November 17, 2006

Don't Worry, It's On Ted...

Frank Thomas, the newest member of the Toronto Blue Jays. That one certainly came out of left field. Most definitely took me by surprise. It's been about 24 hours since the rumour broke that Thomas and the Jays are close to a deal. Reports out of Florida say that pending a Thomas physical, the deal is all but done and will be announced Friday.

In that case, let me be the first to welcome The Big Hurt to the great city of Toronto. A great place for him to play out the rest of what has been a solid career. Looks like J.P. Ricciardi has surprised Toronto, and the baseball world, once again.

When I first heard the news I was, first of all, very surprised. It was just so unexpected. Once I picked up my jaw off the floor I was able to say, "Yeah, one of the Jays' biggest holes is at designated hitter."

I don't care how old Thomas is - 38 by the way. I don't care that last year was his first injury free season in the last three years. Right now, all I care about is his 37 home runs and 100+ rbi's. Honestly, none of the past matters. Not to me. Not right now, anyway. I'm looking at this signing with pure, 100% optimism. JP just added another big bat to an already potent line-up.

Now most of the comments I've heard in regards to this signing have been negative. The majority of Torontonian's who follow the Jays with a passion are ripping JP for this deal. I've heard all the regular ones:

"He's too old. He's too injury prone. What is JP thinking? Why didn't we get Zito? What about Lilly? Why didn't we keep Delgado a few years ago?"

And my favourite one of all: "How could we give him $10 million!?!?"

I just don't get why people are so fixated on the salary. Really, who cares? Is the money coming out of our pockets? No. Not at all. This is Ted Rogers' money, and if he wants to spend it on putting a solid team together, who are we to argue and complain about the salary. Bob McCown is dead on - the Jays can pay him $20 million for all I care. It doesn't matter.

Now I know I'll get some people saying his salary will be reflected in Jays ticket prices, or concession prices. Something. Anything. But the truth is, even if the Jays raise tickets by $1, is that going to stop you from heading out to the Rogers Centre to watch a game? Give me a break. You know that by going to a game, you're going to spend a certain amount of coin, even if the team is crap. You know how much a ticket goes for, on average, and you know you're going to be paying too much for food. Ticket prices are always going up, and the Jays haven't been to the playoffs since my bloody youth. I'm 24. I'll pay a few extra bucks the one or two times I go watch a game if it means we make the playoffs.

Now I know it's dangerous to manage a team using the Leafs "pick up a veteran 5 years removed from his best season" mentality. It's definitely a gamble. A gamble worth $20 million. But seriously, come up with a better excuse as to why you think Thomas should not be a Blue Jay. Don't mention the money, and we can have a decent discussion on the topic. It's going on Ted's tab, so lets not go crazy over the amount, ok?

Now there are viable viewpoints out there, as to why this is not a good signing. I've heard someone say that the Jays lineup is already strong enough, why add another bat? Now my take on the situation is this: everyone knows pitching is, and always will be, at a premium. It's tough to put together a solid starting rotation. Even the Yankees and Red Sox, who have the deepest pockets in baseball, can't put together a great rotation on the regular. It's simply difficult to do. In light of that, Boston this week payed some Japanese ballclub $51 million just to NEGOTIATE a contract with a Japanese import pitcher, who's clearly the next best thing since sliced bread. That is an absoloutely ridiculous amount of money, and it clearly highlights the problems in baseball's economic system.

The thing that pisses me off is, first of all, that we are stuck in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox. I read an SI piece about how it's incredible that the Red Sox call the Yanks the "Evil Empire" when they conduct business the same way as the boys from NYC. They're both "Evil Empires" and how in hell are the Jays supposed to compete with these guys? It's infuriating. That's one thing I like about JP Ricciardi. He's trying. He's doing all he can. Last year we "overpaid" BJ Ryan and AJ Burnett, but once again, WHO CARES? JP's not creating the market. The market is being set by teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who pay anyone anything.

