November 2007

Why not…

It’s been a while since I posted, so I guess this is as good of a time as any. It’s not looking like the Jays are going to give me much to post about between now and the Winter Meetings as it is. I’ll be heading down to Nashville Sunday night, and I plan on posting on here daily while I’m down there for the meetings.

The Jays front continues to be a cold one. Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press did bring everyone an update this week on Vernon Wells’ recovery from shoulder surgery. He should be able to start lightly swinging a bat in about three weeks and he expects to be ready to go for Spring Training. The Jays are certainly hoping his numbers can return to form.

Toronto hasn’t been doing much, but it sure has been a busy offseason. The Torii Hunter signing makes the Angels pretty stacked now (although one has to wonder if the Mitchell Report will come in to play with Gary Matthews Jr. — time will tell) and the Yanks appear to be making a push for Twins ace Johan Santana.

Then again, everyone’s looking one way and focusing on the Santana rumors and BAM! the Twins pull a six-man swap with the Rays to reel in Delmon Young. That’s certainly one way to help replace Hunter. The Rays pick some much-needed pitching help in Matt Garza, but I still think the Twinkies come out on top in the deal by landing one of the top young bats in Young.

Well, unless something happens, this will probably be my last post until I land in Nashville. But don’t worry, I’ll be bringing play-by-play posts to detail Toronto’s exhaustive hunt for a No. 2 catcher. Can you feel the drama unfolding?

Towers still standing?

Towers_1TORONTO – Blue Jays Nation may not have seen the last of Josh Towers. As Mike Rutsey reports in the Toronto Sun today, Toronto plans on bringing Towers back for 2008.

"At this point we intend to bring him back," Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi told the paper. "We need all the pitching that we can get. We plan on Towers being here."

Towers, who made $2.9 million last season in the final year of the two-year contract he signed after ’05, is eligible for arbitration this winter. So, he could garner around $3 million. Considering the options on the free-agent market, Ricciardi is content with Towers as his fifth starter at that price.

"For the fifth spot in a rotation, for $3-million bucks, that’s what starters are going for," Ricciardi said. "Just look at the numbers and do the math."

Towers’ numbers have been the issue, though. Even so, it looks like Towers will once again be in the mix for the fifth spot, along with Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen and Gus Chacin (if healthy). The Jays still have some interest in Matt Clement, but only if it’s with an inexpensive contract.

The Jays have also reached out to free-agent catcher Michael Barrett, but his status as a Type A free agent may make Toronto hesitant to sign him. If they signed Barrett, the Jays would have to give up a first-round pick, which the club doesn’t want to do. Meanwhile, the Jays are still talking to Sal Fasano about being their backup to Gregg Zaun.

Yesterday, David Purcey was added to Toronto’s 40-man roster. This was just a paperwork move, but it does protect Purcey for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, which will be held at the Winter Meetings. To make room on the roster, the Jays designated outfielder Cody Haerther for assignment.

So, there’s some baseball news for you guys to chew on. I’m going to go back to grieving over Michigan State basketball’s tough loss to UCLA. Ah well, at least the Spartans ballers are giving me something to root for these days. The Bulls are just killing me and the Bears have been thoroughly disappointing.

A different debate

Michaeljordandunk9OK, so this isn’t baseball related in the least — unless you count Michael Jordan’s brief encounter with the Minor Leagues.

One of my esteemed colleagues and I were discussing what we believed would make up the greatest NBA squad of all time. This stemmed from an argument a few years back where said colleague tried to explain to me that MJ wasn’t the greatest basketball player ever, which is obviously an argument that a Bulls fan from Chicago doesn’t take lightly.

Anyway, he suggested this as an all-time starting five:

Wilt Chamberlain
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Oscar Robertson
Michael Jordan
Magic Johnson

My all-time five looked like this:

Wilt Chamberlain
Bill Russell
Michael Jordan
Magic Johnson
John Stockton

Our apologies to Dr. J and Larry Bird, among others. Obviously, my coworker went with more size and I went with a more traditional point guard. I’m asking you guys to offer what your all-time NBA team would be.

