The Daily Duce: Monday, December 15th

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Daily??!?

Jed Lowrie is off the market — not that there appeared to be much interest there from the Jays anyway, apart from speculation (or at least not that we heard of). Brian McTaggart had it first, while Evan Drellich tweets that it’s a $23-million deal for three years, which could go up to $28-million on a fourth. Pretty alright in terms of average annual value, but I don’t know how much I’d have wanted to go that many years with him. Likely a moot point anyway, as the Astros have reportedly signed him to be their shortstop — which he wanted — which may have meant the Jays and their offering of a second base spot wouldn’t have been seriously considered. (He also apparently lives in Houston, and the Astros had the whole no-state-income-tax thing working for them, too).

Lowrie could work out well for Houston and we might regret the Jays’ apparent lack of interest here, but I’m just not so sure: he’s had a tough time staying on the field, didn’t hit much in 2014, had a BABIP-driven good year at the plate in 2013, and without the BABIP was good in 2012, but with an ISO nearly double of what it was this year (though Oakland’s park surely factored into that). You could have talked me into it, too, I suppose, especially on a shorter-term deal. There are things to like there. It’s just… meh.

Gregor Chisholm tweets that his understanding is that the Jays didn’t feel Lowrie was a viable second base solution, so that this really doesn’t change anything.

Dan Johnson, who crushed at Buffalo last year and certainly wouldn’t have been a bad piece of left-hand hitting depth for the Blue Jays, has signed a minor league deal with the Astros, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Jeff Blair looks at Melky Cabrera’s signing with the White Sox, suggesting that it was the Jays’ signing of Russell Martin that signalled the end of Melky’s tenure here, thought the club was still in contact with him at least until they dealt for Michael Saunders.

Speaking of Melky, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at what to expect from him going forward, and tries to make sense of how to handle his tumour-laden 2013 season — which, if not considered at all (as might entirely be fair, given, y’know, the tumour), makes the projection on him substantially better. There’s really nothing wrong with being upset that the Jays missed here.

The draft pick was surely part of the club’s calculation, and though the Jays and Melky aren’t singled out specifically, there was an interesting discussion on Monday’s Effectively Wild podcast at Baseball Prospectus on how draft picks are valued by clubs, with respect to the compensation process, and how they may actually be overvalued.

Taking a different view on the Melky deal than the bullish-seeming Sullivan is Keith Law, who at ESPN.com writes that Cabrera “has had only two seasons in which he performed at the level this deal seems to assume, the second of which, 2012, was cut short by a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test — and both of which featured abnormally high batting averages on balls in play.” There are pluses that he points out, he just thinks it’s too much money.

Back to FanGraphs has published the ZiPS projections for the Oakland A’s, which comes with a list of the number one comp for each player. Brett Lawrie’s? Arquimedez Ponzo.

Laugh at the comp all you want, but Lawrie might actually be awesome. Kaitlyn McGrath of the National Post fills us in on how he surprised a young fan whose emotional reaction to his being traded went viral. Kind of amazing.

Elsewhere in the Post, Erika Gilbert has an excellent rundown of the Jays’ positional needs, while Scott Stinson looks at payroll and asks the age-old question: should the Jays spend more.

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The Daily Duce: Wednesday, November 26th

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Guess I’ll call Jan and tell her we’re not going to Orlando.

Bob Elliott looks at the Jay Bruce thing in a piece for the Toronto Sun, telling us that he’s heard the Reds would be looking for “inexpensive major league-ready players.” After asking his source if a Sean Nolin might be a fit, he was told, “”More than that. And the way I heard it … there was an ‘s’ on the word players.” You know where I stand on this one.

Juan Francisco’s time in Boston was short, as he was D’d FA to make room for Hanley Ramirez yesterday, as first tweeted by MLB.com reporter Ian Browne. Cue “it’s the Edwin story all over again” stuff from hopeful Jays fans, except… no. No, no, no. Though… OK, he wasn’t even as bad as we like to remember. And especially decent — 124 wRC+ — against right-handers, which is something the Jays currently need. It’s just… didn’t he get to that number by being at like a 170-odd wRC+ for six weeks then slowly watching it all evaporate? Not entirely, actually. His April (140 wRC+ overall), May (180), and July (134) were all pretty good. It was June (59) and August (5 — yes, five) that killed him. Didn’t really play in September, unsurprisingly.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the Athletics are taking calls on lefty-hitting catcher John Jaso, including ones from the Jays. Sean Nolin is the reported ask at this point, which seems steep for a team with three catchers already and myriad other holes to fill, but if Navarro and Dickey/Thole are the ones getting traded to those ends, as is certainly possible, a veteran backup catcher with some lefty pop, and who can sure take a walk (career rate: 12.6%), off the bench could be a nifty idea indeed. Even if it would just encourage Wilner to do that thing more frequently.

Dirk Hayhurst has been looking for some of that Canadian bacon lately, which sounds like a great idea for all of us, as he weighs in on the Jaso talk, and also talks about the Navarro-Thole-Martin drama, and relates an encounter with Avril Lavigne.

Ken Rosenthal tweets, tongue somewhat in cheek (maybe?), that a “mystery team” can’t yet be ruled out in the bidding for Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas. I wouldn’t hold your breath on this one, but the Jays certainly haven’t been linked much to Tomas at all. Go do it, I say.

Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter makes Tomas his suggestion in his contribution to their staff free agent picks. He linked to the rest of the series, too! For Noah Sherman, on the other hand, it’s Luke Gregerson.

Speaking of the relief market, MLBTR has the details on the Rays’ signing today of reliever Ernesto Frieri, a buy-low candidate on an incentive-laden deal (something the Jays don’t do — or are very reluctant to do) who, we’re told, misses back and should see some natural bounceback, you’d figure, because of crazy bad HR/FB and strand rates last year. Sean Rodriguez was D’d FA to make room, a right-hitting utility man whose power spiked last year, who could intrigue. He was a below replacement level in 2014 thanks mostly to UZR hating him at 2B, 3B, and in the outfield, though DRS had him as even at the two infield positions. He stopped walking altogether, but the power pushed his wRC+ to about league average, which… is maybe enough to make him a reasonable utility candidate, even if he might be kinda terrible. He produced 5.9 WAR over the previous four seasons, to boot (though weighted mostly towards 2010 and 2011).

Speaking still of relief, at Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith excellently surveys the market, making cases for and against the Jays going after a really big name, expensive free agent reliever.

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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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