Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury can give Jays fans something to care about pre-Vlad

The Jays are rebuilding, so the idea of them contending this season can be put to rest early. What Jays fans can expect is inter-squad competition and players playing for the opportunity to get traded. Two players to watch for are Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury.

Billy McKinney

The cornerstone piece moved back to Toronto in the deadline deal for J.A. Happ, Billy McKinney has something to prove after being labeled expendable by the Yankees.

The Yankees have a stacked first-team outfield and a cupboard full of prospects. Career-wise, McKinney is probably better off having been traded and he showed the Jays why they’d be happy they went out and got him.

In his 36 game stint in Toronto,McKinney hit .252 BA, 6 HR, 13 RBIs, and had an above league average OPS of .780. He mixed in stolen base and a slugging percentage of .462, as well.

In raw ability and impact at the MLB level, McKinney stands alone atop a pile of MLB or fringe outfielders the Jays have. Pillar, Grichuk, Hernandez, White, Pompey, Alford, and Davis are all competing for two spots right now.

Why? Because while defensively and positionally solid in the outfield, McKinney also boasts leadoff hitter qualities that make him a team necessity. He’ll battle for the spot, but with Devon Travis now out he’s likely to win it. With that position, McKinney will have a chance to show off his offensive abilities while getting to see more baseballs than any other Blue Jay.

It’s exciting having a 24-year-old player who is MLB ready getting a chance to make an impact on a team poised for youth-fuelled success for years to come.

Brandon Drury

Originally acquired by the Yankees as a depth, rotational infielder last season, Brandon Drury is now a Jay and is probably playing for a way out.

Another piece in J.A. Happ’s trade to the Yankees, Drury, the once-promising Arizona Diamondback third baseman, became a low-value trade chip and add-in to the rebuilding Blue Jays.

It’s an almost impressive fall from grace after his more-than-solid 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was a solid hitter with mediocre power who bolstered the bottom half of Arizona’s batting order. Beyond that, he was a reliable defender on the hot corner and at 22-23 years old looked a piece for the Diamondbacks to build around.

After he was targeted and acquired by the Yankees he played in just 18 games last season and failed to impress. He showed limited flashes in an injury-ridden 8 games with the Jays but now has a chance to validate Ross Atkins’ decision to send Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to AAA to start the season.

For Drury it’s going to need to be defence first. It’ll be paramount if he’s a responsible and reliable third baseman as Vlad’s bullshit smokescreen for starting in Buffalo is dependant on developing his defensive game. Drury can help justify this by playing well himself and cooling the MLBPA’s ire on the service time situation in Toronto.

He’s now 26 and probably will enjoy the lesser-than spotlight playing on a rebuilding team in Canada. It’s an opportunity Drury can take and use to his advantage to get back to his best like in 16/17.

Should he do so and want to stay in Toronto there is no reason he can’t etch out a spot for himself on this young team. If he doesn’t want to stay, he can be motivated by a move back to the States, getting the Jays a solid return on a reclaimed player.

Advertisements

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays: Service Time for Dummies

It’s not the clearest of situations, but the service time rule for MLB players is a tool MLB teams are using on their superstars to save a year on their entry-level contracts. The Jays are ready to force their top prospect into this controversial situation, but it’s the right thing to do.

Basically, service time is a way of crediting a year-played on a players contract based on the number of games or days they play with a major league team.

When a player starts the season and stays in the minors for the first eight games of the season it limits them to less than 172 days in the major leagues. This adjusts their season down to less than a full year, saving a full season on their contract. Once a player plays less than 172 days they will not burn a year on their deal.

Sure, that’s extremely simplified and dumbed down, but that’s basically it. Toronto is going to start Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the minors to ensure he’s a Blue Jay for at least one season longer.

And if you think Vlad Jr. missing a minimum of eight inconsequential games to start a meaningless (as far as standings are concerned) season is a bad thing, you might need to give your head a shake.

The argument against the manipulation of the service time rule is that players tend to have harsh feelings towards their ownership and front office because their development is being stunted for a team friendly option that also delays a big money contract. Fair points, but let’s check in on two recent high-value players who went through this process.

Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs

Bryant being forced down to the minors for the first month of the Cubs 2015 season was a situation just about everyone who follows the MLB foresaw, but Bryant’s agent peddled the situation as a problem.

