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Jays Have Money to Spend....

Johnny Damon” src=”http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2004/baseball/mlb/specials/postseason/2004/10/21/bc.bba.alcs.ap/p1_damon_slam1_ap.jpg” alt=”image from CNN” width=”270″ height=”319″ />

image from CNN

The Jays are going young and will scout like crazy to make sure they add as much talent as possible from here on out, but is it also possible that they could make a decent attempt at being competitive in 2010? Could the Jays be active in the remaining FA market? My thoughts on this came around while reading forum posts that indicated how great Johnny Damon would look atop the Jays lineup. This fell into the “things that make you go hmmm” category. Although I entirely realize that the prospects of any big name FA being considered or signed by the Jays is extremely unlikely, I thought it would be fun to enjoy a little “January dreaming” of sorts and see where we end up.

***Disclaimer: These moves are way out there, I know this and am not saying in any way that they could become reality. What I am more interested in is to see how so very close the Jays are to being very competitive in a very tough division.

Johnny Damon, after having one of his best seasons, has been snubbed by the Yankees, already wore out his welcome in Boston when he left them for the Yankees, and doesn’t fit on many teams due to crowded outfields or his high asking price. The Jays have some money to spend since they sit at approximately $63,000,000 before the arbitration process begins, and Johnny‘s price is coming down a little now that the musical chairs music is slowing, and he could enjoy the chance to get back at the Yankees by adding some umph to the Jays lineup. The Braves have already balked at his asking price and acquired Melky Cabrera while the Mets added Jason Bay to play LF. Unless I’m missing a team, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fit anywhere. This is possible addition number one, at a cost of $8 million for one season with incentives making it possibly worth $10 million. I don’t believe any other team would want to match this offer, including the Yankees, and it does match what Johnny is looking for this offseason – minus the long term part.

Erik Bedard needs to prove he is healthy before any team will offer him big money. Since he does want #1 type of money somewhere down the line, he needs to sign a short term deal in a place that will allow him to compete with little pressure but proves he still has the stuff. What better place than in the AL East versus the Yankees and Red Sox. He is Canadian, would draw crowds simply due to this fact, and could very well resurrect his career  with the Jays after a 1 year deal. The Jays could add him at a cost of $7.5 million (6 million base with incentives making it possibly worth 7.5 million in 2010), and a mutual option for a second season at $10 million. I believe that no other team will approach this offer due to the injury risk, but it’s an offer that can actually make the Jays money simply by the number of fans that will show up to watch Bedard pitch.

Many Jays fans, including myself, would ask “what’s the point of signing these two players if the Jays know they’re not going to compete in 2010?”, the answer for many fans seems to be two-fold: “to protect young players from being overused or thrown to the wolves” and “to make sure fans keep coming to watch the Jays play.” You can plan for the future and build a foundation all you want, but the reality of the game is that it takes a lot of cash to finance this game and that there’s an immediate correlation between performance and attendance, and therefore finances. If the Jays want to be able to afford to extend Adam Lind and Aaron Hill type players in the future, they need
to be able to afford their salaries as they increase. Maintaining a productive club is therefore a priority, regardless of how much Alex Anthopoulos harps about bringing in long-term young players that can build on the foundation of the team. In my opinion, he has achieved that already, now it’s time to protect that investment and to give them people to learn from and a smidgen of veteran presence in the clubhouse.

What the lineup looks like with Johnny D included:

  1. Johnny Damon (LF)
  2. Vernon Wells (CF)
  3. Aaron Hill (2B)
  4. Adam Lind (DH)
  5. Travis Snider (RF)
  6. Lyle Overbay (1B) or Brett Wallace (1B) or Brian Dopirak (1B) or Randy Ruiz (1B)
  7. Edwin Encarnacion (3B) or Brett Wallace (3B)
  8. John Buck (C)
  9. Alex Gonzalez (SS) or John MacDonald (SS)

What adding Johnny to the lineup would do is to allow for a true lead off hitter to set the table for the big run producers behind him. I slotted Snider 5th even though I know Cito believes he needs to earn it first, but I truly believe Snider will have a huge season – as Lind did in 2009. With Johnny included, this lineup actually looks half decent. Whether or not Johnny can play LF on a consistent basis at Rogers Centre is another question, but he did well while playing for the Yankees when they visited, so I don’t see why not. He’ll also get some time off with Jose Bautista taking over once in a while, so it should save his legs over the long haul.

How would the rotation look with Erik Bedard included?

  1. Erik Bedard
  2. Shaun Marcum
  3. Ricky Romero
  4. Brandon Morrow (in place of Cecil who goes to AAA)
  5. Marc Rzepczynski

Not only does adding Erik Bedard make the rotation more competitive and provide it with a true number one pitcher, but it protects the innings that the youngsters will be forced to throw by allowing for all of the other starting options – Scott Richmond, Jesse Litsch, and others to take over from Cecil and Rzepczynski at any time if they struggle or reach their pitch count maximums.

Adding these two players would cost the Jays a total base amount of $14 million, with incentives making the possible total cost $17.5 million. I do believe that such an agreement would make the Jays much better in 2010 but doubt that Johnny will be joining the Jays. I also am unsure about the status of Erik Bedard, as he seems content to just sit on the sidelines this off season and hasn’t even approached teams about pitching for them, so I’m not sure he’s even an option. However, adding these players isn’t just about competing in 2010, it’s also about allowing the young pitchers to grow and about helping the players currently playing with the Jays mentally. Adding these two would tell guys like Aaron Hill, Travis Snider, and Adam Lind that the team is serious about competing and will spend the money in 2010 and beyond to make it as competitive as possible regardless of what fans and media expect of them.

Like I said, neither is likely to happen, but  it does make at least an inkling of sense….no? While other teams are tightening their purse strings, it seems to me that the Jays have room to grow. While they could make a play for a guy like Ben Sheets instead, I doubt they could land him without a long term deal, so he makes less sense. The nice part about the 2 deals above is that they’re 1 year deals. You get them, enjoy the season – hopefully, and get to decide what to do for 2011 at better rates if possible.

Tags: Aaron Hill Adam Lind Travis Snider

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