With Bobby Valentine officially gone after months of being left dangling on the hook, the focus in Boston has immediately shifted to Blue Jays manager John Farrell. And I’m left to wonder why.
Now, Farrell had a sterling reputation in five years as Boston’s pitching coach. But managing a team is a different animal. And little Farrell has done in his two years in Toronto suggests that he’s very good at it. The Blue Jays’ lack of leadership was lamented by Omar Vizquel, Jason Frasor and Adam Lind of late, and while they were citing the players, too, it certainly doesn’t reflect well on the manager that they felt the need to speak out.
“If you make mistakes and nobody says anything about it — they just let it go — we’re going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” Vizquel said last week. “We have to stand up and say something right after that mistake happened. We have to talk about it at meetings. We have to address it in a big way in the clubhouse.
“Sometimes you have to punish players because they’re making the same mistakes over and over again.”
And the Jays make plenty of mistakes. They were as sloppy as any team in the league on the basepaths this year.
Under Farrell’s guidance, the Jays played .500 ball in 2011 and finished 73-89 this year. It was their worst record since 2004. They allowed their most runs since 2004, even though offense is on the decline.
Now, much of Toronto’s pitching struggles have been the result of injuries, and I’m not going to blame Farrell for the fact that the Jays can’t seem to keep their pitchers healthy. But if pitching is Farrell’s specialty, it’s hard to see what good he’s doing. Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil have regressed under his watch. Only Brandon Morrow has taken a big step forward, and he was limited to 21 starts this year.
So, no, I don’t see Farrell as the answer in Boston or really anywhere else. The idea that the Red Sox should trade a couple of quality prospects or even Clay Buchholz to get him is ludicrous.
The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.
Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.
Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.
Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.
This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.
Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.
Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.
Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.
Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.
But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.
Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.
But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.