Tagged: Toronto Blue Jays

So much for AL East parity

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The bulk of this year’s winter meetings were pretty
uneventful, but it was certainly bookended by some craziness out of Beantown.

After officially acquiring superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego
Padres on Monday in a blockbuster deal, the Boston Red Sox again turn heads by
unexpectedly signing
one of the preeminent five-tool players in the game in outfielder Carl Crawford
.  The deal is worth a staggering $142-million
over the next 7 years and when combined with the expected extension for
Gonzalez, the Red Sox have unofficially committed around $300-million to two
players.  I guess John Henry isn’t
hurting from purchasing Liverpool.

Crawf.jpgThe surprising part of this deal is not that Boston signed
Crawford, nor is it that he was signed to the second richest contract ever to
be awarded to an outfielder.  The
surprising part is the timing.

<– “Look what I caught,  $142-million, BITCH!!”

While most teams interested in Crawford (such as the Angels,
Yankees and Rangers) were waiting for Cliff
Lee
to make his decision before committing funds to Crawford, the Red Sox
stepped in and made the deal happen. 
They were the only team said to have real interest in the athletic
leftfielder who did not have interest
in Lee, allowing them to swoop in a steal Crawford from under their noses.  Something Crawford will be doing a lot of in
Boston.  Oh yes, I made a pun.

But this was supposed to be the year that the AL East evened
out a little.  The Rays were/are expected
to take a giant step back and both the Orioles and Jays were supposed to be
rising teams ready to take the next step toward contention.  Reality has set in quickly.

The Red Sox, at least right now, have to be considered the
favourite while the Yankees will become co-favourites if they’re able to sign
Lee.  If the Yankees don’t sign Lee,
there could be an opening for one of the other three teams to jump into Wildcard
contention (probably not Baltimore), but they still have to be considered at
least the second favourite team even if they lose out on him.

By the way, the Red Sox projected lineup as of right now:

  • ·        
    CF  Jacoby
    Ellsbury
  • ·        
    LF  Carl
    Crawford
  • ·        
    1B  Adrian
    Gonzalez
  • ·        
    3B  Kevin Youkilis
  • ·        
    DH  David
    Ortiz
  • ·        
    2B  Dustin
    Pedroia
  • ·        
    RF  J.D.
    Drew
  • ·        
    C 
    Whothehellcares?
  • ·        
    SS  Marco
    Scutaro

Not to mention that they still have Clay Buchholz, Jon
Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka as their projected
5-man rotation.

That’s just not fair, dammit!

There’s one more negative aspect of the Crawford deal from
the perspective of the Jays; the Red Sox are still interested in lefty reliever
Scott Downs, who is, like Crawford,
a Type-A free agent.  If he signs in
Boston, the Jays will not get the Red Sox first round pick as compensation as
that now goes to the Rays.  And, oh yeah,
the Jays STILL have to face Crawford 18 times this upcoming season.  Bad day.

This by no means tempers my excitement for the 2011 season,
it just seems to signal another 3rd or worse season for Toronto.

UPDATE:
Apparently the Angels made an offer to Crawford of 7 years and $108-million
according to a Tweet by Mark
Feinsand
of the New York Daily News.  Werth definitely
drove up that market.  Way to go Rizzo.

UPDATE #2:
Apparently Ken Rosenthal
reported
that Lee received a 7 year offer from the Red Sox.  Signing Crawford does make that unlikely, but
apparently I was wrong about their interest in Lee.

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On Roy Halladay’s second Cy Young award

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halladay.jpg

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Roy Halladay‘s
performance this season was one of the most brilliant performances in the history
of the game.  On May 29th he threw the 20th
perfect game in Major League history and followed that up by throwing only the
second no-hitter in post-season history and the first since Don Larsen was
perfect in 1956.  Overall, he was 21-10
with a 2.44 ERA in 33 starts in 2010
in his first tour of the National League with the Phillies.

