Tag: Kevin Gregg

Ranking the Best Remaining Players the Marlins Could Invite to Spring Training

We’re less than a month away from when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, so it’s time to assess what the Miami Marlins need and who is still out there to be had.

But before we begin, let’s check the Marlins shopping list and see if there’s anything the Marlins forgot to buy.

An offensively skilled catcher? Check. The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year contract worth $21 million. 

A power-hitting first baseman? Check. The Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a two-year deal worth $7.75 million.

An upgrade at second base? Check. The Marlins signed Rafael Furcal to a one-year agreement worth $3 million. Furcal can also earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Fixing the black hole known as third base? Check. The Marlins signed Casey McGehee to a one-year pact worth $1.1 million. McGehee can also earn an extra $400,000 in performance bonuses. 

About the only item still on the Marlins shopping cart is a veteran reliever, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, especially after the Marlins nontendered Ryan Webb, who signed with the Baltimore Orioles, while Chad Qualls inked a deal with the Houston Astros

Looking back at last season, the Marlins signed Qualls and Jon Rauch and they had a few commonalities. For starters, both guys signed a one-year pactQualls on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training while Rauch joined the Marlins on a $1 million contract. The other commonality they had was Qualls and Rauch had experience in high-leverage situationsQualls has 51 career saves while Rauch had 62—which might come in handy as Steve Cishek was penciled in as the team’s full-time closer. 

Now, the Marlins are probably looking to add a reliever or two in the same mold as Qualls and Rauch even though Rauch was designated for assignment six weeks into the 2013 season while Qualls (5-2 record, 2.61 ERA in 62 innings) exceeded expectations. 

Without further ado, in descending order, here are the best remaining available free agent relievers the Marlins could target for an invitation to spring training or sign to a major league contract.

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3 Positions of Need the Chicago Cubs Should Pursue This Winter

Let the shopping begin.

Twenty-five days have passed since the Cubs‘ final regular-season game, and the team has already begun to make moves. The Cubs started off by firing their manager, Dale Sveum, on October 1 merely hours after their regular-season finale against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Following a 66-96 season, the Cubs need to make some serious changes if they want to become a contender in the near future. Although they have many prospects with much potential, the team still has a long way to go.

Here we look at the positions the Cubs need to improve upon this winter.

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Fantasy Baseball 2011: AL Closer Cheat Sheet To Help You Dominate Your Draft

As fantasy baseball drafts quickly approach, I thought it would be helpful to provide a quick reference cheat sheet for closers.

Remember, don’t take a closer too early, as there is value to be had late in drafts.


AL East


The addition of Rafael Soriano to the Yankee bullpen has some wondering if Mariano Rivera’s days in pinstripes are numbered. After all, the Hall of Fame closer is 41 years old and could be running out of gas.

The Tampa Bay Rays have yet to announce a replacement for Rafael Soriano; however, we anticipate that newly acquired Kyle Farnsworth will be given that role on opening day. Farnsworth is somewhat of a head case and may be a risky choice. Buyer beware.

The Blue Jays may also begin the year with a new closer, as Frank Francisco was acquired via trade from the Rangers. 

For those looking for a value pick this season, Kevin Gregg is a decent closer who will pitch for an improved Baltimore team in 2011.

The Orioles lack the starting pitching required to compete for the AL East crown; however, their offense should keep the team in games while giving Gregg a number of save opportunities.





AL West


There has been some speculation that Mike Maddux and Ron Washington want to move Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation. The trade of Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays limits the team’s depth in the pen, leading us to believe that Feliz will be the closer this season.

Although the A’s acquired veteran closer Brian Fuentes this off-season, the club will likely continue to use Andrew Bailey as their closer. Bailey had a superb 2010 season in which he posted 25 saves and a 1.47 ERA.

Fernando Rodney will likely be the Angels closer this season, despite a poor 2010 campaign where he had an ERA of 4.24 and a pedestrian strikeout per nine of only 7.0. To excel at closing, it is helpful to be able to strike out a batter when a tough out is needed.



AL Central


The top closer in the AL Central is on arguably the worst team. Joakim Soria has a career ERA of 2.01 and delivered three straight 30-plus save seasons for the lowly Royals. Draft him with confidence this season as he has been the model of consistency throughout his young career.

