Jays offense to suffer in wake of Gonzalez signing

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alex gonzalez.jpgThe Blue Jays are being aggressive early in their bid to hold on to fourth place in the AL East.
One day after re-signing backup John McDonald for $3 milion over two years, GM Alex Anthopoulos nabbed Alex Gonzalez to start at shortstop, guaranteeing him $2.75 million.
It’s a very, very good start for my free agent predictions, but less so for the Jays, who have simply locked themselves into mediocrity.
Gonzalez is a legitimate starting shortstop with his still above average defense and 15-homer ability. He’d have been a decent enough stopgap for a contender, which is why the Red Sox were considering bringing him back. The Blue Jays, though, could have waited and seen whether a trade might be able to bring someone better. They have Roy Halladay and Lyle Overbay up for bids, and they can also afford to move a reliever or two from a group that includes Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Brandon League, Jesse Carlson and Jeremy Accardo.
Instead of looking for upside, the Jays have just decided to go with defense and hope that it pays dividends with their pitching. Meanwhile, their OBP just got a whole lot worse, as Gonzalez might struggle to come within 100 points of Marco Scutaro’s 379 mark from last year. Overbay’s .372 is also expected to disappear from the lineup.
If the Jays go defense first at catcher as well, they could well contend for the AL’s worst OBP next year and have one of the weakest offenses as a whole. Vernon Wells and Edwin Encarnacion should bounce back somewhat, but Adam Lind and Aaron Hill probably aren’t going to combine for 71 homers again and Travis Snider is more likely to strike out 175 times than hit 30 homers as a 22-year-old.
The pitching could surprise, even without Halladay. They’ll definitely get a quality arm or two back if they do move their ace, and Shaun Marcum should be in the rotation to start the year. It’s just hard to see it being good enough to elevate the Jays past the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays. They may struggle to stay ahead of what should be an improved Orioles team.
Last winter, practically every team that moved early came to regret it, while the patient ones were rewarded with bargains later. Now, signing Gonzalez for $2.75 million and McDonald for $3 million doesn’t compare to throwing $18.5 million at Edgar Renteria. Still, the Jays could well have done better had they waited.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.