Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where Will Josh Hamilton Play Next Season?

Josh Hamilton has been on a tear over the last few weeks.  Now with 18 home runs and 44 RBI on the season, he is by far the front-runner for the AL MVP award, as well as a number of other important accolades.  Despite his alleged relapse into drinking over the break, he seems unfazed when it comes to playing baseball.  Ever since Hamilton's first Major League season in 2007, he has been a force to be reckoned with.  He has led the league in both RBI and Batting Average, and won the MVP award in 2010, but this season appears to be even better than all of the rest.

And like many of the great seasons in league history, it has come during a contract year.

So where will Josh end up next season?  Contract talks with the Rangers have been uncertain, to say the least.  Stories of Hamilton's desire to return and of his expectations not to have flooded the media for months--and it's hard to imagine that the Scott Boras factor is having no effect on the difficulties of the proceedings.

The Rangers have a very good team, but Hamilton is the Crown jewel.  Losing him would be severely detrimental to the team.  However, overpaying him on a long-term contract would have equally negative effects.  The team may have to decide between these two options unless they get incredibly lucky in the off-season (mid-season signings are rare to begin with and would not be a popular idea to a man who, in all likelihood, wants to test the free agent market).  Hamilton will likely use the contracts of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder from this most recent off-season as precedents.  While he is not a first baseman, the power numbers he will put up this year will, if Hamilton maintains even a slightly worse pace, be much better than those Pujols and Fielder in recent years.

Ten years is a long time, especially for someone like Hamilton.  This is not just because of his drug issues and the fear of their recurrence, but also because of his age.  Hamilton will be 31 later this month.

In the event that Texas refuses to adhere to Hamilton's demands, he would have to start looking elsewhere.  So where would he go?

Recently, teams like the Marlins, Nationals, Angels, and Tigers have pulled off shockers with mega-deals over the last two off-seasons, so there is always the possibility that an affluent, under-the-radar team makes a run at the one-time MVP.  As for the places he would be most likely to end up:

The Yankees are always a possibility for every big-name free agent and Hamilton will be no exception.  With Curtis Granderson and  Brett Gardner as locks (barring trade), the Yankees are left with one space in the outfield.  Nick Swisher is a free agent at the end of the season and may be allowed to walk if a better option comes available.  Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez are in the same boat--although, if brought back, the Yanks would prefer to have them as DHs and pinch hitters.  The Bronx Bombers would have no trouble paying Hamilton, and will likely not be deterred by a long-term deal (they signed A-Rod to a ten year contract in 2007), so the question comes down to whether or not they want Hamilton.  With the impending losses of Swisher, Jones, and Ibanez, it seems improbable that they would turn down the opportunity at such a player.

The Red Sox are another option.  They are a team in distress, and they have the money to make moves.  Of course, any player has to be wary about entering into the atmosphere of the Red Sox clubhouse.  The team has dealt with numerous controversies through the season, to date, and it does not seem like the most enticing place to go, right now.  Nevertheless, if Hamilton likes what he is being offered, the Sox are a possibility.

The final destination that would seem probable for Josh Hamilton at this moment, is Miami.  The team has a new ballpark, and they were not afraid of spending big this most recent off-season.  The team is struggling mightily at the moment, and it would not be surprising to see them try to swing another big move in an attempt to fix the problem.  They are lacking in the outfield, as no one is safe after Giancarlo Stanton--particularly not Logan Morrison, who had some well documented issues with the team last season.  Miami is my pick for in the Hamilton-sweepstakes at the moment.

There will be other teams in the mix, but these are the three big-spenders who will likely be willing to offer Hamilton what he wants.

I will keep you posted if anything crops up in the coming months.  For now, we will have to wait and see if Josh Hamilton can maintain his Triple-Crown pace.  It will certainly be exciting to see who comes out in front of this race.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Random Comment Fight - Pirates Rotation

This was an argument between two people in a comment section on MLBTR.com, and it was quite interesting. Who's the idiot in this scenario? Or both? I'm not putting my money on either.

you mean FIVE more good pitcher could probably make the Pirates a contender.

The only teams Pirates can beat in the central are the Astros and the Cubs, and even that's not a guarantee.
Jeff Karstens last year:
3.38 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 2.91 SO/BB

Edwin Jackson last year:
3.92 ERA, 1.422 WHIP, 2.49 SO/BB

Gio Gonzalez last year:
3.12 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, 2.16 SO/BB

Karstens is the #4 pitcher in the Pirates rotation.
Jeff Karstens in '09: 5.42 ERA, 1.481 WHIP, 1.16 SO/BB
Jeff Karstens in '10: 4.92 ERA, 1.410 WHIP, 2.67 SO/BB
Jeff Karstens career: 4.52 ERA, 1.365 WHIP, 1.91 SO/BB
A good rotation might not even have this kind of production from their #5 guy. Karstens is servicable at best, until I see more of this "improvement" from him.

Charlie Morton in '11: 1.532 WHIP, 4.08 xFIP, 4.0 BB/9. Not bad but not good either, and that's his career year.
James McDonald in '11: 1.485 WHIP, 4.46 xFIP, 4.11 BB/9. Again, not bad but not good either, another career year here.
Paul Maholm in '11: 1.294 WHIP (about 130 points below his career average), 5.38 SO/9, 4.03 xFIP BUT his BABIP is 20 points below his career average. For the third time, not bad but not good.
Kevin Correia in '11: 4.79 ERA, 1.390 WHIP, 4.55 SO/9, and his BABIP wasn't too far off his career average. That "good" to you?

Those are the five starters in the Pirates rotation. Do those stats honestly say "good pitcher!" to you?

Obviously I'm only picking the stats that is helpful to my side of the argument, but to be honest, I do not believe that any of these guys are "good" until they repeat their performance a couple more times.
You are looking at a group of guys that have only started 15+ games for 1 or 2 years and saying they have had "career years"? That seems awfully foolish. You think the rotation is bad based on nothing more than your own assumption that they will not continue to improve. Based on that logic, would you argue that the Braves rotation is a weakness as well?
Also, Paul Maholm is a Cub.
I'm basing it on last year's rotation, not this year, so I put Maholm in there.

Another point, how else am I suppose to base their career years? Career year is simply the best year of their career, and mark my words, Jeff Karstens probably had one of this top 3 seasons. And my "foolish assumptions"? Please, go look at fangraphs and see their projections for these guys. Are they always accurate? No. Can you come up with something better?

