with Overbay.
–One pitcher to pay attention to this spring is reliever Francisco Rosario. The right-hander is out of options and will be in the running for a bullpen job. Barring injury, B.J. Ryan, Brandon League, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Tallet, Downs and Frasor all appear to be locks for the bullpen. That leaves one open spot, which Toronto manager John Gibbons said could go to either lefty Davis Romero, newly acquired righty Geremi Gonzalez or Rosario. If Romero won the job, Toronto would have four lefties and three righties in the bullpen. If Rosario doesn’t get the job, he’d have to clear waivers before being sent to Triple-A Syracuse.
That’s all for right now. I hope everyone had a good holiday and a happy new year. I’ve booked my flight to Florida, rented my car and got my living arrangements all set up for Spring Training. Now, if only that reporting date could come quicker so I could be down south soaking up the sun.
Stay tuned for more…