Saturday, April 01, 2006

2006 Season Preview - AL East, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays
2005 Record: 80-82; Position 3rd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - C Bengie Molina, INF Lyle Overbay, INF Troy Glaus, SP AJ Burnett, RP BJ Ryan
Minus - INF Frank Menechino, INF Orlando Hudson, INF Corey Koskie, RP Miguel Batista

Well the Jays spent a lot of money this off-season - headline grabbing five year deals for two pitchers - AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan - as well as a trade for the big bat of Troy Glaus, and the late signing of Bengie Molina (and lets not forget, another $40m to extend Halladay). Given the noise they made in an off-season when the Red Sox and Yankees were (relatively) quiet with their checkbooks, the media have annointed the Jays as the team to break the Sox / Yanks logjam atop the AL East - are they correct?

Molina had a decent year in '05 - the best of his career so far - but at least one author on this site belives that it was his career year, writing an unfavorable comparison to Posada in this post when rumors surfaced that the Yankees were interested. Much of his value is tied up in his BA, and in his catcher intangibles, and while the Jays got a relative bargain when Molina priced himself out of the market (read the Mets), he doesn't appear to be that significant an upgrade over Greg Zaun.

The Jays traded for Glaus in December - giving up one of the best defensive 2b in the league in the trade, Orlando Hudson, as well as last years closer Miguel Batista. Glaus comes with a big contract - the main reason the D'Backs traded him away in the first place - and the Jays made his three years and $32.75m even more expensive by adding on a full no-trade and a $11.25m player option for 2009. So 4 years at an average of $11m - a lot of money for a guy that hit .258 / .363 / .522 - though the OBP and slugging numbers were good for 6th and 7th respectively in the league last year for regular 3b.

AJ has a career 49-50 record, but the Jays are paying $11m per for the next five years for his 3,73 career ERA and his 753 k's in 853 innings - in his two healthiest seasons, AJ posted 401k's in 413 IP with a sub 3.40 ERA. But he is two years removed from TJ surgery and posted an 80 inning jump in his workload last year - that type of jump can often lead to injury issues in the next year... oh yeh, AJ went on to the 15 day DL this week, following elbow pain in one of his spring traing starts, attributed to the breakdown of scar tissue... ok. I really do like AJ, but he is an injury risk - $55m is a lot of money for a guy that won't even make it to opening day introductions.

BJ Ryan has saved 42 of his 59 career save opportunities - but last year in his 70 IP, he struck out 100 hitters, and has struck out 285 hitters in his last 207 innings - a number that would have led the majors by 50 if he hadn;t taken 3 years to pitch that number of innings. I do think that BJ has the stuff to be an excellent closer, but to pay in excess of $9m per year for five years for a guy with 42 career saves seems... excessive?

The Jays spent a lot of money on these four, and I do think they will help the Jays produce more wins in 2006, but I still don't see them breaking up the Sox / Yankees one / two. However, it could all work out for the Jays - the Sox and Yankees both have significant question marks, and if they have health issues, the Jays could take advantage if - and it is just as big an if as the Sox and Yankees - they themselves stay healthy.

Over at Baseball Prospectus,Will Carroll produces health reports on each team which comments on the risk of injury for each player on the roster (using a traffic lights system) and every single member of the starting rotation appears red (BP subscription required for the health reports) not a great sign - that health issue is something to watch with the Jays all year long.

2006 Projection: 87-75; Position - 3rd
Blue Jays blog link - Batter's Box

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