If winning is the best currency, Blue Jays brass should plan accordingly
Danny Jansen’s absence cleared up a few things about Alejandro Kirk, though probably not to everyone’s satisfaction. Is he good enough defensively to work with an elite staff at a club with big ambitions and remove any lingering notions of being a guy who hits first? I mean, he was good enough last season to be the catcher for a Cy Young winner, but if confirmation was needed, then the answer is “yes.”
What Toronto Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo said the other day, “The best compliment I can give him is the best compliment you can give a catcher: Everything looks like a strike.”
All good and good. But can he stay No. 1 and contribute offensively? I would suggest ‘no’. A month went by without an extra-base hit and it was clear the Jays were, to put it politely, aware of their workload behind the plate. But that’s okay. Jansen deserves to be No. 1 and there is a way forward for Kirk to be a contributor by striking a balance between the designated hitter and backup catcher jobs, a plan that becomes more viable if he can be paired with a left-handed hitter in DH. Or he could be traded, because one thing that hasn’t changed is that Gabriel Moreno is still in the organization.
Moreno, the Blue Jays’ top prospect, is hitting .323 at Triple-A Buffalo. He has yet to homer and left Thursday’s game shortly after being hit by a pitch. When general manager Ross Atkins is asked about Moreno, the emphasis is on the learning he is learning as a leader and communicator. What he is not doing is using PitchCom. Interestingly, given the way Major League Baseball is experimenting at all levels of the minor leagues (automated ball-and-strike system is being used at several parks), PitchCom is not yet being used for on-field communication to signal at the Triple-A level. .
Both Atkins and bench coach/catching instructor John Schneider believe that Moreno’s major league career, when it happens, will be positively affected by PitchCom, which, barring a few flaws (Adam Cimber took the mound in spring training and it was out of sync with the use of the bag (“you should have seen the looks he was giving us,” Schneider laughed) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. told the Blue Jays that he thought the first base coach of a team could hear the communication when using the setting) has been positively received by teams across the league. Alek Manoah is a notable exception and says that he prefers to “go old school”.
Moreno didn’t get a chance to use the technology in spring training because visa issues kept him from being in camp with major leaguers. For the Blue Jays, having Moreno move up to the majors at a time when a perhaps even more refined PitchCom exists could be a godsend in terms of accelerating the handling of pitchers at the major league level, especially if the Majors delays the implementation of a shot clock.
For now, it would only be a problem if Moreno was called up to the majors this season … and that’s a topic for another day. Long-term? Who knows what the added comfort level would mean for a wide receiver who, every time he comes in, will play meaningful games with a team that wants to win now? Sure he can’t hurt, though.
“The combination of PitchCom and no shot clock would help anyone,” Schneider said. “It just removes a lot of the complexities of signage. The hardest thing for him (Moreno) is that he hasn’t had a chance to use it yet. But I mean, it’s really like learning how to use apps on a new iPhone.”
Receivers have experienced. Originally, the Blue Jays and everyone else thought their catchers would wear it on the wrist. Now, it’s often attached to an area above the knee pad, and catchers cover the device with their glove so hitters can’t watch. A personal favorite was watching the Houston Astros’ Martin Maldonado brandish it like a channel changer between his knees while he was crouched, then clip it to his knee pad before lifting his glove.
Schneider is not surprised that PitchCom has become so widely accepted. Its impact on pace of play has been apparent, not always to the batsmen’s delight, and one wonders if everyone has concluded that, at the end of the day, giving players some control over pace is preferable. of the game instead of tyrannical control. countdown clock in center field. To leave it in their hands, so to speak…
HIT AND RUN
• You know New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hits the Orioles, with 30 home runs in 76 career games between the two of them. You might also get an idea that this is a lot, which would be true: Since 1990, only six other players have racked up that many home runs in that short span against a team, including Alex Rodriguez, who hit 30 in his first 76 games against the Tiles. It’s an eclectic list, including Sammy Sosa (twice!) who went 30-for-74 against the Brewers and 30-for-76 against the Rockies. Khris Davis hit 30 in 65 games against the Rangers, Troy Glaus had 30 in 74 games against the Rangers and Joe DiMaggio needed just 63 games to hit 30 home runs against the St. Louis Browns.
