Jays Journal Spring Training Notes: 8-March-11


There’s a lot going on in Jays camp despite getting a “day off” on Monday, and for the most part, it’s all positive. There seems to be a truly positive spin on this season’s spring training. From the excitement of the young players showing off some of their skills, to young players vying for spots in the lineup, rotation, and the pen (ok, older guys vying for pen spots…), the Jays look to be gelling and are getting warmed up as the snow in the North thaws. Here are some notes to take with you through another day of spring training:

Jesse Litsch the Favorite for the 5th Spot?

A great Shi Davidi article goes through some of the thoughts on how spring training has gone thus far, according to Alex Anthopoulos. The highlights? The Jays are loving Brett Lawrie, are very happy with the defensive work of Adam Lind at 1B, are glad to see J. P. Arencibia doing so well defensively – with help from bench coach Don Wakamatsu – and don’t seem worried at all about the lack of hits from the big knocker. Alex also reminds us that Jesse Litsch is “only 25″ and the following:

“He’s not Shaun Marcum, they’re not the same style, but he certainly has a chance for the results to be similar in terms of win totals and innings pitched.”

Talk about a boost to Jesse Litsch‘s chances of nailing the 5th spot in the rotation! When the GM of your team puts your stats for 2011 in the same range as the opening day starter from 2010 and a guy who was considered the ace of the staff that season, you know you’re highly thought of in the organization.

Looking through the AL East starting rotations, I like Litsch best at the 5th starter than the expected 5th starter on any other team. Litsch, if healthy, would be more consistent than any of those starters, even if some of the other 5th starters in the AL East do have the potential to develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter (such as Chris Tillman).

Are the Jays Attempting to Boost the Stock of Jo-Jo Reyes to Work Out a Trade Before the Season Begins?

In the same Davidi article as linked above, Alex also spoke highly of Jo-Jo Reyes, but in my humble opinion, there’s just no way they can keep him on board…..is there? The Jays could keep him on as a long-reliever at the expense of Casey Janssen, but does Janssen even have any options remaining? Because if he doesn’t, there’s no way he’ll make it through waivers. Here’s what Alex had to say about Reyes:

“His fastball was up to 92, he was down in the zone, and showed some very good changeups and sliders,” says Anthopoulos. “He showed us a glimpse of why he was a highly touted prospect. I’ve always liked Jo-Jo, I’ve always kept an eye on him. He was a secondary piece in that trade but he was an important piece because from my standpoint, a young left-handed starter with some upside certainly makes all the sense in the world for us to take a chance on.”

There’s a chance that Alex was boasting about Reyes because he wants to make sure that the competition continues to be fierce for that last rotation spot, or that he wants to keep the focus on Kyle Drabek down to a minimum. By highlighting 2 other pitchers vying for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation, Alex is simultaneously boosting their trade stock and possibly diminishing the focus placed on Drabek. The intent in this case places focus on Litsch and Reyes, and lights a fire under Drabek – a fierce competitor – to step his game up a notch and really grab a hold of a rotation spot this spring.

All I’m saying here is that Alex may be sending out multiple messages. To other teams who are looking for pitching “Hey look, we have a surplus here and a LHP who may be available!!!”. To his own pitchers “Hey look, you’re really going to have to earn this spot in the rotation, because we have options and some of those options have no options…”. Either way, in my opinion, Alex is saying all of the right things.

Some potential Jo-Jo Reyes trade candidates I came up with quickly: St-Louis (obvious reason – Wainwright and Carpenter), Texas who could use a long-reliever lefty that can spot start when needed – particulalry since they can’t count on Brandon Webb for 200 plus innings, the Nationals who always need pitching, the Brewers who dealt their best long-relief option to the Jays in Carlos Villanueva and could use another option as a 5th starter, and the Seattle Mariners who need back of the rotation arms and can’t count on Erik Bedard to provide many innings. Potential returns? Anything is more than nothing, which is exactly what the Jays would get if they don’t find a taker, so don’t expect too large a return if the Jays do deal Reyes.

Lyle Overbay Could be the Steal of the Off Season According to Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun

Message to Ken Fidlin: It’s spring training, expectations for Lyle in the regular season should be tempered. Is Lyle a better 1B than anything the Pirates have had in a very long time? Yes. The steal of the off season? Absolutely not. In my opinion, that award may go to the Reds who got World Series MVP Edgar Renteria for so little money ($2.1 million), and how about the Cubs getting Kerry Wood back for a lot less than what the Pirates are paying Overbay, $1.5 million? I even like the acquisition of Mark Prior by the Yankees moreso that the Bucs acquisition of Overbay. Prior, as a reliever, could take over from Rivera in 2013 and give the Yankees many years of results similar to what the Sandman gave them. There are numerous other examples and cases that could be made that qualify as better “steals” of the off season, but those 2 stand out in my mind.