All the projections at fangraphs have all these people in the mediocre area, the 4-somethings ERA, except Bedard, whom they pegged at around 120 to 130 IP. You can dream all you want, the Pirates rotation will never be considered good in 2012 unless some major surprises (or minor miracles, your pick) happen.
Again, you seem to want to ignore facts and results and base your opinions solely on guesses, hunches and predictions.

The fact that you don't even know who is in the Pirates rotations seems to sum it up perfectly.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Owners and Mandated Signing

Prince Fielder signs with Detroit and got stuck in the tunnel when he, Cabrera, Martinez and Avila weren't willing to step aside to let the others go through created a considerable logjam in the process.

He's a fine player and all, but the Tigers already have DH and first base manned by Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Look, you can never have too much offense, but they've got four guys who probably isn't going anywhere soon and only three positions to play. Catcher, first base, and designated hitter, for Cabrera, Avila, Martinez and Fielder. Yes, Cabrera's played some third and left field earlier in his career, but he's already got horrible defense at first. If he played left field, with the Tigers staff consisting mostly of flyball pitchers, he'd make all those who complained about Delmon Young's defense grimace. If he played third base, well, Tigers starters should be glad that they are right handed. Martinez is obviously not going to catch, with Avila behind the plate. If he can still hit a bit when he comes back, maybe Detroit can eat a bit of his 12.5 million salary and trade him for something useful. Avila? He's going nowhere. After Detroit finally finding a respectable catcher after Pudge hit his declining phase, the affordable youngster figures to stay in Detriot for a while, judging by their farm system.

Which brings me to my main point. Owner mandated signings often does more harm than good. A good example would be Rafael Soriano, the 10 million dollar middle reliever. Last winter, Brian Cashman was forced to sign him under instructions from the Steinbrenners and Randy Levine. Soriano was ineffective early on, then lost some time to injury. Granted, he came back and pitched well down the stretch, but with the emergence of David Robertson, he is nothing more than a guy paid 10 million per year to pitch the 7th and occasionally the 8th. In comparison, Papelbon will get 12.5 million per year for the next four years. Ryan Madson will get a bit less than Soriano. That's only the start of it. With Joba coming back in the summer and Hughes potentially in the pen too, the Yankees are using hundred dollar bills for toilet paper have one crowded bullpen.

Cashman was about to part ways with A-Rod when he opted out his contract, but thanks to the Boss A-Rod receives a 10 year contract for 275 million guaranteed. He has been declining and/or hurt ever since. I won't talk about this too much, because obviously this won't end well. A 27.5 million guy whose speed, power, contact and batting eye are all declining, not to mention defense. With first base blocked by a 22.5 million player, the only likely destination for him is DH, and we all know that you don't pay that money for a DH.

In recent years, owner-mandated signings haven't really gone too well, but could this one be different? Doubtful, in my opinion.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Were the Red Sox Thinking? Scutaro to the Rockies

Earlier this winter, Jed Lowrie was sent to Houston.  Now Marco Scutaro, who was believed to be first in line for Lowrie's spot in the Red Sox infield, has been shipped off to Colorado in exchange for Clayton Mortensen.  This move leaves Jose Iglesias, Mike Aviles, and Nick Punto as possible shortstop candidates for next season.  With Iglesias hardly Major League ready and Punto a backup at best, it would seem that the Red Sox likely have plans to make a move, soon, unless, that is, they are confident in the unpredictable Aviles.

First, a brief analysis of the trade:

The Rockies acquire:

Marco Scutaro: Scutaro was a career backup--nevertheless beloved in Oakland--until injuries and questionable alternative options forced him into the Blue Jays' lineup in 2008.  2009 was his breakout year when he scored 100 runs while putting up a .282 batting average.  As a bonus, he hit 12 home runs and drove in 60 runs.  In the offseason, he signed with the Red Sox.  He put up similar numbers in 2010.  Last season, he was affected by injuries and competition.  With three middle infielders in the Majors (and Dustin Pedroia an intangible), he duked it out with Jed Lowrie for the starting role (when one of them was not injured, that is).  In the 395 At Bats that he got, he batted .299 with 7 home runs and 54 RBI (only two fewer than the previous season, when he had 632 At Bats).  He has always been a solid fielder and has career fielding percentages of .974 at shortstop and .992 at second base.  With Troy Tulowitzki at short, Scutaro will only be able to crack the lineup as a second baseman or backup.  Tommy Field has been successful in the Minors and average in his short Major League stint.  The same can be said for Hector Gomez.  These two young shortstops will certainly be competition if the Rockies are willing to move them to second base.  But with DJ Lemahieu and Chris Nelson, who have both put up good numbers at second base in the minors, this may not be the team's favourite option.  Jonathan Herrera and Eric Young, both of whom have three partial seasons of Major League experience at second base cannot be forgotten, although they have been less than impressive of yet.  This is the competition which faces Marco Scutaro, causing one to wonder why the Rockies wanted him.  This says to me one of two things: Scutaro is a proven veteran and the Rockies have found their full-time second baseman for next season (and it is possible that one or more of the middle infield prospects will be traded soon) or Scutaro is there to create competition for the younger players and also to teach them.  I am leaning toward the former.

The Red Sox acquire:

Clayton Mortensen: Mortensen has pitched in the Majors in parts of the last three seasons.  Last year, he spent time as both a starter and a reliever (16 appearances, 6 starts).  He  posted a 2-4 record with a 3.86 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  At a glance, his Minor League stats look ugly, but he did pitch in the PCL for four seasons, a league known for being tough on pitchers.  With that in mind, his 29-28 record and 5.26 ERA at the triple-A level does not seem quite as bad.  The worst year he had there occurred last season when, in 15 starts, he went 2-8 with a 9.42 ERA.  Other than that, he has not had a triple-A ERA over 5.51, and that was in 2008.  His ERAs in 2009 and 2010 were 4.39 and 4.25 respectively.  This is an odd pickup for the Red Sox (unless they plan to flip him off in another, previously planned deal, although he seems to be an unlikely prospect to be targeted by another team).  The Sox could do with another starter, as they would probably prefer Daniel Bard as a set-up man.  There have been rumours that they are targeting Roy Oswalt, but there is nothing certain on the front.  Mortensen does not seem ready to be a full time starter in the Majors, so this is not his most likely destination.  As for the bullpen, with Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, and Matt Albers as the top five (and Bard as the possible sixth), Mortensen enters a race with Andrew Miller, Michael Bowden, Felix Dubront, and Scott Atchison, all of whom have Major League experience.  None of these four has been particularly in their respective careers, Atchison's performance last season possibly being the best of the four's careers.  Albers can also be pushed out of his spot, but he has a better chance of making the team than the others.  Mortensen does not have an assured spot here, at all.  Expect him to begin the year in the Minors, where he will finally get out of the PCL and get a chance to prove himself to the team.

