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Both are intriguing options, and they’re expected to generate a whole lot of interest from major-league clubs.

There will be competition, but Atkins is interested and the front office has done their homework on the pair, as well as light-hitting infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi.

“Interesting talents that we’ve spent a lot of time on,” Atkins stated. “(Director of pro scouting) Ryan Mittleman has done a great job and (vice-president of international scouting) Andrew Tinnish has spent time on them, as well. We’ll continue to engage with their representatives and understand if they are potential fits or not. Both ways.”

Positionally, they both fit.

Budget-wise, they all should fit, as well, with none of the trio expected to break the bank.

Tsutsugo, who has mostly played corner outfield while also dabbling at first base and third base over parts of 10 seasons in Japan, will be the most expensive since he’ll have to be posted by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars by Dec. 5, meaning an MLB club will have to pay the release fee as well as the contract.

In addition to a touch of positional versatility — the prevailing thought, however, is that Tsutsugo will be below average no matter where he plays — there’s a lot of power in the bat and his ability to get on base (.382 carer on-base percentage) is especially intriguing for a Blue Jays club looking to improve its approach throughout the lineup.

He also fits in nicely with the young core at the age of 28.

“He’s an impressive hitter,” Atkins said. “A lot of fun to watch and an exciting talent. He’s an interesting player, for sure.”

Kikuchi is in the same boat, as the 5-foot-7, 152-pound second baseman is expected to be posted shortly by the Hiroshima Carp.

A top-notch glove, Kikuchi’s .261/.313/.406 slash line in his age-29 season this past year leaves a lot to be desired and he seems destined for a utility role, which isn’t necessarily a need for the Blue Jays.

Akiyama, on the other hand, is eligible for straight up free agency as a 31-year-old, and comes with an interesting blend of pop, speed and defence, slashing .303/.392/.471 with 55 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases this season.

The markets for all three players could take a while to develop, and that might be exactly what Atkins is hoping for, as the 46-year-old general manager has clearly stated his preference is to take care of the rotation before moving on to position players and bullpen help.

Blue Jays have decisions to make with offseason priorities
With needs in various positions throughout their lineup, what is the top priority for the Blue Jays this offseason? Could they potentially look internationally for some help? TSN Blue Jays reporter Scott Mitchell weighs in.

“The more we talk about our strategy publicly, the worse it is for our strategy or our ability to execute it,” Atkins said Wednesday at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. “I think the good thing about our situation right is the flexibility we do have to be agile.”

Despite some believing teams will try to get out ahead of things and set the market in certain areas, this off-season seems to be shaping up similarly to the past couple of years as teams are content to investigate trades and wait out free agents.

“It’s hard to say,” Atkins said. “I think if I had to pick one of two it’s probably closer to the last few years that we’ve seen. A lot of teams are focused on trades because of how many GMs are in this room over this week and there are a very large number of agents here, as well, but not to the same level of the winter meetings. I think there’s some pattern to it, but that also creates opportunity to think about creative ways to potentially find value in different ways.”

ROLES STILL BEING DEFINED

Versatility is en vogue in today’s game, and the Blue Jays have one player that will allow them to do different things in free agency if they wish.

That’s Cavan Biggio.

When he arrived in the big leagues in May, the Jays tried to make things simple for the 24-year-old by keeping him at second base as much as possible.

Biggio held his own at the keystone, posting a minus-1 Defensive Runs Saved mark in 84 starts.

Generally seen as a potential super-utility type while coming through the system, he’s made a case to be the everyday guy at second base, rather than bouncing around.

But his ability to play the outfield and first base gives Atkins some flexibility and the option to add a second baseman and shift Biggio around.

“He’s proven to us that he can be an everyday second baseman,” Atkins said. “Nothing’s ever done, etched in stone, he’s got a career ahead of him and a lot of things could transpire, but we’re confident in saying we feel he has the ability to do that. He also is extremely confident in playing other positions and going into the outfield. That just gives us more opportunity.”

Atkins also mentioned outfielder Teoscar Hernandez could potentially work at first base this winter, and stated the club hasn’t ruled out left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returning to the infield from time to time.

The GM also noted shortstop Bo Bichette, who cleared concussion protocol on the final day of the season back in September, and Gurriel, who had his appendix removed, are both 100 per cent and working out fully this off-season.

BULLPEN DEPTH NEEDED

Bullpens are always in flux and the Blue Jays’ relief corps is no different.

With teams focusing on starting pitching, there hasn’t been much Ken Giles trade talk at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, and a trade does not seem imminent.

The Blue Jays would be completely comfortable going into the season with Giles as their closer once again, giving them a shutdown arm at the back end of the bullpen.

Aside from Giles, right-handers Sam Gaviglio, Anthony Bass, Wilmer Font and Derek Law, Justin Shafer and Jordan Romano are all on the 40-man roster, but more proven depth will be needed.

“We’re going to need to add there,” Atkins said. “What we do feel good about is the depth of our 40-man roster, the number of guys that could potentially help our major-league team that will potentially be in Triple-A. We feel like we have a number of guys that will stabilize our bullpen a bit, but we’ll be looking to increase that level of execution with higher-leverage arms that have experience doing that. The starting pitching acquisitions that we, hopefully, make will have some impact on that at the same time.”

With Tim Mayza (elbow) out for the entire 2020 season, there could be a need for a left-hander, but Atkins doesn’t believe it’s a priority since you can find right-handers who can get lefties out.

“We haven’t been big on situational left-handed relievers,” Atkins said. “We like guys that can get multiple outs and we’ve, for the most part, deployed even our left-handed relievers that way. I think the industry, really, is using the situational reliever less and less.”

CATCHERS DRAWING INTEREST

One area of depth at both the major-league level and within the system for the Blue Jays is behind the plate.

Rival teams seem to realize that, as well, and Atkins has been fielding calls on Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, while also hoarding prospects Riley Adams, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno in the minors.

That depth could be used to add a starter in a trade at some point this winter.

“Yeah, we do feel that we do have some depth and other teams have let us know that by talking to us about those areas, our outfield as well,” Atkins said. “It could be an area that creates opportunities for us.”

