Jays From the Couch brings you Beers On the Couch, an intelligent, yet casual discussion from behind the scenes.
Recent rumours about the Toronto Blue Jays and a trade by the Mariners and Mets sparked a rather great conversation here on the Couch. It turned out to be a beauty – like a bunch of friends sitting around, having some beverages and chatting baseball. We decided to let you in on the discussion. Enjoy! And, feel free to chime in.
Jeff Q: Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards said the Mets-Ms trade is two deals, with Edwin Diaz basically going for Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista. That got me thinking about the Roberto Osuna trade again. I think the Ms are getting more upside in that deal than the Jays got in Ken Giles, David Paulino and Hector Perez. But I also don’t think the difference in packages is very big when you consider that Diaz has an extra year of control than Osuna, to say nothing of the off-field garbage and the way that limited his demand. Not to mention Diaz in 2018 was better than Osuna ever had been.
Ryan A: Plus it’s easier to project Diaz for sustained success than Osuna. There is a reason that he toyed with a garbage cutter. It’s because he needs to change things up to avoid getting stale and getting rocked. Moving to Houston probably helped his spin rate because of whatever voodoo magic they do there, but Diaz’s fastball slider combo is more reliable at the moment. Like you said, Diaz is just better.
Srikant K: The Osuna trade is still TBD for me. It’s Paulino, Perez, and whatever the Jays can get for Giles. But I had no problem with the deal. I wasn’t expecting much for Osuna given the circumstances, so was very pleasantly surprised
Ryan M: I’m with you Srikant, that deal is still TBD. If the Jays ‘Donaldson’ the Giles trade and Paulino and Perez turn out to be AAAA pitchers while Osuna goes onto be a solid CL for the next decade, then…shoot.
Srikant K: Yeah, the Jays didn’t need Giles. I think it was more about the Astros wanting to cut bait with him. If the Jays can flip him for a few pieces at next year’s deadline then they would have made the best out of the situation. The Donaldson trade was a disaster either way because he got hurt. Hope the Jays don’t hold on to players too long going forward. A lot of value was lost already.
Ryan A: I still think Giles has a shot to be a valuable contributor when the team is ready to contend again. If Zach Jackson is the best internal option to be the future closer. They need someone with experience in the role. I’d rather keep Giles in a spot where he is happy and succeeding as opposed to going down the B.J. Ryan road when the time comes.
Ryan M: I don’t think Jackson is a future closer. Setup man, yes. I still like Justin Shafer for the job. Jordan Romano is another good option but it’ll most likely come down to a guy like Perez or someone like Yennsy Diaz. Nate Pearson would be insane as closer but must be tried as a SP first.
Jeff Q: I loved the Osuna trade because moving him for Giles would’ve been pretty close to one-for-one. Osuna is younger and had an extra year of control, but that was only because he was suspended (allegedly) committing a monstrous act. Giles has had excellent seasons, alongside Osuna, since 2015. To get two interesting prospects on top of Giles made it a coup for me. If we add hindsight into our evaluations, then we’d certainly need to wait to see what Perez/Paulino become and what Giles gets us if he’s traded. But judging it at the day of the trade, it was a great deal. Even better with the context of what Diaz looks to be netting the Ms.
Srikant K: Judging by some of the non-tendered players, making trades for players like Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, etc, is going to yield very little in return, if anything. I don’t remember a time where projected 1-2 war talent was less valued than it is now.
Roy Z: We may rely on WAR a bit too much at this point. I think teams are way ahead of this stat. If we have guys like Jeff Q with such a healthy grasp of things like xwOBA and the like, I would think teams have their own preferences, or teams of analysts behind the scenes pinpointing what their team covets the most. So while media and fans obsess over these blanket starts (see: any Mike Trout debate), it just seems to me that smart teams would have their own melange of stats that help them make decisions.
Ryan M: 100%! They’re smart. We are dumb. Gotcha loud and clear 😉 Oh, except for Jeff. Obviously, except for Jeff. Haha
Srikant K: Oh I agree teams are looking at a variety of stats and things we may not have heard of yet, but I think not wanting to spend real money on average or below average players is more of the issue now. Kendrys Morales looks like a star using xwOBA and other Statcast indicators, but he’d be lucky to get a guaranteed big league deal if he were a free agent. It’s really interesting to see how front office decision making has changed so much.
Jeff Q: Teams are definitely quantifying things that public sites haven’t yet. To take one example, positional versatility, an area that Kendrys Morales is 0 percentile in. Versatile guys seem more in demand than ever, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a metric for it. C.J. Cron is a good example. 2 fWAR player but little versatility. DFAd.
Doyle: A long time ago, someone asked me what the new market inefficiency was and I said versatility.
Jeff Q: It’s the truth. Though if Marwin Gonzalez gets a huge deal, it may be that versatility is less an inefficiency and now just a fairly paid ability.
