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With many of their best young position players now in the majors, the Blue Jays will focus on augmenting that group with some pitching.

Guaranteed Contracts

Randal Grichuk, OF: $43MM through 2023
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF: $15.9MM through 2023
Chase Anderson, SP: $8.5MM through 2020 ($9.5MM club option for 2021, $500K buyout)
Other Money Owed

Troy Tulowitzki, SS: $18MM through 2020 ($14MM salary, $4MM buyout of 2021 club option)
Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via Matt Swartz)

Matt Shoemaker – $3.8MM
Ken Giles – $8.4MM
Brandon Drury – $2.5MM
Luke Maile – $800K
Derek Law – $1.3MM
Ryan Dull – $800K
Anthony Bass – $1.7MM
Non-tender candidates: Maile, Dull
Free Agents

Justin Smoak, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Tepera, Devon Travis, Clayton Richard, Buddy Boshers
The Blue Jays wasted little time in adding to the rotation this offseason, acquiring righty Chase Anderson from the Brewers and exercising the $8.5MM club option on Anderson’s services for the 2020 season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is also controllable via a $9.5MM club option for 2021, making him more than just a pure single-season pickup.

Anderson hasn’t been overly impressive over the last two seasons, totaling 1.5 total fWAR and a 105 ERA+ over 297 innings. He has worked mostly as a starter, though Milwaukee also tended to limit Anderson’s outings before he faced batters for a third time last season. Still, he has been a relatively durable pitcher over those two years and there is some potential in a change of scenery, even to the tough AL East.

As a pitcher with some degree of success over six MLB seasons, however, Anderson still represents an upgrade for one of the league’s shakiest rotations in 2019. Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack are also tentatively penciled into the 2020 starting five based on their generally average results from last season, while Ryan Borucki is an even bigger maybe given that he only pitched 6 2/3 Major League innings due to recurring elbow problems. Matt Shoemaker is also looking to return from an injury-shortened year, though perhaps due to some unease about his projected $3.8MM arbitration salary and how Shoemaker will rebound from a torn ACL, the Jays haven’t gotten far in contract talks with the veteran righty.

Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Sean Reid-Foley, and Thomas Pannone will also be competing for spots in Spring Training. Top prospect Nate Pearson is likely to debut sometime in 2020, if almost certainly not on the Opening Day roster (for both service-time reasons and because Pearson has only 18 IP at the Triple-A level).

Since 2020 will be another rebuilding season for the Jays, they will have time to evaluate these and probably many other young arms to see who could factor into the plans for 2021, the date that team president/CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have loosely (though far from officially) mentioned as the starting point for a new era of competitive baseball in Toronto. The front office has been clear, however, that more new faces will be added to the pitching mix, and the Blue Jays will be willing to spend beyond the level of just veteran reclamation projects, i.e. their acquisitions of Clayton Richard or Clay Buchholz last offseason.

There’s certainly room in the budget, as Roster Resource projects the Jays for a payroll of just under $70.25MM, and even that number could drop by a few million if a few arbitration-eligible players are non-tendered. Looking ahead to 2021, the Jays will have only Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the books since Troy Tulowitzki’s contract will finally be up.

There isn’t any financial reason Toronto couldn’t make a notable signing now, perhaps in the spirit of the Nationals’ deal with Jayson Werth in the 2010-11 offseason, which served as an announcement that a rebuilding team was ready to turn the corner. That being said, the Jays might have to severely overpay to convince a top-tier free agent (who surely would prefer to join a ready-made contender) to join a club that might not be ready to compete by 2021 at the earliest.

Yet while the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, or Hyun-Jin Ryu probably aren’t feasible, names such as Kyle Gibson, Julio Teheran, Tanner Roark, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, or maybe even Dallas Keuchel (who the Jays reportedly had some interest in last winter) could be possible fits, perhaps in some cases just on one-year contracts.

Beyond free agency, the Anderson acquisition could hint at the Jays’ optimal strategy for using their payroll space. The Blue Jays only gave up a minor prospect to take over the rights to Anderson’s option years from Milwaukee, and Toronto could similarly target other mid-range or better pitchers on teams that are looking to cut spending, whether it’s mid-market clubs like the Brewers or bigger-spending organizations who are looking to avoid the luxury tax.

This strategy could also be used to land position players, though the Blue Jays hope they have most of their everyday core already in place. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be at third base, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second base, and Gurriel in left field as the most promising cornerstones of the rebuild. Catcher Danny Jansen, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, and outfielder/DH Teoscar Hernandez are the somewhat less settled members of the group, with Reese McGuire also perhaps vying for a timeshare with Jansen behind the plate. Grichuk is the veteran member of the bunch with the long-term contract, though he’ll be looking to bounce back after a subpar 2019 season.

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This position was a weak spot for the Toronto Blue Jays. As the future looks bright at second base, the past showed the importance of a solid middle infielder. As division rivals had power-hitting second basemen, the Blue Jays focused this role to one who is great defensively. In his second season with the Blue Jays, Devon Travis hit .300/.332/.454 in 101 games. In the process, Travis hit 11 Home Runs and 50 RBIs. After missing the entire 2019 season in Toronto Devon Travis was released by the Blue Jays.

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Third Base
Josh Donaldson (2015)
In his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays, the “Bringer of Rain” did not disappoint. During the 2015 season, Donaldson hit .297/.371/.568 with 41 Home Runs and 123 RBIs. As a result, Josh Donaldson became the second Toronto Blue Jay to win the American League Most Valuable Player award, and the first one to do it since 1987. Donaldson also won two Silver Slugger Awards with the Blue Jays in 2015 and 2016. Josh Donaldson made his second All-Star appearance in 2015 and even partaking in the 2015 Home Run Derby. Donaldson would play four seasons with the Blue Jays until he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2018.

Short Stop
Bo Bichette (2019)
Similar to second base, few Toronto Blue Jays shortstops made an impact both offensively and defensively. As such, only two candidates truly stand out; Troy Tulowitzki and Bo Bichette. Despite playing just 46 games with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019, Bo Bichette becomes the Blue Jays All-Decade Short Stop. In 212 plate appearances, Bichette hit .311/.358/.571 with 11 HR and 21 RBIs. Assuming he played the full season, he would have made this Blue Jays team better. Bo Bichette set the MLB rookie record for most consecutive games hitting a double with nine. Bo represents an exciting future for the Toronto Blue Jays that hopefully will lead this team back to the postseason.

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Left Field
Adam Lind (2011)
Adam Lind played nine of his 12 seasons as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been one of their most inconsistent players over the years. Lind had incredible seasons with the Toronto season with his best this decade being in 2011. In 125 games, Lind hit .251/.295/.439 with 26 HR and 87 RBIs. Often the Designated Hitter, Lind also played Left Field and 1st Base. Fun Fact, when the Blue Jays were designing their new logo ahead of the 2012 season, Adam Lind was one of the Blue Jays who were consulted about it.

Center Field
Vernon Wells (2010)
In his final season with the Toronto Blue Jays, Vernon Wells did not disappoint. In 157 games Wells hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 Home Runs and 88 RBIs. Wells earned his third all-star appearance in 2010 alongside fellow outfielder Jose Bautista. During his tenure, Wells remained a staple for the Toronto Blue Jays lineup. He played twelve seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. Wells ended his 15-year career with the New York Yankees.

Rowdy’s walk rate was 7.1% (team average: 8.4%) and strikeout rate was 28.4% (team average: 24.9%).

His line drive rate was 23.7% (team average 21.0%), ground ball rate 38.5% (team average 39.8%) and fly ball rate 37.7% (team average 39.2%). His fly balls were leaving the park 21.6% of the time (team average 15.8%).

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His hard contact rate was 41.6% (team average 37.9%) and soft contact rate was 15.6% (team average 17.9).

His BABIP was .267 (team average: .280).

Tellez hit left-handers (.270/.317/.513) much better than right-handers (.208/.283/.420). I’m thinking it isn’t something that will carry over.

He hit a little better on the road (.246/.316/.457) than at home (.210/.272/.441).

With runners in scoring position he hit .223/.283/.447.

He hit better in the second half (.225/.320/.468) than the second half (.228/.281/.440).