Gurriel and, to a lesser extent, Hernandez would be the outfielders Atkins is talking about.

Other than that, there isn’t much outfield depth to speak of, but there’s an abundance of corner outfielders on the free-agent market that could be intriguing if Atkins deals one away.

MONTOYO MAKES A VISIT

With his first year as a big-league manager in the books, Charlie Montoyo showed up at the GM meetings on Tuesday, making the two-hour drive from his home in Tucson.

There was no real reason for the visit, other than to listen in on some conversations, provide input, and have a presence.

“A big factor is we want to spend as much time as we can together, and we’re a team,” Atkins said. “Any opportunities that we have to do that, we will, and him living in Tucson made that a bit easier. I think there’s a couple of other managers that are here, actually. But we’re doing this together. That’s the biggest reason.”

Much more at ease in his role now, Montoyo is confident the front office will be busy this off-season.

“Talking to agents, talking to players,” Montoyo said of what he’s been doing. “We met with players (Tuesday). We’ve been really aggressive talking to people, to teams, and that’s been fun for me to see and I appreciate Ross wanting me to be part of this process.”

It wasn’t a shocking development to hear Montoyo say they’re prioritizing starting pitching and despite being a big supporter of the opener as a way of getting through a long season, watching the playoffs gave him a reminder of how important it is to have arms that can pitch deep into games.

“The teams that got the horses, the starters that can take you deep in games, they win in the playoffs most of the time — and that’s what we saw,” Montoyo said. “The two teams that were in the World Series, they had those horses starting games and so they have a chance to win every game, every day. So that’s what I saw. Something that you all know. At the end of the day, you need those guys to win games. The starters that take you deep in games.”

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Carlos Delgado turns 47 today.

Carlos Delgado was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The Blue Jays signed him as an amateur free agent in 1988, when he was just 16. He went through the Jay’s minor league system as a catcher. He quickly became our top prospect; he hit 30 home runs in Dunedin in 1992 at 20 years old and then 25 the next season at Double-A Knoxville.

Carlos got called up to Toronto at the end of the 1993 season, our second World Series winner, but only got into a couple of games. The Jays gave him a ring anyway. The next season he started the year with the Jays. He played most of the games for the first couple of months, playing left field. Things started well, he had a 1.028 OPS on April 24th with 8 home runs, but it went downhill from there. He was sent back down to the minors in early June. He was hitting .215/.352/.438 when he was sent down. Cito never has had any patience with young players, it would have been nice if some patience was shown here. Bill James said that he would be an MVP candidate by 2000. He turned out to be an MVP candidate several times.

In 1995 the Jays brought Delgado up at the end of April but Cito used him mostly as a pinch hitter and he didn’t hit much in the 25 at bats he was given that month (it was more important to keep Joe Carter’s .300 OBP in the lineup) and was sent back down. They brought him back up in September and he did play more but still didn’t hit much.

Finally in 1996 Carlos got to stay up with the Jays for the full season, DHing most of the time, he hit .270/.353/.490 with 25 homers and 82 RBI. After the season the Jays traded John Olerud to make room at first base for Carlos.

Over the first couple of months of the 1997 season Joe Carter played first base and Carlos DHed but by late May Delgado took over at first and played there for the next 8 years. He had a great year hitting .262/.350/.528 with 30 homers and 91 RBI.

In 1998 Carlos played first base full time and his numbers took another big jump. He hit .292/.385/.592 with 38 homers and 115 RBI. He got MVP votes for the first time in his career and finished 5th in the league in slugging average.

He had another great season in 1999, hitting .272/.377/.571, setting a new career high in homers with 44, RBI with 134, runs with 113 and walks with 86. He won his first Silver Slugger award and finished 12 in MVP voting. He tied George Bells single season team record for RBI. He would have set a new record but he missed the final 10 games of the season, breaking his tibia fouling a ball off his leg.

In 2000 Carlos played in all 162 games, led the league with 57 doubles. He hit .344/.470/.664, had 41 homers and set a new team record with 137 RBI. He also took 123 walks and led the league being hit by pitch 15 times. He made the All-Star team for the first time, came in 4th in MVP voting, won the AL Hank Aaron Award (for best hitter) and was the Sporting New Player of the Year. He also got his second Silver Slugger award. Carlos finished 4th in the league in batting average, 2nd in on base average, 2nd in walks, 2nd in slugging and first in total bases.

His .664 slugging average is the Jays single season record .344 BA and .470 OBP are both the second best in Jay history. That season is also the Jay season high in total bases, doubles, walks, extra base hits and runs created. He was AL Player of the Week twice and had a 22 game hit streak. He was one of 7 Jays to hit 20 homers and one of 3 with 30.

Delgado played in all 162 games again in 2001. His numbers dropped off some from the year before, hitting .279/.408/.540 with 39 homers, 102 RBI and 111 walks. Pretty decent for a down season. It was his 4th consecutive season with over 35 HR and 100 RBI. He also stole a base for the first time in his MLB career.

His numbers fell off a bit more in 2002. He hit .277/.406/.549 with 33 homers, 108 RBI and 102 walks. He finished 4th in the league in OBP, 8th in slugging and 4th in walks. Carlos was the first Jay to hit 30 homers in 6 consecutive seasons and 100 RBI in 5. He missed a game August 4th to snap a streak of 432 consecutive games played. Then went on the DL for just the second time in his career, later in the August, with a stiff back.

Carlos had a bounce back season in 2003, hitting .302/.426/.593 with 42 home runs and a new career and franchise high in RBI with 145 which also led the league. He made the All-Star team, got the Silver Slugger award and came in second in the MVP voting. He finished 2nd in slugging, on base, home runs and walks.

It was his 7th straight year with 30 home runs, 6th 100 RBI and 5th with 100 runs. Among other achievements, he had 97 RBI at the All-Star break and 4 home runs in a game on Sept. 25th. HE reached base 334 times, setting another team record.

2004 was Delgado’s last season with the team, he missed about a month of the season with a strained rib cage and missed getting to 100 RBI for the first time since 1997. He still had 32 home runs and hit .269/.372/.545.