We also began to debate the best teams by decade. My all 1990s squad looked like: Shaq, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Jordan and Stockton. All new-millenium would be: Steve Nash, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Shaq. Some players cross over into multiple decades: Dr. J and Kareem, for example, could be ’70s or ’80s.

For the All 2000s team, my colleague voted in favor of Dwyane Wade or Allen Iverson instead of Nash — again, foregoing the traditional point guard.

Opinions?

Jays add Scutaro

ScutaroTORONTO – The Blue Jays added some depth to their infield on Sunday, acquiring Marco Scutaro from the A’s in exchange for pitching prospects Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell.

The 32-year-old Scutaro hit .260 with seven home runs and 41 RBis in 104 games last season with Oakland, serving as a backup infield and outfielder for the A’s. That appears to be the role he’ll fill with the Jays, who were searching for a super utility man this winter.

In six big-league seasons, Scutaro has appeared in 551 games between stints with the Mets and A’s. He owns a career .259 average with 92 doubles, 31 homers, 174 RBIs and a .320 on-base percentage. Scutato has a .979 career fielding percentage combined at third base, second base, shortstop and outfield.

Godfrey, 23, went 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 21 starts for Class A Lansing last season. The 23-year-old Bell spent ’07 with Class A Dunedin and went 3-7 with a 5.33 ERA in 22 games, including 11 starts.

On Sunday, the Jays also sent infielder Hector Luna and Pedro Lopez outright to Triple-A Syrcause. Toronto also claimed outfielder Cody Haether off waivers from St. Louis. Heather, 24, spent most of the ’07 at Double-A, where he hit .289 with five homers and 28 RBIs in 37 games with Springfield.

Busy day in baseball

BarroidWhat a day in the world of baseball on this Thursday, huh?

Jake Peavy picks up the National League Cy Young Award, Commish Bud Selig praised the game’s fine state in announcing $6 billion in revenue, A-Rod is about to land a $275 million contract with the Yanks and, oh yeah, there was some free agent guy who was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice by a federal grand jury.

Can anyone honestly say they didn’t see this coming with Barry Bonds? I mean, I’ll admit I didn’t see the Alex Rodriguez news coming — I thought for sure he’d be heading well out of the Bronx. But Bonds, this just seems like, ‘Welp, it was only a matter of time.’ So, now we’ll wait to follow all the fallout.

Of course, this all still falls under that whole label of "allegations" until Mr. Bonds goes Marion Jones on us and admits he lied about unknowlingly taking steroids. Now, Jones forked over her gold medals after admitting she lied. Will Bonds — baseball’s home run king — be forced to forfeit his records? Only time will tell.

I’ve been a Bonds’ backer for some time simply because what he has done is simply amazing — steroids, HGH, or not. To have that keen an eye and that much patience, and to be able to completely alter an entire game simply by suiting up is incredible. BUT, lying under oath and using illegal methods is nothing to take lightly. This whole situation will completely tarnish his legacy — not that it wasn’t marred already.

As far as the Jays, there’s not much going on in that camp is there? All’s quiet on the Toronto front. Although, I have learned that the rumors about additional retro Jays uniforms for this next season might be a little more than just talk. Other than that, not much happenin’ here in T-town.

So, I’m going to move on over to the couch and take in the Bulls-Suns game. For those of you who have talked some smack about my Bulls in the comments, I can’t argue. They’ve been pretty terriBULL and were more than deserving of the 30th spot in ESPN’s power rankings I read today. I did get tix to the Bulls-Raps game on Nov. 25, so I’ll be there in my Jordan Bulls jersey rooting on my home team. You Raps fans can talk to me when your team has six titles.

That's a Rap

TORONTO – I gave being a Raptors fan a try for one night and it didn’t work out so well, so I’m going to go back to rooting for my Bulls. I headed to the ACC on Wednesday and took in the Raptors-Magic game, which was actually my first time going to the stadium.

