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.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.