So what of the Red Sox dilemma at short?  Jose Iglesias batted .333 in his 6 plate appearances last season.  He also scored three runs.  The 22-year old has played only two seasons in the Minors, jumping from low-A to the Majors in that short amount of time.  In 171 Minor League games he batted .261 with 1 home run and 51 RBI to complement his .971 fielding percentage at shortstop.  Despite his solid performance to date, he is young and far from Major League ready.

Mike Aviles has had some experience at short, and is another possibility.  In four Major League seasons he has a .973 fielding percentage at shortstop and has played that position more than any other.  Aviles's career has been a roller-coaster.  In 2008 and 2010 he batted over .300, hitting 10 and 8 home runs respectively.  In 2009, however, he batted .183 in 120 At Bats.  Last season was a culmination of both Mike Aviles-es at the plate-- his .255 BA was subpar, but he also hit 7 home runs with 39 RBI in 286 At Bats.  In 101 At Bats after being traded to the Sox by Kansas City, he hit .317.  Aviles is far from a sure thing, but when he is good, he is very good.  The Red Sox may be willing to take a risk that he will be the good-Aviles next year.

Nick Punto is a backup without doubt.  He is a career .249 hitter who has never hit more than 4 home runs in a season.  As a shortstop, he has a career .974 fielding percentage.  He is versatile in the field, having played significant time at all of the infield positions except for first base.  He has also had a few games in each outfield position.  He is, however, just a backup.

If the Red Sox do not intend to make a trade, Aviles is a possible starter, but if he has another down year, the Sox may be regretting their decision to trade away both of their Major League ready starting shortstops.  The Red Sox need more pitching and Clayton Mortensen is not the answer.  The Red Sox are not in a great position for next season.

The Rockies, on the other hand, now have an abundance of middle infielders.  With a plethora of pitchers both in the Majors and in the system, the Rockies traded from a strength to upgrade an area which could have been a strength or a weakness depending on the uncertain performances of the various players the team already had.  The Rockies are, by far, the winners of this deal, which feels more like a salary dump for the Red Sox than anything else--even though Scutaro will only be making $6-million next year.  The Rockies will be happy with Scutaro as both a starting second baseman and a teacher.  The Red Sox have taken a chance which may or may not pan out.  The Red Sox and their fans will only be happy with this trade if the team is able to use that six million dollars to sign Roy Oswalt, their primary target at the moment.  I feel as though the Red Sox could have gotten more for Scutaro, however.  This feels like a hasty move that the Red Sox will soon regret.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting Over Montero With Imagination

After having my dreams of the past three years crushed and destroyed hearing about the departure of Jesus Montero, I was very upset and felt betrayed. The mental image of Jesus Christ Montero being the salvation, saving the Yankees' aging core, plus the widespread speculation that Noesi was throwing 94-96 MPH in the Winter League made it very painful to see them go. Oh, and their stats were okay too, I guess.
It's like trading baseball cards. It just hurts to trade away one of your favorites, even if you needed the card you're getting to complete some team's collection. It hurts like hell to see it go, and you realize that it may be the last time you ever see that particular card. However, after the initial pain and suffering, logic kicks in and you feel nice that you did the right thing and acquired that card.
Noesi, while a nice prospect and did well in the Majors last season, didn't seem like he was going to contribute to the Yankees in the long term. With Sabathia and Nova atop the rotation, and guys like Banuelos, Betances and Stoneburner down in the minors chasing him, plus some lateral competition from David Phelps and Adam Warren, the Yankees had plenty of guys who can replace the soon-to-be forgotten gap from his departure.
Montero looks like he'll be a nice hitter for years to come. However, the Yankees had catching depth in the minors that can rival any club, and the Mariners needed a catcher more than anybody, after trying guys like Rob Johnson and Kenji Johjima for the past half-a-decade or so. While losing a guy of Montero's potential is certainly painful, the Yankees have a bunch of guys that can lessen the blow. Gary Sanchez, whose hitting have earned him comparisons to Montero, is not yet 20 and though he has dealt with maturity problems this past year, is seen by many as a considerably better defensive player than Montero. He was a consensus top-5 talent in the Yankees system, often sharing the honours with Montero, Banuelos, Betances and Mason Williams, amongst others. A level or two below him in skills, but a level or two above him in the minors, is the 7th-round pick by the Yankees in 2008, J. R. Murphy. Largely overshadowed by Montero, Sanchez and Romine, he is quietly putting up respectable stats and climbing up the prospect lists.
Pineda, same age as Montero, is under team control for 5 more years. He came in 5th in the Rookie of the year voting and put up a nice year, although it did have some help from Safeco Field. He is seen as a two-pitch guy, complimenting his mid-90s pinpoint fastball with a devastating slider, though if his change-up improves he may become ace-caliber.
Campos is the most intriguing piece in the deal. He's young and he put up very nice numbers with a set of tools seen as very advanced for his age. He might become a solid starter once he develops. It is worth noting that he is a top 5 in the Mariners prospect lists, and some have thought that he'd achieve the same status with the Yankees too at this moment.
Now here's the part that truly cheered me up. The Yankees can now get very nostalgic or very creative at DH. They can go the nostalgic route and grab up Damon, Pena, or even Posada. They can also get creative give the very deserving Jorge Vazquez a chance, or they can make a huge rotation of DHs. Though the DH rotation can be nice, it must be mentioned that the Yankees don't exactly have a good-hitting backup infielder. After a boring winter filled with mostly rumors, it could be fun speculation who's the next DH. It's a bit too far to dream about Fielder (nor do I want Fielder on the Yankees), but there is finally something to look forward to besides Spring Training.

Bartolo Colón Signs With A's...But Why?

Bartolo Colón will turn 39-years old two months in to this upcoming season.  The injury-prone right-hander, who won the 2005 Cy Young Award with the Los Angeles Angels, will be entering his second season after returning from an injury that sidelined him for all of 2009.  As a Yankee last season, he went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.  His early season numbers were much better however, as he put up 2.77, 3.57, 2.25, and 3.82 ERAs in April, May, June, and July respectively.  These numbers did not position him for thirty offers this offseason, but some fans may wonder why he chose Oakland over the other teams that offered him contracts.  For that matter, the question arises: why do the Athletics want him?