Today,
Halladay was awarded with the 2010 NL Cy Young award; his second such award and
first in the NL.  Halladay received the
AL version in 2003 when he won a club-record 22 games with the Jays.  He becomes only the 5th pitcher to win the
award in both leagues joining Gaylord
Perry
, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

I couldn’t be
happier for Roy.  I’m sure most Jays’
fans are with me on this one.  He was one
of the few star players who actually wanted to stay in Toronto and did so for
12 seasons.  He did everything in his
power to bring a championship to Toronto and would have stayed if he had that
chance with the Jays.  Given that he’s
getting older, he deserved to be traded and given the opportunity to win it all
while still in his prime.  He didn’t get
there this year, but there’s no doubt he’ll get at least a few more chances
with a very good Phillies team.

The other two
main contenders for the NL Cy Young were Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and
Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies.  Both had
terrific years, but I think the right decision was made here.  Halladay was the unanimous choice for the
award.  He was clearly the best of the
three and cemented himself as baseball’s best pitcher.  In a few years, we may be calling him the
best of his generation.

VOTING
BREAKDOWN
(from
MLB.com)

PITCHER

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

Pts.

Roy
Halladay, PHI

32

224

Adam
Wainwright, STL

28

122

Ubaldo
Jimenez, COL

4

19

8

1

90

Tim
Hudson, ATL

3

13

4

39

Josh
Johnson, FLA

5

5

9

34

Roy
Oswalt, HOU/PHI

1

3

5

14

Brian
Wilson, SF

1

5

7

Heath
Bell, SD

1

1

4

Mat
Latos, SD

1

2

4

Brett
Myers, HOU

1

2

Tim
Lincecum, SF

2

2

Bronson
Arroyo, CIN

1

1

Matt
Cain, SF

1

1

Blue Jays inquire about Greinke, Gordon: Toronto Sun

Well, this is interesting.  According to Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun, the Jays have inquired about Royals superstar pitcher Zach Greinke and former first overall pick Alex Gordon.

The Blue Jays have inquired about the availability of Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke.

With Cliff Lee the top free agent on the market, Greinke would
appeal to also-rans in the Lee sweepstakes such as the Texas Rangers,
Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

The Royals are looking for two “can’t-miss prospects” as a starting
point in talks on the 2009 American League Cy Young award winner.

Grienke, 26, was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 33 starts this season and will make $13 million US next year.

The Jays have also discussed obtaining Alex Gordon, a former No. 1
draft pick. Gordon started as the Royals third baseman before being
demoted to triple-A Omaha in May to play the outfield. A left-handed
hitter, Gordon batted .215 with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 74 games
with the Royals. He hit .315 with three homers and 44 RBIs in 68 games
at Omaha.

Although, I love the idea of the Jays acquiring Greinke, I think it’s important not to jump on this.  The Royals want at least two front-line prospects for Greinke which means the Jays would likely have to part with Kyle Drabek who would be under control of the Jays until at least 2016.  Greinke, on the other hand, is owed $27-million over the next two years and then is a free agent.  I also find it hard to believe that the Royals would part with Greinke at any point this offseason.  If he’s traded, it will likely be some point during the season or next offseason, depending on how the Royals play this year.  Since the Jays probably won’t realistically be contenders in the next two years, i feel like it would be a bad move, unless Alex Anthopoulous plans to acquire him and then flip him before the deadline if the Jays aren’t contending.

Now Alex Gordon is a different story.  Gordon is a former 1st overall pick who has not panned out, but he has shown flashes of brilliance at times.  Alex Anthopolous could probably wrestle him out of KC for very little.  I have a feeling Gordon could be a very good defensive first-basemen and I believe that’s where he’d play if the Jays got him.  I don’t know what evidence I have to go on, but I really think Gordon is a prime late-bloomer candidate who could do well from a change of scenery.

