The Atlanta Braves will begin a two-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night. The Blue Jays are an intriguing club that we don’t see or hear a lot about. So we turned to our excellent SB Nation Blue Jays site for some answers. Tom Dakers was gratious enough to answer our questions.
I returned the favor for him over at Bluebird Banter and you can find that conversation here.
(Kris Willis) What are your thoughts on Alex Anthopoulos? Did you hate to see him leave Toronto? The honeymoon period is still going on in Atlanta so can you give us any insight into what we should expect.
(Tom Dakers) Yeah, we hated to see him leave. He’s got God like status in Toronto because he got us back to the playoffs after far too long. He came into the job saying all the right things about building the farm system, which was wasteland when he took over. He said he would turn the team into a perpetual contender because the farm system would provide all the players we need. And he did build up the farm system.
Then, he decided that it wasn’t going to work, and he used the strength of the farm system to trade for players who could get us over the top.
And it worked.
We called him a ninja because trades would come out of nowhere. There would be no rumors and then suddenly Josh Donaldson would be part of the team. It was a lot of fun.
To be honest, he got out at the right time. He doesn’t have to listen to the complaints about Troy Tulowitzki’s contract. Nor does he have to listen to us wonder why we are playing Russell Martin $20 million this year (and next year) to bat .172 with no power.
I don’t know if Alex had a plan to deal with the aging of the team he put together, but our new front office came in saying all the right things about building up the farm system and turning the team into a perpetual contender. We will see how it goes.
(KW) As I am writing this Toronto is 41-48 on the season and in fourth place in the AL East. What has happened to them this season? Has it been injuries that have hurt them or is it time to remix the group?
(TD) Everything has gone wrong. The starting rotation was to be the strength of the team, but they started the season terrible. Marcus Stroman, who I would have said was about the closest thing we had to a sure thing was awful, then hurt. Aaron Sanchez was bad, then hurt. Jaimie Garcia was terrible then, well you know. The only starting pitch who was as anywhere near good as expected was J.A. Happ (and now he’s had 2 bad starts in a row).
The offense is filled with players who suddenly became old. Josh Donaldson started the season with a ‘dead arm’ (and bat that, if not dead, was clearly in intensive care). Russell Martin has been hitting in the mid-.100s. Kendrys Morales ended April hitting .160 (he’s been some better since but he dug a deep hole). Randal Grichuk was hitting .106 at the end of April and then went on the DL. Devon Travis was….oh you get the picture…no one was hitting.
It is time to remix, the trouble is, we expected Donaldson to be our biggest trade chip, but he’s hurt. About the only player with real trade value is J.A. Happ (and he has had two terrible starts in a row). Our big money players Martin, Tulo, Morales have all become untradeable.
(KW) Josh Donaldson has appeared in just 36 games this season and is in the last year of his contract. What are the plans for him going forward? Will they look to trade him or is he someone they could re-sign this offseason?
(TD) Great question. Right now, he doesn’t have any trade value. And he’s cost himself a fortune in free agent money. He’s gone from looking like someone who would be getting a long-term contract worth well over $100 million to someone who could very possibly take a qualifying offer.
My personal feeling is that any team that wants him should be looking to move him across the diamond to first base or DH. Or just get used to the idea that he won’t be playing much more than 100 games a season. His arm and his range aren’t what you would like at third, and, it seems, his body can’t take the wear and tear of the position anymore.
(KW) Teoscar Hernandez is off to a nice start after his promotion. Can you give us a scouting report on him?
(TD) He’s a very interesting little case study.
He’ll have 1 or 2 just terrible at bats a game, where he will chase pitches off the plate and look like he really has no clue and then he’ll have a terrific at bat where he’ll take pitches just off the plate and get himself into a good count.
He strikes out more than you would like, 25.6% of this year, but that’s down from 37.9% last year, so he’s learning. He’s a fastball hitter but, of course, he can hit a mistake a mile. He is in a slump, he hasn’t had a home run since June 23rd.
On defense, he’s a work in progress. He has all the tools, good speed, good arm, but he doesn’t take the best routes to balls and he will throw to the wrong base way too much, but he’s getting better.
(KW) You asked me about Ronald Acuna Jr, so I must ask, when are we going to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Toronto?
(TD) Right now, he is out with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee which has taken the pressure off the front office.
If it was just a baseball decision, he would have been up by now. The front office was saying all sorts of things about developing his defense (his defense, if he stays at third base, will never be good, but with his bat we’ll live with it) and, if you can believe it, developing his leadership skills and basically any other excuse they can come up with, but the real reason he hasn’t been up is service time. Not that it isn’t agood reason to keep him in the minors, would you rather have him at age 19 or at age 26?
I’m guessing he’ll be up in May or June of next year, and the wait will drive me crazy.