When the Blue Jays traded longtime ace Roy “Doc” Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, they gave a crystal clear signal to the rest of the league. We are rebuilding, but we want a core to form a perennial contender, they said. The trade netted the Jays outfielder Michael Taylor (who was subsequently flipped to the Oakland Athletics for Brett Wallace), and Travis D’Arnaud, a catcher who looked able to provide stability to the position in a few years, which has been a major problem in the organization’s past. However, neither of these men were considered key components of the deal. The centrepiece of the deal – the part that made the trade click – was a right-handed pitcher named Kyle Drabek.
Kyle Drabek was considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in the Phillies’ organization. He comes from strong pedigree, being the son of 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek and while hdoesn’t project to be quite as talented as his father, he is a valuable pitcher in his own right. Many scouts predict that he will be a #2 starter on a contending team if he can stay healthy (Tommy John surgery, missed 2008) and in view of his age, he could become even more.
Drabek is healthy now and pitching in Double-A for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Jays’ affiliate. However on the Fourth of July 2010, Drabek had a performance that had to make fans wonder, “Will he be in New Hampshire very long?” Drabek threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in Fisher Cats history (a seven-inning no-hitter was accomplished by a Fisher Cat several years ago), blanking the New Britain Rock Cats 5-0 while striking out three and walking two. He recorded another 13 outs on the ground and only allowed three line drives. A few more groundballs would have been nice, but overall the outing was extremely solid for Drabek, easily the best of his career.
However, the dominance did not end there. Five days later he went into Binghamton and shutout the Mets over six innings, fanning five and walking one. This extended Drabek’s scoreless streak to 19 1/3 IP. His record improved to 9-8 while his ERA fell to 3.03.
The only thing keeping Drabek in AA right now is Las Vegas’ nature as a severe hitter’s park. a few more starts like this though, and Drabek will force the Jays’ hand, with an eye on a rotation spot in mid-2011.
When I found out that Brett Cecil was being summoned to The Show in order to start in place of Brian Tallet on Friday (April 23), I was excited. I initially assumed that it was simply a spot start due to soreness. Imagine my joy then when I came to the realization that Tallet was being placed on the 15-Day Disabled List. This was in all likelihood to not just be a spot start, but three chances for Brett Cecil to showcase his skill against the potent Rays and Red Sox and offensively meager Cleveland Indians. He pitched well in Las Vegas, a member of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (2 GS, 11 IP, 11 K, 2 BB) and was deserving of a chance to start in the Majors.
Brian Tallet, on the other hand, is awful. Horrendously awful. His entrance music from 2009, “Gimmie Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, was the most appropriate entrance music I have ever heard. Tallet needs shelter; shelter from constantly getting shelled. He won’t overpower anybody and his spotty command jsut provides the ultimate catalyst for disaster. Granted, he has shaved a full BB/9 off his numbers from last year, but when his K:BB is 2:1 (6 K/9, 3 BB/9), he finds himself working out of the stretch and playing with fire for the majority of most of his short (5.89 IP per) starts. The Blue Jays are a team that is in a transitional phase, 1 A.D. (After Doc). They are not expected to contend right away, but they do have a glut of young talented arms that could become integral parts of the Jays’ mound future.
This brings us back to Cecil, a Maryland product selected 38th overall in 2007 (one pick after Brett Wallace, whom we acquired in the Halladay trade). Projected as a #2 starter on a contending team, he features a four pitch repertoire: low 90s fastball, mid 80s slider, high 70s-low 80s curve and a low 80s change. He has consistently struck out approximately a batter per innning in the minor leagues, while keeping his walk rate in the 3 BB/9 range. He mixes his pitches well, and kept the hitters guessing all night (8 K). The four runs allowed in six and two-thirds did not do him justice as two came on a pair of the few mistakes he made all night, a pair of homers. Outside of these blips, he was dominant against the team with the best record in the Majors.
Tallet is a valuable veteran on a young team, but Cecil is a promising young star. If Cecil pitches well the next two times out, and Tallet struggles in his return, Gaston and the gang will be forced to think.
That said – Carpe Diem Brett. Seize the day.
The Blue Jays got their season started on a positive note over the weekend as they inked designated hitter Adam Lind to a four year, $18M deal. The deal includes three options that could push the value to $38.5 M over seven seasons. Visions of Vernon Wells’ albatross and the Rios disaster which the Jays escaped (give J.P. credit) initally crossed my mind, but this deal is intelligent and has me excited. Alex Anthopoulos has charted a great course for his franchise. Build a core and supplement with free agents, not the other way around. It may take some time, but when success comes, it will be lasting.
The guaranteed portion of the deal runs through his age 29 season. The options are exercisable as three seperate options each covering one year. The scale of $1 million in 2010 and three years of $5M each make this friendly for a budget conscious team. The options are worth $7M, $7.5M and $8M and can be bought out at any time for no more than $2M. The options would bring him through his age-32 season (he would be 33 at the end, July birthday). At this point he would be entering his decline and the Jays would have had him through his entire prime. If they were to part with him at this point, they would not be losing much. They could also sign him for a contract of similar, or lesser value.
Since Lind’s entire value comes from his bat as a DH (he is a terrible defender), he will need to produce to make this deal worthwhile. While he may not get up to 35 homers again, a .290/25/90 line makes this contract acceptable in my opinion and he should easily eclipse those numbers for at least the guaranteed portion. Combine this deal with Hill, Snider and the Halladay prospects and there is a lot to like for this team’s future.
Thank you Alex, for such an incredible piece of negotiation and management. Moves like this could bring a winner to Toronto in relatively short order.
Keep up the good work.