2010 Toronto Blue Jays Preview

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blue jays.gif2009 Record: 75-87,
4th AL East

2009 Prediction: 78-84,
4th AL East

2010 Prediction: 5th
AL East

 

Impact Player: Aaron Hill

Impact Pitcher: Ricky
Romero

Top Prospect Player: 1B Brett
Wallace

Top Prospect Pitcher: RHP Kyle Drabek

 

Manager: Cito Gaston,
3rd Season (126-124, .504)

 

Significant Acquisitions: C John Buck, SS Alex Gonzalez,
OF Jeremy Reed, INF Jarrett Hoffpauir, RHP Brandon Morrow, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Merkin Valdez

 

Significant Losses: C Rod
Barajas
, SS Marco Scutaro, UTIL Kevin Millar, UTIL Joe Inglett, RHP Roy
Halladay
, RHP Brandon League,
RHP Brian Wolfe

 

It pains me to say it, but it looks like we need to brace
ourselves for a long summer, Jays’ fans. 
Toronto was a 75-win team last year with
the best pitcher in baseball on the roster; without Roy Halladay pretty much guaranteeing a competitive team every
fifth day, the Jays may be headed toward their worst season since the early
days of the franchise.  The bright side
is that new GM Alex Anthopoulos is implementing a plan, something this
franchise lacked under former GM J.P. Riccardi. 
That plan is simple: Strip down the organization, lower the payroll, and
build from the ground up with high-ceiling prospects and a new-found commitment
to scouting and player development. 
Anthopoulos has a lot of work to do. 
The organization has one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, a
product of years of bad drafting and bad trades under Riccardi, and worst of
all has had nothing to show for it with the best finish under Riccardi coming
in 2006 when the Jays finished second in the AL East with 87 wins.  Anthopoulos garnered an impressive haul of
talent in the biggest trade in franchise history when he dealt Halladay and the
team hopes it’s the beginning of a new era in Blue Jays’ baseball; just don’t
expect a winner any time soon.  The
plus-side is that ownership has said it will spend the money necessary to
contend when it feels the team is in a position to do so.

 

 

Pitching

ricky-romero.jpg

The most exciting news in the offseason for the Jays besides
the Halladay deal, was how hard the organization pushed to sign Cuban-defector Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman is considered a phenom with a very high
ceiling and the fact that ownership was willing to spend money in that area
should show the fans that there is a definite plan for the future.  The Jays lost out in the end to the Reds, but
the effort should not go unnoticed. 

 

As it stands, the Jays are thin on major-league-ready arms
heading into the Spring.  The top pitcher
in the rotation based on 2009 performance is lefthander Ricky Romero who was a contender for Rookie of the Year until he
showed signs of wearing down in the second half.  Although Romero is a late-bloomer, his raw
stuff is impossible to ignore and his wear-down could have been a result of
never pitching a full season worth of innings in the major leagues; the Jays
believe he is finally ready to show what he can do in 2010.  After Romero is Shaun Marcum who is coming off Tommy John surgery.  The Jays are hoping that he rebounds to be
the pitcher he was in 2007 when he won 12 games and began to establish himself
as a top-of-the-rotation talent.  Whether
or not that’s realistic is yet to be seen but there’s no doubting Marcum’s
ability to throw quality strikes and he’s considered to be one of the most
intelligent pitchers in the game.  What
makes him good is more mental than physical which bodes well for a return to
form.  In December, the Jays pulled off a
deal that sent Brandon League and
his inconsistencies to the Seattle Mariners along with a minor-league
outfielder for former top pick Brandon
Morrow
.  Morrow never lived up to his
potential in Seattle, but will be given a spot in the rotation with
Toronto.  This deal certainly will have
the most impact on the 2010 season than any of the moves the Jays made this
offseason.  The Jays will look to a
number of young pitchers to fill the final two spots with lefties Marc Rzepczynski, and Brett Cecil leading the charge.  Both were impressive in their rookie
campaigns and are well-liked by the coaching staff.  Scott
Richmond
, David Purcey, Casey Janssen, Robert Ray, Brad Mills
and maybe even Kyle Drabek (the
centerpiece of the Halladay deal) should get Spring auditions, and a minor
league contract was handed out to Canadian-born Shawn Hill.  Dustin McGowan may also be in the mix
if he’s healthy, which is a big if, and Jesse
Litsch
may be ready to return from Tommy John surgery sometime around
mid-season.

