Sunday, April 20, 2008


Jays 3, Tigers 2 ... just imagine if they actually hit ... updated.
  • Frank Thomas being released (apparently) so early in the season might be a sign of what the Jays will do with their payroll after this season or next. It's also a clear indicator there is urgency.

    Thomas' $10-million option is the smoking gun, obviously. Pete Toms predicted on Opening Day that whether Thomas' getting his minimum 376 plate appearances he needs to activate his 2009 contract would be the funnest story of a baseball summer in Toronto, but Frank didn't even survive the spring. (Make no mistake, wherever he lands -- Seattle, Tampa Bay -- he will start hitting. That's a given.)

    The major off-season story with the Jays will be how big a payroll the Rogers bean-counters authorize for 2009, '10 and '11. It's possible they'll see a team that's spent its way to the middle of the AL East and shut the tap off; like Baseball Prospectus 2008 noted, owner Ted Rogers is bound to ask, "What am I paying for?" if there's no Game 163 this season. Cutting salary would probably hasten the departure of Godcciardi, as some wags have dubbed Paul Godfrey and J.P. Ricciardi.

    The stripped-down Jays could go with younger players, retreads and a few second-tier stars and still get the 22,000 diehards. The size of baseball crowds in Toronto tend to hinge most on the weather, the day of the week, and the geographical promiximity of the visiting team, anyways, so being the AL answer to the Florida Marlins is in the realm of possibility.
  • There seems to be some confusion over whether the Jays are on the hook for the balance of Thomas' 2008 salary. (Hat tip to P.T.)
  • This should flare up some Barry Bonds talk. It's only natural to wonder if it's happening in Seattle too, given the way the Mariners are hitting. The Mariners' big outfield prospect, Wladimir Balentien, was injured in a Triple-A game on Saturday.

    Some of the Seattle fans are making the people Wilner puts up with on a daily basis seem patient and rational.
  • Shame on the former Manitoba resident who forgot that Orioles closer George Sherrill played in the indie leagues with the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2002-03. His manager then, Hal Lanier, is in the Can-Am League now. His manager now, Dave Trembley, managed the Ottawa Lynx. See how it all comes full circle?
  • UPDATE: Catcher Pete Laforest, the Gatineau native, drew his release from the Philadelphia Phillies organization over the weekend. (The UORB had the pickup.) Our Ottawa Rapids only have one catcher signed so far... just sayin'.

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to


Pete Toms said...

There appears to be conflicting information as to the impact of Thomas' release on this season's payroll.

I heard on the Jays pre game show that they are still on the hook for Thomas' 08 salary.

Oppositely, Blair reports today, "Getting rid of Thomas saves the Blue Jays the pro-rated portion of this year's $8-million salary, which is about $6.7-million"

This makes a lot more sense if Blair is right. Obviously they would have $6-7 million to spend on something ( Bonds? god I hope, the Toronto moral outrage would be wonderful but I digress...).

If they are eating the money as was speculated on the team pre game show ( I do recall somebody saying that it worked against them signing Bonds because the Jays don't have the dough due to eating Thomas' $$$ ), then I think the release is premature. You don't write off players after 18 April games.

Fun story though.

Prediction - Lind is a decent prospect in a prospect thin organization. He will not have a career in the bigs as an everyday player ( hey, I've got a 50/50 shot, he does or he doesn't ).

Do the Tigers suck?

Pete Toms said...

Who's right?

Jordan Bastian, "Toronto does have to provide Thomas with his full $8 million salary for this season"

Andrew Bucholtz said...

I don't particularly like this move. Sure, Hurt's struggled early, but he's always struggled early. Even in his best years (see 1994), his April stats were way below what he accomplished over the year (a still very good .295/.431/.636 compared to an amazing .353/.487/.729).

As you pointed out, Neate, it's all about the $10 million option for next year, but that isn't a great reason to get rid of a guy who could be a significant help down the stretch when he gets back to his normal form, especially for a team that's trying to win now. Imagine if Thomas winds up in Seattle (where lacking a proper DH is one of the main things holding the Mariners back), gets hot, and they lose the division to the Angels but take the wild card: if the Jays are still in that race, this could haunt them big time.