Matt Capps is currently listed as the closer on the Twins official website; however, we have a gut feeling that Joe Nathan will regain his role as the closer this season. Nathan was solid as the team’s closer prior to his injury last season.

Our sleeper closer for the AL Central is the 6-foot-6 Matt Thornton. He has excellent stuff, and will get numerous opportunities for an improved White Sox club. We are picking the White Sox to win the Central and believe Thornton will log 30 saves this season.


Check out my NL Closer List Here.


This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy news, rankings and advice.

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Baltimore Orioles 2011 Preview: How Good Can They Be?

Since the hiring of manager Buck Showalter in late July, the Orioles had an incredible end to the season. Finishing at 34-23 under Showalter, the Orioles had a better last two months than the Yankees, who finished a mediocre 29-30 in the same time frame.

Showalter made an immediate impact for a team that was thought to be lost. Can last year’s late success translate into a possible postseason run in 2011? 

The O’s made a splash early this offseason by acquiring Mark Reynolds for next to nothing. They also signed Derrek Lee to a no-risk one-year deal. The Orioles front office has taken advantage of a hitters ballpark this offseason. They now have a very deep lineup, adding Reynolds and Lee to what they already had with Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Nick Markakis.

Orioles Projected Lineup

1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Adam Jones CF
3. Derrek Lee 1B
4. Mark Reynolds 3B
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Luke Scott DH
7. Matt Wieters C
8. J.J. Hardy SS
9. Felix Pie LF

If you look at this lineup, one through seven it is arguably the best in the division. If it is not the best it is definitely the deepest, compared to the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays. The only team that is comparable the Red Sox.

In my opinion, Baltimore has about seven solid hitters compared to about five or six on the Sox. The Orioles lineup is definitely deeper; however, the Red Sox have two legitimate stars in Crawford and Gonzo, while the O’s have two good hitters and no real stars.

While the Orioles have one of the better lineups in the league, their pitching rotation is among the worst in the league. When you see Jeremy Guthrie listed as the ace of the rotation, you should be concerned. They do have some young arms that have potential, but they are not ready to make a positive impact this season.

Orioles Projected Rotation

1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Brian Matusz
3. Jake Arrieta
4. Justin Duchscherer
5. Chris Tillman

The Orioles have four very good pitchers in the bullpen, three with closing experience. Mike Gonzalez was the closer to start last season, but saw limited action after going down to an injury. Gonzalez, along with Jim Johnson, will likely set up for recently acquired closer Kevin Gregg. Alfredo Simon was 17 of 21 in saves last year replacing Gonzalez. If Kevin Gregg is unable to close, look for Simon to be replacement.

Right now the Orioles look like a fourth place team, unless the Blue Jays go cold. But right now the Rays don’t have enough talent to pass the O’s. Don’t expect anything better from them this year, but if Derrek Lee works out and the pitching develops the Orioles have real potential for years to come. 

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Taking A Closer Look At The Baltimore Orioles’ Closer Situation

With the signing of reliever Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $10 million deal, the Baltimore Orioles have loaded their bullpen up with late-inning options.

Gregg joins fellow righties Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara and freshly signed Jeremy Accardo, as well as lefty Mike Gonzalez, in the back end of the O’s bullpen. With all of these guys having had a season with 10 or more saves at the Major League level (as well as Alfredo Simon, who may or may not be with the team in 2011 due to legal issues), the debate of which one of them will close begins.

We can be almost certain that, barring anything unforeseen, Johnson will be proving he is healthy in a 7th or 8th inning set-up role and Accardo will likely be doing the same as a middle reliever. Each have had injury-plagued seasons the past few years after having very strong seasons in 2008 and 2007, respectively. Both guys have been very good before and will be hungry to prove they still are this season.

After singing a two-year, $12 million deal in December of 2009 to be the closer for the O’s in 2010, Gonzalez blew two of his first three saves in an O’s uniform, then went on the disabled list for a good three months. He came back as effective as ever in a set-up role for the O’s, and that’s likely going to be where he remains in manager Buck Showalter’s 2011 Orioles bullpen.