Bryant revealed there was “no bad blood” with the Cubs organization over the usage of the service time rule after he was called up to the team in 2015. With Bryant as their starting and starring third-baseman, the Cubs went on to the NL Divisional series with a 99-67 regular season record, eventually losing out to the Mets.

Just a day ago, Bryant has now come out saying the service time situation in the MLB obviously needs to change as he enters the season that could have been his new big money contract year. He’s still making $10.25 million out of arbitration, but that could be a fraction of what he’s worth. Weird timing, right?

Bryant played in 151 games, with 559 AB (his third highest in his career), hitting .275 BA, with 26 HR, and 99 RBIs.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

The highly touted prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, Ronald Acuna Jr., was a victim of the service time rule usage last season. Yes, last season where he was THE breakout star of the season.

The GM of the Braves is a person many Jays fans should be aware of, Alex Anthopoulos, the former GM here in Toronto. AA seemed disinterested in considering the fallout of forcing Acuna to the minors for a few weeks to start the season, with reports suggesting he would make this move “for better or worse.

With Acuna Jr. now the face of the exciting, playoff contending Braves, it’s unlikely there are any hard feelings between the player and his team. He’s the face of the franchise and was still able to tee-off on his opposition last season, despite waiting a few weeks to start.

Last season, Acuna finished the season with 111 GP (injury caused missed time) and 433 AB. He hit for a .293 BA, 26 HR, and 64 RBIs.

What can we expect from the Jays and Vlad?

We can expect Ross Atkins to continue the narrative of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being sent down to start the season in AAA to work on his defensive play. Also, expect for Atkins to be very open to Vlad joining the Blue Jays when he is ready and able to help the team.

From Vlad, there probably isn’t going to be much of a conversation. He’ll continue to play hard to try and win a starting position in spring training, stating that he just wants to play hard and try and help the Toronto Blue Jays become a better team.

If we as fans can take away anything from the past manipulations of service time, it’s that it is really a non-issue for the team and the player. We will get to see Vlad for a longer period of time in the long run and the team can weigh options on the roster ahead of him.

In the end, the only people who seem to have issues with the manipulation of this rule are player agents. Under the guise of caring for their players, agents are getting their massive paydays pushed back a season with the usage of this rule and are crying ‘development and unfairness’ to try and force their issues.

Valdimir Guerrero Jr. is looking THICC in spring training

Bordering NSFW for multiple reasons, the second coming of baseball assaulter Vlad Guerrero and the Blue Jay’s messiah Vlad Guerrero Jr. is busting out of his new Jay’s threads while punishing baseballs into the Florida stratosphere.

For any baseball fan, the crack of the bat is something that gives you goosebumps. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is attached to the end of that cracking bat, then you’ve got some content that will give any Blue Jays fan fits.

It’s early on in spring training, but Vlad is in Dunedin with the team and he’s mashing the ball like we all know he can. At this point in time we need to just credit his ability to lace a baseball into space on his physique. Don’t believe me? Just look:

Hmm, that massive trunk aka “power base” reminds me of someone…


Sports IllustratedExpo 2000

He’s got the bloodlines to be a massive success, and is about as close as you can get to a can’t miss prospect along the lines of Kris Bryant and Mike Trout. It’s early, he’s yet to do it in the majors, and he isn’t going to start the year with season with the team, but still, anyone that thicc (two c’s) deserves some attention.

I don’t care if he’s busting belt’s like Pablo Sandoval visiting the Rogers Center, or doing his best CC Sabathia impression on the field. Vlad Guerrero Jr. hype has me exciting for the 2019 season, and just may have me a little bit delirious, as I’ve used the word “thicc” multiple times in a baseball blog…

Marcus Stroman is actually right about Blue Jays problems

Is he loud? Yes. Is he obnoxious? Yes. Did he struggle last season and does he currently not really have a leg to stand on when it comes to negotiating a long term deal with the Toronto Blue Jays? Yes. But, Marcus Stroman is still right.

Marcus Stroman has been going IN on the Blue Jay’s front office for their lack of action in the off-season and their reluctance to reward players, namely himself, for wanting to come and play in Canada.

Stroman hasn’t been quiet regarding the Jay’s offseason, speaking up about lack of veteran presence and the contract commitment issues the Blue Jay’s front office has when it comes to their current players and free agents.