We had a good time, but when Juan Dixon is creating the most excitement there’s a problem. I tried to get the J-D-3 chants going in my section, but it wasn’t catching on like I had hoped. I also came inches away from acquiring a free t-shirt, but the concessions stand wouldn’t allow me to have a cap for my bottle of diet coke. As a result, I couldn’t jump like I would’ve been able to with a cap protecting my drink and the shirt eluded my grasp. Ah well.

Had a brief chat with Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi last night. I was actually at the gym when he called me back, so I got some odd looks while I was off in the corner conducting an interview while people headed in to the weight room. Anyway, even though the Jays have been linked to catcher Yorvit Torrealba in some recent reports, Ricciardi said the Jays aren’t going to go that route.

After talking to Ricciardi and Torrealba’s agent, it’s apparent that the catcher is likely to garner a multi-year deal, and probably as a No. 1 guy somewhere. The Jays are fine with Gregg Zaun as their starter, and the club doesn’t want to dish out a multi-year contract when Curtis Thigpen and Robinzon Diaz figure to be in the mix by 2009.

There’s still a chance that the Jays will bring back catcher Sal Fasano, which would give me someone to talk about Da Bears with for another season. Ricciardi didn’t deny that the Jays might have some interest in Mike Lieberthal, but he said Toronto hadn’t realy started talking to potential candidates. That will probably intensify as we get closer to the winter meetings.

Ricciardi said there’s also still a chance that the club may try Thigpen at a position other than just catcher. He’s played some first base, tried his hand some at second and maybe third base is in his future. Ricciardi said that issue will be discussed this winter, so Thigpen will have some clarity by Spring Training. Eventually, he and Diaz will be with the Jays. They both can’t catch.

Also, in regards to the A.J. Burnett trade report, which was slightly blown out of proportion, Ricciardi had this to say: "What’s happening is there’s nothing going on. There’s absoultely nothing going on and people are looking for anything to write. We know we’ve got A.J. for another year. If he decides to opt out after three years, or he decides to stay, we knew that going in. This isn’t something that all of a sudden popped up in our lap."

Well, there’s a little Jays update for you guys to chew on. Here’s some Winter League stats updates:

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Scottsdale Scorpions
Travis Snider — .342, .986 OPS, 3 HR, 5 2B, 10 RBIs through 20 games
Sergio Santos — .261, 4 HR, 6 2B, 13 RBIs through 18 games
Ryan Patterson — .239, 2 HR, 5 RBIs through 19 games
David Purcey — 1-1, 1.59 ERA, 17 IP, 17 K, 8 BB, 12 H though five starts
Ricky Romero — 1-1, 4.22 ERA, 10 2/3 IP, 10 K, 5 BB through 8 games, 1 start
Jamie Vermilyea — 0-1, 16.50 ERA, 11 ER, 15 H, 6 IP

Team USA
Lee Gronkiewicz — 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 1/3 IP, 6 K, 0 BB in 3 games

DOMINICAN LEAGUE

Agulias Cibaenas
Hector Luna — .354, .415 OBP, 2 RBIs through 13 games

Azucareros del Este
Manny Mayorson — .364 (4-for-11) through 5 games

Tigers del Licey
Robinzon Diaz — .500 (2-for-4) with 1 run in one game

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE

Bravos de Margarita
Ray Olmedo — .326 (30-for-92), 3 3B, 5 RBIs, 13 runs through 23 games

Cardenales de Lara
Ryan Houston — 1-0, 1.00 ERA, 9 IP, 7 H, 4 K, 5 BB through eight games

HAWAII LEAGUE

West Oahu CaneFires
Brian Jeroloman — .255, 1 HR, 8 RBIs through 15 games

You can keep checking on the Jays playing winter ball at MLB.com’s Winter Leagues page.

Burnett not on trade block

BurnettTORONTO – Don’t get all riled up by the report on ESPN.com last night that said the Jays were willing to entertain trade proposals for Burnett. This was a non-news news item that, if you ask me, got a little blown out of proportion.

Let’s start by examing the quote that Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi gave:

"We like having A.J. here," Ricciardi told ESPN.com. "He gives us a good opportunity to win in 2008, and that’s our main objective right now.