Tellez by month:

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April: .221/.291/.455 with 5 home runs, 6 walks and 27 strikeouts in 25 games.
May: .247/.295/.438 with 4 home runs, 5 walks and 27 strikeouts in 24 games.
June: .205/.253/.452 with 5 home runs, 5 walks and 21 strikeouts in 22 games.
July: .240/.269/.320 with 0 home runs, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts in 7 games.
August: ..167/.286/.278 with 1 home run, 5 walks and 8 strikeouts in 11 games.
September: .257/.346/.586 with 6 home runs, 7 walks and 25 strikeouts in 22 games.
Rowdy was sent to Buffalo on July 15th to August 13th. There wasn’t an immediate improvement, like with a few of the others who went to Buffalo but he finished the season strong.

Defense? FanGraphs has him at a 5.1 UZR/150. I’m not a big believer in those stats for first basemen but he looked good enough there to me. He made 2 errors for a .996 fielding average. I don’t think he was as good at scooping low throws as Smoak was but he seemed fine at the position.

FanGraphs has him at -1.6 runs on the basepaths.

In games he started Rowdy hit:

3rd: 6 games.

4th: 39 games.

5th: 17 games.

6th: 22 games.

7th: 11 games.

8th: 6 games.

The Jays were 41-70 in games he started.

His longest hitting streak was 8 game, longest on base streak was 9 games. The longest he went without a home run was 17 games.

His favorite game to face? Rowdy hit .372/.440/.930 in 12 games against the Red Sox.

Least favorite? He hit .136/.136/.136 in 6 games against the Twins.

Rowdy didn’t exactly settle the issue of who is the first baseman of the future. I’m going to try to take his good finish as good omen for the future. He really has to learn to take a walk a bit more often and chase less, hopefully that will come.

I’d imagine the team will plan for him to be the first baseman next year, but likely will pick up a veteran to give them a fallback.

There was the moment he was benched for not running out a ground ball. I tend to think that stuff is overblown. I’d like the guys to run when they hit the ball to the third base side. When it is hit to the first base side, there really isn’t any point other than to show off. I often say the only players I’ve seen run hard every time were Brett Lawrie and Vernon Wells and they spent too much time with hamstring troubles.

But I get the feeling there was something else going on with Rowdy. The team wanted to make a point of some sort with him and thought that this was the best way to do it. Maybe it worked, he did hit much better after sitting out the game. Who knows, maybe it was a wake up call for him, maybe it told him that he has to listen to his coaches. Maybe it told him that he didn’t have a guaranteed job.

He seems like a very likeable guy. I think it will be interesting to watch the rest of his career. With the power he has, he’ll get tons of chances to prove himself. Maybe not as many chances as Justin Smoak got, but, if the Jays were to give up on him, some other team will give him a chance or three.

Right Field
Jose Bautista (2010)
The 2010 season was a breakout season for Jose Bautista. After failing to make the starting line up on four different teams, he found his true potential in Toronto. In a season where the Blue Jays would hit the most HR in a single season with 254 Home Runs, Jose Bautista hit 54 of them. In 161 games, Bautista hit .260/.378/.617 and drove in 124 runs. During 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, Bautista became a six-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger. In addition to providing the Blue Jays with the Batflip heard around the world, Bautista put the Blue Jays ahead of the Texas Rangers in the 2015 American League Division Series.

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Designated Hitter
Edwin Encarnacion (2012)
With eight great seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s hard to pick just one season. In 2012, Edwin hit .280/.384/.557 with 42 Home Runs and 110 RBIs in 151 games. Although this could be Edwin’s best season of his career, he didn’t make the All-Star team. The organization changed the day he signed with the Cleveland Indians on December 23, 2016. After the 2019 season, Edwin Encarnacion became a free agent currently seeking a new team at the age of 37.

Line Up
SS – Bo Bichette (2019)
3B – Josh Donaldson (2015)
CF – Vernon Wells (2010)
RF – Jose Bautista (2010)
DH – Edwin Encarnacion (2012)
1B – Justin Smoak (2017)
C – Russell Martin (2015)
LF – Adam Lind (2011)
2B – Devon Travis (2016)
Bench
Michael Saunders (2016)
J.P. Arencibia (2011)
Troy Tulowitzki (2016)
Colby Rasmus (2013)

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lex Gonzalez turns 46 today.

We’ve had two shortstops named Alex Gonzalez, this is the first.

This Alex was a member of the Blue Jay from 1994 to 2001.

Gonzalez was drafted in the 14th round of the 1991 amateur draft. He turned out to, very easily, have the best career of any player taken in that round of that draft. He rose quickly thru the Jays minor league system and started the 1994 season as the Jay’s starting SS at the age of 21 but after 15 games he had a .151 batting average and the Jays gave the job to Dick Schofield. It would have been good if the team had a bit more patience with him, Schofield was nearing the end of a ok career, but, by then, he wasn’t a guy you’d want to play short for you.

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Alex was on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list 4 straight years moving to as high as 4th in 1994. To give you some idea Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were 6th an 7th on the list that year. I doubt that Baseball America brags about that. He did have power and speed potential with a terrific glove. The bat just didn’t come around like they figured. He just never learned not to chase bad pitches. He struck out too much. And, to show they weren’t alone in over-estimating him, in the 1995 Bill James Player Rating book Bill said ‘My guess is he’ll be an All-Star’.

In the strike shortened 1995 season he took the SS role and held it for 7 seasons. He was never great with the bat, but he should have had two or three gold gloves in his career. In 1995 he played in 111 games of the 144 games the Jays got in, hitting .243/.322/.398 with 10 homers. But 114 strikeouts in 367 at bats was a bit much. He would have fit in well with today’s Jays.

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In 1996 Alex got into 147 games and hit 14 home runs, but hit just .235/.300/.391 with 16 steals. But his defense is what made him a useful player, Alex did make 21 errors but he led AL shortstops in total chances with 765 and double plays with 122 double plays.

In 1997 he missed some games with a fractured finger but still led AL shortstops in fielding average at .986. He hit .239/.302.,387 in 126 games with 12 home runs. Then in 1998 he set career highs in games played with 158 and stolen bases 21 but hit even worse than normal with a OPS+ of just 66.

Most people may be surprised to learn that Tony Fernandez is actually Toronto’s career leader in WAR at 37.5. Looking at his offensive numbers, Fernandez didn’t do much with the bat and lacked a huge presence in the Blue Jays lineup. However, he did hit for a good average and was a steals threat which makes him an ideal candidate for the leadoff spot. Fernandez’s best trait was his defense where he won four straight Gold Gloves and rated as the best defender in franchise history.

Honorable Mentions: Marco Scutaro, Alex Gonzalez

Third Baseman
Josh Donaldson
2015-18: 331 Runs, 116 HR, 316 RBI, 17 SB, .281 BA/.383 OBP/.548 SLG

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Staring at third base is the only player still currently playing in the bigs, Josh Donaldson. The Blue Jays essentially stole Donaldson from the Athletics as he went from an All Star caliber player to a superstar. He starred in the heart of the order and provided Toronto with a contact hitting power threat that did a bit of everything. He was an All Star the first two seasons with the club and won MVP honors in 2015. With them out of contention and Donaldson heading towards free agency, he would be traded during the 2018 season.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Gruber, Rance Mulliniks, Brett Lawrie

Left Fielder
George Bell
1981-90: 641 Runs, 202 HR, 740 RBI, 59 SB, .286 BA/.325 OBP/.486 SLG

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George Bell will bring another power threat to a lineup that already features a bunch of other power righties. He was a star for the Blue Jays during the mid to late 80s and was able to capture three straight Silver Sluggers beginning in 1985. However, his most impressive accomplishment was winning MVP in 1987. There wasn’t much love when it came to the Hall of Fame voting for Bell but he will forever remain a Toronto great.

The 1999 season for Alex started great, hitting .292/.379/.416 in 38 games before he suffered a torn Labrum in his right shoulder and missing the rest of the season. In 2000 he played in 141 games and hit .252 with 15 homers and 69 RBI. He also led the AL with 16 sacrifice bunts. Leading the AL in sac bunts isn’t exactly a sign that your manager likes your bat. Alex is number 2 on our all-time line in sac bunts, and I don’t think anyone will catch him.

