Alex Gordon, Pat Hentgen, and Other Jays Musings

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Jared Macdonald did a great job going through the reasons Zack Greinke may not be a fit for the Jays and may not be the right guy and I agree with him on all counts. Not only has Greinke expressed a yearning to stay out of the limelight, making any AL East team a bad one for him, but he also would cost the Jays too much “similar” ceiling talent in return. I understand he’s a top level talent, but the Jays would be better off keeping their depth in this case, as we all know that you can never have too many arms. Just ask the 2010 Red Sox.

The interesting part of the rumors linking Greinke to the Jays in terms of interest was that Alex Gordon was being talked about and that the Royals seemed to only be looking for “something” in return for their old top prospect, chosen 2nd overall in the 2005 draft. Alex Gordon fits exactly into Anthopolous’s buy low examples and still has plenty of upside to his game. He plays all positions the Jays are looking to fill, first base, third base, and the OF, and is very cheap while under control through 2013. He made $1.1 million in 2010 and his first year of FA will be 2014.

When looking through Alex’s stats in 2010, you can see the potential. He hit 8 HRs and 10 doubles  in 242 ABs, making 20 HRs and 25 doubles a possibility in a full season even if no improvements are made at this point. His best period of time in the majors last season was the month of August, shortly after being recalled in July, when he hit .264 with a .327 OBP for the month. However, while in AAA Alex was dominant to say the least.  He hit .315 with a .442 OBP and 14 HRs in only 260 ABs.

So what does it all add up to for Alex Gordon in 2011? I’d say that if he joins a team such as the Jays and gets a chance to play full time, as Jose Bautista did with the franchise, he could break through with an outstanding year. I have no clue as to where he would play, but 1B is my favorite option, as he could concentrate on hitting and would most likely do so in the 7-9th spots in the lineup to begin the year. The plus side to having him low int he lineup is that he still  has enough speed to steal a base here and there when needed, so it’s another asset that can be used to add some runs while placing pressure on opposing pitchers while facing the bottom of the order.

If the price is right, and I’m guessing it will take 2 medium level prospects to make it happen (such as Brad Mills and a position player), then I say make it happen Alex.

Marc Repczynski is tearing up the AFL. In 5 starts so far, he has a 0.76 ERA, is 3-0, and has only allowed 21 hits and 8 walks in 26 innings of work while striking out 20. If Marc is a trade chip in Alex Anthopolous’s trade bag, he’s certainly increasing his value with every start. Look for him to be a big piece of a deal if the Jays do land either Prince Fielder or Matt Kemp.

Pat Hentgen has joined the Jays and John Farrell’s staff and will be working with the guys in the pen. After hearing his interview on MLB Radio, I couldn’t help but feel happy that some link to the glory days of the Jays will be around as the Jays move forward with Alex Anthopolous in charge. He stated that he wants to build the confidence of the staff so that they attack and “own” the strike zone. The pitchers should not be afraid of going inside when needed according to Hentgen, while also playing to their strengths if going down and away is theur bread and butter. He credited Jack Morris and other Jays greats for teaching him the ropes and hopes he can do the same for the guys in the pen. Interestingly, he was also asked about John Farrell’s rise to Manager and whether or not it’s an aspiration of his. Hentgen said that anyone who accepts a coaching job aspires to Manage some day and that he’s no different. So, while he praised the work done by the pitching coaches – including Bruce Walton – for the Jays, he still has an eye on higher level positions in the future, making him a candidate for those jobs whenever there are openings.

As if adding a former Cy Young pitcher to his staff wasn’t good enough, John Farrell also added Don Wakamtsu to his staff as the bench coach. While I am a fan of Don’s and do appreciate the fact that his leadership helped make the 2009 Seattle Mariners a much better team than they were on paper, I also question the way his tenure in Seattle ended – particularly the Ken Griffey Jr saga and the fact that he couldn’t help Chone Figgins to become an effective part of the team in their lineup and fought with many leaders of the team.

Seattle lost a ton of games as a result. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said of Don and the rest of the fired staff in Seattle “The truth of the matter is, I lost confidence in Don, Ty and Rick”, and an Buster Olney article on his firing added “Wakamatsu has also had multiple public spats with Figgins, whom Zduriencik signed to a $36 million free-agent contract before the season. The most recent incident was an in-game fracas of shouting, shoving and Mariners infielder Jose Lopez getting his jersey pulled over his back. That happened inside the home team’s dugout in full view of half the stadium and a national television audience.” Does this mean that it’s John Gibbons 2.0?

Is he truly a good communicator when it comes to getting the message across, and is that really the bench coach’s job? I answer no to the first portion, and yes to the second. Any Manager who loses control the way Don did in Seattle either put too much pressure on himself or has lost the ability to communicate effectively. A bench coach, being the conduit between the Manager and the players, needs to be approachable and to know what issues require the Manager’s attention. Is Don the right guy for that job? I’m not so sure, but time will tell. All I know is that his track record is “checkered” to say the least and that it may be too soon after taking the fall for the team issues in Seattle (Milton Bradley and his emotional issues, Ken Griffey’s naps, Jose Lopez and Chone Figgins ego attention, and Erik Bedard injuries) to be able to be a truly effective bench coach. Having said that, it seems that many teams interviewed Don as a possible Manager in 2011 for a good reason – he knows baseball and is qualified for the role. I hope Don will fit in well with the Jays as John Farrell needs top-level support as he adjusts to managing, and that Don will soon be revered as a truly integral part of the coaching staff in Toronto for a long time to come. The issues he faced in Seattle were the result of some horrific GM moves, so I give him a pass on most counts. Having said that, welcome aboard Don.

The 3rd part added to the coaching staff was an internal promotion, as Luis Rivera will join John Farrell’s staff as a coaching assistant. He has a long history with the Jays and was actually considered as an option for Cito Gaston’s job as Manager when the position was open. He’ll be a great asset as a translator for the Spanish speaking players on the club and will bring a ton of knowledge about the young up-and-coming Jays since he coached the New Hampshire Firshercats team where he brought the team to a 79-62 record and made it to the Championship Series for the Eastern League. I love this addition and do believe that it will allow for tremendous input as to who is ready to play from AA, which assets should be approached how, and that it will provide for a familiar face to approach for those who are promoted from AA since they’ll be familiar with Luis. In particular, I think of Adeiny Hechavarria and the amount fo familiarity he’ll have with Luis after spending his first season in the U.S. working with him. A great addition to the Jays coaching staff indeed.

Finally, Jose Bautista won the Silvber Slugger award, which could result in making him a little more expensive to resign. If he adds AL MVP to his list of awards and has another huge season in 2011, Jose will be pricing himself as a potential top FA heading into 2012 unless he signs an extension with the Jays. More to follow on this, as I’m not so certain Alex Anthoplous will be willing to hand a 31 year old slugger top dollar that will handicap the team’s budhet in future years.That makes 2011 the potentially final year of Jose Bautista’s stay in Toronto unless he accept short term deals instead of long term security.

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Tags: Adeiny Hechavarria Alex Gordon Don Wakamatsu John Farrell Jose Bautista Luis Rivera Marc Rzepczynski Pat Hengten

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