Gonzalez remains an effective late-inning option for an O’s manager who is praised for his ability to use a bullpen to the best of its ability, and the fact that Gonzalez is a good left-handed pitcher makes him more appealing to use in the 7th and 8th innings against tough left-handed batters.

That leaves Gregg, who saved 37 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 to go along with a 3.51 ERA in 59 innings pitched, and Uehara, who became the O’s closer once Showalter took over in August of last season and saved 13 games, finishing the season with a 2.86 ERA.

Each pitcher has their strengths and weaknesses. Gregg is an experienced closer in the MLB, having saved over 120 games during the past four years, and has a bulldog mentality. He won’t give in to a batter, which helps attribute to his relatively high walk totals. He’d rather walk a tough batter than give in and give him something to hit, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the situation.

But Gregg will blow his share of saves, doing so six times last year. His save percentage last season was 86%, and anything over 85% is considered good, so though he will blow games, he’s a good option to close out a game among most late-inning type guys in the MLB and has shown he can do it in the AL East.

Uehara, while not having anything in his pitching repertoire completely overpowering to most MLB hitters, has pin-point location and almost never walks batters. In fact, Uehara set an Orioles’ franchise record by not allowing a walk over his final 32 appearances, spanning 34 innings pitched, and had the fewest walks per 9.0 innings (1.02) and best strikeout-to-walk ratio (11-1) of all AL relievers. He also had a strikeout ratio of 11.25 per 9.0 innings pitched, second among AL relievers. The only downside he has presented thus far is his inability to show he can stay healthy during the grueling 162-game season in his first two years in the MLB.

Manager Showalter has expressed his desire to remain open-minded with the closing situation, and has even suggested the possibility of having a closer-by-committee option, stating that he likes to go with the “hot hand”; in other words, whichever pitcher has a strong streak of great pitching going. Though I’m a person who enjoys looking at awesome statistics, like high batting averages or large save totals, I feel as though that would be the best option for the O’s, at least going into the 2011 season, unless someone proves they’re very obviously the best for the job in Spring Training.

Gregg’s blown saves numbers scare me, as does Uehara’s inability to stay healthy all year. Using each conservatively and interchangeably would maximize their abilities without over-exposing Gregg or over-working Uehara. During games where Uehara would be slotted to close it out, Gregg could help set-up, or Showalter could even use the both of them or three different pitchers in the 9th to throw the opposing batters in the on-deck circle off.

Whatever Showalter decides to do late in the ball game, he has plenty of options to work with, each of which being a solid one. On paper, President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail has supplied the Orioles’ manager with a revamped, strong bullpen going into the 2011 season. Hopefully, the new bullpen will stay healthy and respond to the O’s needs, consistently slamming the door on many wins during the 2011 season.

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Derrek Lee, JJ Hardy, Kevin Gregg and Mark Reynolds: All Signs of Improving O’S

Going into the 2010 off season, the Baltimore Orioles had seemingly the same needs as they do every off season: first base, shortstop, third base, closer, and starting pitching.

They tried to get by, like they do every year, with the cheap patch-work signing of Cesar Isturis, who failed miserably, hitting just .230 in the process. Thankfully, this year he will be in a more suitable role of back-up utility infielder, where he still could hold some value off the bench.

Comparing the starting lineups per position of most games played, which would you rather have?

2010 Orioles                                            2011 Orioles

1B Ty Wigginton                                      Derrek Lee

2B Brian Roberts                                     Roberts

SS Cesar Izturis                                      JJ Hardy

3B Miguel Tejada                                     Mark Reynolds

LF Felix Pie                                            Pie ??

RF Nick Markakis                                   Markakis

CF Adam Jones                                      Jones

C Matt Wieters                                       Wieters

DH Luke Scott                                        Scott

Improvements all across the board (and I really mean it this year!)

Across the board Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds are upgrades over their predecessors. Overall, the team ranked 27th in MLB in runs last year with just 613. The three players that left, Tejada, (15HR 71 RBI), Wigginton, (22HR, 76RBI) and Izturis (1HR 28 RBI) (demoted) combined for 38HRs and 175RBI respectively.