Will Lyle do well with the Pirates? Probably. Is he a good pickup by the Bucs this off season? For sure. But to look at him as anything more than a 3rd tier 1B may be misguided at this point, and he’s definitely not the steal of the off season.

Fidlin may have “reached” on the Lyle Overbay hype, but he Nails the Break Down of the Jays Thus Far in Spring Training in this Article

In fact, he stole the words out of my mouth so often that I decided to wait on putting out my own take on things. This is an absolute must read if you want to know where things stand on all issues the Jays are facing this spring. enjoy!

Finally, ex-Jays catcher Greg Zaun retired and we at Jays Journal bid him farewell. Oddly enough, his retirement may prevent the retirement of another ex-Jays catcher – and Jose Molina‘s brother – in Bengie Molina. The Padres are apparently looking for a new option as a backup to Nick Hundley and may put enough pressure on the Astros – who are looking to replace Jason Castro who is out for the season – to offer Molina more money. It appears that Molina wants to start, so the SD option is a lot less likely than his going to the Astros, where he could start the majority of the time. He just wants the right kind of money to go along with majority playing time, and Hoston seeems to be the best option to accomodate both things at this time. But, having SD in the wings adds the required pressure on the Astros to make them open up their wallets. So, Gregg Zaun’s retirement may help postpone Bengie’s!

That’s all for this morning!

- MG

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Tags: Bengie Molina Edgar Renteria Gregg Zaun Jesse Litsch Jo Jo Reyes JP Arencibia Kerry Wood Mark Prior Shaun Marcum

  • gabriel

    While I suppose Reyes makes sense as a trade option, I think the preferred situation for the Jays would be to trade some of our right-handed relief corps to whoever suffers some injuries or otherwise needs relief help toward the end of ST: Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp probably have the most value of our tradeable relief arms, although Janssen could also be trade bait. I’d imagine AA would prefer to establish/reestablish the value of Litsch, Reyes or Rzepczynski before swinging a trade of someone in our starting depth. Trading Frasor and Camp would make it easy to stash Reyes in the bullpen if the organization still thinks he could establish himself as a worthwhile MLB pitcher where he could serve as the 2nd lefty, long man and emergency starter. The pen could look like this: Francisco/Rauch/Dotel/Villanueva/Janssen/Purcey/Reyes.

    • Mat Germain

      I think they’d be very comfortable with Litsch as the #5, moreso than with Reyes who has had a very bumpy ride in comparison.

      You’re right in that the Jays are very RHP heavy, but they do have some RHPs that are very effective vs both LHP and RHP (such as Francisco), which helps mitigate the need to add LHP RP. And, I do believe there’s a chance that they’d be happy with Rzepczynski as the LHP in relief instead of Reyes, so he’s an option for that role as well.

      • gabriel

        I’m in agreement with both points. I don’t think it’s necessary to carry more than one lefty. Our roster construction when it comes to pitchers doesn’t make much sense at the moment. Both Litsch and Rzepczynsk have shown enough that they merit starting in MLB. But with Drabek, Cecil, Romero & Morrow there’s only room for one of them; and Stewart looks like he could be ready by midseason, if not earlier. If we hang on to Reyes, he’s an option to start in the event of injury (let’s not forget that he has Romero/Cecil-like stuff). Add in Mills and Richmond who are already decent options in case of injury, and we have a logjam- too many assets to efficiently use. Trading Litsch or Rzep if either gets off to a good start in the rotation would help the Jays to maximize their resources.

        The bullpen logjam simply compounds the problem. Pitchers like Reyes and Richmond would probably be better off proving themselves in the majors, even in the bullpen than labouring in Vegas, but our overstock of bullpen options makes it difficult to arrange. I hope AA can find good homes for some of our surplus pitching while getting interesting players back.

  • allcanadian34

    I’m fairly certain that Casey Janssen has one option left. I remember reading an article where Casey talked about how he was aware that he was one of the few veteran relievers that had an option left, but that he wanted to earn his spot and he hoped that management would give the job to the best players, regardless of option status. Or something along those lines… Either way, I’m 99% sure Casey has one option left.

    • Mat Germain

      Thanks for the info allcanadian34!

  • Jim

    Just how does the bullpen look this yea?, What if anything have they done to improve it? Any AAA prospects that could possibly contribute duringthe year?