The $51 million paid by Boston to the Japanese team WILL NOT COUNT AGAINST THEIR PAYROLL and therefore the Rex Sox will not be taxed for it under baseball's luxury tax system. They just paid an amount that would probably equal the payrolls of both the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, to negotiate with a player. And teams like the Royals, Pirates, and Jays, won't see a penny out of that, even though revenue sharing exists. It's absurd. I could go on, but that's my point - baseball spending is out of control, and unless the fans want to watch the team sit around and do NOTHING, we have to pay free agents like Frank Thomas the money the market defines for them. If JP could get Thomas for $5 million, I'm sure he would.

Back to my point - pitching is at a premium. All pitchers get overpaid. Wait and see the amount of money thrown at Ted Lilly, who's nothing more than a 3rd or 4th starter, with a career record hovering around .500. The Jays can't afford to match the Yanks and Red Sox when they offer pitchers ridiculous amounts of money. We just can't do it. Now we've got 2 really good pitchers, and a decent third starter. We'd love to get Lilly back, but the odds are not in our favour. If the pitching is too expensive, we might as well try and assemble the most powerful lineup that we can. The Jays already boasted an incredible offense, and with the hole at DH thanks to the departure of Shea Hillenbrand, who better to fill it than The Big Hurt? Wells, Rios, Glaus, Overbay, Thomas. It's the Toronto BOMB Jays!

We can't afford the best pitchers. We've already got the best in Doc Halladay, and if AJ Burnett can pitch how he did in the final two months of the season, Toronto will have a formidable one-two punch in the rotation. So I applaude JP for going out and signing another big bat. Why the hell not?

JP's still got lots of work to do though. Frank Catalanatto, Justin Speier, Bengie Molina, Ted Lilly and Gregg Zaun are all free agents. Supposedly JP has been talking to Rod Barajas' agent. I wouldn't mind him as our new catcher. I'm good with any of those three - Zaun, Molina or Barajas. My gut tells me Zaun will be back. I was hoping The Cat would be back in the fold but with the signing of Thomas, I doubt it. I think Reed Johnson is ready to play everyday, anyway, so I thank The Cat for his service, and wish him well. I'm really hoping there's someway we can get Speier and Lilly back, although retaining both of them seems difficult. Brandon League was lights out last season, and if Speier does end up with another team, League is going to have to step into the set-up role and take care of business.

There's also the business of assessing the middle infield. Have the Blue Jays given up on Russ Adams? I know a lot of people have. I think I'm one of them, although I don't mind giving him one last shot to become an everyday second basemen.

I love the off-season, for all these reasons and more. I also heard the Jays are interested in Mark Mulder. He'll definitely come cheaper than Ted Lilly, and of what I remember of him from his days in Oakland, I'd love to see him in a Jays uniform.

Will JP resign Vernon long term? I think it's pretty clear the Jays won't be trading him in the off-season. I think that's wise. He's under contract for next year, we might as well keep him. He's amazing. Every night before I turn in, I pray to God that Vernon will sign an extension. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

Frank Thomas, welcome to Toronto. People might be hating, but I'm happy your here.

If you're out there and reading, leave a comment and tell me what you think about the newest member of the Blue Jays family.

Oh, and thanks, Mr. Rogers.

Goodnight, Toronto...


Anonymous said...

i think he made a big mistake!

Nitin said...

I can guarantee one thing for certain (barring injury)... that Frank will have better numbers in '08 than next year. Why so? Because he will be playing that much harder to secure that lucrative 3rd option year.

All contracts should be 1-year deals... so that players can't choose when to play better/harder. This doesn't apply to all players... but it applies to a lot.

Remember Lilly in one game this year? Not wanting to be pulled because he wanted the W... guarantee #2... Lilly will get a multi year deal somewhere, and that charade won't happen for him this year.

Baseball spending is hammered. They need to cut the regular season, and expand playoffs so that the Jays have a fighting chance. We can't compete with the ridiculous $$$$ the Yanks and Red Sox Nation shell out. It's just stupid.

alz said...

props to Ted for at least trying....we're gonna need The Big Hurt's eye against that Jap's new Googly pitch-ra...i hear it comes out of left is messed in the payroll sense...most teams can't even least the jays are pretty good. how do these other teams' markets survive? i dunno.
good read, nav

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