Their replacement-upgrades on the other hand, Mark Reynolds (32HRS, 85RBI), Derrek Lee (19HRS, 80RBI), and JJ Hardy (6HR 38RBI) combined for 57HRS and 203 RBI. Heck, Reynolds and Hardy alone hit as many homers as the previous trio and that doesn’t even factor in Derrek Lee’s 19 bombs.

In addition, Reynolds (27), Lee (35) and Hardy (28) average 30 years of age compared to 33 for Tejada (36 allegedly), Wigginton (33), and Izturis (30). For those thinking that experience and veteran leadership will surely be lost, consider that they didn’t exactly win with that wisdom last year, so getting younger can’t hurt and the players they brought in are hardly washed up in any sense like in years past with the Orioles.

In fact, I see Derrek Lee having a Bobby Bonilla or Eddie Murray type veteran impact and influence on this team like in the mid-90s, when the team was making annual playoff pushes. Its a move more typical of Pat Gillick’s deadline deals, so look at it as they got him a few months early.

For those thinking they did okay on offense but they forgot to address defense, each player is also known for his defense. In Lee and Hardy’s case, it could be argued their defense is actually better than their offensive game, which in Lee’s case is particularily complementary since he’s such a solid hitter.

What about the pitching?

For those thinking Andy McPhail addressed only offense and defense but neglected the pitching, the team not only kept middle reliever Koji Uehara, who improved once he found his niche in the bullpen, but also added closer Kevin Gregg from divisional rival Toronto, thus directly hurting them and forcing them to downgrade to Octavio Dotel.

While Gregg had a high (3.51) ERA last year for a closer with the Blue Jays, he did amass 37 saves, which would rank almost three times as many as saves leader Uehara’s 13. Besides, if someone else had signed him, say the Boston Red Sox, they’d be praised for strengthening an already solid bullpen and for giving themselves options should Jonathan Papelbon get himself into trouble.

So the Orioles did what they had to do, and in Lee and Gregg’s cases, overpaid for free agents who normally don’t want to come there for obvious reasons. In each case, minus Hardy, who I think will have the least impact of the quartet but remains a mild upgrade nonetheless, ask yourself this, “If not him. than who?”

We know in Lee’s case it would have been Adam LaRoche and while he too would have been an upgrade, we now have the next year to evaluate how he does in Washington. We can wonder what he may have done in Baltimore as his stats will be compared nightly to Lee’s and see who came out better on the deal.

For me personally, I was pulling for LaRoche initially because of his consistency (20+ hrs in six of seven big-league seasons including three straight 25) but I was swayed by the fans’ desire from message boards to blogs for the more professional veteran perceived to be the more complete hitter in Lee. We’ll see who won out.

So what does it all mean for 2011?

With the Rays‘ inevitable demise (although I think their starting pitching will keep them in more games than people think) and likely falling to the cellar, logic would suggest the Orioles would simply ascend to 4th, but not so fast, my friends.

Look at the New York Yankees who didn’t make a single upgrade to their current roster, having only kept icons Derek Jeter, who had the worst season of his career, and Rivera, who contrary to reports, wasn’t going anywhere. I refuse to give them credit for keeping their guys.

They failed to upgrade a bat in Carl Crawford and with it, youth and speed. They failed to land Cliff Lee to go with a weakened, aging, and thin starting rotation. At this point it’s Sabathia, Burnett and pray-to-God that Andy Pettite comes back.

With him, I think they finish no higher than 3rd, due to their continued lack of starting pitching and adding no impact free agents or youth. Yes they got Russell Martin, but that’s it.

Without Pettite I think there is a very serious battle for 3rd with Baltimore right behind Boston (1st) and Toronto (2nd) who lost only Gregg among its impact free agents. (I love their Rajai Davis move by the way.)

Long story short, I was going to have the O’s finish some five games or so behind the Yankee$ for third anyway, just to show the gap has been closing, and because of the O’s lack of starting pitching.

I still think they need to add a 15 game winner (Garza would have been perfect) and I have no idea how manager Buck Showalter got that staff to go 34-23 to finish the season (the team’s record).

