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Why the Toronto Blue Jays Do Not Need to Sign Josh Johnson Long Term

The Toronto Blue Jays have done a tremendous job remodeling their team into a playoff contender during the offseason.

No. Make that a World Series contender.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but the odds makers in Las Vegas have them pegged as the clear favorites.

What’s even more impressive: Almost every major player they have acquired this season is set to wear a Blue Jays uniform for at least a few years, except starting pitcher Josh Johnson. Johnson will make $13.75 million this season as his four-year contract comes to an end (originally signed by the Miami Marlins).

While Johnson will not be the “Ace” or opening day starter for the Blue Jays, he will play a vital role in the Jays success or failures this season.

But you have to wonder if Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos wants to dish out the money to have him as a staple in the rotation for another couple of years, or if will he let him walk at the end of 2013.

Beyond this year, the Jays will have R.A. Dickey, Mark Bheurle, Brandon Morrow and Rickey Romero still in their rotation. Adding Johnson makes that one of the best—if not the best—in baseball. But  how much do the Blue Jays lose by taking him away?

I think that depends on who you  replace him with. There are plenty of options available to the Blue Jays in 2014.

Personally, while I think having him in the rotation will be amazing and fun to watch every fifth day, I don’t think future success beyond this year warrants giving him a Felix Hernandez-type contract. And while I don’t think Johnson will be able to get that kind of money ($175 million over 7 years) from anyone, there’s reason to believe he can get a hefty payday by testing the free-agent waters.

If the Blue Jays are willing to spend money and looking at locking up a guy long term they can always resign Johnson. The players expected to hit the free agent market provide some intrigue.

  • Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum: This is the same Lincecum the Jays could have had if they parted with Alex Rios in the infamous trade that wasn’t. How does that look now, J.P. Ricciardi?  While Lincecum was banished to the bullpen last year, I think that he has too much raw talent to not bounce back and be a very good starter once again. If he has another bad year, do the Jays look at getting him—hopefully, cheaper—than any other two-time Cy Young winner?

  • Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez: I link the two together because they are both pieces that wouldn’t bring to the table what Johnson brings, but would get the job done on the back end. If Rickey Romero bounces back to his 2011 form, do the Jays need a Josh Johnson, or would they prefer a Garza or Jimenez? I don’t think they would command anywhere near the same kind of money that Johnson would, even if both Garza and Jimenez have good years. They are steady veterans that give you a chance to win.
  • Roy Halladay: Potentially, the Philadelphia Phillies pitcher could hit the market. While Doc has stated he wants to finish his career in Philadelphia with the Phillies, I think it would be a pretty classy move to bring him back to Toronto for a couple of years to be another veteran arm in a formidable rotation.

We also can’t forget about in-house options the Blue Jays have—all those guys on the farm that were looking at being possible hopefuls for this year’s rotation before AA’s wheeling and dealing. There are guys that will start at Triple AAA, Double AA or the disabled list that would have been given an extra look, and opportunity to make the big league club in April of 2013.

But because there are a number of veterans poised to slot into the rotation, this list of candidates gets some extra time to develop their game on the farm and, barring any injury, will stay there for the whole year and compete for that supposedly vacant spot in 2014.

  • Chad Jenkins made his debut last year with the Jays. He posted a 1-3 record with a 4.50 ERA in 13 games, including three starts. Jenkins showed some promise last year, and would be most likely to be called up first in the event of an injury. Either he or J.A. Happ would get the chance to start, and I thought deserved a chance to start before the moves were made. I don’t think he figures into the team’s long term success, though, so he may not be an option to replace Johnson.

  • Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson are coming off Tommy John surgery and will get an entire year and off-season to regain their arm strength. Both will be looking to find a spot on the big league roster when they return, and both have a legitimate case to make. Drabek was starting to mold into the pitcher the Blue Jays hoped he would be when they traded Halladay to get him. He was 4-7 with a 4.67 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60, and improving with every start. The 23-year-old Hutchinson was called up to the big league roster almost out of necessity after the first week or so into the season. In 11 starts, he went 5-3 with an ERA of 4.60 and 1.35 WHIP. He will be 23 this year and will hope to bounce back from a tough injury at a young age. TThese guys are probably the cheapest low risk/high reward options for the Jays in 2014.

Other names you can throw out there include Dustin McGowan, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Daniel Norris, Marcus Stroman, Deck McGuire and Adonys Cardona. With the exception of McGowan, it may be too soon to bring them up, but you never know how they may develop over the course of 2013.