After the season Carlos was a free agent and the team decided not to try to sign him. JP was trying to cut salary and Carlos made $19.7 million in 2004. He signed a 4 year contract with the Florida Marlins. I felt that Carlos got blame for the team not making the playoffs. I find bad organizations (and often fans) will blame the team’s best player for the team’s short comings. We heard enough of that during Jose Bautista’s early years with the team.

After one season with the Marlins, they decided to cut payroll and traded Delgado to the Mets for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit and Grant Psomas. Carlos played for the Met for 4 seasons, making the playoffs for the first time in 2006, losing out to the Cardinals in the NLCS in 2007.

Carlos retired with a .280/.383/.546 batting line and 473 home runs in 2035 games. He was one and out on the Hall of Fame ballot, only getting 3.8% of the votes in 2015. He deserved better.

Rob Neyers ‘Big Book of Baseball Lineups’ lists him as the best Jay first baseman. It also calls him the worst defensive first baseman in Jay history too. Considering John Mayberry played first for us too, that’s saying something. He’s right, Delgado was never much with the glove, but I don’t think we ever had a better hitter.

Carlos was awarded the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006 for ‘good play and strong work in the community’. He does work for many charities in Puerto Rico.

He has had his moments of controversy. He protested the war in Iraq by not standing during ‘God Bless America’ (he was ahead of his time). He said ”I just feel so sad for the families that lost relatives and loved ones in the war. But I think it’s the stupidest war ever.”

He is married and has a son and a daughter.

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The Angels announced Tuesday that Hall of Famer Tony La Russa has joined the organization as a senior advisor to the baseball operations department.

“I’ve admired Tony for a very long time,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a press release announcing the move. “As our paths have crossed over the years, Tony and I discussed the potential of working together and we’re excited to finally get that opportunity. Adding his knowledge and experience will be an invaluable piece to the success and continued development of our baseball operations efforts both on and off the field.”

La Russa, 75, has spent nearly six decades working in professional baseball as a player, manager and front-office executive. He played parts of six seasons in the Majors from 1963-73 and, in 1979, embarked on a legendary managerial career that would eventually lead to his enshrinement in Cooperstown. A four-time Manager of the Year winner who has six League Championships and three World Series rings on his resume, La Russa managed the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals to a combined 2728-2365 record across an incredible 33 seasons in the dugout.

He more recently had a less successful run as the Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, working alongside since-fired general player-turned-agent-turned-manager Dave Stewart in Arizona from 2014-17. La Russa resigned from that post after the D-backs dismissed Stewart and brought in current general manager Mike Hazen. He subsequently joined the Red Sox as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prior to the 2018 season. He’d reportedly been expected to remain in the Boston organization but will instead now tackle a new opportunity with the Angels organization.

In his new role with the Angels, La Russa will “assist in all areas of baseball operations including Major League player evaluations and minor league development,” per the Angels’ announcement.

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The Toronto Blue Jays have some obvious holes on their roster, however, they will need to strike early and often if they plan on accomplishing their offseason goals.
It is safe to assume the Blue Jays will not be serious players on free agents of Gerrit Cole‘s ilk but there is still plenty of viable candidates on the open market who can make the team better. It may be in the best interest of the brain trust to strike while the iron is hot rather than slow play the market this offseason.

According to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network, there are reportedly at least ten teams already showing interest in free-agent hurler Kyle Gibson. The 32-year old could be on the Blue Jays radar in their quest to shore up the rotation. Gibson saw his earned run average creep well over 4.00 last season after a successful 2017 campaign where he posted a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts.

Zack Wheeler is another interesting candidate to keep an eye on this offseason as it is anticipated Wheeler will decline his qualifying offer in the coming days. If the Blue Jays could land Wheeler, he would immediately bump up to the front of their rotation and in all likelihood be their opening day starter.

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The Jays got a head start on the competition pulling off a trade last week to acquire pitcher Chase Anderson from the Milwaukee Brewers. Anderson will aid in shoring the rotation depth but Ross Atkins and company are surely not done.

Don’t be surprised if the Jays add bullpen help and an outfielder from the open market as well this offseason. There was a report yesterday that the team could possibly explore moving Lourdes Gurriel Jr. if the right offer presented itself.

The Blue Jays would surely pull the trigger for a front of the rotation arm, however, that would create a further void in their outfield. Aside from Gurriel, the outfield depth chart consists of Randal Grichuk and the inconsistent efforts of Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Derek Fisher, and rookie Anthony Alford.

NEXT: Blue Jays: Another minor leaguer busted for PED’s
Ross Atkins has his work cut out for him this winter but I would expect him to strike early and often so stay tuned in the coming weeks.

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With his Tampa Bay Rays trailing 2-0 to the Toronto Blue Jays, Avisail Garcia appeared to have a game-tying hit. Toronto center fielder Jonathan Davis had other ideas.

With two on and two out, Garcia smoked a ball deep into the left-center field gap. Davis got on his horse, tracked the ball down, and made a sterling leaping catch in front of the wall.

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Davis Saves It @3_JonathanDavis went ALL OUT for this catch! pic.twitter.com/PpT66nGQa5

— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 29, 2019
Wow. That will make the fans in Toronto remember Kevin Pillar.

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Mark Shapiro, president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and general manager Ross Atkins have effectively rebuilt the Blue Jays farm system. The cupboard is stocked and the future looks bright. However, fans aren’t interested in losing season after losing losing season while waiting for the next era of success. The Blue Jays appear to be on the cusp of breaking through with a solid core of kids that will carry the mantle for years to come. It appears now that a few additional pieces could mean success for the Jays. The name Gerrit Cole comes to mind. If we are paying attention, we know that won’t happen. The Blue Jays are not ready to go “all in” against the salary cap. Shapiro and Atkins are dipping their toes in the pool of free agent players, but they are not doing a cannon ball off of the high dive. The time just isn’t right. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are ready to have another bust season. They are continuing to build slowly and wisely.

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While we were all holding our breath to see what they would do, they made a modest trade for starting pitcher Chase Anderson. Anderson is a solid addition to the pitching staff, but he is not the splash that many were hoping for. But what that did tell all of the fans is that Blue Jays’ management is looking to support the youngsters with mid-range players, but not commit dollars for a playoff run.

