The Daily Duce: Thursday, November 20th

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Did you just… lay a clutch of eggs?

The Blue Jays tweet out the first image of Martin in a Jays uniform. This is really kinda awesome, eh?

I’ll have more to say from the just-concluded press conference in a separate post shortly, by the way.

As noted below, Dioner Navarro has “expressed an interest in being dealt” to the Blue Jays, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s understandable — Navarro is a free agent after 2015 and stands to make a lot more coming off a full-time gig than he would hitting the market as a backup and part-time sub-par DH — but as John Lott tweets, “just a wild guess, but the Blue Jays would probably explore trades for Navarro even without him asking.”

I like the idea of Navarro as a backup catcher, pinch-hitter, and part-time DH, and the club certainly doesn’t have to trade him just because he’s asked — according to Heyman “the Jays responded by telling Navarro … that they believe they could get him decent playing time between DH and catcher” — but they could feasibly get a nice piece in return for him. And since the Jays need bullpen help, and Anthopoulos has a long-established penchant for trading catcher for relievers, um… I think we all see where this is going.

Also noted below is Ken Rosethal’s tweet about the club’s potential interest in Torii Hunter, and their waning confidence regarding Melky. Hunter’s defence has fallen off a cliff in the last two years, with him being an abysmal eighteen runs below average by both UZR and DRS in 2014, and he’s not much more than a league average hitter, too. He was basically replacement level last year. Pass.

As for Melky, I know that getting a draft pick back after giving one up for Martin is a big thing, but as I tweeted earlier: “Should we maybe put two and two together regarding the Jays’ ‘culture change’ stuff and their seemingly lukewarm interest in Melky?”

Heyman tells us that the White Sox appear to be interested in Melky, by the way.

Stealing my own tweets again here, but: Not to be too cynical, but Rogers family giving $130M for heart research kinda fits the PR plans we’ve heard about. And, of course, by “not to be too cynical” I mean “to be a total ghoul about it.” Just thinking that it maybe suggests some credence to the idea that Rogers is consciously trying to repair their brand, which would be a good thing for the Jays (obviously in addition to just being a good thing in general). However, someone who does fundraising for U of T tweets at me to say it’s been in the works for years, so good on the Rogerses. It’s “the‎ largest donation ever to a Canadian health-care institution or university,” says the Globe and Mail.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reviews John Gibbons’ appearance on the Fan 590 this morning, during which the Jays’ manager said that there are “no problems” with R.A. Dickey, despite recent speculation that he too may be perceived as a poor fit in the Jays’ room. I really don’t know about all that stuff — I’d rather the Jays accumulate talent, frankly, and Dickey, despite the caddy, certainly is still that, even if he’s not quite been the guy the Jays were hoping they’d get.

More importantly from the Gibbons piece, the manager admits that the club is eyeing top relief choice Andrew Miller. “Us and everybody else,” he added. “He’s a hot item right now. He’s come a long way in a couple of years. He was that big, hard thrower that was kind of erratic and he really came into his own in the last couple of years. You look at our team right now with Casey gone, and there’s a hole in that closer spot.”

Meanwhile, Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Jays have added RHP Ryan Tepera to their 40-man roster, which fills the space left yesterday when Juan Francisco was claimed on waivers by the Red Sox. This means that John Stilson will be unprotected, among others, as it currently stands. Bluebird Banter has an excellent rundown of the club’s Rule 5 situation.

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The Daily Duce: Tuesday, November 18th

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You ain’t gonna diiiiieeeeee, say the freakin’ woooooorrrrrds!

Still plenty of Jussell Martin stuff coming in, and we’ll start with the man who — inadvertently? — broke the story of the Jays signing, Peter Gammons, who quite interestingly looks at the historic difficulty the Jays have had in enticing free agents. “It’s hard to get players to come here by choice,” said the Jays’ GM, “and Toronto is one of the greatest cities in the world.” That GM? Pat Gillick.

Elsewhere at Gammons Daily, David Golebiewski looks at the premium the Jays just paid for pitch framing, and shows an interesting chart demonstrating the difference between the percentage of strikes called on in-zone pitches caught by Martin last year, and by Dioner Navarro. For the three squares in the low part of the zone Navarro’s percentages were 56%, 66%, and 70%. And for Martin? 74%, 85%, and 83%. Think a guy like Aaron Sanchez, who is going to be relying on low strikes, isn’t going to be helped by a thing like that?