• ESPN’s Buster Olney certainly got people excited in a good, clean, fun way when speculated that the Blue Jays and San Diego Padres could be interested if the Washington Nationals choose to trade Juan Soto, who has two years left after this one before hitting free agency.
Soto is in the conversation as the best player in the game, he’s only 23 years old (younger than Bo Bichette) and, well, I think the fact that the Blue Jays and Padres are widely credited with being top candidates to acquire Jose Ramirez, before re-signing with the Guardians, would make the first teams Nationals GM Mike Rizzo would call on: They have prospects, financial resources, a competitive window and haven’t addressed the need for left-handed hitting that saw them boldly. go after the ambidextrous Ramírez in the first place.
Soto’s 2 1/2 years of control fit nicely with the Vladdy/Bo window and his defensive skills in the outfield open up all sorts of options. But, man, it’s hard to see getting there from here. There’s no way Ramirez and Soto will get equivalent returns, plus I don’t get it from the Nationals’ standpoint. Sure, we know the Nationals considered trading Bryce Harper to the Houston Astros at some point, and sure enough, Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, turned down a $350 million extension for his client. But Boras also has a history of doing things with the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg is his client).
The wild card is likely where the Nationals’ potential sale currently sits. Logic would suggest that you would rather buy a team with a key player than without. On the other hand, a potential new buyer may, as soon as the current owner and management team do their dirty work. Rizzo is in the last year of his contract and is perfectly equipped to wear the black cap…
• Frequent readers and listeners will know that I detest the presence of the strike box on television broadcasts, primarily because an educated baseball fan should be able to figure out the strike zone for themselves. And here’s something else Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins mentioned: We know that Major League Baseball rates umpires using a proprietary strike zone box that gives umpires the benefit of the doubt on the edges of the zone, which effectively means that the television zone is smaller than the one the referees are told to use. Which means that no one is really served by the zone presented on the TV, which, by extension, means that all of you are getting nervous about something that is not used by the people who matter. Life is too short for that. And most of you are smart enough not to need it…
• Carlos Correa made a decision this year with huge ramifications for the free-agent market. I’m not talking about settling for a three-year, $103.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins, one that includes opt-out options after each year, but his decision to hire Boras as his agent.
This has created an intriguing scenario, as Boras has already represented Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who can also opt out if he’s willing to leave $80 million on the table over the next four seasons. Talk about manipulating a market. Bogaerts’ status has become the dominant topic of conversation in Boston due to the Red Sox’s early-season woes coupled with the presence of Trevor Story, who was off to a miserable start after signing his $6,600 contract. 140 million to play second base and serve as insurance in case Bogaerts becomes available or is already serenaded by Fenway Park chants of “re-signing Bogaerts.”
I still can’t believe the Red Sox will trade Bogaerts for the season, even though GM Chaim Bloom’s Rays DNA suggests letting him walk isn’t an option. Either way, is anyone surprised that among the dramas surrounding Juan Soto and Bogaerts and Correa on the horizon, Boras has put himself in the middle of what is the biggest drama of the season? And it’s not even Victory Day.
THE FINAL GAME
Damn the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here I was, doing a good job of forgetting how the Blue Jays could lock up Guerrero and Bichette, then the Leafs went and kissed another year of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and reminded us all that every season without a title is a missed opportunity. .
Now, it’s true that time runs faster in a salary-cap league like the NHL, but it’s also true that the sooner a franchise wins, the easier it is to make tough decisions. Ask Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos if winning a World Series made Freddie Freeman’s exit easier. Shoot: Ask Raptors president Masai Ujiri if he could have given Kyle Lowry the same charitable outing without an NBA title.
Blue Jays management and ownership have long-term decisions looming and winning early brings a kind of currency, both financial and otherwise. So I’d rather the Blue Jays focus sooner rather than later on a swinging bullpen arm and misses (our Ben Nicholson-Smith doesn’t a good job deal with it) and add a lefty bat of some consequence.
The Blue Jays’ balance issues didn’t go away when José Ramírez re-signed with the Guardians. If anything, as Kevin Barker has suggested, the type of elite pitching the Blue Jays have seen so far should have validated the need for balance more than feasting on bad teams. The Blue Jays’ needs now are what they were then, and since the draft moved from June to July, there should be enough organizational bandwidth available to move early if the opportunity presents itself.
Jeff Blair hosts Blair & Barker beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET on Sportsnet 590/The Fan and Sportsnet 360.