Colón is nearing the end of his career and may not have many more chances to win his first World Series.  One would probably think that he would want to sign with a team that could help him achieve that goal.  Oakland does not fit into that category and as far as is publicly known, Colón has no professional or emotional connection to city or team.  The first question that arises in this scenario is: what other choices did he have?  There is some certainty that the Arizona Diamondbacks made an offer and the Yankees expressed interest--to some unknown degree--in bringing him back. 

It is uncertain whether or not the Yanks actually ever made an offer.  If they did not, that would explain why he will not be returning.  With the recent acquisition of Michael Pineda and signing of Hiroki Kuroda, Colón's services would no longer be needed, so, in all likelihood, that is why he waited until now to select a team.  The D-backs are a playoff contender, so this offer would have been interesting.  Assuming that Arizona did make a legitimate contract offer to Colón, it is possible that he chose not to sign there due to the rumours of the state's anti-Hispanic attitude.  Also, the Diamondbacks have only three Hispanic players, all of whom are Venezuelan (Colón is Dominican). 

That said, the A's only have two Hispanic players on the team, but they do have a Dominican--Fautino De Los Santos.  This could have been a deciding factor when Colón was choosing between the two teams.  As far as is known, he may not have had any other offers. 

The Athletics do, of course, have many fast players and the ability to manufacture runs, but in a division with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the A's will have difficulty contending even with the second Wild Card team next season.

So why do the Athletics want Colón?  This is a bit more difficult to determine.  There is always the possibility that they intend to trade him mid-season should he perform well enough to draw good return.  The team already has a fairly solid rotation with Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscosco, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, and Josh Outman, as well as Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker, and Tom Milone waiting in the wings.  This is, however, a fairly young group of pitchers.  Colón's veteran presence may help these players develop.  Other than this, the signing is fairly odd.

The answer to the question of why Bartolo Colón signed with the Oakland Athletics is not certain, but if he can provide a veteran presence for the young pitchers and perform well enough to be traded to a contender, this could end up working out for both teams.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yankees and Mariners Swap Montero and Pineda...Why?

When I first heard that Jesus Montero was headed to Seattle, I was shocked.  I was even more surprised when I found out that Michael Pineda--last year's 5th place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting--was going the other way.  My first thought was: this is an interesting deal...I wonder if any other players are involved.  When I discovered that Hector Noesi and Jose Campos were also switching teams, I changed my opinion from "interesting deal" to "WHAT?!"

Here is a breakdown of the trade:

Seattle gets:

Jesus Montero:  Montero, a catcher, was one of the Yankees' top prospects since 2009, when he listed as Baseball America's #38 prospect.  He followed this up with #4 and #3 ratings in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  In 489 total minor league games he belted 76 home runs with a .308 batting average.  In triple-A last season, he posted a .288 BA with 18 HRs--statistics comparable to those of his 2010 campaign.  He also put up solid defensive numbers: he threw out 23% and 20% of baserunners in 2010 and 2011 respectively and had a .997 fielding percentage this season.  There were only really two major stat categories in which he had somewhat significant changes between 2010 and '11.  These were in walks--which were down this year--and strikeouts--which were up.  Despite this slight regression, he was called up to the Majors at the end of the year.  He put up 4 home runs and 12 RBI and a .328 BA in 61 ABs.  He also spent quite a bit of time as a designated hitter.  Montero is currently 22-years old.

Hector Noesi: This 24-year old right-hander has been in the Yankees' system since he was 19.  In six minor league seasons he had a 25-15 record with a 3.17 ERA.  In triple-A this year and last year he went 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA.  2011, however was significantly better for Noesi than 2010.  He had a 3.28 ERA in 24.2 innings before he was called up to the Majors.  With the Yankees he went 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA.  His two starts at the end of the year did not go so well, either.  In 4.2 innings he gave up 5 runs and 9 hits over these two appearances.  Nevertheless, Noesi was considered to be one of the Yankees' better Major League ready prospects.  His stellar May and July performances and solid August proved why this was so.  July was by far his best full month--1-0, 2.57 ERA.

The Yankees acquire:

Michael Pineda: As was previously mentioned, the 6'7" 22-year old righty finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting this past season.  He finished the year 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP is 28 starts.  He also represented the Mariners at the 2011 All-Star Game.  While his numbers turned out fairly average, this could be attributed partially to fatigue and to the league finally figuring him out.  His April, May, and June ERAs, respectively were 2.01, 2.81, and 3.03.  It is also important to remember that Pineda's velocity can reach up to around 95 MPH.  Baseball America's #17 prospect prior to 2011 put up a 3-3 record with a 4.76 ERA in the ever-difficult Pacific Coast League in 2010.  His 2010 double-A numbers were much better--8-1, 2.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP.  Pineda had been in the Mariners' system since he was 17.

Jose Campos: This 6'4" right-hander in now 19-years old.  He started in the Mariners' system at 16 three seasons ago.  In those three minor league seasons he posted a combined 14-10 record with a 3.26 ERA.  Last year in low-A he went 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 14 starts.  He also posted 85 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP.  Campos, being so young and inexperienced, is still a few years away from being Major League ready, but expect him to get as high as double-A next season.

Montero looked to be the Yankees' catcher of the future and Pineda the Mariners' next ace--now that flips around.  That trade on its own was intriguing.  Throwing in Noesi and Campos makes it even more so.  The Yankees' rotation prior to the trade was weak.  After CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova appears to have good potential...then there is nothing.  Phil Hughes has disappointed, Freddy Garcia is nothing more than a solid number 5, and I do not believe that I need to go in to the AJ Burnett issue.  Pineda now slots in behind Sabathia and the newly signed Hiroki Kuroda.  It will be interesting to see how he will cope in the AL East.  Save for giving up five runs to the Blue Jays in each of two of his starts against Toronto he did not give up more than 3 runs against an AL East opponent all of last season.  This is a positive for the Yankees.

Montero's solid hitting to date looks to be a plus for the rebuilding Mariners.  He will likely be the starting catcher for Seattle next year and will have veteran Miguel Olivo behind him to ensure that he does not get overworked.  Noesi may fit in to the Mariners' rotation or bullpen--whichever needs more help.  Either way he will not be very important to Seattle next season as he still needs a bit of seasoning before he will be effective at the Major League level.  In a year or two he should be ready for the rotation.