 

The bullpen, as it has been for a few years, is a
strength.  It isn’t as dominant as it was
in the 2008 season, but it is filled to the brim with serviceable pitchers.  The Jays just signed Kevin Gregg to a one year deal with two options and he’ll be thrust
into a competition with Jason Frasor
and Scott Downs (who split closing
duties last year after B.J. Ryan was released) for the closing job.  Gregg likely has the inside edge at this
point as the Jays feel Frasor and Downs are better in a setup role.  The latter two posted 20 combined saves last
season but also blew 7.  After those
three are lefties Jesse Carlson and Brian Tallet who are both solid
all-around.  Carlson is more of a
lefty-specialist while Tallet can do just about anything including start (which
he may get the opportunity to do). 
Righthanders Shawn Camp and Josh Roenicke should also be in the mix
and if the universe is just, so will Jeremy
Accardo
who seems to be on the outs with the organization in spite of
recovering nicely from a shoulder injury that appears to have derailed his
career.  He saved 30 games for Toronto in
2007.  Off-season acquisitions Merkin Valdez and Zechry Zinicola may also get a look.  Dirk
Hayhurst
looks like he’ll be on the DL to start the year after surgery on
his shoulder.

 

ROTATION

 

 

Ricky
Romero

25

R/L

Shaun
Marcum

28

R/R

Brandon
Morrow*

25/6

R/R

Marc
Rzepczynski

24/5

L/L

Brett
Cecil

23/4

R/L

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Kevin
Gregg*
(CL)

31/2

S/R

Jason
Frasor

32/3

R/R

Scott
Downs

34

L/L

Jesse
Carlson

29

L/L

Shawn
Camp

34

R/R

Brian
Tallet

32/3

L/L

Josh
Roenicke

27/8

R/R

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Jeremy
Accardo

28

R/R

Merkin
Valdez*

28

R/R

Shawn
Hill*

29

R/R

Scott
Richmond

30/1

R/R

David
Purcey

27/8

L/L

Dustin
McGowan

28

R/R

Dirk
Hayhurst

29

L/R

Casey
Janssen

28

R/R

Zechry
Zinicola*

25

R/R

Robert
Ray

26

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

Lineup

adam-lind.jpg

The Jays had one of their best starts in franchise history
in 2009 because their offense carried them through the first month and a half
or more.  It seemed like everyone on the
team was hitting.  Conversely, when the
team started to struggle, it was their hitting that let them down.  Three players had career years in 2009 and
one of them is now a member of the Boston Red Sox.  The other two return and form the core of a lineup
that has some of the pieces of contention already intact.  The rest may be a few years off.

 

In the outfield, the only real locked down spot belongs to Vernon Wells who had a dismal
season.  I was one of Wells’ staunchest
defenders last February after he was taking flack for a down year in 2008.  My argument was that if you pro-rated his
numbers for a full season in 2008, you’d have a .300/30/100 guy.  Vernon made me look like a fool.  He had an awful
campaign in 2009 hitting just .260 with a .711 OPS; both well below his career
average of .280 and .799.  He managed to
play in all but 3 of Toronto’s games yet still ended the year with only 15 HR
and 66 RBI.  Not only that, but his
defense in center slipped further to where very few even consider him average
anymore.  The organization is still
standing behind their $126-million man, saying a nagging wrist injury caused
him to lose bat-speed and power; he had surgery in the offseason.  Either way, he’s the starter in center for
the foreseeable future.  In leftfield
will likely be highly-touted Travis
Snider
who will get another chance to stick after falling out of favour
with the coaching staff.  He’ll likely
end up in rightfield at some point.  In
right will be Jose Bautista whose
versatility and inconsistency are better suited for a bench-utility role.  Adam
Lind
could be forced into leftfield at some point this year if this
arrangement doesn’t work out; for now, he’ll be the everyday DH with the
occasional outfield start.  Lind was
arguably the best hitter on the roster last year after a monster breakout season
where he finished with a .305 average, a .932 OPS, 35 HR and a team-best 114
RBI.

