Man, it feels good to be back. On October 20, 2014 I posted a review of my 2014 Toronto Blue Jay predictions. It was good for a laugh, especially my guess that Moises Sierra would surpass Colby Rasmus on the depth chart, leading to a Rasmus trade. Yikes. The next day, I was hard at work on a World Series preview piece when my site went down. 500 Level Fan was no more.
I tried to self diagnose the issue, to no avail. I tried to circumvent the problem, but had no luck. But finally, after several developers and several months of inactivity, on Friday February 6, 2015, the problem was solved. The Fan was back!
So what did I miss? An absolute ton. It was one of the craziest winters in baseball history, with huge free agent signings, blockbuster trades, and seemingly a new rumour every single day of the week. Since I was unable to post anything all winter, I decided to sit down with roaming reporter Regular Lance for an interview and share my views on everything that went down.
Note: Roaming reporter Regular Lance is clearly not a real person
Regular Lance: 500 Level Fan – good to have you back on the blogging circuit.
500 Level Fan: Thanks Regular, glad to be back.
RL: Let’s get things started. The Jays made a ton of moves this winter. With only a few weeks left until spring training begins, how would you grade Toronto’s offseason?
5LF: As of right now I would give them a B. Needless to say they made a few huge additions with the acquisitions of Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, and Michael Saunders, players that no doubt give them one of the most powerful lineups in all of baseball. Martin should also provide a huge defensive lift by his ability to handle pitchers (especially all the young starters the Jays will have). If he is also able to catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, that will be a double bonus, as that would eliminate the need for Josh Thole to start every fifth day.
RL: Sounds like you love the moves made by Anthopoulos this year. So why not an A?
5LF: I’ll give you three reasons:
1. The bullpen is still in disarray. Janssen, McGowan, Santos, Graveman, and Nolin – all guys who provided innings last year – are gone. The closer role is currently empty. Nobody, with the exception of swingman Marco Estrada, has been brought in. If you are counting on a return to form of Steve Delabar, and the emergence of a few other guys, that could be a problem.
2. Second base was a black hole all of last season, and has not been addressed. Yes, Devon Travis might be a franchise player in the future, but I don’t think that the future includes this season.
3. No matter who was added, you can’t overlook the fact that Lawrie, Melky, Rasmus, and Lind are all gone, and Martin will replace Navarro. Although only Melky was productive last year, that is still 55% of your starting lineup that has turned over. We saw what happened the last time Toronto brought in a bunch of new faces – it took a long time for them to jell.
RL: You mention that you are concerned about the bullpen. Last season Aaron Sanchez posted a 1.09 ERA in 33 IP as a rookie. Would you prefer to see him used as a closer or a starter in 2015?
5LF: That is a tough question to answer, because there are so many variables that go into it. The short and sweet answer is that I would prefer to see him as a starter. It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that 150 quality innings are better than 50 quality innings, and that his impact as a starter is much higher. However, here are other questions that you have to ask, and have answered, before you can really say for sure:
– Who else would close? I’d rather see Sanchez slotted back at closer than a guy like Santos who threw away games left, right, and centre for two years. A high impact starter is meaningless if the bullpen blows all of his starts in the 9th.
– Will Sanchez be able to handle an increased workload? Baseball is littered with closers who failed as starters, guys like Papelbon, Zach Britton, and even Casey Janssen. These were pitchers who washed out as starters because the 150 IP > 50 IP equation didn’t hold true. If Sanchez really struggles as a starter, I’d much rather have 50 quality innings at the back of the bullpen than 150 mediocre or poor innings.
RL: What are your thoughts on Brett Lawrie leaving?
5LF: To be honest, I think I’m going to miss Colby Rasmus more than Brett. I had such high hopes for Lawrie, but he really never hit the ball as well as I expected. He was a great defender, but between his bat and injury struggles I think he was more of a liability than an asset. I might be made to eat my words, but I really don’t expect him to develop into an All-Star in Oakland either. I loved this trade for Toronto.
RL: So the Jays are improved. Which team in the East should they be most concerned about?
5LF: Probably themselves! Seriously, the winner of the AL East this year might be the team that can stay out of its own way the most. Baltimore are defending champs, but lost Cruz and Markakis. Boston made some huge signings but have huge question marks in the rotation. Tampa Bay got rid of everybody. The Yankees are old, have injury concerns, and have to deal with the A-Rod circus.
RL: Fair enough. Do you expect any more moves before April?
5LF: I don’t think there will be anything major, but I’d expect a few relief pitchers to be brought into the fold, either on major league or minor league deals. I just hope that the oft-rumoured trade for Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t come true. That would be awful. Awful, awful, awful.
RL: Final question: we keep hearing about a grass field coming to Toronto. Will that happen?
5LF: I hope so, but don’t hold your breath.