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes that “if Martin helps the Blue Jays to the playoffs, he could be hailed as a hero in Canada, his native country. Toronto has the longest active playoff drought in the majors, stretching to its World Series title in 1993, but signing Martin is not a move for public relations, or for the short term.”

Martin was the subject of a segment of last night’s Effectively Wild podcast at Baseball Prospectus, where it was noted that he is already the tenth best catcher of all time according to the Baseball Reference version of WAR. Nails much?

Jonah Keri also reacted to the trade over at Grantland, offering these words of caution: “The Pirates, one of the most analytically inclined teams in baseball, likely thought long and hard about catcher age curves in deciding how aggressively they wanted to pursue Martin, a vital player for Pittsburgh in 2014 who deserved serious consideration as a down-ballot MVP candidate. As excellent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review scribe Travis Sawchik recently wrote: Once you strip out anomalous results from the PED era, few players age well once they reach their mid-thirties, and that’s particularly true for catchers.” Hmmm.

WHYGAVS — aka Pirates blog Where Have You Gone Andy van Slyke? — writes a farewell and thank you to Russell Martin. Read it.

That one came my way by way of a tweet from GROF, who himself gives us a must-read take on the Martin signing over at Ghostrunner On First. Read it, too.

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The Daily Duce: Friday, November 14th

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Hey, don’t get all Sophie’s Choice, man. You know, think of all the sympathy cooz I’m gonna get.

Hey, so that previous Presented Without Comment… probably needs a comment, eh? OK, here’s one: that sucks. And it sucks that this has been a known issue for years, and sad that Rogers so badly wanted to steal the Bills from Buffalo that they refused to take care of the team that they actually do own in this regard. It’s a fact of life we need to just accept, but it’s also stupid. I can’t blame a Kendrick or an Utley (or, let’s be honest, a Kendrick — Utley has some weird vesting options that I’d wager the Jays wouldn’t touch) for not wanting to put his earnings potential in peril by not just having to withstand the physical demands of playing on the carpet, but the havoc it can wreak with a player’s defensive abilities as well.

Then again, I might not have to blame those guys for anything: Mike Wilner tweets that a Jays source tells him that no trades were in place for either and nobody was asked to waive their no-trade clause. Because, y’know, if a player had just told them “hell no, I’m not playing there,” I’m sure the Jays would be rushing to let everybody know. Also: read the language closely. There was “never a trade in place” and “neither player was ever approached to waive” doesn’t necessarily mean things could have been discussed more informally. Or maybe it was nothing.

This morning I tweeted that Jon Morosi was on the Fan 590, suggesting that — if he’s really serious about being open to a position switch — Hanley Ramirez would be a terrific fit for the Jays and their collection of Dominican stars, especially as a guy you could play at third, you could DH, and you could even play in the outfield. Obviously it’s doubtful it would ever happen — Morosi certainly isn’t suggesting the Jays are interested, just that maybe they should be — but he’s a hell of a hitter. His last two seasons have seen him produce a 157 wRC+. For Jose Reyes that number is 107, FWIW (though Reyes has more than 200 more plate appearances in that span).

Oh, and don’t go rushing to believe this one, but speaking of Hanley, someone called Jorge Izaguirre, whose Twitter bio says he’s a Venezuelan baseball and softball commentator, tweets that the Jays are indeed interested. Yeah… OK.

Still getting reaction to the Gose-Travis trade, including Gideon Turk of Blue Jays Plus. John Lott has an excellent profile of Travis in the National Post. Rob Rogacki of Tigers blog Bless You Boys provides a scouting report for Bluebird Banter. Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail looks at the other side, focussing on the departing Anthony Gose. While Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at Travis’s impending return to second base, after being briefly moving to the outfield this season, as he was blocked at his preferred position in Detroit by Ian Kinsler.