It might, emphasis might, be the right move for the future (particularly if the Jays save most of the contract money for this season as Blair suggests), but I don't think it's a good move for any hopes they had of competing this year. I'd also much rather have Thomas than Bonds, even without the morality issue: it makes no sense to get rid of a DH on the grounds that he's supposedly over the hill to replace him with someone who's even older. Leaving aside the rationalizations, this classless treatment of a classy guy also sucks from an illogical fan's perspective.

sager said...

Bonds would be a better hitter than Thomas, most likely. Yes, he's 4 years older, but keep in mind that he can also still play the outfield (it's myth perpetuated by the Wayne Scanlans of the world that he can't play defence).

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Yeah, the outfield point's worth making and Bonds still put up some very solid offensive numbers last season... I'm just not convinced that he'll be able to keep that up given his age. Also, I'm not sure that Bonds and his cloud of legal issues would be all that desirable for Godfrey and co. and their image of "Toronto the Good".

Pete Toms said...

Andrew, yes the handwriting was on the wall at the beginning of the year re. Thomas being released to avoid his 09 option vesting.

The question is why now? He was still 300 PAs away from the option vesting. Why didn't they just cut him during the spring? What's the difference between that and after 18 games?

As for Bonds...again the key question is are the Jays on the hook for Thomas' 08 salary? If yes they can't sign Bonds unless Godciarridi can beg some more $$$ out of the Rogers beancounters. If they have freed up $6.7 million as Blair claims, then that seems like an amount that Bonds would consider playing for...

As for what happens to Thomas...again that has a lot to do with if the Jays are on the hook for the money. If they are then he'd be more apt to play in a small market for peanuts...if the Jays aren't on the hook then Thomas would likely be lookin for some decent $$$.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

According to Blair's new story, the Jays are on the hook for Thomas' remaining salary, less whatever he's paid by a new team. His original column has been corrected (at 3 p.m. today) to read "[T]hey are still required to pay the pro-rated portion of this year's $8-million (all figures U.S.) salary, which is about $6.7-million." Sounds like either the club gave Blair wrong information at first or he jumped to the wrong conclusion... in any case, that should clear up the confusion. That also means the Jays have less cash to work with, but how much less will be determined by the market for Thomas. As Pete mentioned above, that makes the Bonds scenario even less likely: it's tough to imagine image-conscious Ted Rogers ponying up even more cash for someone guaranteed to bring unfriendly headlines and publicity.

Anonymous said...

"The stripped-down Jays could go with younger players, retreads and a few second-tier stars and still get the 22,000 diehards"

Hmmm, and those 22,000 dwindle down to 7,000, and then the new Green Tea Government turns down a proposal for a new retro-stadium in downtown Thornhill and Bugs Lied, er Bud Selig, strikes a deal with the devil and new owner Roger Clemens to move the team to San Antonio.

Then again, maybe they sign Barry and he ends up hitting his last major league home run in Lake Ontario after they moved the fences in and 360-ed the entire park.

"Cool breeze" Allard

Pete Toms said...

Ok, Blair got it wrong ( everybody makes mistakes ).

So JP blows approx $20 million for 1 season of Thomas. Bad, real bad.

Dennis Prouse said...

Another big contract handed out to an aging star player goes bad. Gee, Batman, we never saw this coming! Not only was it a dumb contract to be giving to a guy who was clearly past his prime, but Thomas already had a well earned reputation for being a problem child when things weren't going well for him.

He may well start hitting somewhere else, Neate, but it will be shortlived, just like it was in Toronto. Father Time comes calling for all athletes eventually, and it has now come calling for Frank Thomas.

sager said...

Shortlived? Did he hit all of his 26 homers last year in one month?

Keep in mind Thomas was 4th in the MVP balloting in 2006 for a team that went to the league championship series. It wasn't like the Jays were bidding against themselves for his services the following winter.

What they didn't anticipate was that home runs dropped about 10% across the AL last season, which disproportionally hurt a few one-dimensional sluggers.

The Jays ultimately dealt with Frank Thomas the way Senators fans wish their team had dealt with Ray Emery.

Anyway, that $20 million, it's not my money, so I don't care.