2001 Alex got into 154 games and hit 17 home runs to set career highs in runs (79) and RBI (76). He hit a big .253/.313/.404, his highest batting average, for the Jays, in a full season. He also stole 18 bases but was caught 11 times. He also led the AL in chances, assists and double plays at short. For some reason he batted mostly in the 2nd spot in the order. Boy that Buck Martinez was a heck of a manager.

After the 2001 season, JP Ricciardi became the Blue Jay GM and wanted to cut salary and Gonzalez was traded to the Cubs for Felix Heredia and James Deschaine. He spent 2.5 seasons with the Cubs getting into the playoffs with them in 2003 losing out in the NLCS to the Florida Marlins. Gonzalez had a great NLCS hitting 3 home runs driving in 7 runs in their 7 game loss. But he also made the big error in the 8th inning of game 6 that allowed the Marlins to score 8 runs.

In 2004 he was traded to the Expos as part of the 8 player, four team trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and Orlando Cabrera to Boston. He also played for San Diego, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia before retiring in 2006.

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With the Blue Jays he played 890 games (putting him 20th all-time among Blue Jays position players, and number 3 among shortstops behind Tony Fernandez and Alfredo Griffin), hit .245/.304/.386 with 83 home runs and 85 steals. Career he played in 1396 games, hitting .243/.302/.391 with 137 home runs and 07 steals.

Omar Vizquel won the Gold Glove 9 years in a row from 1993 to 2001 but some of those seasons Alex was the best defensive shortstop in the AL, but getting Gold Glove voters to look at statistics isn’t easy and if they did they wouldn’t understand them. For a player that didn’t hit well Alex had a long career in the majors, playing 13 seasons. Gonzalez was a favorite of female fans, “Marry Me Alex’ signs often appeared at Skydome.

Alex is married , I’m guessing it wasn’t to someone who held up a sign, and he has two children. He does charity work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Happy Birthday Alex. I hope it is a good one.

It is also pitching coach Pete Walker’s birthday. Pete turns 50 today. With the off-day, I hope he celebrates.

Pete also pitched for us. In parts of 4 seasons, from 2002 for 2006, with a season pitching with the Yokohama Bay Stars mixed in (10 starts, in 2004, putting up a 6.80 ERA). He the Jays he pitched in 124 games, making 31 starts. He was 19-14 with a 4.32 ERA and he had 4 saves.

He also pitched a for the Mets, Padres and Rockies. In total he pitched in 144 games, 31 starts, 4.48 ERA. In 339.1 innings, he allowed 362 hits, 48 home runs, 133 walks with 191 k. Batters hit .275/.342/.453 against him.

The Jays hired him to be pitching coach of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011, then moved him up to bullpen coach for the major league team in 2012. In 2013 he took over as pitching coach.

I think he is underrated as a pitching coach. He seems to have a great relationship with all the pitchers. J.A. Happ, back in 2016, said that one of the reasons he signed with the Jays was to work with Walker.

Happy Birthday Pete. Enjoy it.

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Only a few years ago, the Toronto Blue Jays were drawing more than 3 million fans to the Rogers Centre over the course of the season, and there was a good baseball vibe in this hockey-mad city.

Winning will do that.

But after a soul-crushing, 95-loss season, attendance crashed this year to 1.7 million, or an average of 21,606 fans for 81 home games. That figure positioned the Blue Jays at No. 22 overall in attendance among the 30 clubs, according to ESPN.

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Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Blue Jays also ranked No. 22 in payroll, having committed just over $111 million to salaries, according to Spotrac. But the richest teams don’t always win, of course, as the Boston Red Sox proved this year, failing to make the postseason with a payroll of $229 million.

But in Toronto, it’s been a steep and disappointing fall for a team that’s playing in one of the biggest markets in the majors.

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Today In: Business
“It didn’t come without a ton of frustration,” GM Ross Atkins said this week. “We obviously understand how difficult that was for fans.”

In 2016, the year when the Blue Jays lost the American League Championship Series for the second straight year, Toronto was No. 3 in major-league attendance with 3.3 million fans, for an average attendance of 41,880.

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There was lots to cheer about. Toronto had marquee players like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and a solid pitching staff anchored by Marcus Stroman.

In 2017, there was a carryover effect when attendance held steady at 3.2 million. The Blue Jays remained a good team, but you could see the bottom starting to fall out.

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The Blue Jays lost a million fans in 2018 as attendance plummeted to 2.3 million amid a continuing decline in team performance. Toronto won only 73 games in 2018. And most of the big-name players were gone.

Ron Fairly, a left-handed-hitting outfielder and first baseman who played in the big leagues for 21 seasons, won three World Series championships with the Dodgers, was among the Montreal Expos’ first stars and was the Blue Jays’ first All-Star, has died at the age of 81.

News of Fairly’s death was announced on Wednesday by the Mariners, for whom he worked as a broadcaster for 17 seasons.

“Ron was a key voice in our history,” Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather said. “He joined our team at the start of an important era of Seattle baseball, beginning the same year as Lou Piniella and bringing over a decade of exciting baseball to our fans on TV and radio. Our thoughts are with his three sons: Mike, Steve and Patrick; and his grandchildren.”

Fairly, who grew up in southern California and played two seasons for USC (where he was a teammate of future Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick), broke into the Majors with the Dodgers in 1958 and played for them for parts of 12 seasons, becoming their starting first baseman in 1962. He played in four World Series for Los Angeles, which won the championship in 1959, ’63 and ’65. Fairly hit .376 with two homers and 6 RBIs in Los Angeles’ seven-game victory over the Twins in the ’65 World Series.

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He remained with the Dodgers until June 1969, when he was traded to the expansion Expos for Maury Wills and Manny Mota. Fairly had struggled with the bat the season prior to the trade, but his hitting improved with the Expos, for whom he hit .276 with 86 homers and 331 RBIs in 718 games until he was traded to the Cardinals following the 1974 season. He was a National League All-Star in ’73, when he hit .298.

Fairly’s contract was purchased late in the 1976 season by the A’s, who traded him to the Blue Jays before the start of Toronto’s inaugural season in ’77. He hit .279 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs in 132 games while moving around from first base to left and right fields and designated hitter. He was the Blue Jays’ lone representative in that year’s All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, getting into the game as a pinch-hitter.

He is the only player to represent both Canadian teams in an All-Star Game.

This season, the Blue Jays got rid of more players who had been here for the good times such as Kevin Pillar and Stroman.

And with a no-name pitching staff, the club’s performance sank further as Toronto mustered only 67 wins this season.

Let’s put this in perspective: The Jays record of 67-95 (.414) was the worst in Toronto in almost 40 years.

The worst-performing Blue Jays team was the 1979 club that finished 53-109 (.327). Of course, the Jays were a new franchise born in the 1977 season.

Of course, it’s hard to compare this year’s crop of Blue Jays to the ones that captured back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

The architect of those clubs was general manager Pat Gillick, and there was money to spend on free agents. Gillick also pulled off some shrewd trades, the best of which was acquiring Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar from the San Diego Padres for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez in 1990.

Carter and Alomar became key factors in those World Champion teams.

In the Gillick days, the team was owned by the Labatt Brewing Company. Rogers Communications has owned the team since 2000.

Back in 1993, the team payroll was just over $47 million and included the two highest-paid players in the game with Carter earning $5.5 million and Jack Morris right behind at $5.4 million.

So, will the Blue Jays throw money at the problem? It’s hard to tell because the Jays haven’t committed to anything other than saying they will continue to build on the young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette.

In fact, the success of the kids will allow Toronto to speed up their timeline when they can be competitive again. But the Blue Jays’ needs are many, and they start with pitching and hitting.

The Blue Jays were last in the Al in hitting for average at .236 and eighth in earned-run average at 4.79.

Atkins has said the Blue Jays will add to the youthful core “in an aggressive, significant way” and said the team has the “flexibility” to do that. But the GM added that it doesn’t mean they plan to fill every hole with free agency.

It’s reasonable to suggest Toronto will not land potential Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. But there are free agents in the next tier down that could be intriguing, including Jake Odorizzi, Zack Wheeler and Dallas Keuchel.

Team president and CEO Mark Shapiro and Atkins are under contract for only one more season in 2020, so there is pressure on them to start building this off-season.

To Blue Jays fans, their work can’t start soon enough.

