Better late than never, some random Monday observations after a week around the Blue Jays:
Even if Encarnacion’s rumoured five-year demand is cut to four, the guess here is that president and chief executive officer Mark Shapiro’s past record with aging, bad-bodied, one-dimensional designated hitter types (when he was general manager of the Cleveland Indians, he signed DH Travis Hafner to a four-year, $57-million deal that hurt the Tribe) will leave him predisposed to not going beyond two years plus an option for a third.
The Blue Jays are at an impasse with Encarnacion – have been, in effect, for two weeks – and have spent the past few days reminding one and all that it was Encarnacion who imposed a deadline of opening day, not the team. As for Bautista? I’ve been told the club is willing to be much more flexible for him than Encarnacion both in terms of money and term, but one man’s flexibility is another proud man’s slap in the face.
Smart baseball fans understand that this is the cost of doing business, but the bandwagoners will be ready to riot. What silliness. If the St. Louis Cardinals moved on from Albert Pujols, the Blue Jays can move on, too.
Troy Tulowitzki might be the man
OK, so this is just a gut call, but the most positive aspect of spring training has been how happy and high-profile Tulowitzki has been.
When the Blue Jays acquired him at the trade deadline from the Colorado Rockies, there were some in then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ management team who admitted Tulowitzki might not like Toronto and that it would be difficult to see him finishing out his contract with the Blue Jays.
Tulowitzki’s comments after the Blue Jays’ elimination did not amount to resounding thumbs up for the status quo, but now he has Josh Donaldson living with him and his family during spring training. With Encarnacion and Bautista on the way out, these two plus Russell Martin are the most important players in the clubhouse.
“Tulo’s got that long swing so it takes him a while to get locked in,” manager John Gibbons said on Sunday. “But I think he’s going to have a helluva year for us.”
“Best stuff I’ve seen anywhere this spring,” one National League scout told me last week. “They’re crazy if they put him in the bullpen.”
The problem, as one club source alluded to on Sunday, is that the ideal move – Sanchez to the bullpen early, then into the rotation mid-season without a worry about innings pitched – is impractical, because after stretching out Sanchez in the spring and then scaling him back for the bullpen, he can’t be stretched out again in-season.
No clue how this turns out, to be honest.
Backup catcher conundrum
If you want to worry about something, worry about the catching situation because there’s a frightening drop-off from Martin to anything else in the organization. I’m talking Death Valley.
Never mind Josh Thole, A.J. Jimenez can’t hit and could very well be moved since he’s out of options, and the more the Blue Jays have seen some of the mechanical quirks of Tony Sanchez behind the plate, the more the thought of him in a major-league game sends shiver up the collective spine. That’s a whole lot of not good.
The Blue Jays are cornered, here: They need Thole to catch R.A. Dickey but he brings nothing else to the table. Forget David Price, the most noticeable absence here is Dioner Navarro, whose ability to tick off three boxes – switch-hit, catch and be an emergency DH – would fit in nicely on this 25-man roster.
Thin organizational depth
Visitors to Shapiro’s office at the Rogers Centre over the winter would at some point have their attention directed to a board on the wall that listed the organization’s depth at each position. It told a sad tale. The Blue Jays will need to draft to replenish but in the meantime adding the likes of Casey Kotchman, Matt Dominguez and has improved the team’s depth at Triple-A, in that each is capable of giving a representative defensive effort in the short term.
Ceciliani is already a favourite of Gibbons, and would make this team if he didn’t have options remaining. When the Jays acquired him from the New York Mets for a player to be named later or cash, former Blue Jays GM and Gibbons teammate J.P. Ricciardi told the skipper that “he’s your type of player.” He certainly is.
Not done with Dunedin
The Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere else for spring training. The organization, city of Dunedin, and Pinellas County have made progress on a plan that would refurbish Florida Auto Exchange Stadium while building a new 365-day training and sports science centre at the Bobby Mattick Training Complex, the site of the organization’s minor-league facility.
All sides seem to have decided that logistics weigh against making the spring training stadium the focal point of training and rehabilitation. It would be a major shock if a deal isn’t struck before the end of the regular season.
I have a baseball friend who has known Kenny Williams for years, including as a teammate, and when he heard last winter that the Blue Jays were looking at Williams to replace Paul Beeston he texted: “You [expletive] me? Why the hell would anyone want Kenny Williams to be president of their team? His people skills are awful.”
Williams, of course, is the executive vice-president of the Chicago White Sox and found himself in the centre this week of a contretemps over the presence of Adam LaRoche’s son Drake in the clubhouse. LaRoche retired, leaving $13 million on the table, after Williams told him to scale back junior’s clubhouse presence.
LaRoche’s friends, such as Chris Sale, blistered Williams and even when published reports came out this weekend that in point of fact Williams had received complaints from other players, the fact none of those players was named limited the impact of their support for Williams.
I have always believed that what has been categorized as early missteps on the part of Blue Jays ownership in the search to replace Beeston was actually the product of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf deciding his friendship with Beeston was reason enough to go around accepted baseball practice and inform Beeston that his ownership was interested in Williams.
Reinsdorf was the villain in the whole thing, and Williams wasn’t worth the bother.
Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show from 9 a.m.to Noon ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Beginning April 4, he will host Baseball Central on Sportsnet 590 The Fan from 11 a.m. to Noon ET.