After speaking up at spring training, Stroman’s comments about the team’s lack of veteran presence has been characterized as lamenting the organization, lashing out at management, and saddening because the team is very young. In reality, he just said this:

“I love that the team is young, but I do think there needs to be a balance. There’s a great way for these young guys to learn from the veterans that have been doing this year, after year, after year.”

Scary, isn’t it?

Is Stroman just trying to jockey himself in line for his desired long-term contract extension? It’s a good possibility but not, in my estimation, the real reason behind his media diatribe early in spring training.

While that is viable, I think Stroman could just be looking to ensure the kids on the team have the same opportunity to learn from veteran leaders like he did.

To this day, Stroman still hangs out with Jose Bautista, including an offseason tour of Canada with him. Bautista, a non-Toronto native showed Stroman the ropes when it comes to repping Canada and Toronto. He’s been a mentor to him and also (like it or not) showed him how to bring the swagger to the diamond.

Maybe more important to Stroman’s development as a player was the influence of Mark Buehrle. SI.com has him slotted in as a Hall of Fame candidate when he becomes available in 2020, and his use of timing mechanics and unique delivery certainly have impacted Stroman as a pitcher.

Why the Jays should look at locking down Stroman

The Jay’s should look to lock down homegrown talent like Stroman if they want to bridge the gap between inexperienced squad to playoff contender in the next handful of year.

Not because Stroman is asking for it, but because he’s the type of player that feeds off of negativity and creates chips on his shoulder to stay motivated. He’s speaking out now at his displeasure with how things are currently going in Jays land, but imagine the Jays inked him long term?

He’d be the first and loudest person to credit the team for the decision, he’d be motivated to return the investment, and he’d also become the shining example of why players should come to Toronto. The team cares.

Stroman isn’t an elite superstar, or a Cy Young candidate this season or any other. But he’s a solid pitcher and an enigmatic character who will gladly get in front of a microphone – for or against you. The Jays might as well use him, rather than lose him and anyone else who takes stock in what he’s saying.

Russell Martin Should Be The Jays Player-Manager in 2019

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team in flux. 2018 has served as a brutal reminder of what the rich teams can accomplish especially within the Blue Jays own division. 2019 and the prospects that populate the farm system do suggest a bright future, but should the Jays enact a near-ancient phenomenon to usher in this new generation?

Okay, “near-ancient” is a bit of a stretch, but not since Pete Rose from 1984-1986 has there been a player-manager in the MLB and I think the Blue Jays should revive the position here in Toronto. It would be a risky move with a team poised to be full of young, developing prospects but a club veteran player could be the move at manager.

My nomination is Russell Martin. Martin is a student of the game and 13-year veteran of the MLB. His accolades aren’t too shabby either: four-time All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, and MVP consideration in three seasons.

Besides his awards, Matin has substantial in-game experience across the MLB. He plays now as a catcher for Toronto in the American League but has spent time in the National League with the Dodgers and Pirates, too. He also has experience playing as an infielder as Toronto fans are well aware of. In 96 games played this season 71 are at catcher, 21 at 3B, 3 at SS, and 1 in LF.

The reason why Martin would be a choice for player-manager relies on his experience as a catcher first and foremost. Yes, him spending time across the diamond is important to understand the game from the perspective of other positions, but as a catcher you have the responsibility of organizing the team and your teams game from behind the plate.

This is why you see former catchers transition into manager roles post-playing careers because they are comfortable reading a game and setting up a dynamic game plan during play. Mike Scioscia, Ned Yost, Joe Girardi, and yes even John Gibbons are examples of former catchers who have made the transition to catcher.

Russell Martin is also a prime choice for player-manager due to the depth of catchers the Blue Jays currently have at their disposal. Danny Jansen is all but a lock to step into a major league role next season after having a solid start to his MLB career this season. Likewise, Reese McGuire who was called up with the expanded roster is poised to stake a claim at a job too after an impressive season in the minors.

This leaves Russell Martin and Luke Maile as the veteran catchers left to fight for two positions on the roster. With Martin’s $20 million contract for 2019 still on the books, it is likely he’ll stay with the team making Maile moveable in the offseason. Logically you don’t want 3-4 catchers on your roster with a young and unpredictable pitching rotation so moving one out makes sense.