 

aaron-hill.jpg

The infield is led by 2009 AL Comeback Player of the Year Aaron Hill at second base.  Hill stunned everyone by not only coming back
to be productive after a long bout with post-concussion syndrome, but by
destroying the baseball on every opportunity and playing outstanding
defense.  Hill smashed the team record for homeruns and RBIs by a second baseman
taking Roberto Alomar‘s 17 and 93
and parleying 36 and 108.  Don’t expect
those numbers again this year, but do expect a very productive, perennial
All-Star who will routinely lead all second-basemen in a lot of offensive
categories.  He’ll win a Gold Glove soon
too.  Outside of him are some questions: Lyle Overbay at first who was nearly
traded to Arizona for catcher Chris
Snyder
after another sub-par year at the plate; Alex Gonzalez at short who was signed in the offseason for his
defense, but certainly not his offense; and Edwin Encarnacion at third who’s a mess defensively but may supply
you with the occasional homerun…along with the more-than-occasional strike
out.  All of those players are just
holding places until a longer term option is found.  Brett
Wallace
(another piece acquired in the Halladay deal) could see action at first by the end of the year if Overbay
continues to struggle.  Catching duties
will belong to John Buck who was
signed from the Royals.  He’s awful
defensively but combined with Miguel
Olivo
to form one of the most productive catcher duos in all of baseball
last season.  He’s also holding a place
for one of Toronto’s catching prospects.

 

The bench is thin.  Shortstop
John McDonald is a good defensive
player, but is probably a better second basemen at this point in his career.  He might see significant time if Gonzalez
struggles.  Raul Chavez is your classic defend-well/hit-bad backup catcher but
is serviceable and Jeremy Reed
signed in the offseason and figures to be the fourth outfielder.  The last spot could go to 4-A slugger Randy Ruiz who was impressive in a
short stint last year or one of two utility-infielders in Jarrett Hoffpauir or Mike
McCoy
.

 

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Pos.

 

Age

B/T

RF

Jose
Bautista
(3B, CF)

29

R/R

LF

Travis
Snider
(RF)

22

L/L

2B

Aaron
Hill

27

R/R

DH

Adam
Lind
(LF)

26/7

L/L

CF

Vernon
Wells

31

R/R

1B

Lyle
Overbay

33

L/L

3B

Edwin
Encarnacion
(1B)

27

R/R

C

John Buck*                   

29/0

R/R

SS

Alex
Gonzalez*

33

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

INF

John
McDonald
(SS, 2B, 3B)

35/6

R/R

1B

Randy
Ruiz
(DH)

32

R/R

C

Raul
Chavez

37

R/R

OF

Jeremy
Reed*
(LF, CF, RF)

28/9

L/L

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

INF

Jarrett
Hoffpauir*
(2B, SS, 3B)

26/7

R/R

INF

Mike
McCoy
(SS, 3B, CF, RF, LF, 2B)

29

R/R

C

J.P.
Arencibia

24

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

It’s going to be a long year for the Jays and their already
impatient fans (myself included), but it is the first year in the post-Halladay
era; patience is a virtue.  Given time,
it appears as though Anthopoulos will pull the Jays back to respectability soon
with a focus on scouting and player development that this team has not seen
since its heyday in the mid-80s and early 90s. 
With the Orioles improving a little and the rest of the division leaps
and bounds ahead of them, this may be the first time since 2004 and only the
second time since 1982 that the Jays finish last in their division.

Final Prediction:
68-94, 5th AL East

Chapman appears to be headed to the Queen’s city

Well, the pipe-dream of the Jays one day brandishing a starting rotation that includes both Kyle Drabek and Aroldis Chapman appears to be all but over.  Chapman has reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, according to multiple sources.

It was worth a shot and I commend Anthopoulos for trying, but in the end it was not to be.

At least he won’t be suiting up for an American League foe…or worse, the Yankees or Red Sox.

In other news, Vladimir Guerrero has signed with the Texas Rangers.  The deal is reportedly for one year with a mutual option for a second year with a buyout on the club side.  Guerrero is apparently going to be the DH which should help him stay healthy and possibly return to the form he has exhibited throughout his career.

Jays offseason update

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The Jays reacquire Zach Jackson

Zach Jackson.jpg

A few things
have been happening the last few days in Jaysland.  Today, Toronto reacquired lefthander Zach
Jackson from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later.  Some sources are saying the player is
infielder Russ Adams who has become even more expendable than he already was
this week when the Jays acquired Brian Bocock off waivers from San Francisco.