"But we’re open-minded," he continued. "If someone blew us away, we’d be foolish not to listen. If someone came to us tomorrow and said, ‘We’ll give you this, this and this for him,’ we’d be foolish not to look at it."

Basically, Ricciardi said this: "We’re not looking to trade Burnett, but of course we’d listen if a team came to us with a ridiculous offer to acquire him." J.P. didn’t say the Jays were looking to trade him, and he didn’t say the Jays would trade him if a team came with a big offer. All he said was he’d listen. Of course he will, he’s a general manager.

Here’s a quote he had at the end of the season: "If we do anything on the trade market, I don’t see anything being major. It’d probably be more minor. We’d have to really get blown away to do something major. Everybody’s going to want our kids on the mound, but we really don’t want to give those guys up."

Is that really that much different that the breaking news quote ESPN ran last night? Nope.

It makes sense that speculation about Burnett’s situation came up, and I guess it was only a matter of time. But if the Blue Jays want to seriously make a run at the division title, Burnett is a part of that. Toronto isn’t going anywhere with Halladay and some kids behind him, especially when the team doesn’t have a ton of financial flexibility to add another arm this winter.

The Jays need a healthy A.J. to compete in the East. But, he’s due to make $12 million this year and in 2009 and ’10 if he doesn’t opt out of his contract after the ’08 season. Given that situation, of course the Jays would listen to offers. I think if the Jays are out of the race by the trade deadline, they’ll really listen to offers.

The Canadian Press got Ricciardi to clarify his comments: "We’re not shopping him. We don’t want to move Burnett, we want him to help us win next season. But if someone was to wow us with an offer, we’d have to listen."

And I don’t think a Miguel Tejada for Burnett offer will wow the Jays. Toronto has its solution for 2008 at short in John McDonald. Honestly, I think Tejada has a move to third base in his future, too. Now, if Toronto could toss Troy Glaus and his huge contract and steroid allegation issues in the package, maybe Ricciardi would really listen.

I’ve listened to many trade proposals in some fantasy leagues this year. But I haven’t pulled the trigger. Then again, given my place in the standings, maybe I should have.

Now watch, I’ve gone and said this is all a bunch of balogna and the Jays will deal Burnett before the season starts. Highly doubtful, though.

Jays Sign Stairs

5zilh839TORONTO – The Blue Jays announced on Friday that they had agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $3.25 million with Canadian slugger Matt Stairs.

Back home in Bangor, Maine, Stairs confirmed the deal and said that playing time was never an issue in the negotiations. He simply didn’t want to talk money during the season, explaining why he steered away from signing an extension until this week.

The deal is being announced as $3.25 million, but it can be worth $3.5 million if Stairs reaches 200 plate appearances in 2008 ($200K) and 100 plate appearances in 2009 ($50K). The contract also includes a $1.25 million signing bonus, so it’s yearly salaries of $1 million.

The deal was struck late Thursday night and Stairs agent, Bob Garber, said, "We’re very happy that Matt’s going to be able to finish his career with the Blue Jays." It’s still not clear how Stairs, Adam Lind and/or Reed Johnson will fit into the left field plan. To be continued.

Mud-Rod?

Alexrodriguezpicture1One thing you have to love about the Minor Leagues is that a lot of those clubs sure have a sense of humor.

After Alex Rodriguez opted to opt out of his 10-year, $252 million deal (they’re partying in the streets of Arlington), George Steinbrenner’s son, Hank, offered this response to the New York Times: "Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, or a Toledo Mud Hen?"

Well, the Mud Hens heard ol’ Hank’s comment and decided to see for themselves. Apparently, the Triple-A club — International League rivals of the Jays’ Syracuse affiliate — sent a contract proposal to A-Rod’s agent, Scott Boras.

The proposal included bonuses for hitting 75 home runs and for helping lead the Hens to 10 straight International League titles. Toledo even sent an image of Rodriguez on a Hall of Fame plaque, wearing a Mud Hens hat.

There was one catch, though. The deal said that A-Rod would have to compete for a spot at third base with Mike Hessman, who won the league MVP last season.

"Would your client be willing to play a different position?" the letter asked.

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