Martin knows the MLB, he knows how to call a game, and maybe most importantly he knows how to work with young pitchers. Martin has handled countless pitchers over his tenure as an MLB catcher and would not only positively affect the likes of Borucki’s and Reid-Foley’s development, he would demand more out of the catching prospects below him to maximize all of his pitchers’ skills.

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are not likable characters in Toronto and hardly stray from their plans when it comes to drafting and developing talent. They probably have a manager in mind to bring in and act as a stop-gap between now and whenever the Jays are a contending team again, so Martin as a player-manager may not be a situation we see in the near future.

Despite these facts, it’s an interesting idea to play around with. Martin has to be the best candidate on the team for the job, plus he could chip in at catcher or really anywhere across the diamond should he need too. It would be nice to for once see a manager actually use those crisp uniforms they don in the dugout night after night, right?

It’s unlikely, but if the Blue Jays ever had an opportunity to reopen a long forgotten MLB practice 2019 and Russell Martin is the perfect combination for the first player-manager in 32 years.

Who Did The Jays Get For Osuna?

With the trade of Roberto Osuna the Blue Jays got what they desperately needed in this rebuild – more pitching prospects. Despite losing a massive talent in Osuna, the move not only allows the Jays to move on from a PR nightmare but also allows for the very vocal fans of this team to morally support their team again.

The Jays got a solidified MLB closer in Ken Giles plus two prospect pitchers Hector Perez and David Paulino. The haul isn’t as massive as it would have been if Osuna wasn’t mired in a legal battle or currently suspended, however many have pointed out that any return for this player was a positive. Giles will immediately step into the MLB roster and should act as the closer, a role that has been vacant since Osuna’s suspension.

So, who are these players the Jays acquired, and how do they stack up?

Ken Giles:

  • Age: 27, Throws: right
  • career 2.72 ERA, 367 strike outs in 274.2 innings pitched
  • 77 career saves

2018 Stats:

  • 34 games played in MLB
  • 4.99 ERA
  • His ever important FIP is 2.28
  • 1.279 WHIP
  • 9.1 SO/9
  • 12 saves

Giles has had a troubled year and the Blue Jays are hoping that a change of scenery could help him recapture his form. It is a bit of a gamble, but the stakes are currently low with the rebuilding Jays. Giles can come in and immediately look to be the closer despite his poor 2018 showing so far. There are issues with his attitude, as he was sent to AAA this season after telling his manager to “Fuck off” after pulling him after blowing a 4-0 save opportunity, but a new team should distance him from this issue.

As an immediate impact player, Giles will likely keep his head down in Toronto and should look himself again with lower stakes than a World-Series-or-bust team like the Houston Astros.

Hector Perez:

  • Age: 22, Throws: right
  • Has pitched in High A ball and AA this season, appearing in 21 games total

2018 Stats (A+17 games):

  • Started 11 of 17 games in A+, totaling 72.2 innings
  • 3-3 record
  • ERA 3.87
  • 2 registered saves in addition to starting games
  • 1.239 WHIP
  • 10.3 SO/9

Hector Perez slots in to the Blue Jays prospect rankings at #11 (coming from Houston’s 10 spot). Baseballprospectus.com have described his “nasty stuff” as potential closer material in the future. He uses a plus fastball/slider combination to keep hitters on their toes, but lacks major league control. Control and subsequent walks have been an issue for him in his minor league tenure, however with more development time he could be a potential important arm for the Jays.

David Paulino:

  • Age: 24, Throws: right
  • Has pitched in three games for the Astros with a 2-1 record and 6.25 ERA since 2016

2018 Stats

  • 7gp in AAA in 2018
  • 0-0 record, 27 IP
  • ERA 4.67
  • 33/6 SO/BB
  • 1.074 WHIP
  • 11 SO/9

David Paulino is a very talent, towering pitching prospect with some off field issues. After a positive PED test in July of 2017 Paulino was suspended for 80 games by the MLB. The 6’7″ pitcher was as high as 3rd on the Astros prospect list and 44th in the MLB, but plummeted to 24th in the organization. The time missed has hurt his development, but if he can get back on track his fastball is major league quality. His pitches come from a ridiculous plane top of his massive frame and release point. He doesn’t have as many tools as Perez, but his raw ability he has to throw the fastball is his biggest asset. Patience is key for Paulino who has big league potential as either a starter or bullpen arm.

