And Toronto says goodbye to Cito, who will finish the season on the road, after which he’s all done as the Jays manager.
It was a tenure — interrupted by several years off — that is one of the more underrated in the game. Gaston won two world championships with the Jays. It was a talented bunch that won those titles you say? Most definitely. But Bobby Cox had some talented teams in Toronto — and Atlanta for that matter — and never won a ring with the Jays (and only one with the Braves). Lots of talented teams fail to win the series. Gaston deserves more credit for those titles than he gets.
And he deserves credit for more than just winning. He kept things on a pretty even keel while doing so too. After all, Jack Morris, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Tony Fernandez weren’t the easiest guys to get along with at times, and unless I’m just blanking here, Gaston’s clubhouses always seemed to be pretty harmonious places. As I’ve written many times before, that matters. Probably more than people who talk about managers will admit. He was a mentor to many, most notably Dusty Baker, who may not have made it out of the minor leagues without Gaston looking out for him, and to this day calls him an inspiration as both a manager and a man.
Is he a Hall of Fame manager? Not to slight him, but I’m not inclined to think so. He is currently 891-836, which translates to a .516 winning percentage. That’s nice, as are the titles, but the twelve seasons he took off between stints as the Jays’ manager gives him far fewer games in the bigs than most Hall of Fame managers have. It’s probably also worth noting that, more often than not, his teams underperformed their Pythagorean record, though whether that’s luck of Cito or whatever is hard to say. He gets trailblazer points for being the first black man to manage a World Series winner. Your mileage may vary regarding how significant that is for a Hall of Fame case.
But let us not make perfect the enemy of the good here. Gaston may not get the props guys like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox get, but he’s near the head of the class for his era. As the managerial revolving door the Blue Jays employed between 1997 and 2009 suggests, replacing him won’t be easy. And fans — not just Jays fans — should appreciate the guy while he still has a couple of games left.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.