Saturday August 30, 2014

Breaking down the Blue Jays offseason


I turned on my television the other day and automatically checked out my top three channels: TSN, Sportsnet and Sportsnet 360, in the hopes of finding some entertaining sporting action to engage myself in.

As I changed the channel from TSN to Sportsnet I heard it before I saw it: the unmistakable drawl of Buck Martinez discussing his views on the Blue Jays and their horrible 2013 season and how they can improve in 2014.

I nearly cried (not really, but yeah). That mainly monotone, sometimes (but not often) lively voice signalled one thing for me: The beginning of yet another Toronto Blue Jays baseball season.

Those that know me know that I’ve been counting down the days until the new Blue Jays season since the final pitch of game 162 last year.

So with the regular season less than a month away, let’s takes a look at the offseason moves the Blue Jays made, shall we?

The Blue Jays haven’t really improved anywhere this offseason other than behind the plate with J.P. Arencibia out and Dioner Navarro in and on the bench with the addition of Kevin Seitzer as a hitting coach after taking over from Chad Mottola.

We’ll start off behind the plate. Getting rid of Arencibia and bringing in the solid behind the plate presence of Navarro is about the only positive thing the Blue Jays have done on field in a rather quiet offseason for the Toronto based club.

Sure, losing the homerun power of Arencibia hurts, but the Jays still have Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion, as well as Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus for the long ball.

Navarro, who most likely won’t put up the homerun numbers that Arencibia did, will, however, hit for a far better average (look for his batting average to be around the .290-.300 area as opposed to the Mendoza line-esque average of Arencibia).  He’ll also be slightly better behind the plate and his veteran leadership will be very useful in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

One other change that the Blue Jays made for the good was relieving Chad Mottola of his hitting coaching duties and bringing in Kevin Seitzer as his replacement.

Seitzer, who was the hitting coach for the powerless (can’t teach power) Kansas City Royals from 2009-2013, guided the Kansas City bats to second, fourth, seventh and ninth overall in team batting average from 2010-2013 (in 2009, the year he took over in Kansas City, the Royals were 20th overall in team batting average).

In that time the Blue Jays, were 24th (2010), 20th (2011), 23rd (2012) and 15th (2013) overall.

Seitzer has also been a key contributor in getting the bat of Royals star Alex Gordon working, not just for a bit of power, but for average as well (Gordon hit 23, 14 and 20 homeruns over the last three seasons and hit .303 and .294 when Seitzer began working with him).

However, the Blue Jays failed to improve on the one area they needed a massive overhaul on.  What is that area?  Their starting rotation of course.

Toronto had one of the worst starting rotations in the entire league last year.  They had just 67 quality starts over 162 games, third worst in the league ahead of only Colorado and Minnesota. Their starters walked away with just 46 wins (24th overall) and worked just 899.1 innings, third worst in the league.

The combined ERA of Blue Jays starters was 4.81, ahead of just the Minnesota Twins and their horrid 5.26 combined ERA.

But did the Blue Jays go out and land a major free agent pitcher?  Did they acquire the services of Masahiro Tanaka, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon or Matt Garza?

No, they didn’t. In fact Toronto made no additions to the area that cost them the most games last season.

There is still a chance they could land Ervin Santana, who is the best remaining free agent starting pitcher, but don’t count on it.

It looks like the Blue Jays will settle for R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Esmil Rogers as their first four and perhaps J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchinson, Todd Redmond or Kyle Drabek as their fifth starter.

There is one thing that the Blue Jays have going into the 2014 that benefits them.  No expectations.

Unlike the debacle of 2013 where Toronto was supposed to finish first overall and contend (I didn’t believe it. After all, they raided a last place team for players), there is zero hope that the Blue Jays will be contenders.

And in the A.L. East, where every team has improved their already dangerous starting rotations, low expectations, unfortunately, might still be too high.



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