 

All stats via www.baseball-reference.com

Atkins Double-Talks and Folds To Social Media Pressure; Osuna Traded

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded their closer Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for RHP Ken Giles, RHP Hector Perez, and RHP David Paulino. Osuna is currently in the minors after sitting out 75 games for a domestic violence arrest. While Osuna has not been criminally convicted of anything, the Jays felt the need to move on from their prolific 23 year old closer who boasts a career 2.87 ERA, 104 saves, and 253 strike outs.

It is no secret that the Blue Jays management team has been feeling some heat regarding the impending reinstatement of Osuna to the big league team. On June 29th Atkins was asked about Osuna and the trade deadline and responded by saying “We’ll be adding a closer on Aug. 5… Roberto is our closer.” So what has changed in a months time?

Atkins offers little to no information or personality for that matter when talking to the media; frankly its a waste of the radio hosts, TV interviewers, and viewers time. Usually its because he dances around questions and manages to fill time with nondescript cliches before ending the interview, however in this occasion he just flat out lied to Blue Jays fans. It would be understandable if the Astros offered a massive package for Osuna but as it stands now, the return is underwhelming to say the least.

And despite what bloggers, radio hosts, TV presenters, and writers (who constantly boast that they root for stories, not for teams) will tell you, the Jays are a worse off baseball team after this trade, and will be for years to come.

So the rich get richer in Houston and the MLB, its fans, and its media members are all okay with that. So why did the Blue Jays have to move on from their franchise closer? Because there is a double standard in the MLB that favours the likes of World Series contending teams and shits on teams that are out of contention, or ya know are in Canada. It’s not a conspiracy theory either, just fact.

Take Aroldis Chapman for instance. The 100+mph closer for the New York Yankees had charges dropped after his wife failed to cooperate with law enforcement following Chapman’s arrest for discharging a fire arm eight times into a wall during a domestic dispute. Chapman served a 30 games suspension for his involvement in the incident despite the charges being dropped.

Chapman has pitched for the Cubs and Yankees since his suspension, two of the leagues most iconic franchises, with no problem. He wasn’t convicted, as Osuna hasn’t been, and has not been blackballed by the league for his involvement in an incident that deemed a 30-game suspension by the league. If we put this into Osuna terms there are two major groups – happy Houston fans for getting a legitimate elite closer, and pissed off Jays fans for having to lose their franchise closer due to the court of public opinion. Again, don’t let the twitter charlatans tell you other wise with their social justice pushing agendas.

The Astros now have an alleged woman beater in Roberto Osuna and a confirmed racist in Yuli Gurriel on their roster and are poised for another deep playoff run in hopes of repeating their World Series success – as I said before the rich get richer. Gurriel taunted Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish following a home run making a “slanted eye” gesture and yelling “chinito”, which means Chinese boy, (Darvish is Japanese and Iranian) at the pitcher from the dug out. Gurriel served a five game suspension and happily returned to life as a major league player… without having to switch teams.

As for Osuna he was recently followed around by a camera crew from SportsNet to recant his arduous journey to the major leagues. This documentary shed light on his life and his struggles with anxiety, an affliction that kept him out of the Jays line up for multiple games in 2017. Osuna was a likeable character at the start of this season and a guy a lot of people were cheering for. Now he has become the incarnation of evil, as twitter would have you believe, and needed to be moved regardless of return.

Above all, however Osuna is human and humans make mistakes – some less forgivable and more incriminating than others, but nonetheless what Osuna allegedly did was a mistake. He is currently paying the price for it, having his name dragged through the mud across social media, but if he helps the Astros win another World Series mark my works it will be a redemption story proudly presented to us by the same people who demanded he be traded – because of their integrity.

The Blue Jays integrity, something many have quoted as the reason for moving Osuna, has done a terrific job in getting a return for their closer. A return that includes a player who was suspended 80 games for PEDs, and another who was demoted to AAA this season for telling his manager to “fuck off” after he pulled him for blowing a 4-0 save.

Facts are facts and stats are stats – Ross Atkins has lied to the Blue Jays fans, and the team is worse off for it today and in the future. I thought these guys were supposed to be good at rebuilds?

*This blog is not in defence of Roberto Osuna or his actions, but rather a light being shed on the hypocrisy and double standard expressed by the MLB and MLB media members.