Chad Spanberger, reportedly acquired by the Brewers for Chase Anderson, was a sixth-round pick of the Rockies in 2017 and is a .274/.340/.501 hitter in three Minor League seasons, with 59 homers and 200 RBIs in 305 games. He was at Double-A in 2019.

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— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) November 4, 2019

The biggest deficits in the Blue Jays lineup last year were in the pitching staff and the outfield. The pitching is already being addressed, probably not done yet, but being addressed. So, what happens with the outfield? No movement yet, but it will come.

Last year, the Jays played seven players for the bulk of the year: Derek Fisher, Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, and Jonathan Davis. This group had an average On Base Percentage of .281 and a combined batting average of .215. Those numbers are abysmal if the Jays want to compete. The solid players from this group are Lourdes Gurriel who played a mere 84 games while hitting 20 home runs with a batting average of .277. Gurriel also led the team with an OBP of .327. Randal Grichuk also had a nice season, hitting 31 home runs. His OBP was a bit low, but third best on the team.

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After those two, the team struggled quite a bit. Teoscar Hernandez showed glimpses with an OBP of .306 and 26 homeruns. If he can become more consistent, he could be a starting outfielder, but he’s not there yet. The rest of the Jays lineup is not ready either. In fact, it’s likely that the other outfielders will find more time in Buffalo or another team.

Knowing that the Jays need support in the outfield and Shapiro and Atkins aren’t going to open the check book in trade or free agency, who is available? Who will fit this squad? Good thing for the Jays is that likely starters Grichuk and Gurriel are able to play more than one position in the outfield. This opens the candidates for the Jays. So, who should the Toronto Blue Jays focus on?

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Other Blue Jays outfielders have had a hard time playing balls hit by Garcia this series. However, that doesn’t seem to be bothering Davis in any way.

Blue Jays pitcher Trent Thornton may owe Davis a nice dinner, or at least a few tabs at the bar.

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After removing Buddy Boshers from the 40-man roster and losing Tim Mayza for the foreseeable future, the Blue Jays are left with just Thomas Pannone as the only lefty option on the current roster to come out of the bullpen. Finding another southpaw or two for the Blue Jays bullpen will be on the checklist for management. Here are some options Ross Atkins can look at.
After Tim Mayza went down with a serious elbow injury late last season, the Blue Jays suddenly had a greater need for a left-hander out of their bullpen. Now that Buddy Boshers has also elected to test free agency, the depth could be tested even further if the need isn’t addressed this off-season.

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Thomas Pannone is the most obvious bullpen option for the Blue Jays in 2020, as he is already on the 40-man roster. Pannone looked to have some promise when he was acquired at the 2017 trade deadline for Joe Smith. His fastball sits at just 90 mph, so control will need to become a priority for him. Pannone has proven he is not a starting pitcher as his split between starter and reliever are vastly different. This past season Pannone had an 11.31 ERA as a starter and a 3.54 ERA out of the bullpen.

According to the Toronto Blue Jays transaction page, the team outrighted three pitchers yesterday as the offseason roster tinkering begins.
The Blue Jays outrighted Ryan Dull to the Buffalo Bisons after the reliever claimed waivers earlier this week. Dull was designated for assignment earlier this week when the team claimed Anthony Bass off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.

Dull spent time with the Jays, Yankees, and Athletics last season accumulating an ugly 12. 79 earned run average in 11 relief appearances. The 30-year old only made one appearance for Toronto last season.

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Pitcher Brock Stewart was also outrighted off the major league roster yesterday. Much like Dull, the 28-year old also struggled in 13 relief appearances for the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Stewart went 4-0 with an 8.31 earned run average in 21.1 innings of work for the Jays in 2019.

Stewart was victimized by the long ball 11 times (9 with the Jays) in 25.2 innings last season. At this stage of his career, Stewart is Triple-A pitching depth out of the bullpen and nothing more.

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Reliever Buddy Boshers was the third arm the team outrighted at the conclusion of the World Series. The 31-year old southpaw made 28 appearances for the Jays last season posting an 0-3 record with 4.05 earned run average in 20 innings of work.

The Jays have a need for a lefty in the pen next season with the injury to Tim Mayza, however, left-handed batters hit .257 off Boshers last season while righties hit .250.

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The conclusion of the World Series also signaled the start of free agency as both Justin Smoak and Clay Buchholz officially became free agents.

Former Blue Jays Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Loup also became free agents yesterday as their respective teams did not pick up their club options.

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The Reds did exercise their $5.5 million club option on Freddy Galvis, the infielder will remain in Cincinnati for the 2020 campaign.

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Buddy Boshers could be an option to return, although not a likely option, especially after he announced that he’ll hit the free agent market. Boshers slowly won me over during the season as he finished the season with 10 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. If Boshers doesn’t get a contract elsewhere, he could be a camp invitee.

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Francisco Liriano announced at the end of September that he would like to pitch a few more seasons. He has transitioned full-time to the bullpen last season and a return to the Jays isn’t out of the question. The native of Dominican Republic could bring some good leadership into the Jays clubhouse. Liriano had a successful season with the Pirates out of the ‘pen in 2019, finishing with a 3.47 ERA over 70 innings pitched and an 8.1 strikeout per nine innings.

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Jake Diekman split 2019 between Kansas City and Oakland before becoming a free agent after the Athletics failed to pick up his 5.75 million option. Diekman struck out 84 batters in 62 innings and gave up just three home runs, however, also walking 39 batters. Diekman could be the best option for the Jays to spend a little more at acquiring.

Tim Collins started his professional career with the Toronto Blue Jays and has become a free agent after fighting injuries the last few seasons. Collins is a small-framed, hard-throwing lefty and is likely looking to find an option to help resurrect his career. Collins did struggle in the minors before being shut down, but if he can bounce back to what he had before injuries he could be an effective option in the bullpen.

Tayler Saucedo was a 21st round pick in 2015 by the Blue Jays and has been steadily climbing the Toronto system. He also transitioned into a bullpen pitcher this last season and was dominant at New Hampshire posting 1.01 ERA. Saucedo struggled a bit when he was called up to Buffalo, but picked up six wins.