The most interesting piece in this deal is Campos.  He has the potential to be a very good Major League pitcher if he continues at his current rate.  The biggest issue with him is that his minor league service time may force the Yankees' hand in a couple of years--they may have to call him up before he is ready so as not to lose him to another team.

When I first found out about the full details of this trade, I thought that the Yankees were crazy.  The more I read about it, I realize that this may not be the worst trade for either team.  Pineda and Campos will both be significant parts of the Yankees' future (note that Baseball America lists only two pitchers [Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances] on the list of the Yankees' top ten prospects).  The Yanks always have the money to sign a big-name catcher if the need arises.  Montero will be a major player in the Mariners' near future and Noesi is a solid add.

Overall, I do not think that this is an unfair trade.  It fills a hole for both teams and takes from positions of strength (the Yankees have three other catching prospects in their top 10 and Seattle is full of star-calibre pitchers).  This is a deal which cannot be properly judged until the players have played for their new teams.  They are all young and unpredictable.  Right now I am going to give the Yankees a slight edge because Pineda has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation guy and Campos looks to have a bright future ahead of him.  Yankees fans will not be happy about losing Montero, but I am certain they will get over it fairly quickly if these players reach their full potentials.  As for the Mariners, this is a good trade for a rebuilding team that has a plethora of pitchers.  I think this trade will work out for both sides.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Big Z to Miami: The Analysis

In 2010, Carlos Zambrano was suspended by the Chicago Cubs and forced to take anger management classes after he had an argument with Derrek Lee in the dugout.  On August 13, 2011, Big Z claimed that he was going to retire after being ejected from a game.  He was suspended for the remainder of the season.  In spite of all of this, he maintained that he wanted to be a "Cub for life".

That dream died officially yesterday--although various reports had killed it a few days earlier--when he was shipped off to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Chris Volstad and cash.  Volstad was the first draft pick of the Marlins in 2005 (16th overall).

Of course, whenever there is a trade, the first question that pops into everyone's mind is: who won? This is one of those deals where it is very difficult to tell at this early stage.


If the 30-year old Zambrano returns to 2004, 2006, or even 2007 or '08 form then the Marlins have made an outstanding deal.  Big Z's ERA has never been stellar (3.60 over his career), but it is certainly good enough for a team filled with power bats and run-makers.  Also, with a solid defensive infield (that is, if Hanley Ramirez can adjust successfully to third base), the team should be able to handle the excessive number of baserunners Zambrano allows (1.32 career WHIP, nothing lower than 1.38 over the last three seasons).  If, however, his temper overshadows his play, the team may be in for some headaches and discipline hearings.  Zambrano is supposedly a close friend of Ozzie Guillen's, but relationships always change when one friend is in a power of position over the other.  Big Z could easily write off every instruction Guillen gives him as "a friend's advice", and continue to regress as a player.  It is only that he has had some success in his recent career that his contract has not been considered amongst the likes of A.J. Burnett and John Lackey.  If his play remains below-average and his mouth gets the better of him, the Marlins are going to end up as nothing more than the chemotherapy for the Cubs' clubhouse cancer.

An important point to remember is that the Marlins also received a significant amount of monetary compensation in this deal.  The Cubs sent $15.5 million to Miami, 86.1% of the money remaining on Zambrano's contract.  This leaves the Marlins on the hook for about as much money as Chris Volstad is projected to make next year.  Zambrano has only one year left on his contract, so this deal is fairly low risk, but it will be significant to determining whether or not anyone will sign him for 2013.  There is always the chance that he will retire after 2012--a possibility that he has alluded to in the past--in order to pursue a more family-oriented lifestyle.  If this is not his plan, however, then he will have to perform spectacularly in order to receive any viable contract offers in the offseason.  A determined attitude would be helpful to Miami and may bring out the best of Big Z.


Chris Volstad has underachieved over his four seasons of Major League action.  After an outstanding first season (6-4, 2.88 ERA in 15 games, 14 starts) he slipped significantly, putting up 5.21, 4.58, and
4.59 ERAs in each of the last three seasons with a combined 26-35 record.  He showed some promise at the end of last season, however, when he posted a 2.32 ERA over five September starts with a 1.16 WHIP.  If he can regain control of the abilities he has shown that he has, then the Cubs will be very pleased with this trade.  Otherwise, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza (assuming that he is not traded), Travis Wood, and Randy Wells could pressure him to the back of the rotation and, if Casey Coleman or another prospect starts to perform exceptionally, Volstad may end up in the bullpen.  An important note to remember is that Dempster, Garza, Wells, Volstad, and Coleman are all right-handed.  Teams rarely like to have so little diversity in the rotation.  Overall, Volstad is a relatively low-risk pick up.  The team has control over him for a couple more seasons and he does not seem to have quite as much of an attitude as Big Z (at least not one significant enough to be published all over the Internet).  He has, however, shown his anger in the past.  Some fans may remember him as the pitcher who threw at Nyjer Morgan twice in a game two seasons ago--a game which featured a benches-clearing brawl and four ejections.  Volstad served a six game suspension for the incident.  The Cubs may be happier, however, with a player who translates his fury into in-game violence than one who takes it out on his teammates.

This deal is difficult to judge at this stage because both Volstad and Zambrano are completely unpredictable.  Because of Volstad's youth and potential, and the fact that they have cleared Zambrano out of the organization are both in favour of the Cubs.  However, Carlos Zambrano for $2.5 million really seems like a steal.  Right now, I tentatively give the Marlins the victory simply because of the excess of money that has exchanged hands.  This is a deal which needs to be reviewed at a later date for a more final determination of a victor.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Toronto Blue Jays: The Bullpen 2012

Yesterday I posted about the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation, today we look to the other end of the pitching spectrum: the bullpen.

Shall we look at the opening day bullpen from last season? (2011 stats with the Blue Jays in brackets [note that final stat is saves/opportunities])

Shawn Camp (67G, 6-3, 4.21 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 1/4)
Jason Frasor (44G, 2-1, 2.98 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 0/2)
Casey Janssen (55G, 6-0, 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2/4)
David Purcey (5G, 0-0 11.57 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 0/0)
Jon Rauch (53G, 5-4, 4.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 11/16)
Marc Rzepczynski (43G, 2-3, 2.97 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 0/3)
Carlos Villanueva (33G [13 starts], 6-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 0/1)

One must also remember that Octavio Dotel (36G, 2-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 1/1) and Frank Francisco (54G, 1-4, 3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 17/21) both started the season on the disabled list.  Of these nine pitchers, only Frason, Janssen, and Villanueva remain on the team (Frasor after a brief stint with the White Sox).