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There are two years remaining in Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, but a growing rift between the two sides suggests negotiations are going to be bumpy.

The latest conflict stemmed from a conference call between reporters and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He told them, “Every day you get more information. And we’ve had time to connect with 27 of the clubs … we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades.”

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That set off alarm bells in the players union, which is wary of teams sharing information and suppressing the open market. Back when labor discord was the norm, owners colluded after each offseason from 1985 through 1987, and even outright refused to offer contracts to some of the biggest star free agents (including Kirk Gibson, and Hall of Famers Tim Raines, Paul Molitor, and Jack Morris). MLB eventually settled their collusion cases by paying $280 million to the players.

The collective bargaining agreement clearly states, “Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs.”

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MLB collusion, explained
Tony Clark, a former player and the current executive director of the players association, issued a statement in response to Anthopoulos’ comments.

So now the Nationals become one of those Ghostbuster teams that will be remembered, just from this baseball century, along with the Red Sox of 2004 and the Cubs of ’16. The Red Sox of ’04 ended 86 years of waiting in Boston and the Cubbies ended 106 years of waiting on the North Side of Chicago. Now we know how long they waited for another World Series champ in our nation’s capital, even if these Nationals aren’t the old Senators.

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Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 22 WSH 5, HOU 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 23 WSH 12, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 25 HOU 4, WSH 1 Watch
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Gm 5 Oct. 27 HOU 7, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 29 WSH 7, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 30 WSH 6, HOU 2 Watch
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We will remember so much about the 2019 Nationals, and all the times when they were like a tennis player with match points against them. All the elimination games began with the very first game in October, their National League Wild Card Game against the Brewers with — who else? — Max Scherzer out there as the starter.

And we sure will remember how, in October 2019, the Nationals took out the 106-win Dodgers and then the 107-win Astros in the World Series. In all, counting the Brewers, the Nationals beat four teams that combined for 393 victories this season. Send up a flare the next time somebody does that.

The Nats showed how random October can be in our game. But we saw something else over the remarkable month of baseball that ended on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park: how randomly October treats some of the greatest ace pitchers of all time. Good and bad.

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It happened with Scherzer, who flipped his own postseason narrative in such a big way, and with Stephen Strasburg, who went 5-0 and is now a made October man forever. It happened with Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, arguably the two greatest pitchers of their generation.

You start with Verlander, who may yet receive his second American League Cy Young Award this season, and without whom the Astros wouldn’t have won the 2017 World Series. No star pitcher, no ace, has a more complicated October resume than Verlander does. He has appeared in 13 AL Division Series games in his career, with an 8-1 record and a 2.52 ERA. In 11 AL Championship Series starts, he is 6-4 with a 3.13 ERA.

In the World Series? They even know on the moon that Verlander has now started seven Series games in his career, posting an 0-6 record with a 5.68 ERA. He had a chance to even the Fall Classic at one game apiece at home. Could not. He had a chance to shut down the Nationals and win the Series in Game 6 on Tuesday night. And could not. You think October isn’t random for Hall of Fame starters. Look at Verlander. Then think again.

Scherzer battles in Game 7 start
Scherzer battles in Game 7 start
01:13
Oct. 30th, 2019
Now we look at Scherzer, who twice in this World Series pitched without his best stuff and showed you all of his athletic fight and all of his athletic character. He did it in Game 7, going up against Zack Greinke on a night when Greinke was clearly better. Scherzer leaves this October not just with the World Series trophy but also with a 3-0 record and a terrific 2.40 ERA in six postseason games (five starts).

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But guess what? Before this October, Scherzer’s lifetime record in the postseason was 4-5, with a 3.73 ERA in 16 games (13 starts). And before the Nationals came back against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Game, Scherzer’s teams, in Detroit and Washington, had lost the last seven postseason games in which he’d pitched (six of them starts). His record? 0-4. But once the Nats did beat the Brewers, Scherzer got the chance to flip his personal narrative forever. Boy, did he ever.

Before this October, Strasburg had gotten two cracks at the postseason with the Nationals, in 2014 and then in ’17. He made three starts, winning one and losing two. But you saw what he just did. You saw the way Strasburg pitched in NL Division Series Game 5 against the Dodgers, and you saw what he did on Tuesday night in Game 6, the game of his life, pitching all the way into the ninth inning en route to the World Series MVP Award.

Strasburg on Nationals WS win
Strasburg on Nationals WS win
07:43
Oct. 31st, 2019
Strasburg’s team ended up winning the World Series. Greinke’s team ended up losing it, even though he pitched the game of his life on Wednesday night before Astros manager AJ Hinch pulled him after just 80 pitches, when he had given up his first run of the game on Anthony Rendon’s homer and walked Juan Soto. So it became Scherzer’s night, and Patrick Corbin’s, and Daniel Hudson’s. Of course, people will remember what Greinke did, the way they remember how gallantly the Braves’ John Smoltz pitched in a 1-0 Game 7 loss to the Twins in 1991. But that night is remembered as the defining moment of Jack Morris’ career, not Smoltz’s. Morris’ team won.

And for all the regular-season games Kershaw has won for the Dodgers, you know that his own legacy is defined by all the times when he came up short in October, culminating with the back-to-back homers he gave up to Rendon and Soto in Game 5 of the Dodgers-Nats NLDS.

So now Verlander and Kershaw have appeared in 12 World Series games between them. They have combined for one victory. As mentioned, Verlander’s lifetime ERA in the Series is 5.68. Kershaw’s is 5.40.

They are both Hall of Fame pitchers. So is Scherzer. Strasburg might end up in the Hall of Fame as well. So, too, might Greinke, whose lifetime record has him nearly 100 games over .500 for the regular season. They were all part of another Ghostbusters postseason. You know the deal now, with this remarkable handful of aces.

Only Scherzer and Strasburg walked away winners.

“The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system,” Clark said. “The clear description of Club coordination is egregious, and we have launched an immediate investigation looking into the matter.”

As always, context matters. The Anthopoulos quote was an answer to a question. Some Braves beat reporters took the answer to mean he was gauging the trade market. Anthopoulos said as much in response to the MLBPA statement.

“In advance of the general managers meetings, I called around to clubs to explore the possibility of potential offseason trades. At no time during any of these calls was there discussion of individual free agents or the Braves’ intentions with respect to the free agent market,” he said. “To the extent I indicated otherwise during my media availability on Monday, I misspoke and apologize for any confusion.”

The investigation into Anthopoulos’s comments probably won’t lead to any sort of sanctions (maybe a sternly written letter), but that’s not the point. Clark was still right to issue the statement he did. He has to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

The owners have gotten the upper hand over players in labor negotiations for most of this century, curbing costs whenever possible. The last few CBAs have limited amateur spending, both domestically with the draft and internationally with caps on signing bonus pools.

The next thing for owners to limit is spending on major league players, something they’ve essentially accomplished the last two offseasons. The average of the league’s top 125 salaries dropped from $17.9 million to $17.8 million, despite big new contracts handed out to elite players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado last winter.

The average salary in MLB declined in each of the last two seasons, even thought the sport is bringing in record revenue, including a reported $10.3 billion last year. From 2014 to 2018, MLB revenue increased 14.4 percent but salaries went up just 7.2 percent. You can see why a divide between the two sides is growing.

Clark needed to say what he said because teams have become so used to having leverage that they’re no longer afraid of saying the quiet part out loud.

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Being traded for Josh Donaldson brought some unfair pressure on Julian Merryweather, and not being able to pitch much during the 2019 season didn’t help. Thankfully he’s finally back on the mound during Arizona Fall League play.
Some folks believe that the Blue Jays sold damaged goods to the Cleveland Indians when they traded Josh Donaldson before the August 30th deadline in 2018, but I don’t think it was a secret that Donaldson had been battling health problems. It also wasn’t a secret that the returning player, Julian Merryweather, had health issues of his own, having been under the knife for a Tommy John surgery prior to the trade.

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However, if there either party was “damaged goods” it might have been Merryweather, who has really struggled to get healthy after his elbow surgery in March of last year. He ended up returning in June and was activated in High-A with the Dunedin Blue Jays, but unfortunately he was shut down after just one start that lasted 4.0 innings.