Great stuff from Steve Adams of MLBTR, as he profiles the free agency of reported Jays top target, Russell Martin, and attempts to project his contract: “I feel that four years is the absolute floor for Martin, given his interest, and it’s hard to see him taking an annual value that’s much lower than McCann’s $17MM if he has to sacrifice a full year. Ultimately, I think there will be several teams involved and willing to go four years, but the team that pushes to a fifth year will be the one to land him. That fifth year will require him to take a hit on his annual value, and I think anything in the $70-75MM range is plausible, so I’m splitting the difference and projecting a five-year, $72.5MM contract.”

@Clutchlings77 has been following the Jays players who are playing winter ball in Australia, tweeting today’s lines from Canberra for guys like L.B. Dantzler, Griffin Murphy, and — most interestingly — Anthony Alford, who today went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and a home run. The former quarterback was showing more patience today. He “only swung at one first pitch today – and hit an inside the park HR on it,” we’re told.

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The Daily Duce: Thursday, November 13th

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Well, I didn’t go to computer academy!

Keith Law has elaborated in a on why he’s soft on Devon Travis in a post at ESPN.com analyzing several recent transactions, suggesting that the Jays’ acquisition is a “below-average defender,” and citing concerns about the second baseman’s “unorthodox” swing. “He has leaky hips and starts his swing from a dead stop with his hands loaded low, making up for it a bit with strength, something that won’t work as well against major league pitching,” he explains. It’s certainly not an unfair concern, though I’m glad that several other evaluators don’t appear to agree.

Bob Elliott’s piece on the Gose-Travis trade for the Toronto Sun includes some interesting information on the differences between the Jays and Melky Cabrera as they continue to try to come to an agreement that would see him return. Cabrera has told friends that the Jays offered three-years and $39-million, apparently, but “the outfielder’s agent is believed to be looking for a $50 million package.” Honestly, I think that’s a fair price for Melky to be pushing for, and a fair offer from the Jays. It’s not looking good.

So… you know that thing about how the Jays are supposedly after Russell Martin? I actually quite like the idea — he’s a marked upgrade on Dioner Navarro, especially defensively, and especially with respect to receiving and framing, and moving Navarro to a backup/DH/PH role would be rather ideal — but there’s a problem. As Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and others, tell us, the Dodgers are interested. I’d suggest that maybe some Canadian sentimentality could work in the Jays’ favour here, but if a thing like that’s going to be a factor at all, all else would have to be equal. When Dodgers money is involved, I’m not sure I’m seeing the Jays being equal.

Shi Davidi wraps up the GM meetings in a piece for Sportsnet, explaining that the Jays’ deal with Detroit came about suddenly, that the club doesn’t have anything else imminent, noting that they checked in on Andrew Miller as part of their pursuit of a revamped bullpen, and suggesting that Brook Jacoby isn’t the only person being considered for the club’s vacant hitting coach position. “Asked about Jacoby’s chances of landing the job, one source said ‘probably,’ while another noted other candidates are in the mix,” we’re told.

As noted earlier, Ken Rosenthal tweeted this morning that the Jays were the team that the Tigers “feared most” in the bidding for Victor Martinez. That’s certainly a nice thought for a fan base that, despite all the early off-season rumours, still isn’t convinced that their team actually has any money that it’s willing to spend. But does it change anything? As much as Martinez would have been a better fit than Adam Lind — he’s a switch hitter who can even spend a little time behind the plate — he’s still not exactly ideal for a club losing two thirds of its outfield and still searching for infield and bullpen help. He’d have been a great addition, don’t get me wrong, and lately I’ve been of the mind that if any of the top free agents is willing to take the Jays’ money, they should go ahead and give it to him and sort the rest out later — they just so rarely get the opportunity to add top talent to this organization. But the piece from Davidi linked above, he characterizes Martinez as a player who the Jays “expected would remain with the Tigers all along.” Hmmm.

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The Daily Duce: Tuesday, November 11th

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Hey, so… uh… anything happen since I last posted one of these? I mean besides Rob Ducey here starting to look kinda like Paul Molitor.

Welp. We’d better start with the good stuff, eh? That is: the insanity. The Jays, by several accounts, are pushing for some of the biggest name free agents out there. It’s a posture that has rarely been struck by this club in the Anthopoulos era, and it’s not exactly easy to take seriously. The financial reasons for that are obvious, but there’s also the fact that some of these guys don’t necessarily seem like the greatest fits. Left fielders, top relievers, and second-basemen-who-can-eventually-supplant-Jose-Reyes-at-short they are not. If a big name free agent actually wants to take the Jays’ money, though, um… maybe just do it and sort out the rest later?