Kirby Snead was a 10th round pick in 2016 by the Blue Jays and had a similar, but slightly better season then Saucedo this past season. After striking out 14 batters on no walks and four hits over 11 innings in New Hampshire, he played the majority of the season in Buffalo and had success. He had an almost 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Snead just turned 25 last month and is the most likely lefty in the farm system to make his MLB debut this upcoming season.

Jake Fishman is another 2016 draft pick when the Jays took him in the 30th round. Fishman has been good at all levels of baseball since being drafted as he has pitched to a 2.97 ERA and 1.15 ERA in all levels from Rookie to one appearance at AAA. What has been extremely impressive is he has struck out 186 batters to just 38 walks over 172 innings. Fishman has made just one appearance at AAA, so a longer test in Buffalo before being called up is most likely.

NEXT: Blue Jays outright Devon Travis, DFA Ryan Tepera
The Blue Jays have some options already in the organization they can reach to for left-handed pitching out of the bullpen, but it could be valuable to go after a veteran to help with guidance. I’d prefer a return of Liriano or a signing of Diekman, see if Pannone can be a consistent reliever and give the prospects chances throughout the season.

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Blue Jays – Pat Gillick knew how to build a winner. Two World Series rings with the Jays says it all, however even the great ones can slip up from time to time.
Now you are probably thinking, what the hell, the Blue Jays still won the World Series in 1993 but before you send me to the Arkham Asylum hear me out.

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First and foremost, Ricky Henderson did not want to waive his no-trade clause. He was quite adamant about this to the point that it cost Oakland a financial bonus just so he would waive his no-trade. Well, after all the drama of ‘would he or won’t he’, the trade was official just before midnight.

Oakland received pitcher Steve Karsay and a player to be named later who turned out to be Jose Herrera. In return the Jays received Rickey Henderson, considered to be one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time. Throw in the fact he was a fantastic fielder and the all-time stolen bases leader and it was definitely a coup for any team that wanted to contend.

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Now why was this a bad trade? Well for almost the same package the Jays could have had Randy Johnson. Yes, that Randy Johnson who could throw over a 100 mph fast ball, that Randy Johnson who in the same season went 19 – 8 with a 3.24 era.

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Rick Monday hit his famous Blue Monday home run off the great starter, Steve Rogers? The Los Angeles Dodgers are out because they used great starter Clayton Kershaw in the bullpen and he gave up back to back home runs in relief against Washington. You win all season with your bullpen ⁠— why mess it up when it matters most? … More on Kershaw: The playoffs, it seems, are just too big for him. For whatever unexplainable reason, he can’t handle them. His career earned run average through 12 seasons is an amazing 2.44. His playoff ERA through nine playoff seasons: 4.43. That’s an enormous difference from season to post-season … The playoffs were never too big for Juan Guzman. His career earned ERA was 4.08. His ERA in the two Blue Jays World Series years: 2.35 … Of the top six on-base percentage teams in baseball, four wound up winning 100 games. The top four OPS teams all won 100 games. If you don’t have OPS and OBP up top, you don’t win. The Blue Jays finished 14th in the American League in on-base percentage and 11th in OPS. The only offensive number that seems to work for them — they were fifth in the American League in home runs. But big picture, never mind finding a pitching staff, which they need, they also need everyday players who get on base. They don’t have that now and clearly that’s what is winning in baseball today.

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Johnson was also at that point in his career, a two-time all-star with a couple years left on his contract. Even though the 1994 season was cut, Johnson would have been in the Jays starting rotation which would see Johnson, Juan Guzman, Pat Hentgen, Al Leiter, and either Dave Stewart or Todd Stottlemyre. For the sake of argument, one of these guys would have become available as trade bait for the Jays to pick up another bat. Having Johnson in the rotation would have clearly set up more options for the ’94 Jays.

Oh, what could have been … artist’s rendition of Randy Johnson as a Blue Jay. http://t.co/yIUcedHT

— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) January 19, 2012

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Back to Henderson, following the 1993 World Series Rickey had decided to sign back with Oakland, and these things do happen unfortunately. What made it sting a little more was asking how valuable was Henderson during the final stretch. Well, in the final 44 games he played with Toronto, he batted a .215, with 12 RBI’s, four HR’s, scored 37 Runs and stole 22 Bases. Henderson’s stats in the playoffs were not really that much better. In the ALCS vs the White Sox he batted a .120, 0 RBI’s, 0 HR’s, scored four Runs with two stolen bases. The World Series was a little better, as he batted .227, two RBI’s, scored six Runs with one stolen Base.

Now I agree a platoon of Darrin Jackson and Turner Ward would not be ideal for a playoff run, but with all the time that was wasted on waiting to see if Henderson would accept the trade, the Blue Jays could have looked elsewhere, accepted the trade with Seattle for Johnson and would have probably been better off. This of course, is just my opinion. Having a stud like Randy Johnson does not happen everyday, especially with a couple of years left on his contract.

Looking back in hindsight is always a blast, especially when you know now what could have been helpful then. Henderson was a legend, the coolness factor of having one of the Oakland boys on our team was there. But thinking back, Randy Johnson as a Blue Jay would have been amazing. I guess we will never know what could have been, but hey with the ’94 Strike, either way the Blue Jays remained the Champs. But again, what if.

NEXT: Marcus Stroman- The leader this team needs
One last factor to consider that would have been really cool, should there not have been a strike and the Jays would have made the World Series again, Johnson would have potentially pitched against his former team the Montreal Expos, now that would have been fun.

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The Blue Jays bolstered their starting rotation by acquiring Chase Anderson on Monday, and the trade makes a lot of sense to improve the 2020 roster.
The Blue Jays got an early start on improving their starting rotation on Monday, acquiring Chase Anderson from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league first baseman, Chad Spanberger. There were several reports indicating that the Brewers weren’t sold on paying Anderson the 8.5 million he’s owed for 2020, which is why they made the quick deal to send him to Toronto.