Tyler King said...

Yeah, you simply can't argue that money is wasted unless you can argue that they would've/could've spent it on something else.

Gil Meche and Ted Lilly didn't avoid Toronto because they didn't have enough money - they preferred the Royals and the Cubs. The Rios for Lincecum trade didn't break down because Frank Thomas was eating up the payroll.

Who would've played DH last year and this if not Thomas? And don't be a hindsight specialist and argue you knew Matt Stairs was going to have a comeback season.

As to the people who just don't get why he was released while putting up the same numbers as last year; last year the Jays were being killed by injuries. As a result they could afford to keep Thomas in there as a placeholder. This year, with a healthy roster and legitimately better options early on in the season, they need to produce early, and would rather have Stairs at DH (at his age this'll help preserve whatever he has left) and Lind at LF. Anything that adds more left-handed bats to the lineup is good for this team.

Things were different this year for Thomas, though. When it comes to fastballs, he seriously was just reduced to guessing and it was pretty painful to watch. He was on pace to set a career high in strikeouts.

sager said...

Dennis' and Tyler's points are spot-on, especially if you read The Tao of Stieb's take. It made sense to jettison Thomas now; last year they had to ride it out.

I'm sorry I didn't give it a bit more thought; I just thought this was a rehash of last season's slow start.

Dennis Prouse said...

He may have hit 26 last year, Neate, but he was going to struggle mightily to repeat it this year, and his strikeout ratio was going to be off the charts. He was going to be the poster boy for everything the Moneyball crowd tries to avoid in a player.

Here's my best analogy for an aging player. In many ways, they are like a computer that is slowly dying on you. At first, the problems are rare, and you can just shrug your shoulders and dismiss them. Then, they start becoming more and more frequent. The computer will come back to life momentarily once in a while, giving you some false hope, but now the down times are more prevalent than the moments when it is working. Eventually, you have to get rid of it. Someone else may take it, and for them it may appear to work fine for a while, but then the old problems you had with it resurface.

sager said...

Dennis, you're feisty today -- then again, it's good vibe ahead of the Vikings picking in the NFL draft.

He would have struggled to repeat it since he was probably going to need more days off. Anyway, The Tao's point was solid -- all three of Thomas' homers and all 11 of his RBIs were off second-line relievers, not closers or starters.

He was basically where a lot of aging sluggers end up -- trying to guess on an inside fastball. It happened to Don Baylor and Dave Parker too.

Tyler King said...

The one issue I do have is with the timing. Why did it have to happen now? They knew Lind was injured, so why bench Thomas so early and force us to suffer Barajas and Zaun playing DH?

Maybe they were just afraid he would come around.

sager said...

Barajas DH'ing or Thomas being a distraction -- both could be damaging.

Dennis Prouse said...

You bet I'm feisty! The Vikings might actually get the guy who could make them a legitimate contender in Jared Allen. Now, Vikings being the Vikings, they probably find a way to screw it up, but for now it looks good.

Sorry to hijack your baseball thread, but the best strategy for the Vikings would be to sign Allen directly to an offer sheet the minute after they make their first pick this Saturday. That way, the two first rounders they have to cough up are '09 and '10. They get a year of Allen in his prime PLUS their '08 pick in the stable right away. It's the NFL equivalent of buying furniture at The Brick.

sager said...

Haha... The Brick? A journalist can only dream of shopping at such a posh place.

Tyler King said...

Did I ever tell you that my radio cohost got in trouble last year for saying "feisty" on the air because apparently it's offensive to women?

sager said...

I went through university from 1996-2002, when the PC craze was its apex, and never heard that.

I generally don't use the word much, not for reasons of political correctness but because 9 times out of 10 I spell it incorrectly.

"Flamboyant" is a no-no.

Dennis Prouse said...

"Flamboyant" is a no-no.

Flamboyant can be applied correctly, though. Toller Cranston, for instance, was "flamboyant". :-)

I once heard a man in his mid 40s referred to as, "boisterous", and on an award he was receiving, no less. It was code for, "loud mouthed, arrogant pain in the butt." :-)

sager said...

Heh-heh-heh... so do the Vikings get Jared Allen or what?