Villanueva was by far the best pitcher out of the bullpen over the first two months of the season, which won him a role as a starter before an injury sent him back to the 'pen.  Over 13 relief appearances from April 1 to May 18, he posted a 1.48 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP.  While his pitching in the rotation was not quite as stellar, he had a confidence on the mound that few of the other pitchers had.  He will have a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation next year, but it is more probable that he will end up in the bullpen as a long man/middle innings eater.

Jason Frasor, who was traded along with Zach Stewart to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Edwin Jackson mid-season, was reacquired on Sunday for two minor league pitchers.  Frasor holds the Blue Jays franchise record for most appearances by a pitcher (career) and he will get a chance to add to this total in 2012.  As a solid back-end reliever, who can step in as a temporary closer if need be, he is one of four players assured a spot in the bullpen next season.

Casey Janssen, perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2011 campaign, is another lock for next year.  The injuries to Dotel and Francisco were the only reasons why he even made the team last year, and he made the most of his opportunity.  In spite of being sent down early in the year (more because the team could than that they wanted to) he did not falter and showed no signs of anger or disappointment upon his recall a few days later.  It was not a particularly close competition in which Janssen proved that he was the best reliever on the team last year.  He won the Blue Jays Most Improved Player Award at the end of the season.

The remainder of the pitchers competing for roles next season started 2011 somewhere else.  To begin, the other two certain locks for next year.

Although he has not yet officially been signed, Darren Oliver will be part of the Jays organization as soon as he passes his physical.  The 41-year old southpaw posted a 2.29 ERA last season (2.08 against lefties and 2.45 against righties).  He slots in as the best left-hander on the team and, as a result, the certain lefty-specialist.  He was 2/6 in save opportunities and put up a 1.14 WHIP.  So far, he is the Jays' biggest free agent signing.  Oliver is one of those pitchers who seems to get better with age.  His last four seasons have been the best of his career.  Look for him to pitch primarily against lefties, but he may spot Janssen or Frasor in the seventh or eighth from time to time.

And then there is Sergio Santos, the closer who GM Alex Anthopolous plucked from the White Sox in exchange for well-regarded pitching prospect Nestor Molina.  Santos is under team control for six years and gives the Blue Jays the closer they have sought after since BJ Ryan's last good season in 2008.  Santos picked up 30 saves in 36 opportunities and posted a 3.55 ERA and 1.11 WHIP last season.  His most significant statistics were his .181 batting average against and his 92 strikeouts in 63.1 innings.  With Frasor, Janssen, and (sometimes) Oliver, the Jays have the seventh, eighth, and ninth settled for next year.

This only leaves three (maybe four) spots left in the bullpen.  Who is competing for these roles?  Chad Beck, Joel Carreno, Danny Farquhar Jim Hoey, Aaron Laffey, Jesse Litsch, Trystan Magnuson, Luis Perez, Carlos Villanueva, and even Garrett Mock are possibilities.

Beck, Carreno, Laffey, Litsch, Perez, and Villanueva have all been starters in the past.  All of them, save for Beck, will likely be given a chance to make the rotation next season, although Villanueva seems to be the only one with a legitimate shot at this position.

Chad Beck was called up in September last year after going 9-8 with a 4.50 ERA over three minor league levels.  The PCL was not good to him, but is it really good for any pitcher?  He started 23 of his 31 games with all of his relief appearances coming in double-A.  After the season's completion he pitched for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League, appearing in five games and surrendering no runs on two hits and a walk.  Beck has an outside shot at making the team, an opportunity which is helped by his solid performances in the 2.1 innings he pitched for the Jays at the end of 2011.

Joel Carreno was unbelievable in his 15.2 innings in August and September with the Blue Jays.  He surrendered only two runs on eleven hits and four walks.  He also struck out 14 batters.  These numbers were an improvement on his minor league stats as a starter: 7-9, 3.41 ERA, 1.25 WHIP.  Carreno was used well by John Farrell and, in the words of MLB.com writer Gregor Chisholm, he "became a favourite" of the manager.  His stellar performance gives him an advantage going in to spring training, but if he can only find a spot as a middle-reliever, the Jays may prefer that he start in the minors.

Danny Farquhar was traded for Rajai Davis prior to the 2011 season before being reacquired in exchange for David Pursey.  The submariner was terrible in his first Major League performance (he surrendered 4 runs--3 earned--over 0.2 of an inning).  He settled down and was solid in his next two appearances.  Farquhar is the type of pitcher suited for the later innings.  He was a closer in triple-A and it is probable that--with the Jays' back-end being fairly solid--this is the position he will take at the beginning of the 2012 season.

Jim Hoey was claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins last month.  The hard-throwing reliever has not been impressive at the Major League level and was acquired more likely for his potential than for 2012.  It is highly improbable that he will make the team out of Spring Training, but he may be called up in the case of an injury.

Aaron Laffey wants to be a starter--that is why he signed with Toronto--but this may not be the most likely place for him.  He will compete with Jesse Litsch, Luis Perez, and Carlos Villanueva for a long-relief job, but as the Jays have the ability to send him to the minors without repercussion, they may choose to do so.  Villanueva is assured a spot on the team in one position or another, so it is going to be difficult for Laffey to find a spot--especially because Alex Anthopolous has first-hand experience with Litsch and Perez that he does not have with Laffey.

Litsch has been up and down throughout his Major League career, but he was very good out of the bullpen at the end of last season.  His chances of ever being a starter again are slim, but he seems to have found his niche in the 'pen.  He finished off 2012 6-3 with a 4.44 ERA, but it is important to note that his ERA did go down after he became a reliever.  Although he had a few bad games near the end of the year, he was one of the more consistent pitchers out of the bullpen in August and September.  He has a good shot at making the team, particularly if Villanueva makes it as a starter, leaving the team without a long-man.

Trystan Magnuson was traded along with Farquhar for Rajai Davis prior to 2011, but was reacquired after the season's completion in exchange for cash.  The 26-year old Canadian was not very good for the Athletics, posting a 6.14 ERA over 9 appearances.  He was solid in the minors, however, putting up a 2.98 ERA over 45.1 innings in the always-difficult PCL.  He will have to prove himself in Spring Training, but he may be able to make the team.  He is more likely to start in triple-A, but his minor league numbers were too good last year for him to stay down there for long.