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Anderson wasn’t all that bad in 2019, making 27 starts (32 appearance overall), and pitching to a 4.21 ERA and a 1.266 WHIP across 139 innings. The effort was good for 1.7 bWAR, which won’t headline the Blue Jays’ 2020 rotation, but should be more than enough to help improve it.

Naturally there are some folks who will criticize anything the Blue Jays do, but this move has a lot of potential to work out in their favour. Anderson’s 8.5 million dollar salary is more than doable for the payroll-flexible franchise, and if he performs well he could turn into a nice trade chip. He also has an option for 2021 for 9.5 million that comes with a $500,000 buyout, so there is a lot of flexibility here. Again, he’s shouldn’t be relied on as a feature performer, but he should make a difference in the back-end of the rotation as long as he can stay healthy.

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The teams combined for 27 hits and benefitted from 12 walks and two hit batters in making every trip to the plate another chance to score. In fact, each team failed to put a run up on the scoreboard in just two of their half innings at bat.

But the biggest rally of them all was the RailRiders’ six-run second inning that started with a Herd throwing error. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre proceeded to load the bases before rehabbing Yankees designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch from Anthony Kay to force in a run that snapped a 2-2 tie.

Former Bisons catcher Erik Kratz followed with a two-run double into center, and three pitches later, Manny Alvarez hit a three-run homer to right field to put the RailRiders up, 8-2.

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It’s hard to believe that the early six-run cushion wasn’t enough, but the Bisons and RailRiders continued to trade runs and the game moved into the bullpens. Roemon Fields’ sacrifice fly and Anthony Alford’s RBI single in the fifth brought the Bisons to within 9-4.

The Bisons scored two more times in the sixth on singles from Forrest Wall and Santiago Espinal. Then when Socrates Brito doubled home Alford in the seventh, the Bisons were within 10-7.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre answered back with three RBI singles in the seventh and a two-run home run from Gosuke Katoh in the eighth to build the lead back up to 15-8.

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But amazingly enough, the Bisons still brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, without a base hit. The team drew five walks and Michael De La Cruz was hit by a pitch in the frame, with the free passes to Wall and Espinal forcing in runs. The Herd also got a run-scoring wild pitch and a sac fly from Fields to close to within 15-12. But with two men on base, Alford struck out to David Hernandez to end the game.

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The fact that the Blue Jays are in need of a frontline starter (or two) is why Anderson’s acquisition has been met with a sigh from some parts of the fanbase, but that shouldn’t be the case. There was and is going to be a need for depth in the rotation whether the Blue Jays can acquire a #1-2 starter this winter or not, and Anderson should be able to help to that end. Moving to the AL East isn’t going to be an easy transition for the right-hander, but it’s all about keeping expectations in check. If we rightly view him as a #3-5 starter, then he should be just fine.

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The fact that the Blue Jays are moving this quickly on the rotation likely doesn’t tell us a whole lot about their plans moving forward. It’s nice to see them unafraid to take on Anderson’s 8.5 million, but they have all kinds of payroll room and that could turn out to be a bargain, especially if he pitches like he did back in 2017 when he was worth 4.2 bWAR. He’s unlikely to replicate those numbers, but 8.5 million is a fair number for even what he did in 2019 when he was worth 1.7 bWAR.

Assuming the Blue Jays also bring back Matt Shoemaker, having a rotation that includes those two and some of a group including Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, T.J. Zeuch and more, they should be on the path to improved numbers from last season. That said, that isn’t saying a whole lot after a season of rotation struggles, which is why there’s a need to add further.

That likely won’t come in the form of a true stud like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but hopefully the Blue Jays bring in a quality veteran in the next tier like a Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, or even someone like Kyle Gibson. Any reliable arm will help them improve from where they were a year ago, and pushing guys like Kay, Waguespack, Zeuch and even others back to Triple-A is not a bad thing at this point. Each of them will get an opportunity at some point throughout a long 162 game season anyway, and I’d rather see them earn it rather than the alternative.

NEXT: A great situation to take on a bad contract in 2020
If the Blue Jays can enter the 2020 season with a rotation that includes Shoemaker, Anderson, Thornton, Borucki/Kay, and a yet to be acquired veteran, I think we’ll have to consider that a win. Anderson shouldn’t be viewed as ‘the’ rotation get for the Blue Jays this off-season, but his acquisition is certainly a step in the right direction.

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The Toronto Blue Jays will enter the 2020 season with multiple internal options to who will occupy center field as well as the bench outfielder spots.
Over the past three seasons, Anthony Alford has always been a bridesmaid, but never a bride when it comes to making the Toronto Blue Jays roster full time.

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Drafted in the 3rd round of 2012 Amateur Draft, the University of Mississippi alum made his first Major League appearance in 2017 and has had a few cups of coffee on the active roster over the past few years.

Alford’s MLB career slash line is not a pretty sight at .145/.203/.218, with just 8 hits, 1 home run, and 23 strikeouts. Most of his experience comes during the roster expansion in September, with the number of games he has played in increasing each year since 2017.

The 2019 season was a bit of wasted opportunity for Alford, but depending on who you ask, this can be attributed to maybe more than just his own performance.

Out of the 16 games he played in last season (1 in April, 15 in September), Alford only played in a complete game on two occasions, either being brought into games in the 5-6th inning or being taken out of the game midway through.

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It would have been nice to see Anthony Alford get a bigger opportunity to contribute through more complete games in the September months, considering the Toronto Blue Jays are in full rebuild mode and giving players like Alford more opportunities would be beneficial to figure out the future core of the team. More swings at the plate and an allowing Alford a routine day in, day out may have made him a better player.

On the flip side, one could also argue that his 2019 slash line of .179/.233/.286 was an opportunity wasted by none other than himself, where he couldn’t prove to be brought into the lineup because he just couldn’t produce.

He only walked once, only smacked 5 hits in 28 at-bats, and only drove in 1 run, which is most likely why he was brought later into the game versus starting and finishing games. Prospects have to take every opportunity they are given to produce, and Alford just couldn’t find a way to get on base or bring guys home.

In 2020, Anthony Alford will be in an awkward position where he will be officially out of minor league options and still have his rookie status still intact.