The Jays are “interested” in Victor Martinez says Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That doesn’t exactly fit with the “DH flexibility” narrative that the club peddled in the wake of the Adam Lind trade, but the fact that he can occasionally catch — he did so twice in 2014 and three times the year previous — almost makes it a little easier to rotate ailing veterans through the spot on occasion without having to remove the team’s best bats from the lineup. Almost.

Bob Elliott writes about the Martinez thing in this morning’s Toronto Sun, quoting a coy-as-ever Alex Anthopoulos, who divulges, “We’re going to make calls on 3-to-5-to-7 free agents. Ultimately you have to move at your own pace.” He doesn’t sound particularly optimistic about the club landing two free agents. And as for the Martinez idea — or the idea of a Martinez-like player, as I’m sure he’d say (though John Gibbons did mention VMart by name in a radio interview last week) — he reverts to typical AA: “We don’t know who will be available, do we go get a first baseman and DH Edwin Encarnacion? Or do we play Edwin at first and rotate guys through the DH spot?”

Later in the piece, Elliott tells us that the Jays have also called the Phillies to ask on Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Antonio Bastardo. Because… um… the Jays are apparently telling everyone everything they’re doing now?

Elliott also mentions the Jays’ reported interest in Jussell Martin — cruelly noting that the last time the maple wonder was up for free agency the club, who ultimately failed to sign him (obviously), “offered him a part-time role as they were ready to give the catching job to rookie J. P. Arencibia, coming off an MVP season at triple-A Las Vegas.” Ugh. Jeff Blair wrote at Sportsnet more than a week ago that the Jays had internal discussions about Martin, and last week Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago noted that the Jays and Cubs were one of a handful of teams Jussell’s camp would meet with, with Brian McCann’s five-year, $75-million contract a “focal point” for the nine-year veteran who will turn 32 in February, and who declined the qualifying offer made to him by the Pirates (and will thus cost a draft pick).

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reported last week that Pablo Sandoval will also meet with the Jays, among others, during the GM Meetings, which are going on right now in Phoenix. I’m terrified by his platoon split, his weight, and his cost, but that sure would be fun as fuck, huh? It would also piss off Parkes, so double bonus. Yet, at the same time, who can even get terrified by something so ludicrous as the idea of the Jays actually convincing Pablo Sandoval to come here? The cynic in me thinks, “Well, I guess you sell more season tickets if you look like you’re actually trying,” and… um… what else could all this stuff really be? Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.

In another Nicholson-Smith piece we find that Jose Bautista isn’t feeling quite as negative as I am. Or, at least, not publicly. Not anymore. Did the P.R. department get to him? I actually wouldn’t think he’d be the type to not say what’s on his mind, but… who knows? “I’m not going to put this in stone or say I got this from any type of official source,” Bautista told Jeff Blair on the Fan 590 yesterday, “just using my logic he’s going to have some money to play with. We’ll see what happens and I’m excited to see what kind of moves he’s able to come up with.” Fingers crossed.

The other big free agent on Jays fans’ radar, of course, is Melky Cabrera, who rejected the Jays’ qualifying offer yesterday, ensuring that the club will at least get a halfway decent draft pick if they’re unable to re-sign him. Jeff Blair wrote about that decision yesterday at Sportsnet, when it was imminent, and spoke to an Alex Anthopoulos who sounded like he was gearing up move one way or the other. “I’m not going to allow myself to be held up in making some decisions,” the GM told Blair. “Really, you should know if you have a shot by the winter meetings.” Problem is, Blair warns, that the market for a former P.E.D. guy like Melky might develop slowly.

In other words, let’s maybe not hold our breath on this Melky thing. Which… were we? As much as it feels important not to lose him, and possible to keep him because of his saying all the right things on the way out the door, I continue to believe that he’s not irreplaceable. His production will need to be replaced in one way or another, to be sure, but there are ways to do that without him. Joshua Howsam wrote something quite along those lines this week at Blue Jays Plus, making the case that the club may well be better off with money spent elsewhere, and noting that there are lower cost alternatives who could help ease the loss very nicely.

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