Saturday, November 12, 2016

Schmall Ball Small Ball?

Mark Shapiro will engineer a critical juncture in the progression of the Toronto Blue Jays as we begin  to dip our feet into the 2016 off season. I'm a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, I won't hide behind that bias however any impartial observer would explain to you that the Blue Jays had major flaws throughout this last campaign and it reared it's ugly head when squared up against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series. The adage that defence wins championship had stood the test of time however what has become more prevalent is that Small Ball wins championships. The Cleveland Indians who conquered the Jays in the aforementioned championship series mastered the art of manufacturing runs. Yes, the bullpen spearheaded by the virtually unhittable Andrew Miller didn't help matters any for the boys North of the border however opportunities were staring them in the face especially in game one of the series as I believe something to the effect of seven runners in scoring position were stranded in the first three innings. As good as the pen was for the Tribe, and it was exemplary if the Jays would've capitalized on these possible momentum changers then the extravagant successes of the bullpen would've all been neutralized. Naturally some will opine that the team that ultimately prevailed over Cleveland, the no longer lovable loser Chicago Cubs certainly did possess more pop in the bat but it was the at the plate philosophy and the completeness of the lineup that gave them advantages in the series and throughout the playoffs. Kris Bryant is expected to be named the National League Most Valuable Player and while some will laud him for the Home Run threat, it's the at bat approach that separates him from most. Look at the Cubbies lineup, filled with the commodities who think the game the right way. Recollect to some of the pinnacle moments Anthony Rizzo created in the World Series and the bottom line is he sacrificed power to slap the ball the other way. Hitting .360 is one thing but five runs batted in will write the narrative that he bought into the greater goal of the team and didn't swing for the fences like a certain someone. Back to those Blue Jays, Shapiro has been in baseball a long time and is no doubt aware that this small ball approach is the winning formula. A small sample size such as the Cleveland Indians wouldn't be enough to prove my hypothesis, so if we venture further back to the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. Good pitching? Yes, just like the Jays but all three examples are teams that aren't built around sluggers and have to manufacture runs in different ray something that Shapiro and Toronto will look to address this off-season.

The "heat' from the media is in full force for the Blue Jays administration to find a way to re-up Edwin Encarncation but with Edwin's agent coming out a couple of days ago and questioning the legitimacy of the offer the harsh realization is that they may end up having to move and resort to secondary options., How can they handle the pending loss of the Parrot? Well let me be clear and I think this is an opinion shared by most Jays supporters in that re-signing Jose Bautista is not the answer. The Joey Bats page has been turned and the lack of intangibles at his age make him an undesirable option going forward.  When on the Fan 590's Prime Time Sports a couple weeks back both Shapiro and General Manager Ross Atkins were adament that at the top of the shopping list was a left handed bat and more speed which I agree with but interestingly enough, a bullpen upgrade wasn't vocalized which left my jaw dropped.  The bullpen was near impossible to assess due to a myriad of overachievers(Biagini and Grilli for his age) and disappointing underachievers in Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup but at the end of the day if the rumoured plan of transitioning Biagini to the rotation comes to fruition then it become neccesatative that a trusted reliever is brought on. Let's begin to discuss the long term goal of moving the aforementioned Redwood City California twenty six year old to the rotation. Strengthening a strength whilst severely weakening a perceived weakness is not generally viewed as a wise endeavour especially when questions hover around who'll be called upon in 2017 behind Grilli and Roberto Osuna.  Particularly a left handed reliever would be a welcome addition and with Fox Sports Jon Morosi indicating the Mariners have shown heavy interest in Brett Cecil after scouring the free agent list, south paw fireballer Boone Logan presents himself as an intriguing option. Professional sports is a copy cat society and with fellow fireballer lefty Andrew Miller being the unquestionable playoff M.V.P, it's possible that Shapiro and Atkins are eager to get there hands on Boone. Admittedly I don't think I saw Boone pitch once this year but from 2015 outwards I never left a Logan appearance feeling good if I was rooting for the opposition. I'm not saying Logan to the Jays is an inevitability but with the ownership operating under a small window one would think they'll target a veteran with the Biagini intentions known. For what  it's worth and I hinted at this earlier, if we don't land a Boone Logan type then why on god's earth is Joe even being considered for the rotation? To decimate the pen that much at the cost of Biagini becoming the fifth starter is asanine unless...........................

A rotation consisting of Aaron Sanchez headlining followed by J.A Happ, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman goes unrivalled across Major League Baseball. You potentially add Biagini in the mix could be argued overkill as that particular five man unit  could be the best in baseball. If this blogger was overseeing the operations he'd look to move one of the starters to address some of the more prevalent holes. Nelson Cruz is a name out there that doesn't bat left no, doesn't run the base paths well but at te end of the day it's important to bring forth the best baseball players into your organization as humanly possible and address the intricacies with depth moves. What I'm proposing is dangling a piece that although young fought through inconsistencies in Marcus Stroman in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I consider Marcus as part of the core but with four other starters I've already touched upon, replacing Bautista's power is a mandate of mine. Have four jobs in the rotation secured and either sign a stop gap as the fifth or engage in healthy spring training competition to determine the final spot. You're probably wondering, I just stressed the importance of acquiring more speed and yet am endorsing a Cruz acquisition, well the reason for that is and feel free to disagree but Cruz is more versatile then Joey Bats and perhaps even look at moving him to a first baseman once his legs completely give out. If Cruz is acquired and keep in mind this is nothing more than a opinion piece, the fourth outfielder I'd like to see signed is Coco Crisp. Unlike Cruz, Crisp can run and plays exceptional defence and could comfortably platoon with Ezequiel Carrera. Dalton Pompey hasn't shown enough even at the Minor League level and it wouldn't shock to see him moved in the off-season. Bottom line is the window is small and Shapiro is well aware. Inking all of Logan, Cruz and Crisp with Kendrys Morales already signed may seem like a daunting task but he owes it to a fan base who was incredibly patient through the trying early 2000 years and have continually filled the rafters at the Rogers Center whilst smashing television records on Sportsnet, it's owed to the fans.

The lineup how I see playing out based on my  proposed moves would be this:

1.Travis 2B
2.Donaldson 3B
3.Cruz RF
4.Tulowitzki SS
5.Morales DH
6.Martin C
7.Carrera/Crisp LF
8.Smoak 1B
9.Pillar CF

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