Blue Jays Reflections on the New GM

toronto_blue_jays_logoGreetings from the frozen north, and man is it frozen this winter.  Anyway, what has been going on with the Jays? Well, we are about 100 days into the career of our new GM Alex Anthopoulos and so far most reviews are positive. His first few steps have been to beef up our scouting department and bring in some advisers to bounce ideas off.

There is the odd thing he’s done that I’m not thrilled with, he is keeping manager Cito Gaston for the season, with the understanding that after the season he will be retiring from managing. I’m not sure that Cito is the right man for this team, we will have a very young team this year and Cito prefers veteran players. Cito is also, how best to put this, pretty inert as a manager. You won’t see lots of moves during a game. There won’t be a lot of pinch hitting, hit and runs, bunts or, you know, other things a manager can do to affect the game.

TORONTO - MAY 28, 1997:  (FILE) Manager Cito G...
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Keeping Cito also cost us pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. Cito and Arnsberg apparently didn’t get along.  Arnsberg has been the pitching coach for the Jays since the 2005 season and has kept the Jay’s team ERA near the top of the league ever since.  Former bullpen coach Bruce Walton will take over as pitching coach while Rick Langford is moving up from Triple-A Las Vegas to become bullpen coach. Hopefully they can do as good a job with our young pitching staff. Also leaving the pitching staff is batting coach Gene Tenace.

Roy Halladay

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Anthopoulos has also made a couple of trades. One I’m sure you haven’t heard about, it was kept pretty quiet. I’m not sure if any newspapers or web sites picked up on it. The Jays traded Roy Halladay (and $6 million) to the Phillies for three prospects: pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis D’Arnaud and outfielder Michael Taylor.  Taylor was quickly shipped to the A’s for third baseman Brett Wallace.

I think Anthopoulos made as good a trade as we could have hoped for, Halladay had a no trade clause in his contract and there were only a few teams he would have accepted a trade to. The Yankees and the Red Sox didn’t offer much but he was able to talk the Phillies into a deal they weren’t willing to make at the trade deadline. I don’t know how he did it.

In Drabek, we have a potential number one starter who should be ready for the majors by the 2011 season at worst.  He throws a mid 90’s fastball and a very impressive curve.  Travis D’Arnaud is a little further back, he’s just 20 but projects to an above average catcher, who should have some power. It is likely we won’t see him in the majors until 2012.

The swap of Taylor for Wallace is interesting to us Jay fans. We have a hole in RF at the moment and Taylor looked like the guy that could fill it. I was really looking forward to seeing him play. But Anthopoulos figures Wallace is the better prospect. Wallace played third in the minors last year but the Jays think he would be better as a first baseman. We do have other first base prospects but I guess Anthopoulos didn’t think any of them will pan out. It is a very tough trade for a GM, going straight prospect for prospect. If Anthopoulos had kept Taylor and he didn’t turn out to be great, no one would have blamed him. Now if Taylor turns into a better player than Wallace, people will be ragging on him. But you can’t be a General Manager if you don’t have guts.

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 17:  Starting pitcher Bran...
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Anthopoulos has made some other moves. He made a trade with the Mariners getting Brandon Morrow for Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez. I was a big fan of League’s but getting a starting pitcher for a reliever and a prospect is not bad. Morrow is still just 25, throws hard and has a lot of potential. Of course, Morrow hasn’t yet proven he can start in the major leagues, but we are hopeful.

Anthopoulos has also made a couple of free agent signings.  He picked up catcher John Buck to a one year deal. He also signed short stop Alex Gonzalez to a one year $2.75 million contract with a club option for a second year. He also resigned John McDonald to a 2 year contract. I’m not sure what the point of signing two guys that are good glove, no bat types to play short but they are ok to fill the short stop spot until we find someone that can be a more long term solution.

We have also allowed free agents Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas and Kevin Millar to leave. I liked Scutaro but we will get two draft picks back from the Red Sox for him. Barajas had decent power for a catcher but then a .258 on base percentage isn’t something you want to see from any position. Kevin Millar should never have been signed in the first place.

NEW YORK - JULY 04: Adam Lind #26 of the Toron...

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All in all, things seem to be looking up in the long term for the Jays. In the short term? I think this season might be a rough one. We really could use a right fielder. I wouldn’t mind them putting Travis Snider in RF and Adam Lind in LF, but Cito seems to be totally against the idea. It might not be the best defensive outfield but I think it would be the best use of the players we have.

Unfortunately it seems like we are going to have the great fun of having Jose Bautista playing right and leading off. Jose did have a good finish to last season, but he has a career .227/.316/.366 batting line against right handed pitchers. He does hit lefties well, but he’s not the type of player I’d want in RF or lead off.

We have about a dozen possible starting pitchers this year, but none of them have much for experience. Right now the starting rotation could include Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow, Shaun Marcum, Brad Mills, David Prucey and Robert Ray. All guys with potential but lacking on experience. Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan could join into the list of possible starters as they come back from injury. And then prospects Zach Stewart and Kyle Drabek could force their way into consideration as the season goes on.

About a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and there is time for more to happen, but it looks to be we’ll have an interesting season. Maybe not a good season, but it will be interesting to watch.

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