 

Jackson was
originally drafted by the Jays as a sandwich first-rounder back in 2004 and was
dealt to Milwaukee in the Lyle Overbay deal in December of ’05.  Jackson was then dealt to the Tribe in ’08 in
the C.C. Sabathia deal.  Jackson has yet
to stick at the major-league level and has struggled in the minors as well, but
the Jays are hoping he can regain his college form with the organization he
started out with.

 

Alomar, Blyleven not going to Hall…yet

bert blyleven rangers.jpgNo
disrespect to Andre Dawson, who definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,
but how did Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven not get in?  Sure, I may be biased in both cases what with
Alomar being one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time and Blyleven being the
greatest Dutch-born player in the game’s history, but they both deserve to be
in the Hall now, not a few years from now.

 

I can see
Blyleven not being a first-ballot HOFer, but this was like his 8th
or 9th year of eligibility. 
He finished his career with 287 wins and was 5th all-time in
strike outs.  Yes, he lost 250 games in
his career but there’s no doubting his longevity.  As MLB Network analyst Sean Casey pointed out
the other day, no one pitches 21 years in the bigs who doesn’t deserve to do
so.  Blyleven kept his team in every game
and could bear down and be outright dominating. 
If he doesn’t get in next year than there’s something wrong.

 

roberto alomar jays.jpgAs for
Alomar, he was probably the best second-baseman of his generation.  Defensively, there’s probably never been
anyone better.  Based on his numbers and
performance alone, he is without a doubt a first-ballot HOFer.  My theory is that he’s not in there because
he retired sort of young, and also because of the John Hirshbeck thing.  As for the that incident, many players
contend that Hirshbeck used a derogatory slur before Alomar snapped.  Regardless of what actually happened, Alomar
apologized profusely and eventually made up with the umpire, joining him in a
campaign to raise awareness about ALD, a disease which Hirshbeck’s son died of.  I’ve always thought people overreacted about
that incident and have always seen Alomar as a class-act.  Him and Blyleven need to get in next year.

 

Chapman being pursued by Jays.

aroldis chapman.jpgThe Jays
have entered the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes. 
The 21-year-old Cuban lefthander who can hit triple-digits with his
fastball has been pursued heavily by the Angels, Marlins, Yankees, Red Sox, and
others but reportedly only the Jays and Angels remain in the chase.  Toronto surprisingly offered Chapman a
$23-million deal.  This would be a huge acquisition for Toronto; Chapman is
at most a year or two from being a top-of-the-rotation talent.  Let’s hope the Jays get him.  Just think: Drabek AND Chapman.  The future would indeed look bright.

A trade of Brandons may be a crucial one for young Jays

The Jays are about to finalize a deal with the Seattle Mariners that would send right-hander Brandon Morrow to Toronto and righty-reliever Brandon League as well as a prospect to the Northwest.

I think I like this Anthopoulos guy.  He made a deal for Halladay that was better than anything I was expecting and now is prepared to pull off this deal which I think is a great one for Toronto.

brandon_Morrow-763026.jpg

This may be the most important trade of this offseason for Toronto as it pertains to the 2010 season.  The players the Jays got in the Halladay deal will likely not see significant Major-League time until at least 2011, but Morrow is a different story.
Brandon League.jpg
I’ve always liked Brandon League, his stuff is great, but he just hasn’t put it all together yet and maybe a change of scenery is needed for him to realize his potential as an elite setup man in this league.

Morrow on the other hand is a former 1st round pick who is also looking for a change in scenery.  He can start, he can work in middle relief, he even has the stuff to close.  I think it would be a shame to put his talent in the bullpen, however.  I imagine the Jays will put him in their rotation and hopefully he blossoms into the player the Mariners thought he’d be when they drafted him.  His numbers at the Major-League level aren’t bad, but he has at times been phenomenal.  I’m excited to see where his ceiling is.  I think he can be a number 3 starter on a good team, capable of 12-15 wins annually.