Luis Perez had an up and down year.  He was not spectacular as a starter and his relief numbers were average.  It seemed as if his statistics were better than his abilities last season, and it was not until a late-season breakdown that his ERA rose to 5.12 and his WHIP to 1.55.  The team seemed to like him at the beginning of the year and forgot about him at the end.  Being a lefty, he has a good shot at making the team, but he has Aaron Laffey with whom he must now contend.  This should create healthy competition for one of the final bullpen spots.  The fact that he can double as a long-man would help his case more if Laffey, Litsch, and Villanueva were not already vying for the same position as he.

Garrett Mock would need to rely on either substantial numbers of injuries to other relievers or a miraculous Spring Training in order to make the team.  Over 55 Major League games, 19 starts, he has an ERA of 5.17 and a record of 4-13.  Mock did not pitch in the Majors last season and did not make the most of his opportunity in the minors.  In 49.1 innings over four levels of the minors, he put up an ERA of 6.39 with a 1.62 WHIP and a 1-5 record.  Mock is a non-roster invitee and is likely to remain off the roster.

An interesting question will be whether or not the Blue Jays intend on carrying seven or eight relief pitchers in 2012.  With Mock, Farquhar, Magnuson, and Beck as unlikely candidates to make the team, it looks like Carreno, Laffey, Litsch, Perez, and Villanueva will be competing for those last three or four spots.  Of course, if Villanueva does the improbable and makes the rotation next year, one of Dustin McGowan or Brett Cecil could also enter the mix.  Perez and Laffey have the advantage of being lefties, so one of them is likely to make the team.  After that Carreno and Litsch will have to compete for the final spot--unless Anthopolous chooses to go with an eight man 'pen.

The probable bullpen of 2012 if only seven players are taken:

Closer: Sergio Santos
Eighth Inning: Casey Janssen
Seventh Inning: Jason Frasor
Lefty-Specialist (seventh inning fill in): Darren Oliver
Long Reliever: Carlos Villanueva
Middle Reliever: Luis Perez
Middle Reliever: Jesse Litsch

This leaves Laffey and Carreno in the minors.  Carreno has proven that he is Major League ready, but it is better for his development if he starts in the minors than if he throws one inning every fourth day--often when down two or three runs.

Expect to see Aaron Laffey, Joel Carreno, Danny Farquhar, and Trystan Magnuson in the big leagues at some point during the season--it is just not likely that that is where they will start.  Remember to always expect the unexpected.  Anyone could be the next Casey Janssen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Toronto Blue Jays: The Rotation 2012

Shall we take a look back at what the opening day rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays was last season? (2011 stats in brackets; the number to the left of the player's name indicates number of games pitched [note that only statistics as a Blue Jay are shown here])

32 Ricky Romero (15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
18 (14 starts) Kyle Drabek (4-5, 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP)
20 Brett Cecil (4-11, 4.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
20 Jo-Jo Reyes (5-8, 5.40 ERA, 1.59 WHIP)
28 (8 starts) Jesse Litsch (6-3, 4.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)

Where are they now?

Romero was, by far, the best pitcher on the team last season.  His spectacular numbers earned him an All-Star selection and a Pitcher of the Month Award.  Romero proved his critics wrong and put up the type of season that was expected of him when he was chosen 6th overall in the 2005 amateur entry draft.  He has shown that he has the stuff to be a legitimate ace in the MLB and has solidified a spot in the Jays' rotation for next season.  Barring a blockbuster deal (and with Alex Anthopolous at the helm, this is always a possibility) Ricky will be the Opening Day starter.

Drabek has received mixed opinions.  Some believe that he still has the potential to be a solid big-league pitcher while others see him as a complete bust.  I find myself leaning toward the former, but the supposed top prospect in the Roy Halladay deal has a long way to go before he is ready to be an effective Major Leaguer.  Expect him to start the season in Triple-A and expect a high ERA--not that that's a particularly meaningful statistic in the Pacific Coast League.  Hopefully injuries will not force him to the majors too early and he will be a September call up--assuming he does not over-perform with the 51s.  Drabek needs to work on controlling his emotions, though, before he can go anywhere.

Brett Cecil was one of the biggest disappointments of the season.  After an unexpectedly good 2010 campaign that saw the 38th overall pick in the 2007 draft pick up 15 wins in 28 starts, Cecil dropped off the map in 2011.  A poor start had him packing his bags and heading to the minors before a late-season recall.  Where his velocity had dipped early he started to recover--although he could not equal his abilities of the past.  Cecil certainly showed promise during his second stint with the Jays in 2011 but struggled in the later innings.  He was often solid throughout the game, but when the seventh inning rolled along, he lost all ability to finish.  This could be attributed to fatigue.  An earlier start on next season and a bit of work on velocity and Cecil could make the team out of spring-training.  He may have to fight it out for the last spot in the rotation, but unless the Jays pick up another starter, it is probable that he will make the team.

Jo-Jo Reyes was picked up at the end of the 2010 season along with Yunel Escobar in exchange for Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins, and Tyler Pastornicky.  Escobar has kept Jays fans generally happy with the deal, but Jo-Jo turned out to be a complete waste of time.  After tying the Major League record for most consecutive starts without a win (28), he picked up his first victory of the season on May 30.  A few solid starts later, he returned to early season form and was designated for assignment on July 23.  He was picked up by the Orioles, who let him go at the end of the season.  Now a free-agent, Reyes will likely be anywhere but Toronto next season.

Jesse Litsch endured injury and demotion before finally finding a permanent role in the bullpen.  He put up a 4.66 ERA as a starter, going 4-3, but he performed much better out of the 'pen (2-0, 4.08 ERA).  He was a solid and trust-worthy long man who looks like he will be a good contributor to the team next season--in the 'pen once again.  He will have to fight for a job (With Sergio Santos, Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver, and Jason Frasor as locks, he will have to battle it out with Luis Perez, Aaron Laffey, Danny Farquhar, Chad Beck, Joel Carreno, Trystan Magnuson, and possibly Carlos Villanueva for the final 3 or 4 spots).  This means, of course, that he will not be in the rotation unless severe injuries force the hand of Jays management.

