Category Archives: Baseball

Free Agent Stock Market Crash: Mike Moustakas

This has been a weird offseason for the free agent market. I can’t remember a year with this much Major League talent left unsigned at this point in Spring Training. Among the headliners are Cy Young winner Jake Arietta, quality pitchers in Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, and two time All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Moustakas was a key bat for the 2015 World Series winning Royals team and has been a pretty steady power bat at the hot corner for a few years now. “The Moose” peaked with a 4.4 bWAR in 2015, but cranked 38 home runs just last year. Despite his power, Moustakas’ bWAR was only 1.8 last year because of his incredibly troubling .314 OBP. At age 29 his defense has started to regress and he missed almost all of 2016 with a torn ACL which almost certainly has restricted his range. But any other year in the past there would have been an all out bidding war for this type of bat. Which begs the question: why is he still available? Below I’ll give a breakdown on which teams he would fit on and what teams just don’t have room.

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Making sense of Toronto’s offseason so far

Last week the Jays made a couple of moves that gave off a flicker on heat in an otherwise dormant hot stove. First they signed 36 year old outfielder Curtis Granderson to a one year $5 mil deal and followed up that huge pickup by trading for Randal Grichuk by sending reliever Dominic Leon and prospect Connor Greene to the St. Louis Cardinals. Old Man Granderson still has some life in his bat and his 2017 splits versus right handers (21 home runs and a 114 OPS+) should at the very least make him a good platoon guy in a corner outfield spot. The 26 year-old Grichuk is under team control through 2020, plays all three outfield spots well and makes up for a low .285 OBP with some 20+ home run pop.

In a vacuum both moves are smart seeing as they didn’t cost the Blue Jays a lot and improve the Jays incrementally by bolstering their big league depth. In spite of that both moves have been surprisingly divisive among the fan base. While I’d like to think there’s a large group of fans that understand that these moves are low risk, medium reward moves, a lot of fans are waiting for the Blue Jays answer to the Giancarlo signing (or to blow the team up with a Josh Donaldson trade). As is stands right now, assuming the Jays carry a typical seven man bullpen, here’s how their lineup looks:

C: Russel Martin
1B: Justin Smoak
2B: Devon Travis
SS: Troy Tulowitski
3B: Josh Donaldson
LF: Curtis Granderson
CF: Kevin Pillar
RF: Randal Grichuk
DH: Kendrys Morales
C2: Luke Maile
IF: Yangervis Solarte
OF: Ezequiel Carrera
OF: Steve Pearce

(Bold indicates new acquisition)

After the moves last week the Jays have an estimated $10-15 mil left in their budget to acquire a fifth starter and upgrade the backup catcher and bullpen. This team is not a finished product right now and there are good moves to be had. But all of Jays Nation seems to have the same question that I have: what’s the end game here?

From what I can tell the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays are going to field the best team possible within their budget, without mortgaging their future in their last season of the Donaldson contract. While these moves aren’t sexy the Jays  manage to win 76 games last year with a team despite some major setbacks. Donaldson was either on the DL or playing hurt for the majority of the year, 2016 Cy Young candidate Aaron Sanchez only pitched 36 innings, and the team had to hand 1,507 at bats to the dreadful trio of Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista (sporting OPS+ of 57, 68 and 76 and a combined WAR of -2.6). Even if Granderson, Grichuk and Solarte provide replacement-level production, which to be clear would be wildly disappointing, the Jays would be nearly 3 wins better than last year almost through addition by subtraction. Barring catastrophic injuries the Jays will be in the Wild Card hunt in 2018. But even given this, the Toronto offseason has been one of the most bleak in recent memory.

It’s easy to mock the ranting mouth breathers that light up the lines of Wilner’s Jays Talk. They generally don’t look at any numbers, they think everyone on the team is trash, but they feel that they can package the previously mentioned trash for a package including Mike Trout, a re-animated Babe Ruth, and left-handed pitcher Jésus Christ. But lost among the easily brushed off silly-talk is the backbone of sports: passion.

At the end of the day sports is an entertainment industry and is supposed to be an escape from from the daily grind of real life. Sports are nothing without the fans. But I feel as though the cold-calculating analytical thinking that runs front offices has started to bleed too much into fandom. I personally love to dive into the numbers and read up on nuanced numbers that go deeper than what we’re seeing on the field. But I feel like baseball has turned into a big game of math where the geniuses scoff at baseball fans who are simply looking to be entertained.

I actually like the Atkins and Shapiro front office. But I wouldn’t trade that last season of Alex Anthopolous for anything. Alex thought he had a winning hand, pushed the chips into the middle of the table and took his best shot at the World Series. Huge trades or signings can energize a fanbase like no other. Whether sincere or not it gives the basic appearance that ownership and management care about the product on the field. That 2015 Blue Jays season was the most exciting time I’ve had as a sports fan period.

Now after the fact there is a narrative among “smarter” Jays fans that, “Well Anthopolous jeopardized the team’s future. While the Blue Jays were at .500 when they made those trades, they had one of the best run differentials in the league and would’ve likely went on that stretch whether they had Price or not. Now they’re locked into a terrible Tulowitzki contract and a depleted farm system for one playoff run.” This is a real take that I’ve read multiple time over the past year and to that I say: baseball games aren’t played on a spreadsheet poindexter.