But should injuries occur to the starting 5, some of these names may get a big league debut this season, and an extended look heading into 2014. As for McGowan, if he ever gets a lucky break and finds that his arm allows him to compete, I think the Jays will give him every chance to make the rotation.

It has happened a few times in the past where athletes perform at their best level when on their final contract year (A.J. Burnett for example threw 200 innings  went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA and opted out, as his contract allowed after year three, his best season).

If Johnson looks like he is leaning towards cashing in on a big pay day on the market, then let him go out there and show the whole league why he deserves that money.

It’s debatable whether Johnson wants to pursue free agency. Shi Davedi  writes  in a recent article that free agency doesn’t really appeal to Johnson. While it could be something his agent told him to say, It could be true and he may want to be with the Jays for a lengthy period of time.

The Jays have a handful of options. I don’t think signing Johnson long term is an immediate need for this team.

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How Does the Yankees Michael Pineda Deal Affect the Toronto Blue Jays?

Rome wasn’t built in a night, but Brian Cashman of the Yankees proved you could get pretty darn close. If the building of Rome is equivalent to winning a World Series, that is.

The New York Yankees have acquired Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners for Catcher Jesus Montero. They then signed Hiroki Kuroda formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Pineda will be 23 years old this year. In his first year in the big leagues he put together a record of 9-10 with 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings pitched. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

Pineda will no doubt get better with age; I want to know what was going through the minds of the Seattle front office when they pulled the trigger on this move. I would not have given up Pineda after just one season.

This kid showed a tremendous amount of potential and behind King Felix (Hernandez), they would have formed one of the best one-two punches for years to come. I don’t know a whole lot about the Seattle organization, but just by looking at their depth chart, it seems like they do need some help in their batting order with an aging Ichiro Suzuki and a core of young hitters.

In this past year I really thought the Seattle pitching staff was going to be a force in the A.L. West in the next couple of years with Hernandez, Pineda and Doug Fister. Alas, two of those three are gone, and if I was a Mariners fan I would not be pleased at all.

Lucky for me I’m not.

Jesus Montero is a highly-touted prospect and is expected to do big things once he makes it to the majors for good. But I don’t think a power-hitting catcher is worth an arm like Pineda’s. To me the power-hitting catcher is a fad that doesn’t work out all the time, while a strikeout pitcher can always be useful.

I know they are both very young and it will be years before we can say who won this trade, but right now the Mariners just made the Yankees a favourite in the A.L. East.

I wrote an article here on why Blue Jays fans should still be excited for the upcoming year, but it’s looking more and more like we need to be more excited for 2013, when our young farm players make the jump. 

From a Blue Jays fan standpoint, it really puts a damper on what was looking like the beginning of the end of the Yankees empire. Their core roster was starting to get old and they weren’t making many moves in the offseason.

But now the Yankees have become re-energized and they will once again have that Yankee swagger every game with three All-Star-caliber pitchers in the rotation along with the young and very good Ivan Nova. They then have a handful of guys that can work out of the number five spot.

No series with the Yankees was ever a given, but if you only had to face Sabathia a few times every year, the Yankees looked ripe for the picking. The Blue Jays will have to deal with three superb rotations in their own division once again with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

As a Jays fan, if the Mariners were asking for Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for Michael Pineda, I would do that deal. Pineda behind Romero or Morrow would be fantastic. D’Arnaud, like Montero is expected to be a great ballplayer, but he has yet to get a sniff of the major leagues, while Pineda has proven in one year that he can be a major leaguer.

There are actually a few of the Blue Jays prospects that I would have traded for Pineda. The deal seems like it was so simple: a catcher and a minor-league pitcher for a starter. It seems like the Jays wouldn’t even have had to give up one of their top pitching prospects to get the deal done.

The Mariners were in it more for the bat than the arm and the Blue Jays do have a few of those down in Las Vegas and New Hampshire.

I’m not upset that Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t made any big moves on the free-agent market, as stated in that previous article, but when it comes to the trade route it’s usually Anthopolus that is sneaking talent away from other GMs. This year we have only seen him manage that for Sergio Santos.

This Pineda-for-Montero move is something I would have expected AA to do had he known Pineda was on the market. 

Still, both Pineda and Montero are young and their careers could go in completely opposite directions and have Seattle as the winners in the deal. But based on their recent history and their scouting staff, I think the Yankees will make Pineda very comfortable in New York, as well as Kuroda. 

The competition in the A.L. East just got a lot tougher for this upcoming season. 

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