An early season injury kept Brandon Morrow out of the rotation until April 23.  Morrow, who had a promising 2010 season (who can forget the 17 K one-hitter against the Rays?) had an up and down year in 2011.  He posted an 11-11 record with a 4.72 ERA in 30 starts.  There were many tense moments during Morrow's season and for the longest time he pitched like he had done at the beginning of the 2010 season (for those who do not know, this is not a good thing).  At the end of the year, however, he found his ability again.  While it was still impossible to predict which Morrow would show up for the game, the good one was almost unhittable.  His September 18 and 23 starts against the Yankees and Rays that showed off his best stuff.  Over the two games, he pitched 15 innings giving up 0 runs on 6 hits.  His 4 walks against Tampa Bay were not encouraging, but he only surrendered one against New York.  Morrow needs to find consistency, but he is assured a spot in the rotation next year--right now, directly behind Ricky Romero.

One of the most interesting pitchers for the Jays last season was Henderson Alvarez.  The 21-year old righty was called up in early August, all that most Jays fans expected was that he would throw hard.  In that respect, he disappointed a little--not to say that he did not throw hard, he was just a little over-hyped in that category.  He did not disappoint in any other area.  Over 10 starts, the rookie put up a 1-3 record with a 3.53 ERA.  Early in September, his ERA was below 3.00, rather near to Ricky Romero's.  While Jays management would deny it, Alvarez seems to be a lock for the rotation next year.  It is my opinion that he is the most valuable starter currently on the Blue Jays roster--no disrespect to Romero.  Of all the players on the team, he is one of two who I would not trade (the other being Jose Bautista).  He has the stuff to be a legitimate number one pitcher in the near future.  Note that he picked up 40 Ks and posted a 1.13 WHIP, as well.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season was the return of Dustin McGowan, who had last pitched in 2008.  Although he finished with an 0-2 record with a 6.43 ERA, he showed that he could still pitch effectively at the big-league level.  Over 21.0 innings, he struck out 20 batters and held opponents to a .247 batting average against.  He is not assured a spot in the rotation, but the Jays do not have the luxury to send him to the minors and doctors recommend that he remain a starter (maintain a consistent schedule so that he does not injure himself again).  Right now, McGowan seems the most likely 5th starter, but he will certainly have to compete in spring training to win that title.

The remainder of the possible starters for 2011 who are currently on the team all spent time a relievers for much of last season.

Carlos Villanueva was stellar out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season.  Over 13 relief appearances from the start of the year until May 18, he posted a 1.48 ERA and picked up a win.  He also posted a 0.82 WHIP with an opponents average against of .132.  After taking over as a starter, his numbers dipped a bit.  He finished the season 6-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP over 33 appearances (13 starts).  He also missed most of August with an injury.  Villanueva was a reliable pitcher in 2011 (pretty good for a guy picked up in exchange for cash) and will certainly have a job in 2012.  If he wants it to be as a starter, he's going to have to work hard in spring training.

Luis Perez is a left-hander, which is to his advantage, and he pitched well in his first appearance as a starter last year after being a reliever for much of it.  He was always inconsistent, however, finishing the season with a 5.12 ERA over 37 appearances (4 starts).  He had some issues with the long ball, giving up 9 home runs on the season, and was especially poor in September.  Perez's first concern should be making the team at all, let alone as a starter.

Aaron Laffey: A recent free agent signing, Laffey has not proven himself to be a particularly good starter in the past.  He had his best season last year (3-2, 3.88 ERA), the first of his five Major League seasons in which he did not start a single game.  Laffey felt that Toronto was the place where he had the best chance at cracking the rotation, but he also signed a split contract--meaning that it is likely that Alex Anthopolous has much smaller plans for him (with Brad Mills gone to Los Angeles, the 51s need a new number one).  Like with Perez, making the team should be his primary intention.  His best hope at the starting rotation is an injury to Brett Cecil or Ricky Romero (seeing as the team would likely want to replace a southpaw with a southpaw).

Joel Carreno seems to be the final internal option who has seen big league time.  Over 15.2 innings as a reliever last season, he posted a 1.15 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.  He was one of the most consistently good pitchers on the team over the last two months.  He has certainly earned an opportunity at the rotation, but numbers like that make him an excellent trade candidate or, possibly, a future closer.  Carreno is often forgotten in talks of the rotation as many people forget that he was a starter in the minors.  With Double-A New Hampshire last season he went 7-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 24 games (23 starts).  Carreno may or may not make the team next season, but if he does, he is a viable option as a back-end starter.

All of those above have Major League experience.  The Jays, however, are famous for their highly regarded minor league system.  With Nestor Molina gone to Chicago, the Jays are left with four top pitching prospects, three of who may be ready by some point next year. 

Deck McGuire, the Jays' 2010 first-rounder, put up a 9-5 record and a 3.02 ERA in Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire last year and may be ready as a September call up if not earlier.  He is 22-years old.  Chad Jenkins, now 24, went 9-12 with a 3.70 ERA over the same two levels as McGuire last year.  While these numbers are not quite as good as McGuire's, he is seen as a good-potential player, and his age may mean that he is mature enough to handle the Majors.  The final Major League ready prospect is Drew Hutchison.  Over 28 starts with Lansing, Dunedin, and New Hampshire, he put up a 2.53 ERA to go along with a 14-5 record.  He also struck out 171 batters in 149.1 innings.  The 21-year old was chosen in the 15th round of the 2009 draft and is certainly out-performing expectations.  He may be closer to the majors than the other two.

Another interesting prospect for the future is Daniel Norris.  While he has yet to pitch a pro game, he is seen as one of the biggest steals of the draft as the Blue Jays selected him in the second round.  Signability issues dropped his stock, but some believe that he was good enough to be a first-rounder.  While he will not be ready for next season, look for him in the near future.

These are all internal options, but there is always a possibility that the Jays will pursue free agent starters and those available through the trade market.  Matt Garza seems to be off the table, and if Anthopolous is not willing to pay what the Cubs want, it is unlikely that he would be willing to go after Jair Jurrjens.  Other pitchers like Jon Niese would probably also create the same problem.  Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda, and Edwin Jackson seem improbable, as well.  Canadians like Jeff Francis and Rich Harden are possibilities, but Harden is injury-prone and Francis has been a disappointment over his seasons in the Majors.  It does not seem likely that Anthopolous, who seems to love young arms, would go after a guy like Bartolo Colon, either.  The Jays will likely only trade away top prospects if it means a return of a major addition to the rotation (think Cole Hamels, for example).  Right now it looks as though no such move will be made before the season begins.

So what will the rotation look like in 2012?

1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Brett Cecil
4. Henderson Alvarez
5. Dustin McGowan

This seems the most likely result, but Carlos Villanueva has a very good shot and, although they probably would like to give him some more time in the minors, Kyle Drabek cannot be completely written out.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the pitchers head south next month.