Which players are going to be filling the ol Skydome home locker room when Rogers Centre opens for play in April? Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
I chose this picture because I believe this field to be a great place to play. Sure, the turf may be painful or griped about, but as a former college soccer athlete, I’ve played on turf that’s felt better than a grass field (especially during late October playing in New Hampshire.) I’m sure the Blue Jays have nicer turf than what I played on. The point is, whomever takes this field should on April 4, Toronto Blue Jays Opening Day against the New York Yankees, should consider themselves still part of a historic franchise.
Sure, maybe the shine has come off since 1993, with 20 years of mediocrity. Honestly, how many franchises can say that? The Jays were only bottom-feeders three times since 1993. Since ’93, 1551-1624 for a Win-Loss record, giving Toronto a .489 Win%. Only one 90+ loss season (94, 2004), but only one second place finish (2006). Blue Jays baseball has never really sucked for a long period, but also has not been anything to brag about either.
So I take another look above of what use to be called SkyDome. Today, I see uniforms similar to that of the glory days. I ask myself, “When is Toronto going to see glory again?” Do you fellow fans have any idea? I don’t. I’ve been silent on Jays Journal, not wanting to contribute to endless, sometimes unfounded rumours that are going around for this team. Just to be clear, our writers have been so wonderful at keeping pace with the winter meetings and twitter-sphere on all the factual stuff, the only thing I’d be able to report is something about as unfounded as Rogers possibly lowering payroll. So that’s, honestly, how fantastic our group has been.
Again, if you have heard me, it’s been through Twitter. I’ve been quite vocal about my displeasure of the early part of this off-season. While I am satisfied with the signing of Dioner Navarro to be the Jays everyday backstop, I believe there’s still much work to be done. Report after conflicting report has the Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos saying it’s either free agency that will right this ship or creative trading. At this point, every credible news source has figured out that it’s going to be both. Anyway, I’m tempering my expectations. In Tip of the Tower editor Travis Bateman I trust,
but I have to believe that the Houston Astros signing Scott Feldman to a 3 yr/$30M contract screwed some of this up. Not just for Toronto, but for baseball. There were reports of teams offering the up and down pitcher 2 years at $15M, but the Astros had to go and screw up the market. The Feldman deal forced the entire market of those better than Feldman (Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana… you know… all the guys the Jays are considering) to re-evaluate their value. That, of course, takes time and so here we fans are, “admiring” a quiet off-season thus far.
I have no idea who’s going to land in Toronto at this point, but one offer I found intriguing was this from mlbtraderumors.com. As previously reported on Jays Journal by Kyle Franzoni, the Pittsburgh Pirates inquired about DH/1B Adam Lind. Come to find out, the person requested in return from Pittsburgh was 2B Neil Walker. When I read about another Franzoni report on the Jays being interested in Billy Butler, I started thinking that maybe AA was onto something. Franzoni’s article speculated that it could be a move to offset a trade for Jays 1B Edwin Encarnacion. Jeff Blair thought maybe Butler to Toronto had something to do with this…
I hate speculating trades. I’m not awful at it, but much like my fellow writer Charlie Caskey said earlier in the week, putting myself out there to you Jays faithful can be a dangerous thing. That doesn’t mean I’m scared though. I tempted fate once with Casey Janssen for Tyler Skaggs. I guess I might as well try it again.
A couple of days ago, the Toronto Sun mentioned the possibility of a few three team trades AA may have lined up. I’m purely guessing (somewhat educated), so you guys can fire at will below, but I feel that the three teams may very well be Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Toronto. The reason being is they all have needs that each team can actually fill. At least, in my opinion.
For the Pirates, the need for a sure bat that can hit a right-handed pitcher is 100% no longer a need with Adam Lind on your team. He’s also under team control at a reasonable average of $7.5M over the next three seasons. Platooing Lind’s left-handed bat with Gaby Sanchez‘s right side stroke actually creates a dangerous combination and is something of which the Pirates likely see extremely favourable.
What does Toronto need? That question has been beaten to death. For the sake of not getting assaulted in the comment feed, I’ll say “Obviously pitching, but a second baseman wouldn’t hurt!” That 2B is named Neil Walker. Personally, I’m a huge Walker fan! That’s if Walker can stay healthy. Now before you start moaning and groaning, saying “Another oft-injured player Jay? Come on,” look, just think it over a little. Plus, as a Jays fan, if they’re giving up Lind, we’d expect more in return than just Walker right?
Enter the Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler. What does this do? Toronto wants Butler and now needs to replace Lind. This solves the platoon DH/1B the Blue Jays had with Lind, since Butler doesn’t discriminate against what pitcher he faces. It also gets Pittsburgh off the hook from Toronto possibly (and ridiculously) asking for the services of Jameson Taillon (won’t happen) or some other high potential arm, and puts it on Kansas City.
Aside from Lind, what does Pittsburgh want for a high profile arm? Suddenly, the Pirates have a need for 2B and with Royals signing Omar Infante today, that could make “super” utility 2B Emilio Bonifacio, or AAAA 26 year old 2B Johnny Giavotella available. There’s also prospect Christian Colon, who quietly put together a solid season in Omaha.
The tricky part to all of this is figuring out what KC would want back in return. Knowing Kings of Kauffman editor, Dave Hill, like I do, this is a prime opportunity for him to write a counter article and embarrass the crap out of me (he loves to do that.) The glaring weakness for the Royals is their outfield. The pitching staff will not miss Santana due to Danny Duffy making a healthy return, as well as the rise of Yordano “Ace” Ventura. Behind Ventura and Duffy, should they falter, is a young stud pitcher named Kyle Zimmer. So the Royals are pretty set there. The Blue Jays have a lot of outfielders, but perhaps the best outfielder for the spacious Kauffman Stadium is the Jays Anthony Gose. The problem with that is KC is littered with players similar to Gose’s profile. Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson both have speed and may be more refined as a hitter than Gose. Gose, however, is a better fielder than both with a much better arm. Considering Gose would more likely be replacing Jeff Francoeur in RF, he is an upgrade.
Still, it’s awfully hard for me to gauge the true needs of KC being a Blue Jays fan. I can tell just looking this over that unless the Pirate player involved for KC is of real value, in this scenario, the Royals come out losers. Again, I’m tempering my expectations for anything actually happening on the Blue Jays end this off-season. High payroll and rebuilding farm system doesn’t exactly breed success in either free agency or the trade market. I don’t even want to get into what the next option is. Been there, done that, made that mistake, and you guys have enough material to harp on already.
What would you do if you’re Toronto? Perhaps you could do me a solid and try putting yourself in the Royals shoes. Would this trade work? Are the Blue Jays doomed to stagnancy? I don’t have many answers to that last question. All I do know is I sure do miss seeing that beautifully lit dome, loud and full of blue, deep into October. There are still two months before pitchers and catchers report. In Bateman I trust!