Fan perception does matter. Fans watch the games. Fans buy the tickets. Fans buy the merch. I do think the current Blue Jays front office has actually done a ton of good things to build a better organization from the big club down to Blue Field Blue Jays in rookie ball. But even they would have to admit that, what might be unfair because of the heat of the Anthopolous departure on day one of the job, Shapiro has not been received well by the majority of the fanbase,

The purpose of this piece is not to rip Blue Jays ownership for not spending more. The team had the fifth highest payroll in the league last year. Without the crazy lucrative television deals and sponsorships that the big American markets have, you can’t truly expect Rogers to shovel even more money at the roster. My biggest gripe is the million dollar nickel-and-diming economics lesson that baseball has turned into while the MLB has a handful of teams have unlimited budgets. It’s tough when you see the fun that Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers fans have every offseason while I cling to my Al Alburquerque minor-league deals. You’re always reminded that baseball is a business and that has never been more evident than this offseason.

What’s Left of the Toronto Boo Jays Season? September Call-Ups, I Guess

In a season mired by injuries that started off with a deflating and horrendous 2-11 start, the Toronto Blue Jays season of 2017 has felt like a constant, steep climb back to relevancy. With every game they’re trying to chip away and get back to where they’ve found themselves these past two exciting seasons: postseason contention.

As the Blue Jays have gotten deeper into this season, I’ve had to keep a realistic view on the chances they had at digging themselves out of this hole. The recent optimist in me would argue that there’s an opportunity to gain ground on some of the teams they’re chasing in head to head matchups down the stretch. It’s also a weak wildcard race and they have had a recent surge of good play that had pulled them within just three games of the second wildcard spot as recently as last weekend. These games left just enough hope that I thought, “you know what? Maybe they can pull this off.” But a three game sweep at the hands of the defending World Series champs and a split with the Rays going into a rubber match tonight (EDIT: They lost this one too) has the Jays looking at a 1-4 stretch that has just about spelled the end of the 2017 playoff push. Since the All-Star break, I’ve kept in mind a philosophy that I wouldn’t totally give up on the Jays’ postseason chances until they are more games back of the final wildcard spot than there are weeks remaining in the season. Well, there’s about five and a half weeks left, and they’re now five and a half games out. That’s cutting it pretty close with just 36 games remaining and seven teams to pass. I’d say it’s basically over.

We really shouldn’t be surprised. At this point in time they’re without their starting catcher (Martin), shortstop (Tulowitzki), second baseman (Travis) and best starting pitcher of last season (Sanchez). The likes of Raffy Lopez, Matt Dermody and Nick Tepesch, to name a few of many scrub replacements, simply won’t hold up for a stretch of wins the Blue Jays need. There’s a reason we hadn’t really heard of them before they were forced into their current roles. But with all of that said, it’s nearly September, so there may still be something to get excited about as a Jays fan (and no, it’s not that the season is almost over with). It’s the…September Call-Ups:

Ahhhhhh, roster expansion. The time of year where fresh faces get the call to the bigs with hopes of proving themselves under the bright lights and gaining some valuable developmental reps. It’s at this time where we as fans likely get our first real look at a potential Blue Jay piece of the future. Unfortunately we aren’t going to see the Jays legit young studs, Bo Bichette or Vladimir Guerrero Jr., just yet because they are still too early in their development. Below are some of the players we could be introduced/reintroduced to come call-up time. (Players Currently on the 40-man roster are in bold)

Anthony Alford (OF): The Blue Jays 2012 3rd round pick is considered the team’s #3 prospect behind only Guerrero Jr. and Bichette and is the #49 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. We had a very brief eight-at-bat look at him with the Blue Jays in 2017, so hopefully we can see some more of the 23 year-old who has a .399 OBP in the minors this season, most of which was with the AA New Hampshire Fisher-Cats. He could bring some much needed speed and defense to the corner outfield positions.

Brett Anderson (P): We’ll get a look at Tom Koehler – a 31 year-old veteran the Jays recently acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins last week – in his first chance to start with the team this Thursday. Anderson is another veteran starter the Jays took a flier on and, like Koehler, we could see in an appearance this season. Anderson is 29 years old and was signed to a minor-league deal last week after being released from the Cubs. He’s seen Major League rotation time with the Athletics, Rockies and Dodgers in the past, but injuries have been a major issue for him. His most recent success was in 2015 with the Dodgers where he went 10-9 with a 3.69 over 180.1 innings. This really wasn’t that long ago.

Ryan Borucki (P): Borucki was 15th round pick in 2012 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 6’4”, 23 year-old left-handed starter has been able to return to form and is slotted as the #14 Blue Jays prospect. He began the year with the Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays but earned a promotion to the AA Fisher-Cats earlier this summer. He’s actually pitched better so far in AA than he did with Dunedin with a 2.29 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in just under 40 innings.