Still, if they can get a lead with their hitting and hold it for five innings, qualifying that starter for the win before they go to their bullpen, as of today, I’m going to go bold and say they finish 3rd, something around 83 wins. But my projections will come out in mid February or early March when all the moves are done.

In a perfect world (outside of winning the division), they could finish 2nd and vie for the Wild Card, but that’s simply too optimistic with that lack of starting pitching. They also have to be careful not to succumb to too many changes too quickly in fitting in the new guys.

Still, a hot start (April and May) mixed with a solid finish (August and September like last year) would allow for some back-to-reality falling, which I predict, in the summer months of June and July, will get them their 3rd place finish.

The hot start would infuse optimism like in 2004 when Tejada, Lopez, and Palmeiro came to town, giving me memories of 1996-97, the last time the team made the post-season only to see that dashed. The strong finish would give people hope for next year and have them end on a positive note instead of the Blue Jay-esque hot finish last year that no one knows what to make of.

That Wild card push could come next year if they expand the playoffs to include two Wild Cards. Many people including FoxSports.com’s John Paul Morosi are so quick to just hand to Toronto. Next year is not our year, but for the first time since the 2003 offseason, it could be closer than it’s been for a long time. If you are sensing the parallels to the 90’s and the references I am making, you are not alone.

They say it’s not how you start but how you finish, but in the Orioles’ case, why can’t it be both?

Information and statistics from ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.

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2010 MLB Free Agency: Top 10 Closers on the Market

The 2010 season reached its conclusion and that can only mean one thing: The hot stove season is underway!

How will your team upgrade this offseason?

An integral part of any team is its closer. Look no further than the World Series champion Giants, a team that had a lights out postseason from closer Brian Wilson. It was an essential key to their success.

Having a reliable closer makes it so much easier on fans and coaches alike. A shaky closer can raise any manager’s blood pressure.

If you’re a fan of the Mets, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox, Nationals, Marlins, Braves or Red Sox, pay attention.

Here are the power rankings for the top 10 free-agent pitchers that have the ability to be solid closers in 2011.

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Toronto Blue Jays Have Decisions to Make on Kevin Gregg and Free Agent Pitchers

Decision time is looming for Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.  

He has to decide by Thursday, November the fourth whether to renew the option on Kevin Gregg for one year at $4.5 million, or two years at $8.75 million.  Or, the third choice, the Blue Jays can let Gregg enter the free agent pool.

It seems unlikely that Anthopoulos would let Gregg go without first ensuring that they have someone to take his spot.  The problem is, none of the Jays pitchers seem like they are ready to take on a full-time closer role, and free agents are only available once the option has expired on Gregg.

A new rule has been instituted by the league that gives teams a limited five-day window to negotiate with their free agents, instead of the previous fifteen-day time period.

That would mean that the Blue Jays also only have five days to sign new contracts with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and John Buck.  Since both Downs and Frasor were determined to be Type-A free agents, the Jays would receive four draft picks in total if they were to sign elsewhere.  

If the Jays were to let these two go through free agency, and then didn’t renew the option on Gregg, that would considerably deplete their bullpen.  The Jays certainly aren’t lacking in young arms, but the management has often claimed their preference for veterans in the relief role.

It is a strong possibility that the Jays would keep at least one of the these three pitchers to provide leadership and a steadying influence.  The one-year option on Gregg is the easiest solution since he fills the necessary closer role.

Of the other two pitchers, Downs is a left handed set-up man with fantastic numbers and will be highly sought after.  The Jays chances of outbidding the competition on Downs is limited, so they might be quite happy with taking the two compensatory picks.  

So it would seem that Frasor would be the less desired commodity of the two, and has the better chance of being retained by the Jays simply due to the price.

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Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Review: Kevin Gregg

If there was one player on the 2010 Blue Jays who was predicatively unpredictable, it was closer Kevin Gregg. After spending just one season with the Chicago Cubs, and not a particularly great one either, Gregg signed with the Blue Jays on a one year deal with club options for 2011 and 2012. Gregg quickly moved into the closer’s role converting six saves in six chances in April. He would keep the job all season despite some drastic ups and downs.