Doyle: True story
Jeff Q: Can’t remember where I saw it but there was an article along the lines of “fairly paying solid free agents is the new market inefficiency”. lol
Srikant K: Versatile players means relying on poor backups less often, so there’s definitely a huge benefit.
Doyle: Um…. Dallas Keuchel….?
Roy Z: F that noise
Jeff Q: What a strange idea. I’m genuinely curious what the origin of Heyman’s post was.
Doyle: It is so preposterous that it could be believable…if that makes sense
Wade B: I’m not sure what the goal would be with signing him. Veteran lefty when they are ready to compete? By the time that point comes he will be a shadow of himself, I’m afraid.
Jeff Q: Ya I agree. Thinking about it, how many of the Jays moves the last couple years have been telegraphed much in advanced? Wade, exactly. Makes a little more sense if this was one year from now and is an obvious move two years from now. Like we’ve been saying, this year is the time to test all of these AAAA guys, both the pitchers and the position players.
Ryan M: Keuchel would be worthy of a very healthy haul if traded to a contender at the deadline.
Jeff Q: I think the haul depends on his contract
Wade B: He’d make a great mid-rotation guy for the Nats or Phillies, even Atlanta. But if you want a cheaper option go get J.A. Happ on a 2 year deal. Let him pitch his final seasons where he wants to be.
Srikant K: Mark Shapiro seems to hate free agency. Don’t think he signs anyone that expensive at that age unless it’s a short term deal which it won’t be. I think Happ is a real possibility given the way Ross Atkins talks about him, but that’s 3 years max so it’s more reasonable even if Happ declines early.
Jeff Q: Certainly at the moment, given their contention timeline. Happ makes sense. He’s projected to get a 2 x1 5 deal vs 4 x 20 for Keuchel. That’s a lot less risk. Happ brings more as a wizened vet. I mean if they want to sign Keuchel, that’d be cool. But it doesn’t jibe with what the Jays off-season plans appear to be.
Ryan A: It makes no sense, but then again, so do a lot of the rumors surrounding the Blue Jays and players on the market. They’re more likely to sign Brad Boxberger than Dallas Keuchel. And I actually wouldn’t mind.
Srikant K: Pitchers who want to improve their value for next year will avoid the Jays due to division (and team defense isn’t good either). The top free agents will cost too much. If it’s not Happ then hard to predict who they end up with. A while back someone predicted Gio Gonzalez, and that’s probably realistic.
Roy Z: Ultimately, pitchers will chase the money. Watch Patrick Corbin this winter re: Philly/Bronx. He’ll choose NYY, saying it’s because he grew up a Yankees fan (and he did), but NYY will offer more. But it’s likely his one monster deal, the one that sets you up for life. If a guy like Corbin wanted to pad his stats for the rest of his life, instead of his bank account, he’d go to Philly. That’s where one of Toronto’s most major problems lies: they’re in brutal division like Srikant said, they’re never guaranteed to be the best in the division, their taxes are extreme* (THIS MATTERS), and they’re never going to outbid every other team in baseball, let alone their division, for the best pitching talent. They’ll need to develop that talent, guys like Nate Pearson, or trade for it – like in the Osuna deal. Which is why hiring guys like Ben Cherington and Carson Cistulli is so important.
*New York and California are both nearly as tough as Ontario on income tax.
Ryan M: This raises an important question. I’ll use Vladimir Guerrero Jr as an example. Since Toronto will never outbid the likes of the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers is it our fate to be a farm system organization which only has a window of 4-6 years with star prospect before we have to offload them for a haul of prospects?
Roy Z: The good news is that the deep-pocket teams can only house about 30 of the game’s best players. So there will always be things like…Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets…Robinson Cano to Seattle…Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks.
Ryan M: I gave the conversation about positional flexibility some thought and one aspect of having flexibility on the roster which extends beyond the individual is that it allows the team to go after the BIG FISH free agent without needing to worry which position he plays.
Roy Z: There will be cycles (2019-2025) where teams like NYY and BOS will be absolutely supercharged. But the players are peaking earlier, declining more rapidly.
Ryan M: Good point Roy. But if they are continually restocking their systems by investing in the IFA it makes it easier for them to stay on top by adding the odd super free agent here and there. Or by trade
Roy Z: Teams have to be so much smarter about their spending. Talent is more spread than ever before, and this is a SUPER longshot, but I am hoping with the concussion research and everything in football, that baseball is going to reap the rewards of that, with even more talent coming into the game, with it’s guaranteed contracts and significantly lower rate of brain-melting.
Well the International market is limited, too – based on the pools. The Yankees will always bend over the Marlins for elite talents. But there’s gotta be a swoon in there every once in a while. That’s where your mid-market teams come in. Unfortunately, these super teams might result in the death of some smaller markets. I think of Tampa being one, they do so damn well but never make it all the way.