The reason behind this scenario can be attributed to the brief call-ups over the past three years slowly chipping away at all three of his options. If demoted to the minors, Alford will have to be exposed through outright waivers to every MLB team, where he may be picked up by another squad.

Current center fielder Teoscar Hernandez has not shown he can be a viable option as an everyday outfielder, with his inconsistency of putting the ball in play and his awkward routes to fly balls in the outfield. While this may prove to be one of Alford’s biggest opportunities yet, there are other prospects also looking to capitalize on open roster spots.

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Billy McKinney, Derek Fisher, and Johnathon Davis are internal options looking to find space on the 2020 Blue Jays roster, with Fisher on the same boat as Alford in that he too is out of options.

Each of these players could very well find themselves on the 26 man roster come opening day if they have a strong spring, but McKinney and Davis do have options remaining, meaning they are a bit more flexible because of their added control. Hernandez also has a minor league option, which could be exercised if he performs poorly out of the gate in spring training or regular season regardless if he is starting or not to begin the year.

If you’re an optimist, you can also throw Dalton Pompey into the outfielder mix, but considering he’s not on the 40 man roster and has had a slew of injuries, his path to the big leagues is incredibly against him.

If you’re a real optimist, throw in Socrates Brito, who was horrendous in 2019 for the Toronto Blue Jays but would absolutely crush in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons, earning the team’s MVP award. If you’re a fan of the comeback player, throw some money on Brito.

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Many of the Toronto Blue Jays’ holes have arisen from a lack of options. That’s not the case with the outfield where the club has plenty of bodies, but very few answers. If they were to wade into free agency, it would be in search of stability and perhaps an admission that guys like Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher, Billy McKinney, and Anthony Alford aren’t starting options in the immediate future — or in all likelihood, ever.

That seems harsh, but it isn’t completely unjustifiable given the fact that cohort is full of players who have been unable to establish themselves at the MLB level and aren’t young enough that it’s fair to project much development from here. Alford might be something of an exception to that statement given his unusual development path, but if the Blue Jays decided no one they have in-house is ready to be a full-time complement to Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. that would be understandable.

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Throw in the added scenario that the Blue Jays could go out and find an outfielder via free agency or trade this offseason, and Alford’s opportunity of trying to make the team as a starter turns more into a battle with the other internal options for bench space.

Alford’s chances of making the team grow more with the added roster spot during the regular season (26 man roster starting next season), but he will lose the possible September call up window with the new regulations regarding a max of 28 players on the active roster instead of the previous 40.

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In conclusion, I don’t see Anthony Alford making the team out of spring training unless he goes out and earns a bench spot over Billy McKinney.

I truly think the Blue Jays will go out and grab another established outfielder this offseason, and this will create a fight for the 2-3 outfield bench spots on the roster (depending on how the Blue Jays choose to divide their bench).

Derek Fisher will most likely find himself on the roster, as Atkins won’t want to be embarrassed about possibly losing Fisher to waivers in which he was the only player he received in the Aaron Sanchez trade with the Houston Astros this past season.

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I also think Teoscar Hernandez will take a spot on the bench, with the potential to send him down the minors because of his remaining option. My reasoning behind this is his use as a potential DH, but also because Hernandez sometimes finds a way to go on crazy hot streaks where he just smacks home runs.

For the last spot, it will be a battle between McKinney and Alford, with the winner winning the last final spot on the bench.

With McKinney, you have a player with more MLB experience but hasn’t proven to be enough of a contributing player to keep his spot on the active roster.

With Alford, you have an athlete who just hasn’t panned out like the scouts thought he would, but has his back against the wall and is looking to finally be the bride instead of the bridesmaid.

Alford does have an advantage in that the Blue Jays brass may not want to expose him to waivers, which would push McKinney back to the minors even if Alford underperforms during spring training.

It depends on how the Blue Jays front office value Anthony over the long run, and if they think he will contribute to the team’s core moving forward if he doesn’t perform well this upcoming spring.

NEXT: Blue Jays: One free agent they will most likely sign
Next March will be one of the most important months in Alford’s career, in that he needs to prove that he belongs on the big league stage, and the current battle for center field and the outfield bench may just be the last hurrah for one of the Toronto Blue Jays former top prospects.

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Nearly all of MLB’s All-Star discourse centers on the subject of qualification. There’s comparatively little said on the actual game, but on the question of who’s qualified to be in the game—there’s an annual flood of conversation on who should be an All-Star, who’s been snubbed as an All-Star, who’s wrongfully taking up space as an All-Star, and so on. It’s fair enough, if perhaps a bit redundant. The exhibition itself might no longer officially count for anything, but this surrounding discussion shows some general reach toward a sense of justice for justice’s own sake. We want the rosters to be right, even if there are many competing visions of “right,” each heavily influenced by our own ideas of fandom and baseball success, such that there can be hardly any unanimous agreement on anything, outside of maybe Mike Trout. Still. It’s the principle of the thing!

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Which lays the foundation for some of the best pockets of All-Star history. There have been a handful of All-Stars who didn’t fit anyone’s idea of “right”; who were chosen not by the regular selection method, but by chance or necessity or fate; who add some delightfully weird texture to the whole thing. And this is the 35th anniversary of what is, for my money, the best of this genre: Alfredo Griffin, 1984 All-Star.

It was Griffin’s first and only All-Star selection—five years after he’d been named Rookie of the Year in 1979, and one year before he’d win his only other postseason recognition, a Gold Glove in 1985. It was his last year as the starting shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, for which he’d played the first six full seasons of his career. And it wasn’t his worst season, but, well, it was close. By 1984, it was no secret that Griffin’s defense was his calling card and his offense was… better left unmentioned. He’d been one of the game’s weakest hitters in 1981, 1982, and 1983; Griffin’s .589 OPS in those years was the lowest in baseball for a player with at least 1,500 plate appearances. His 1984 was no different. At the All-Star break, Griffin’s .567 OPS was among the lowest in the league. (His performance would only get worse in the second half, and even with his defense, he’d finish with -1.5 WAR, which is notably terrible for an All-Star—but, for now, that’s neither here nor there.)