Converting or not converting saves is ultimately what closer’s are judged by, despite the flaws of the statistic. Gregg’s perfection in April was supported by his other, more telling, stats including his .82 ERA, .81 FIP and an unprecedented (especially for Gregg) .82 walk per nine innings. The good times quickly came to an end for Gregg and he was fortunate to still have the closer’s job come July.

In May and June, Gregg made good on twelve of fifteen save opportunities. That wasn’t far off his poor pace from 2009 that him blow seven saves in just thirty chances. Again, the rest of Gregg’s numbers supported the interpretation of  his questionable save rate. Gregg posted ERAs of 5.11 and 8.10 in May and June. His walk rate spiraled completely out of control, walking 17 batters in 19 1/3 innings of work. He did manage to keep setting down hitters on strikeouts in his toughest of times striking out 21 in those same 19 1/3 innings.

The month to month numbers are extremely small sample sizes, one outing can drastically alter the numbers for a months worth of work. But it’s still hard to ignore the fluctuations. After striking out at least 9.49 batters per nine innings across the first three months, he struckout 6.52 in July and 5.06 in September. And in between July and September he mowed down 10.38 per nine.

Manager Cito Gaston was rewarded for sticking with Gregg through his spat of ineffectiveness, as Gregg posted FIPs of 2.87, 3.31 and 3.64 in the last three months of the season. The save statistic mirrored this return to success as Gregg settled down and closed out twenty of his final twenty-three save chances. Gregg somehow managed that 3.64 FIP in September despite walking AND striking out 5.06 batters per nine, not an easy feat to pull off, nor one that anyone should try and emulate in the future either.

Gregg worked justed 59 innings on the year, his lowest total in any full season dating back to 2004. The lighter work load might have contributed to his overall success, 2010 saw Gregg post both the second lowest ERA(3.51) and FIP(3.57) of his career. His 86 percent save conversion rate also happened to be the second best of his career.

Gregg rebounded nicely from 2009 and did so in baseball’s toughest division. His proneness to wide performance fluctuations makes him a less than ideal closer. However, he’s proven himself to be a durable reliever by making at least 63 appearances for four straight seasons now. He’s also had a FIP under 4.00 in four of the last five years.

The Jays are probably not going to exercise his 4.5 million option for 2011 but he could still come back to the team if he were to accept an arbitration offer or resign for a lesser amount. Another season of 60-70 innings of better than average relief work would be worth somewhere around 3 to 3.5 million dollars, a number that seems fair to both sides. The Jays definitely got their money’s worth in 2010, although it wasn’t always easy to watch. If Jays fans can stomach another season of the unpredictable, they might get their money’s worth again in 2011.

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Toronto Blue Jays Offseason Could Cement Anthopolous’ Legacy as Jays GM

Last October, when JP Ricciardi and the Jays went their separate ways, Alex Anthopolous was promoted from within house. It was a baptism by fire soon after that for Anthopolous, who had a whole slough of roster issues and organizational matters to deal with.

First and foremost, he had to deal with Roy Halladay and his eventual departure on December 16th, 2009. Anthopolous would trade Halladay in an eventual nine player trade that would see key Phillies prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud sent to the Blue Jays. Taylor would then be dealt to the Oakland Athletics for then-third baseman Brett Wallace.

Looking back on that trade, you could easily argue that the Jays came away as landslide winners. Not only did they receive young, controllable contracts, but they also got the best young talent out of the deal.

In hindsight, the Phillies may of been better off keeping Cliff Lee and not trading away guys like Drabek, Taylor, and D’Arnaud. The difference this year between Lee and Halladay has been minimal at best, so when evaluating the deal, you look at the prospects changing sides. After looking at the stats at www.milb.com you can easily see who won that part of the deal.

Anthopolous’ next move was to deal with the crop of Jays free agents that season that included shortstop John McDonald, first baseman Kevin Millar, catcher Rod Barajas, and shortstop Marco Scutaro.

Making the smart decision, Alex opted to only keep McDonald and elect for the draft pick compensation from the likes of Barajas and Scutaro. He would go on to draft Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Asher Wojciechowski and Marcus Knecht with the sandwich picks. 

All these prospects are having good starts to their MLB careers. 