Jeff Q: My (optimistic) two cents, FWIW, is that the Jays *plan* is to become a perennial contender themselves, rather than a team that contends in windows. The keys to being the former are a system that steadily produces talent, being in a big city and having owners willing to spend (to extend homegrown stars, add the occasional piece via FA and spend all of the IFA pool money). The second condition is met: by metro area, Toronto is behind NYC, LA and CHI but in the same group as HOU, WAS, PHI, MIA and ATL around 6m people. The third condition has shown evidence of being met, as the Jays have had a Top 10 payroll in recent years.
And, I think we’re seeing the early signs of the first condition being met, a steady flow of homegrown talent. There’s been a big rise in the team’s system ranking. Importantly, this hasn’t been driven mainly by making big one-off trades of talented veterans that can be repeated. We’ve seen three pretty solid drafts, with early evidence of overperformance in 2016 and 2017. They’ve had two solid IFA periods in 2017 and 2018. Even in 2016, with a very limited pool after signing Vladdy in 2015, they managed to get Otto Lopez, a guy with sneaky upside.
If the system has a steady inflow of prospects each year and those prospects are developed into major-leaguers at relatively high rates, then the team would have a solid base of talent to build a lineup from and to make trades, when necessary. This kind of team would also be pretty cheap, allowing for complementary FA signings. Will the best FA want to sign here? Who knows. They might, given that the team would be strong and in contention. Taxes are definitely relevant, but are not much higher here than in the big US metros (one NBA related study found little difference between Toronto, NY and California). Ultimately, the possibility that FA don’t want to come here makes it all the more important to develop homegrown players who are more likely to extend than FA are to sign. The next couple of years will be telling. If 2021 is truly a year of contention and if the team’s system (even after significant graduations) remains one of the Top 5-10 in baseball (thanks to development of current low level prospects and further additions in 2019-20), then the groundwork of long-term contention is there.
Srikant K: I think the Jays are going to try to be like the Cardinals from years back. Lose a free agent, replace that player internally. Build a deep 40 man roster so that even the non core pieces are 1 WAR types who can contribute positively. At some point they will have to supplement either by free agency or trade (or both) but I think they’ll do that without sacrificing the farm system. In today’s baseball landscape teams can’t afford to build that way (what Alex Anthopoulos did in 2013-15).
Ryan M: I wonder what Vladdy’s drawing power would be for the free agent market in next year’s offseason
Jeff Q: Agreed Srikant, replacement (or slightly better) players are super useful to sustained competition. I think a big difference between now and AA’s days is the strength of the development side of things. The team seemed to need to make external additions because none of the prospects were developing into major leaguers. Early days yet, but indications look positive that the system will produce 2+ WAR major leaguers in the next few years.
Very good question Ryan. Even beyond the projected on field success, a team with Vlad will have fun playing. His Fall Stars team looked like they were having the time of their lives, in spite of them not knowing the guy much beforehand. Pitchers would be wise to sign with Toronto to avoid having to face him lol. If you’re a top of the order guy, you’re likely to get a counting stats boost being around him. Will certainly be interesting to see if there’s any positive effect for TOR on the FA market.
Ryan M: It doesn’t hurt the farm system that this front office got lucky getting Bo Bichette in the 2nd round and Cavan Biggio has developed beyond expectations. They have done a good job in recent years with their IFA signings Hiraldo, Jimenez, Pardinho, and Martinez looks like a solid top level prospect.
Jeff Q: Ya, that’s the big question for me. The Jays system has grown a lot since 2016 via acquisition and development. Is this progress exceptional and not likely to sustain going forward or is this just the new normal for the Jays? If they can have a similar three years going forward as the three they just had (in terms of system development) and then another three and another three, then consistent contention seems extremely doable. If they’ve gotten lucky in an unsustainable way, then ya, competing in windows is inevitable.
To take Bichette and Biggio as examples, what kind of lucky did they get? There’s lucky in the traditional sense — they did little to nothing to deserve turning those two slots in the draft into one strong and one regular major leaguer (potentially, hopefully, we still have to wait and see). Or is it lucky in the “make your own luck” sense–they saw something in the two that other teams didn’t which, when combined by effective development practices, led to two strong upper level prospects. The former kind of luck isn’t repeatable, but the latter is.
Roy Z: Precisely – and the reason the Blue Jays ended up with Bichette? He’s small. He was likely passed over by a bunch of teams because, like Marcus Stroman, his build didn’t say “second rounder” to the old baseball guys. But here come the Blue Jays, taking chances. Draft Stroman. Draft Bichette. Draft Nate Pearson as he recovers from Tommy John. In order to sustain winning in this division, the Blue Jays have to remain both on the cutting edge of information and boldness.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.