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I thought we would share a couple more stories of Blue Jays All-Stars

1984 was the first time we had more than 1 player named to the All-Star team, we had three: Dave Stieb, Damaso Garcia and Alfredo Griffin.

Dave Stieb was named to the team for the 4th time. He has the team high mark for being named to the All-Star team at 7. In 1984, for the second straight year, he was named starting pitcher. Dave was having another terrific season, at the break he was 9-3 with a 2.42 ERA, opposing batters were hitting .210 against him. He finished the year 16-8, with a 2.83 for a team that finished 2nd in the AL East, at 89-73, but 15 games back of the eventual World Series winning Detroit Tigers.

Dave didn’t have the great start he had in the 1983 game. After ground outs to Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg, Steve Garvey hit a single and went to second on a Reggie Jackson error. Then Garvey scored on Dale Murphy’s single to left field, running over catcher Lance Parrish at the plate. Lance was given an error, dropping the ball in the collision. So Stieb wasn’t given an earned run. Stieb then struck out Mike Schmidt. Nothing like striking out one of the best third basemen in baseball history.

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In the second inning Stieb started by striking out Darryl Strawberry, then gave up a solo homer to Expo catcher Gary Carter (who would be voted game MVP). He got Ozzie Smith to ground out and Chili Davis to line out to end his 2 inning stint. As the NL went on to win 3-1, Stieb got the loss. Stieb faced four future Hall of Famers

Damaso Garcia was named to the All-Star team for the first time, he would make the team again the next year. Garcia was the type of middle infielder that was popular in that era, but you don’t see much anymore: a decent batting average, no power, no walks and enough speed to steal at almost a break even rate. At the All-Star break Damaso was hitting .303/.329/.394, with 27 steals and 48 runs scored. So, quite a good first half. If he were playing today, you’d want him to take some walks, get on base a little more and maybe give you a bit more power. He finished the season with a .284/.310/.374 with 46 steals and 79 runs scored.

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Damaso got into the game, replacing starter Lou Whitaker, in the bottom of the 6th inning. He got an at bat in the 8th, popping out foul and he made one play in the field.

But the reason we are talking about this All-Star game, and what makes it one of my favorite baseball stories is Alfredo Griffin’s part in it all. Griffin has to go down as one of the worst All-Star picks of all time. Alfredo was a defense first shortstop, in the John McDonald mold, but, in 1984 he hit far worse than what you would expect even from Johnny Mac. At the break Alfredo was hitting .241/.250/.317. Playing just about every day, he had just 3 walks, and 10 extra base hits, 6 steals (caught 3 times) and 31 runs scored at the break. He didn’t turn it up after the break either, finishing with a .241/.248/.298 line, 4 homers, 30 RBI. It’s worth noting that he finished the season with a 0.9% walk rate. That’s less than 1%. And we got on Kevin Pillar’s case.

So how did Alfredo make the team? The custom, at the time, was for the MLB to give the All-Star player plane tickets and hotel for two to the game. Generally the player will take his wife or girl friend (as long as no one tells his wife) (kidding kidding). Damaso decided to invite his friend and teammate, Griffin, to go with him to San Francisco. The day before the game Alan Trammell hurt his arm and was unable to play. Having an open roster spot and no real time to fly a player in, AL manager Joe Altobelli decided to give the spot to Griffin ‘partly before he’s a fine player, but mostly because he was here.’ Basically, he made the team because he fit the uniform.

Griffin got into the game in the bottom of the 6th, replacing starter Cal Ripken, but he didn’t get to bat, Don Mattingly pinch hit for him in the bottom of the 9th. He did make an assist on defense. That was his one All-Star game.

I love that story, no matter how badly the voters or managers screw up now, you’ll never see anyone having as bad a year as Griffin make an All-Star game again.

So: Griffin, in 1984, was not a traditional choice for an All-Star, by any definition of the term. He didn’t present the question of how to rate an incredible glove with a fringe-y bat. He presented a very good glove with a historically terrible bat. He was in the middle of what would ultimately be a long and lovely playing career, with years ahead of him in coaching, too, assuredly full of delights various and sundry. (Though it’s worth noting that if you search his name on YouTube, the top three highlights are, in order, him striking out in embarrassing fashion, him making an amazing mental error, and him hitting into a triple play.) There’s plenty to appreciate about Alfredo Griffin. But he generally did not look exactly like an All-Star, and he certainly did not look like one in 1984.

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But Griffin’s double-play partner, Blue Jays second baseman Damaso Garcia, did. Garcia received his first of two career All-Star nods in 1984, and as he prepared to head out to the festivities in San Francisco, he faced a decision: Who was going to be his plus-one? Each All-Star got to bring one; it was typical to take a wife or girlfriend. But Garcia’s wife had already made travel plans for the week, before the couple realized that he might be selected, and it was too late to change them. So Garcia settled on… his fellow middle infielder, Griffin, who had no other plans for his break.

“My wife was out-of-town and his wife was out-of-town,” Griffin told the press that week. “And he could bring a guest, so Damaso said why not come out to see the game.”

Griffin flew out to San Francisco to support his teammate—which meant that he was around when American League All-Star shortstop Alan Trammell had to pull out of the game with an arm injury on the day before. Manager Joe Altobelli needed a replacement, and he needed one fast. Who was around? “I was sitting in the hotel room watching TV, and I got a call asking if I wanted to play,” Griffin said.

Griffin came off the bench to replace Cal Ripken in the sixth inning and played three frames in the field, though he was pulled for a pinch-hitter before he could see the plate. He even got to turn a play with his buddy Garcia. (Ozzie Smith hit a grounder right to him.) The American League lost, but Griffin had his moment in the sun, however brief.

There are other strange stories of replacements for the All-Star Game, certainly—Joe Girardi in 2000 comes to mind—but there hasn’t been one quite like this, with a player who was performing quite this poorly brought to the game under quite such earnest circumstances. It’s a testament to the virtue of showing up, if nothing else, and a delightful reminder of how fundamentally silly all of these arguments around qualification can be. On the 35th anniversary of all of this: All hail the beauty of the All-Star Game as a game, and all hail Alfredo Griffin.