Roemon Fields (OF): It’s too bad the Jays aren’t going to be a playoff team this season, because it’d be very interesting to see how they’d utilize this guy. Fields has no power, but he has at least 44 stolen bases in all four of his pro seasons. He’d be the perfect pinch runner. He’s also managed to put up an impressive .362 OBP in his 319 AAA at-bats this season. He’d be exciting to watch as a Blue Jay.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF): The prized piece in return for Francisco Liriano in the trade with the Houston Astros at the non-waiver trade deadline. The 24 year-old from the Dominican Republic is the 5th ranked Jays prospect according to He’s actually had 42 games of MLB experience with the Astros (41 of which came in 2016) so the Blue Jays are sure to give him a big-league look in spite of a sluggish start since joining the AAA Buffalo Bisons.

Sean Reid-Foley (P): Another AA pitcher, but unlike Borucki, Reid-Foley has been much more hyped and written about. He was a 2nd round pick back in 2014 and possesses a fastball that can touch 97mph. He is currently the Blue Jays #7 ranked prospect via After a few years of looking like a prized pitching prospect he’s had quite a rough year with a 5.18 ERA in 24 starts with the New Hampshire Fisher-Cats. The clock hasn’t run out on Reid-Foley by any stretch, but maybe it’s time to just throw the kid in there and see if he’s got what it takes.

Michael Saunders (OF): Remember him? It was just last year Saunders was an All-Star for the Blue Jays before the wheels fell off in the second half of the season. As bad as last season’s second half was, he still  got a contract from the Phillies in the offseason, only to then be released within three months. The Jays scooped him up on a minor league deal back on June the 28th. In 120 at bats with the AAA Bisons he’s hitting an unimpressive (for a player with MLB experience) .267. But Saunders has a track record of big league success, and once again was an ALL-STAR just LAST YEAR. Maybe the Canadian gets another shot.

Dwight Smith Jr. (OF): Smith Jr. was up earlier this season with the Jays and the 24 year-old fared well with a .414 OBP in his 29 plate appearances. Obviously that’s an unsustainable number and small sample size, but he’s also posted an impressive .349 OBP in his first full season at the AAA level with the Bisons. The 2011 1st round pick may be the closest to a lock of the players on this list to get the call to the bigs.

Rowdy Tellez (1B): Tellez has received a lot of buzz since last season. He’s an intriguing story because back in 2013 he fell all the way to the Jays in the 30th round in the draft. He slid because teams feared he wouldn’t sign with them due to him already having accepted a scholarship to USC. He was the 59th ranked player entering that draft so the Jays took a chance, he ended up signing, and it has worked out perfectly as the 22 year-old power bat has become their 13th ranked prospect. He broke out in AA last year with 23 HR, 81 RBI and a .297/.387/.530 slash line. Unfortunately he hasn’t fared nearly as well this season with the AAA Bisons, but it’d still be nice to see if Rowdy can make the jump.

Happy soon-to-be-September everyone. Let’s hope we’re in a better position this time next season.

The Midseason MLB Awards

As Major League Baseball reaches its All-Star break and unofficial midway point of its season, this also marks one of the quietest times of the year for sports fans when it comes to on field/court/ice entertainment. That being the case, I figured I’d give an update on where the MLB awards races stand at this point in the season to try and take your mind off of that. If the awards were handed out today, here’s how it should look:

Cy Young:

American League (AL) – Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Honourable Mention: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

National League (NL) – Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

Honourable Mention: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers Read more

Justin Smoak: The All Star?

Now I’ve taken some heat for my old Justin Smoak bashing ways.


I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I was wrong. But as a Jays fan first, and a former Justin Smoak hater second, I’m glad I was wrong. So far this season, Justin Smoak has gone and hit his way into the All Star conversation. His emergence as a lethal bat has been especially important for a Jays team that has been riddled with injuries and overall terrible play, yet somehow find themselves 3 games back of a wild card spot.

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Blue Jays Time Capsule: The 2012 Mets and Marlins Blockbusters Trades

This week the Jays have been getting slugged in a four game home-and-home series against the woeful Atlanta Braves. One storyline that was not lost on fans and media alike was RA Dickey’s return to Toronto. The now-42 year-old Dickey continues to float knuckleballs south of the border and his return has unearthed some feelings in Jays nation.

Coincidentally, the last time the Jays were this disappointing this early in the season, the 2013 Blue Jays team had just acquired RA Dickey off of an NL Cy Young winning season and made a blockbuster trade with the Marlins where  they pretty much acquired Miami’s team for the Jays’ farm. Vegas had them as the odds on favourite to win the World Series that year and… they finished last in the AL East with a 74-88 record.

So in the spirit of depressing Blue Jays baseball, let’s take a look back at those two trades made in November of  2012! Read more

2017 Toronto Blue Jays Season Primer

Embed from Getty Images

Last year’s installment of my Blue Jays season primer was done through a “Plus Minus Predictions” feature. While the concept gave me good talking points to express my thoughts on the core of the Blue Jays roster, the conservative Steamer Fangraphs projections that I used left me making some pretty lame “cold takes” with every prediction given the “barring injury” caveat. “Josh Donaldson is awesome.” Yikes you’ll need an ice bath after that hot take. Read more

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