Thankfully, Merryweather is finally healthy enough to compete again, and the Blue Jays are using what’s left of the Arizona Fall League to get him a few valuable appearances ahead of the 2020 campaign. He made his debut on Tuesday evening, throwing a scoreless inning to provide some encouraging signs.

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The hope is that he’ll be able to make at least a couple more stints before the AFL season concludes, and they’ll likely be of the one inning variety, at least according to a tweet from TSN’s Scott Mitchell. That makes sense given the trouble that Merryweather has had getting healthy, and there’s no reason to push him at this late stage in the year.

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The skinny: The Blue Jays are expected to make landing two top-of-the-rotation starters the off-season priority either via trade or free-agent signing, or both. Jacob Waguespack and T.J. Zeuch could also be in the mix, but likely end up at triple-A Buffalo to remain as starters if they don’t make the cut. The same could be said of callup Anthony Kay if he can’t earn a spot, and Julian Merryweather, the return on the Josh Donaldson trade. Veteran Matt Shoemaker should also be in the mix. Wilmer Font could also return in an opener role, though a regular rotation spot would be the preference.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

THE BULLPEN

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Ken Giles remains the closer — unless he’s dealt. After that, it’s too soon to tell. Canadian Jordan Romano could be in the mix. So, too, could any of Derek Law, Thomas Pannone, Sam Gaviglio and Jason Adam. The Jays will certainly look to add some arms.

The goal should be to have him completely healthy for the 2020 season, and where things go from there is anybody’s guess. He’ll likely need to pitch in A-ball again before moving up the organizational ladder, but at 28 years old he’s going to need to prove his value sooner than later as well. He still has a potentially electric arm that can push triple digits, and if he can stay healthy and put it to good use then hopefully he can get his career back on track.

Scott Mitchell

@ScottyMitchTSN
Julian Merryweather threw a scoreless frame in his first Arizona Fall League appearance last night.
He’s scheduled for a couple more one-inning stints over the next week before AFL wraps up.

At 28, he’s the oldest guy here.

“Old man strength is coming in handy.”#BlueJays

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According to a tweet from mlb.com’s Keegan Matheson, he sat around 95 miles per hour during his first outing, which is an encouraging sign. It would have been surprising to see him completely let loose during his AFL debut, For now, he’ll need to focus on repeating a delivery that he hasn’t been able to use consistently in 18 or 19 months, and it could be a while before he feels completely comfortable out there.

NEXT: Proof is in the postseason pudding
That said, it’s encouraging to see him on the mound again, even if he is the oldest player in the AFL at the moment. That hardly matters, as the only thing more important than the reps he’s getting now is the fact that he’s healthy enough to do it.

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It’s Damaso Garcia’s 62st birthday today.

Damaso was born in Moca, Dominica Republic. As a young man he was more into soccer than baseball, he was captain for the Dominican Republic’s national football (soccer) team at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1974. He was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1975.

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Damaso got up to the majors for a few games in 1978 and 1979, but the Yankees had Willie Randolph and Garcia wasn’t going to move him off second base. So the Yankees traded him, Chris Chambliss and Paul Mirabella to the Jays for Tom Underwood, Rick Cerone and Ted Wilborn, a trade that worked out pretty well for both teams. The Jays quickly moved Chambliss to the Atlanta Braves.

The Jays had the very unimpressive paring of future Boston Celtic star Danny Ainge and Canadian Dave McKay at second base so Garcia was a big upgrade at the position. Damaso had an OK rookie season with the Jays, hitting .278/.296/.381. Well maybe not so OK, pretty poor really when you add in that he stole 13 bases but was caught 13 times and hit into 14 double plays. He did hit 30 doubles. He finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting, getting 3 first place votes. It was a very thin rookie class that year, Joe Charboneau won the award that year, and he wasn’t a great player.

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Garcia had a poor strike shortened 1981 season, hitting .252/.277/.304, with steals in 13 of 16 attempts. 1982 was his first good season, the best of his career, he hit .310/.338/.399. He set career highs in runs (89), doubles (32) and stolen bases (54, second best in the AL). He became the first Jay to steal 50 bases. If he would have learned to take a walk, he’d have been a heck of a player. But, as he said, “I don’t like to walk and I don’t like to bunt.” Can you imagine a leadoff hitter saying that today? To be fair, at the time, most players from the Dominican didn’t like to walk. The line was ‘you couldn’t walk off the island’. Taking a base on ball was seen as, well, less than masculine.

Garth Iorg turns 65 today. He played with the Jays from 1978 to 1987.

Garth Iorg was born on October 12, 1954 in Arcata, California. He was drafted in the 8th round of the 1982 amateur draft by the New York Yankees. The Jays picked him in the 1976 expansion draft. He played for the Jays for 9 seasons batting .258/.282/.347 with a big 20 home runs in 931 games played.

Garth truly wasn’t a great player, he came to up to the Jays as a second baseman and hit like a 2B, with no power, few walks and no speed (23 career stolen bases). He is best known as the right handed half of the “Mullinorg” platoon third base tandem. Mulliniks was clearly the better player of that pair. Iorg only had one good season, 1985 batting .313/.358/.469 with 7 homeruns in 288 at bats. That was Toronto’s first season to make the playoffs, losing in 7 games in the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals. Garth wasn’t much help that series hitting .133/.188/.133 in 15 at bats. Other than that season, even though he was batting mostly against left-handers he was never great.

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At the time the Jays used a platoon system at three positions 3B, C, and DH. One of the changes in baseball in the last few years is that with the clubs carrying more pitchers is that it is harder to platoon at more than one position.

Garth came up to the Jays in the 1978 season and played 19 games mostly at second base. The Jays were a terrible team then, finishing 59-102 and Garth wasn’t any better batting .163/.218./163. He stayed in the minors for all of 1979. In 1980 he played 80 games as a utility player for a team that wasn’t much improved. He played 2B, 3B, LF, 1B and SS and hit .248/.286/.329.

In the strike season of 1981 Iorg played 46 games at 2B filling in for an injured Damaso Garcia and a handful of games at 3B and hit even worse .242/.269/.293. With the arrival of Bobby Cox, the 1982 season saw the start of the Mullinorg seasons. Playing 100 in games at 3B and 30 at 2B he had his best season to this point batting .285/.307/.365 and the Jays as a team started getting better finishing 78-84, with some of their future stars in place.

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In 83 the Jays had their first above .500 finish, 89-73 finishing 4th in the AL East. Garth hit as empty a .275 you could imagine with a .298 on base and .376 slugging. In 1984 we finished 2nd in the East but 15 games behind the Detroit Tigers who went on to win the World Series. Iorg had a terrible year at the plate .227/.244/.304 and really Rance should have been the full time 3B. In 1985 he had his good season, mentioned above.

In 86 we fell back to the middle of the pack in the AL East and Iorg fell back as a batter too batting 260/.303/.352. Kelly Gruber was called up this season and started pushing Garth out of the 3B platoon. Jimy Williams starting using him at 2B, since Damaso Garcia was wearing out his welcome in Toronto.

In 1987 Garth was our nominal regular second baseman. He was terrible, batting .210/.262/.284. The season was also terrible, we were swept in Detroit in the final series of the year to allow them to pass us for first place. Toronto lost their last 7 games that season. Iorg was the final out of the final game in Detroit with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

That was Garth’s last at bat with the Jays, he was a free agent after that and didn’t draw any interest from any major league team. He played his entire major league career with the Jays.

After the end of his playing career, Garth went into coaching; he managed at every minor league level in the Toronto Blue Jays system. He also worked for the Sosnick Cobb Sports Agency and was agent for a handful of young players. He worked as a roving instructor for the Milwaukee Brewers. He has three sons, each of whom was drafted by major league teams. He is the brother of former major leaguer Dane Iorg.

Garth is remembered for his strange batting stance, Wikipedia explains it as being on the toes of his front foot leaning back towards the catcher as the pitch was being thrown. Rance’s two word explanation is likely as good as anyone’s: “it’s unique.”

Happy Birthday Garth. I hope it is a good one.

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He was voted the Silver Slugger award as the best hitting AL second basemen and he received some MVP votes. The Jays had a number of good young players at that time, a number of the pieces that would get them into the playoffs with Willie Upshaw, Alfredo Griffin, Lloyd Moesby, Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Jim Clancy and Dave Stieb they had some good players that would grow together to become a good team.