The next move in the offseason came with replacing those lost players via free agency. What was needed was a backup bat off the bench (Millar), a starting catcher (Barajas) and a starting shortstop (Scutaro) to replace what left.

With that in mind, Anthopolous signed Joey Gathright, John Buck, and Alex Gonzalez to one-year deals with the club. Gathright was released after spring training to make room for back-up infielder Mike McCoy and Buck and Gonzalez would go on to have All-Star caliber first halves with the team. He also added veteran catcher Jose Molina to the roster, a most in retrospect that may of been one of his better signings to date.

Anthopolous’ legacy was growing as we speak.

As the offseason progressed, the Jays began to make deals and their current team began to unfold. The most notable deal was the Halladay deal, but a deal that fell under the radar somewhat was the trading of Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez for Brandon Morrow.

Morrow a converted closer, is just realizing his potential as a starter, and has began to dominate opponents, just recently pitching a one-hit, 17-strikeout complete game against the Tampa Bay Rays. League leads the major league in relief wins with eight and Chavez is lighting up the High Desert League in the Mariners farm system. Simply, this was a deal that both sides you can say won with.

A more recent trade saw the Jays trade Alex Gonzalez, Tyler Pastornicky, and Tiny Tim Collins to the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes. Escobar, who was suffering through a terrible start with the Braves, was dealt with hopes the Braves could improve their production from the shortstop position for the short-term. 

Escobar took this as an insult and has raised his batting average nearly 60 points coming into the nights action, from a .238 batting average with the Braves, to a .298 batting average with the Jays.

As the year moved on, the Jays began to show the powerful lineup they possessed. Leading the entire league in many team power categories, Anthopolous believed that the team needed to still get more athletic and younger, so he went out and acquired lead-off hitter Fred Lewis, and traded Gonzalez for the younger, more controllable contract of Yunel Escobar.

Going into the draft, Alex Anthopolous went into the draft with something previous GM’s would’ve loved to have—spending money. By all accounts, this past draft for Anthopolous was a very good showing for the Jays.In the long run, it may turn out to be one of the better drafts in recent memory for the Jays.

Having already signed 27 of 56 drafted players, and signed international prospect talents like Adeiny Hechavarria, Adonis Cardona, and Gabriel Canas, the Jays have essentially signed half of their drafted players, something many organizations only wish to accomplish.

After the trade deadline passed with no movement among some of the Jays best trading assets, it was becoming more clear that Anthopolous would rather keep the sandwich picks rather than trade players just for the sake of making trades.

As the Jays begin the dog days of August, and the eventual conclusion to the 2010 season, major question marks remain unanswered heading into the 2011 season. 

Is Jose Bautista a realistic option to re-sign? 

What Happens to the Three Headed Monster in the bullpen with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Kevin Gregg (all of whom are potential free agents)?

How do the Jays replace the void left by the trading of eventual first baseman Brett Wallace, and the potential loss of current first baseman Lyle Overbay?

Who will be Cito Gaston’s successor? 

Going into the offseason, the Jays will be losing roughly $20 million dollars in potential free agents, leaving them with a team payroll of roughly $41 million, a far cry from the Yankees starting rotation that costs upwards of $65 million. 

With prospects Kyle Drabek, JP Arencibia, and potentially Zach Stewart nearing regular major league duty, the Jays could be primed for a breakout year, if Anthopolous can somehow work his magic. 

The very low team payroll heading into the offseason, leaves Anthopolous with a wide range of possibilities to explore. 

I expect Jose Bautista to be re-signed, and 2/3 of the bullpen trio to come back, and Brian Butterfield to be hired as the new manager, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess how this team will turn out.

This offseason Anthopolous will be armed with a loaded farm system, money to spend, and a new organizational outlook heading into the 2011 season.

Now is the time for President Paul Beeston and Jays management to increase payroll and give this team a fighting chance to compete in the so called “Division of Death” in Baseball.

The ball has been grounded into Anthopolous’ glove, only time will tell if he can cleanly make the throw to first base, or throw the ball into the stands like Chuck Knoblauch. If he can bring in the right pieces to add to the current Jays roster, next season could be the start of potentially the rebirth of the Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball.

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