Jays sign Victor Zambrano

The Jays made another low risk, high reward signing on Tuesday, inking right-hander Victor Zambrano to a Minor League deal that includes an invite to Spring Training. The contract also has a club option for 2008. This deal won’t have as immediate of an impact as the Tomo Ohka or John Thomsons signings do, though.

Zambrano is only eight months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery and it could take him until April, May, or later until he’s available to pitch. The bottom line is Toronto was willing to give Zambrano time to rehab, and if he comes back healthy, the club’s rotation depth could get another boost. Zambrano would provide another arm that acts as a contingency plan later in the season if someone gets hurt.

The Jays want to make a run at the division this year and part of that means not having to relying on so many young, unexperienced players. Sure, young players will need to fill a hole here or there, and that’s fine, but it’s not ideal for a team in contention to be overloaded with young guys. Think about last season for Toronto. The Jays had to lean on a number of rookies when A.J. Burnett and Gus Chacin got hurt. The pitchers did a good job, for the most part, but Zambrano could provide a more experienced, better prepared arm in a similar situation this year.

Of course, that means that Jays fans probably won’t see much of Casey Janssen or Dustin McGowan this year if other guys stay healthy — they’ll likely remain at Triple-A for much of the year. John Thomson and Tomo Ohka are leading the pack of pitchers vying for the Nos. 4-5 rotation spots, with Shaun Marcum nipping at their heals. Marcum could also possibly contend for a long relief role in the bullpen. It’s less likely that Josh Towers would be put into a relief role, and he seems to be a long shot to crack the rotation — though stranger things have happened. After all, he did win 13 games two years ago.

ARBITRATION UPDATE:

Toronto still has three arbitration-eligible players — Alex Rios, Reed Johnson and Scott Downs — left unsigned. One thing to keep in mind is that the Jays haven’t gone to an arb. hearing with a player since 1997. Last night, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi didn’t have nay updates, except to say:

"Today, we’re probably going [to arbitration] on all three. Tomorrow, we could be getting close to getting a deal done. I don’t really panic on these at all. It’s just a process you have to go through. But, you know what? All three of them will be in Toronto this year playing."

So, no real updates, but any Jays fans still worrying about any pending trade involving Rios or Johnson can let out a sigh of relief. Although, when Toronto added Thomson and Ohka, it seemed very unlikely that the Jays were still aggressively pursuing trades. Ricciardi has said he’d rather add to what’s already in place anyway.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT ROSTER?

If the season started today, here’s what the roster probably would look like. How do you all think it stacks up with others around the league?

Position Players:

1B Lyle Overbay          LF Reed Johnson        C Gregg Zaun
2B Aaron Hill               CF Vernon Wells         C Jason Phillips
SS Royce Clayton         RF Alex Rios
3B Troy Glaus              OF Matt Stairs
UT John McDonald
UT Jason Smith           DH Frank Thomas

Pitchers:

1. Roy Halladay            LR Scott Downs             CL B.J. Ryan
2. A.J. Burnett             LR Shaun Marcum (?)      SU Brandon League
3. Gustavo Chacin        MR Jason Frasor
4. John Thomson          MR Brian Tallet
5. Tomo Ohka              MR Jeremy Accardo

7 Comments

To me it stemps from what type of shortstop Clayton is defensively. He he is good defensively I really like this team. If he’s not the answer with the glove at third,we should have a better bat. Also, would Matt Stairs enough depth at outfield?

I think this is a great lineup. They haven’t taken anything away from what we had last year, it seems more depth and strength at all positions has been added. Of course, we are losing the Cat and Lilly and Speier who all had some great contributions to the team last year. However Johnson deserves a full time roll in left and I beleive both Ohka and Thomson will be stronger than Lilly and the bullpen could use some change.

We got it made both offensively and defenseively. Although it will be tough to compete with the Yanks and SOx (always is), this is the year that it will be tough to beat the Jays, i think all the teams know it now. Good job JP and good job with the updates Jordan.

It’s a better line-up than last year and remember how excited everyone was at this point last year?

There are three areas of concern however.

1. Bottom end of rotation. There’s lots of depth here though so it should be okay.

2. Shortstop. We don’t need offense here but the defense better be spectacular.

3. Bullpen experience. There’s lots of young arms out there and that could either be great or a bit of a worry spot. Time will tell.

All in all it looks like a very good team. Aside from liking to have another B list starter all these comments are nit-picking.

Awesome Team.

Things really turned around the last couple a weeks. With the addition on Thomson and Okha we went from a 500 ball club to serious contenders. JP did such a good job. I like that we saved money on these guys to; sorta gives hope that we could sign one of the superstar pitchers entering FA in 2008. Good job too Jordan.

Yes indeed good moves lately by JP. But i think the biggest suprise will be some rookie pitcher to step up this year. Everyone goes through this period, when a pitcher is drafted its hard to assume how he will make up in the major leagues. So i have something telling all the hard work by scouts for the past few years, picking up pitchers will finally come through. With a batting order that powerful just a few more pitchers to that rotation and the jays could be my pick to win the east.

i kinda do like this signing. It gives the jays alot more people to step into the rotation if some goes down. Zambrano isn’t that bad of pitcher he just come with some risks. I think this may be the year he answers thoughs problem. I think JP has done a great with the jays every since taking the job.

The two questions on the club are starting pitching and an overly right-handed hitting lineup. Lots has been said about the pitching this winter. How will the Jays do against tough right-handed pitching this year?

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