In 1983 had an almost equally good year hitting .307/.336/.390. He stole a few less bases (31) but was proving himself to be a decent middle infielder, though maybe illustrating his biggest weakness, he drew his career high in walks that year, with a whopping 24.

1984 saw Damaso’s number fall off some, he hit .284/.310/.374 with 46 steals. He had a huge left/right split hitting .354 against lefties but .255 against righties. He he was always much better vs LHP. He made the All-Star team. Can you imagine a leadoff hitter with a .310 on base percentage making the All-Star team today? We had three players on the All-Star team that year, Dave Stieb started the game for the AL and Alfredo Griffin made the team, mostly because he traveled to the game with Garcia and when Alan Trammell was injured, well, Griffin was there.

In 1985, Garcia made the All-Star team again. Why? I don’t know, he hit a big .282/.302/.377 with 28 steals, but was caught 15 times, and scored 70 runs. He also received 2 MVP votes. The best news about 1985, for the Jays, was that we made the playoffs for the first time that season. Garcia lead off in all 7 games of our series loss to the Royals, hitting .233/.303/.367 with 4 runs, 4 doubles and 3 walks.

1986 was his last year with the team. He hit much the same as always (.281/.306/.375) but, while he always had a bit of a surly personality, he hit a new high in temper tantrums. Upset at being removed from the leadoff spot, that his friend Alfredo Griffin was traded in the offseason and that he had a bad game, had a little bonfire with some bats and his uniform in the clubhouse.

After the season Garcia was traded to Atlanta with Luis Leal for Craig McMutry. The trade didn’t do anything for either team. Garcia missed the 1987 season and played terrible in his few games in 1988. Before the 1989 season the Expos signed him as a free agent and hit much like he always had in 80 games, .281/.306/.375, with 9 steals and 6 times caught. After that season the Yankees signed him as a free agent but he didn’t make the team and he retired after 11 seasons.

Damaso had all the tools to be a really good player, he was good defensively but his refusal to take coaching or, you know, a walk, limited him. Bill James listed him as the 101st best second baseman in baseball history in his ‘New Historical Baseball Abstract’. That was several years ago, I’d imagine he would have fallen some since.

I like Ernie Whitt’s quote “When he was healthy and wanted to play he was the best second baseman in the game. But there were days when (he) simply didn’t want to play”.

A year after he retired he was found to have a malignant brain tumor. He had surgery to remove it and after chemo he was told he had 6 months to live, but he is still with us. Actually after further treatment he is living a normal life with just some minor effects to his speech and some movement problems. He had a minor stroke in 2001.

Happy birthday Damaso.

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Last year, then-closer for the Blue Jays Roberto Osuna was arrested in Toronto on an assault charge. He allegedly assaulted the mother of his then three-year-old son. The charge was eventually withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond, but Major League Baseball still suspended Osuna for 75 games without pay.

Due to the off-the-field ugliness, the Astros were able to acquire Osuna on the relative cheap, sending Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez to the Blue Jays. Osuna has been mostly great for the Astros since the trade, finishing the 2018 season with 12 saves, a 1.99 ERA, and a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings in his new uniform. This year, Osuna racked up an American League-high 38 saves with a 2.63 ERA and a 73/12 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.

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With the Astros holding a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth in ALCS Game 6 against the Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch called on Osuna to get the final three outs to send his team to the World Series. He ended up allowing a leadoff single to Gio Urshela, then a game-tying two-run home run to DJ LeMahieu. Nevertheless, the Astros won it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to José Altuve’s walk-off two-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman.

In the postgame celebration, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated reports that Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled towards a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got Osuna! I’m so … glad we got Osuna!” Taubman repeated the phrase half a dozen times. One of the reporters was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

The trade market offers a secondary path forward, and in both cases the Blue Jays appear intent on moving past the bounce-back, value-reclamation types they locked in on the previous two winters.

That they’re not ruling out Wheeler and Odorizzi – whom manager Charlie Montoyo knows from the Tampa Bay Rays – is interesting, as surrendering draft pick compensation had been a non-starter for them in years past.

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Should the Blue Jays sign a qualified free agent, they would lose their second-highest selection in the upcoming draft as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool. On the draft end, that means forfeiting a pick in the mid-40s overall along with the roughly $1.6 million in bonus pool room (based on 2019 slots) that comes with it – a steep but not prohibitive cost.

Either way, the Blue Jays have the spending power this winter to add multiple players who can make an impact.

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A home run off-season for the Blue Jays would include two starters that would make Shoemaker a three, Anderson a four, with one of incumbents Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton competing for five.

In that scenario, young arms like Nate Pearson, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Patrick Murphy, Hector Perez and Yennsy Diaz are all pushing upwards from triple-A Buffalo and double-A New Hampshire, offering the type of near-term depth so lacking in recent years.

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Should Pearson, as expected, and others force their way upward, the Blue Jays would then have surplus to trade ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, replenishing assets for the farm system.

Given how poor their pitching was in 2019 – remember how they sifted through 39 pitchers, including position players Luke Maile and Richard Urena, last summer? – such a scenario would present a massive leap forward.

Top that off with a couple of position players to bolster the kids, and the Blue Jays suddenly become a pretty interesting club.

Interesting enough to contend? Probably not, but enough to make a .500 season seem attainable, with bolder strikes that propel them into legit contention coming ahead of 2021.

Again, talking is easy. Doing is hard. Just like the grind of 162 games often lays the best-laid plans to waste, the winter’s churn does the same to the most carefully crafted spending scenarios.

But indications, at least to this point, are that the Blue Jays are trying in a way they haven’t the past few winters. That’s a start.

The Astros declined to comment on the issue and did not make Taubman available for an interview. That shouldn’t come as a shock because the Astros have organizationally failed repeatedly to meaningfully address Osuna’s behavior. GM Jeff Luhnow released a poorly thought out statement last July about Osuna, claiming that the Astros’ due diligence was “unprecedented,” and citing that Osuna is “remorseful” and “willingly complied with all consequences,” despite pleading not guilty and not having had his day in court yet, thus no consequences. The Astros released another statement in August defending their belief that “Roberto deserved a second chance.”

Later that month, Osuna went after his critics, saying, “Everybody is judging me for things they don’t know. I don’t like that.” In the postseason, teammate Ryan Pressly defended Osuna from a heckler, telling the fan, “You can talk all the sh– you want. Just don’t bring that stuff up.”

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The Astros also kicked out a fan who protested Osuna’s presence by holding up a sign displaying a domestic violence hotline number. After receiving plenty of criticism for that, the Astros decided to display flyers, featuring the National Domestic Violence Hotline number, in women’s restrooms at Minute Maid Park.

Taubman’s behavior is not the first strike for the Astros on this issue. Acquiring Osuna was strike one. Luhnow’s statement and the club’s subsequent statement were strikes two and three. Osuna’s backlash was strike four, Pressly’s defense of him was strike five, and the whole issue over the DV hotline sign was strike six. The Astros are in danger of having the side strike out on this issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Luhnow worked for McKinsey and Company, a management consulting firm, before getting into baseball. McKinsey has been consulting for the Astros since 2017, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported in July. McKinsey has, ahem, a checkered past.

The Astros have clearly and intentionally thrown ethics to the side in order to run a baseball-related business. That they have repeatedly mishandled a very serious domestic violence issue within the sport shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Astros are hoping the issue goes away with the World Series set to begin on Tuesday.

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Bo Bichette has amassed a pretty impressive resume in his short time in the MLB. How will the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop do with a full season under his belt next year?
The Toronto Blue Jays fanbase could be heard in early May and June chanting in the stands, “we want Bo” over and over again. I can’t personally say I blame them to be honest.

Bo Bichette was performing well in the minor leagues, and even he was just patiently waiting for his cell phone to ring, bearing the news we all knew was coming. The issue was that there was nowhere for him to play given the current roster and he had missed some time early in the season with a broken hand.

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Then the news came down the pipeline that current shortstop Eric Sogard had been traded at the trade deadline to the Tampa Bay Rays, which meant the Bo Show was about to go North of the border.

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It was in Kansas City where Bichette would begin his major league career, a series that would churn out an impressive 6 hits in 13 at-bats, with 1 double, 1 home run, and 1 RBI.

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The Blue Jays have some tough decisions to make this off-season, and they’ll want to avoid trading or cutting another potential star like they did last year.
I would imagine that one of the hardest parts about being in a big league front office is knowing when to give up and move on from a player, especially a talented one who has yet to live up to their potential. Ross Atkins and the rest of the Blue Jays’ front office could be faced with that very situation this off-season, and unfortunately it’s one they’re familiar with.

Not every player hits the big leagues with the instant success that we saw from Bo Bichette last year, as the adjustment time for inexperienced players varies quite a bit. For some, things can click right away, and for others it might happen a few years into their career. The Blue Jays have enjoyed the success of a few late bloomers over the last decade, including former sluggers like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

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They also gave up on one a little too quickly a little over a year ago when Gio Urshela was allowed to get away, not realizing what he was about to become a season later. The Blue Jays traded him to the Yankees for cash considerations on August 4, 2018, and it turned out to be a terrible mistake.

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Maybe it was the change of scenery, but Urshela became an All-Star level performer for the Yankees, stepping into the starting third baseman’s job after Miguel Andujar was ruled out for the year, and producing so well the Bronx Bombers never had to replace him. He ended up slashing .314/.355/.534 with 21 home runs, 34 doubles and 74 RBI in 442 at-bats, and was one of the reasons that an injury-ravaged Yankee roster managed to stay on top of the AL East.

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If only the Blue Jays (or any of us, really) had seen it coming.

A year before, Urshela had some limited opportunities in Toronto and hit for a line of .233/.283/.336 in 19 games and 43 at-bats. He was there for infield depth, and his performance in Triple-A wasn’t enough to push for a roster spot in Toronto, or to ever dream that he’d transform that quickly into a big contributor. It’s a lesson in patience for the Blue Jays, even if it’s understandable why they moved on with the young talent they had to make room for in their infield.

Still, looking at what happened with Urshela has to make the Atkins and company have a little pause when they’re making roster decisions over the coming weeks and months. For example, they have a trio of high-ceiling outfielders that could be on the bubble, but right now you wouldn’t really blame the club for moving on if an upgrade presented itself.

Both Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford will be out of minor league options when next season rolls around, and they’ll need to find a place for Teoscar Hernandez if he’s not traded before spring training. They could all share some time in the outfield with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk, and perhaps get at-bats in the DH spot as well, but more likely the Blue Jays are going to have to move on from one or more of the outfielders making up the current glut.

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To be fair, I’m not exactly prepared to put my money down on any of Alford, Fisher, or Hernandez becoming All-Stars, but there’s no doubt that each of them possesses talent. Hernandez has shown himself to be a fairly significant power threat at the highest level, but he’ll need to either find a way to improve his defence even more, or perhaps settle in as the majority DH. That said, because he’s the most established of the three players we’re talking about here, I also think he could be included in a trade package this off-season.

As for Fisher and Alford, neither of them have done enough to warrant the Blue Jays reserving a spot on the 25-man (now 26-man) roster, let alone a starting spot in their complicated outfield. Ideally they would be able to use Gurriel Jr. and Grichuk in the corners and find an upgrade in centre, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll want to count on Fisher and Alford to fill that role. They could continue to slide Grichuk back and forth between right and centre, but even then Fisher’s not an ideal right field candidate with his weak throwing arm. Alford has had a hard time staying healthy over the years, and would be tough to count on to stay on the field, let alone produce.

It’s a situation that could see the Blue Jays making a few trades, or in a worst-case scenario, maybe a non-tender for one or both of them. They currently have space on their 40-man roster, so a decision like that is far from imminent, but it’s a possibility, and there’s no doubt there will be more players added to fold before spring training. Players like Alford or Fisher could end up having to be moved in order to make space for someone else.

The fear is that they’ll unlock that long-awaited potential in another market, especially when the Blue Jays could be forced to get pennies on the dollar or even nothing in return. That doesn’t mean you overvalue your own all the time, but there’s a reason that coaches and front office executives have more patience than the average fan.

NEXT: Another minor leaguer busted for PED use
Sometimes it takes a little longer before stardom kicks in for a big leaguer, and right now I’m sure that Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro, and rest of the brain trust are asking themselves that very question. Of the players that may not be part of the long-term picture, is there another Urshela, Bautista, or Chris Carpenter in the mix? Only time will tell, but those smaller decisions can make a significant franchise on a rebuild, and on the length of a GM’s contract.

This would continue onwards throughout the season, with Bichette finishing the 2019 campaign with an impressive .311/.358/.571, along with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 21 RBIs and a 2.1 WAR. In 46 games, he would also strikeout 50 times in 196 at-bats, which is something he will need to try and work on over the sophomore season.

Bo Bichette would also smash some records along the way, collecting a double in 9 straight consecutive games. He would also break the MLB record for hitting 10 extra-base hits in his first 9 career games and a Toronto Blue Jays record for starting his career with an 11 game hitting streak.

With that in mind, this is just a small glimpse of his ability, considering he only participated in 1/3 of the regular season.

Bo Bichette will 100% start next season as the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop (barring injury), and it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish with a full season on the horizon. He will have to work his way out of hitting slumps and tough times, something he never really experienced during his quick glance in 2019.

He will also deal with the rigorous schedule of 162 games with limited time off throughout the baseball season, another aspect that Bichette and the Toronto Blue Jays will have to limit and monitor over the year.

It will be interesting to see how Bichette performs this season, as he will be tasked with the tall order of being one of the prospects that will guide a franchise in the midst of a rebuild to the greener pastures of playoff baseball. Something Bichette doesn’t seem too fazed by and appears to be ready to take his game to the next level.

NEXT: Toronto Blue Jays: Battle for starting rotation spots this spring
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While playoff baseball in Toronto will most likely not be accomplished in 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays could potentially reach the promised land of October baseball within the next five years, and Bo Bichette will stand on the diamond with the other farm developed rookies on the forefront of that playoff-bound squad.

All hail the new King of the North.

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Tom Henke turns 61 today.

The Blue Jays got Henke as compensation for the Ranger’s signing of Jays free agent Cliff Johnson. At the time teams that signed another team’s free agent gave up a player to the original team. A team would protect some players and the team that lost the free agent would choose someone. It turned free agency into a trade. Generally the trades worked better for the team signing the free agent. In this case it worked out very badly for the Rangers. The Jays got the better player and a few months later the Jay’s traded a few players, who would never amount to anything, to get Cliff Johnson back. Basically the Rangers traded Tom Henke for 82 games worth of Cliff Johnson.

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Henke got the call up to the major league team at the end of July of 1985. In the final couple of months of the season Tom got into 28 games and earned 13 saves and had a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings pitched, one heck of a start to a career. Still it seems strange that Henke would receive MVP votes and some votes for Rookie of the Year including one first place vote. How does anyone figure that a guy that pitches 40 innings could be MVP or Rookie of the Year?

In 1986, Henke had his first full season as our closer and he was terrific, setting a new team record with 27 saves, winning another 9 with a 3.35 ERA in 91.1 innings in 63 games. He and Mark Eichhorn made a great pairing to end games for the Jays. With Eichhorn throwing slow junk with a submarine delivery, Henke coming in after throwing heat, he looked that much faster. The next season Henke broke his own mark for saves getting 34, pitching 94 innings in 72 games, with 128 strikeouts and giving up only 62 hits. No closer throws 94 innings these days. He earned MVP votes again coming in 13th in voting. That was the season George Bell won the award. He also made the All-Star team that year and pitched 2.2 shutout innings in the AL’s 13 inning loss. If a team’s closer threw 2.2 innings in an All-Star game now, there would be screams from that player’s team. This was also the season we blew the division lead at the end of the season against Detroit. Henke wasn’t blameless, blowing a save against them, but then he pitched 2.2 innings in that game, and only gave up the one run.

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But before the season began, Henke had decided he would hang up his spikes at year’s end. In fact, Henke and his wife Kathy had discussed him retiring after a tough 1994 season with the Rangers in which he’d dealt with a back injury before players went out on strike in August.

“I told Kathy, I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m done. I’m tired of all the politics in baseball and all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes.’ I said, ‘I’d just as soon go home and be with the family,’” Henke told Sporting News in a phone interview from his Taos, Mo., home.

Only a call from the Cardinals in the months before the 1995 season changed Henke’s mind. Teams would call Henke for two to three years thereafter, trying to coax him back, with Tony La Russa particularly keen. But Henke knew he was done. For one thing, he didn’t want to become another player who hung on too long. He went out on top.

“It’s nice to be remembered in that light,” Henke said. “People remember your last year and they remember how dominant and how good you were that year. They attribute it to the rest of your life, almost. That’s a nice thing, it really is, instead of having people say, ‘Well, you hung on too long.’”

It’s funny, though. Henke’s decision might have cost him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown chances: 10 percent

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Why: Both traditional and sabermetric measures suggest that just three or four more effective seasons in the majors might have vaulted Henke to near the top of the list of closers in baseball history.

Henke’s 12 Wins Above Average for his career are tied for 11th-best among relievers, according to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool. With a few more good years, Henke could reasonably have risen as high as Goose Goosage at third on this list with 16.4 Wins Above Average.

Among Hall of Fame relievers, at least in terms of sabermetrics, Rivera at 32.9 Wins Above Average and Hoyt Wilhelm at 26.9 are more or less in a class by themselves. Otherwise, it’s very much up for debate.

With a few more solid seasons, Henke also might have risen significantly up the list of save leaders. At the time of his retirement, Henke’s 311 saves ranked him fifth on the all-time list behind Lee Smith, Jeff Reardon, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley. Since then, he’s tumbled to 22nd. But if he’d gotten to 400 saves, a reasonable goalpost with three or four more good years, Henke would be seventh on the all-time list.

MORE: Ranking the 25 worst Hall of Fame selections ever

Saves are a flawed measure for relievers (they’re team- and situation-dependent), though they still determine much about how relievers are viewed in terms of all-time greatness.

Saves show Henke to have been among the best closers in baseball history. But there are plenty of other ways to measure his effectiveness. Debuting with the Rangers in 1982, he struggled with control in the early part of his career before the Blue Jays picked him up before the 1985 season.

With Toronto, Henke would go on to have some of the best years of his career and become renowed for his strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“I think it had to do with good mechanics,” Henke said when asked about this ratio. “I think all good pitching starts with delivering the ball properly to the plate with the least amount of effort.”

He added, “I was very fortunate to have some people in Toronto and Texas — but mainly in Toronto — that kind of tweaked and adjusted my mechanics and really got me in the strike zone (more) than I’d ever, ever been in my career. I know (Blue Jays pitching coach) Al Widmar told me at one point that for a power pitcher, I had as good of control as anybody he’d ever seen.”

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Henke was the centerpiece of one of the first deep bullpens in baseball history.

“In ‘92 when we won everything, we had myself and Duane Ward, David Wells, Mike Timlin, David Weathers,” Henke said. “You could go right down the line. We had a pretty sound bullpen all the way through and then we had a strong starting staff, too.”

But aches began to chip away at Henke — a groin injury in Toronto, his back ailment with the Rangers and all the wear that accumulates on pitchers over the years that fans might never fully hear about. Henke recalled a visit to famed arthoscopic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

Andrews told Henke, “Every time you throw a pitch, you tear your rotator cuff muscles. There are microscopic tears that go in there every time you use your arm like that.”

These tears could be repaired through a restful offseason, though Andrews’ words stuck with Henke. He could also see his physical ability beginning to fade.

“I just couldn’t do it much longer,” Henke said. “I understood that and I accepted that.”

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MORE: Hall of Fame shouldn’t forget Leo Mazzone and Johnny Sain

He admits that he almost certainly would have played a few more years had he not won a World Series ring with the Blue Jays in 1992. That’s what everyone plays for, after all.

“If we hadn’t won it, I might be coaching somewhere trying to get that ring in,” Henke said.

Henke is somewhat diffident on whether he belongs in Cooperstown.

“I don’t know,” Henke said. “I did the best I could when I played. I didn’t cheat, I didn’t use anything. I did it on natural ability. I worked hard every day. I think I represented the game.”

He added, “Tony La Russa, somebody asked him if I deserve to be in and he said, ‘Absolutely. Tom had everything you want in a Hall of Famer — longevity, helped the team win, represented the game the way it was supposed to be represented.’ I don’t know. I don’t dwell on stuff like that. It’s out of my control. Is 311 saves good enough? I don’t know.”

But Henke said he hasn’t rued his decision to walk away from baseball when he did. He’s maintained some involvement with the game, attending Cardinals fantasy camps, and said he’s happy to do things with the Blue Jays and Rangers when asked. He remains something of a celebrity every time he goes north of the U.S. border.

“They treat you so good, my wife said she has to shrink my head down when I come back home after I’ve been to Canada for awhile,” Henke said.

Over the past 22 years, Henke’s life has been about more than baseball. He’s gotten to watch his four children grow up, including a daughter, Amanda, who has Down Syndrome and still lives at home.

Working with Amanda has helped inspire Henke to run a golf tournament every October that has raised more than $1.3 million for charity, much of it for the Special Learning Center, a Jefferson City, Mo.-based school that benefits disabled children.

When he’s not running a 1,000-acre farm in Taos, close to where he grew up, 59-year-old Henke is going to Little League baseball games and other events with his seven grandchildren and spending time with his mother and father. In October, Henke and Kathy will celebrate 37 years of marriage.

“It was a good time to walk away,” Henke said of his retirement. “I know people say, ‘I guess you regret it.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t regret having all these years with my parents and seeing my kids grow up.’ I said, ‘How can you regret that?’”

In 1988 he dropped to 52 games and 25 saves, with newly acquired Duane Ward getting 15 saves and doing a terrific job as setup man. Henke also dropped under a strikeout an inning striking out 66 in 68 innings. In 1989 Henke had his best ERA as a Jay at 1.92 he had an 8-3 record in 64 games and 20 saves and Ward had 15 saves. They were a tremendous duo closing out games, clearly the best pair of relievers the Jays ever had. We won the AL East again that season, but lost out to the Oakland A’s in the ALCS in 5 games. Henke pitched in 3 of the games had 2.2 perfect innings.

In 1990 Henke got the lion’s share of the saves getting 32 while Ward got 11. Tom had another terrific season, finishing with a 2.17 ERA in 74.2 innings in 61 games striking out 75. In 1991 Henke spent some time on the DL in April and he finished with 32 saves while Ward had 23. Ward showed that he was in line to take over the closer job. Henke had a 2.32 ERA in 49 games. The Jays won the AL East again but lost out to the Twins in 5 games in the ALCS. Henke pitched 2.2 perfect innings in two appearances.

!992 was Henke’s last with the team, and that was the year we won our first World Series. Henke was a big part of it matching his franchise high of 34 saves during the season with a 2.26 ERA. He saved 5 more games in the playoffs, 3 in the ALCS against the A’s and 2 more in the World Series against the Braves. Though he did have a blown save in the last game, giving up a run to allow the Braves to tie the game in the 9th, but we won the game in the 13th.

After the season Henke was allowed to leave as a free agent and he signed with the Texas Rangers. He was 35 and we did have Duane Ward to take over his role on the team. He played two seasons with the Rangers saving 40 games in 1993 and then finished his career with St. Louis in 1995, saving another 36 games and getting MVP votes again. He finished his career with 311 saves, making him 24th all-time in saves.

Henke was the first real closer the Jays had and lived up to his name The Terminator. A big guy, 6’5”, imposing looking even with glasses and of course the hard fastball, forkball and slider he threw added to the scare he put into batters. To put it into perspective Henke’s strikeouts per 9 innings of 10.29 was better than Nolan Ryan’s (9.55).

He played pretty much at the end of the era of closers who would average more than an inning an appearance. I’d love to see that come back. I I don’t see why would shouldn’t have the best arm in the pen go a couple of innings when needed.

Tom is still our career leader in saves, 217. Duane Ward is second at 121. Roberto Osuna made it to third at 104 before being sent away. Ken Giles is the active leader at 14, good for 24th spot (23 more would get him into our top 10), so Henke’s record is safe for many years to come.

Henke really should be up on our ‘Level of Excellence’. There are few guys I liked watching more.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Terminator! I hope it is a great one.