There was one near breaking point. Aaron was 13 years old, playing basketball for his school team down the hill in Redlands. Mike was going to pick him up after a game and take him to baseball practice. Aaron told his friends that he wasn’t going, that he was quitting baseball for good. “I told them it was over, it was done, I don’t want to go,” Aaron remembers.
When he arrived at the basketball game, Mike was told what Aaron had being saying. He would have none of it. “I went over there and he said, ‘I don’t want to play anymore.’ I said, ‘Well that’s too bad. Let’s go.’
“‘No, Dad. I don’t want to play.’
“‘I understand that, but get in the car.’”
“Mike was not going to allow Aaron to quit,” Lynn remembers. “That was one of those moments when you wonder whether you’re doing the right thing as a parent. Mike would literally throw him in the car and say that we’re going … As they were leaving, Aaron would say, ‘Mom, don’t make me. Mom, don’t make me.’ I’m so torn but I can’t step between him and Mike because that’s not what we do here. Mike would say, ‘Lynn, back me on this’ and I would.”
Aaron relented. They went to baseball practice.
“Every time once we got to practice, we were 100 per cent fine,” Mike says. “And we’d have the best talks of our lives when we were coming home. But going was like pulling teeth.”
“It really just came down to, every day is new,” Atkins said. “After he threw, he was feeling general tightness that just hasn’t gone away. He has been feeling it for some time and I think we expected — he expected — it to improve with him continuing to pitch. It didn’t, so we felt like it was in his best interest and ours to see if we can get that completely out of there.”
If the Jays had known, they could have delayed the move placing right-hander Mike Bolsinger on waivers. Bolsinger was clearly the next man up before they waived him off the roster, hoping that he clears and can then be sent to Triple-A Buffalo. Instead they had to reach down and bring up right-hander Dominic Leone who had just been optioned to the Bisons late in the week and had not even made the trip to Montreal.
But bad news for Osuna and Atkins was good news for Leone, a 25-year-old Connecticut native who attended Clemson University. He was at minor-league camp in Dunedin and packing for Buffalo when he was told there was a change of plans.
“Either way, the start of the season is exciting,” Leone said. “But this being actually my first opening day, it was a little actual bonus.”
Osuna, placed on the DL Sunday retroactive to April 1, threw in the outfield before the game as he tries to work through a bout of neck stiffness described by the club as a cervical spasm. He pitched three times in the past week – his first action against big-leaguers since a couple of appearances for Mexico at the World Baseball Classic – but his velocity topped out at 93 m.p.h. That was a factor, but not the sole determiner of the decision to place him on baseball’s new 10-day disabled list.
“It’s more that (the stiffness) just hasn’t gotten out of there,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “It’s not a complete shutdown but a shift in his routine and not a ramp up. There will be a lot less intensity because he’s not having to get ready going into a game. We felt like with a moderate continuation of his development and build-up of spring training that we had a better chance to have him put his best foot forward the day he pitches.”
Atkins added that the Blue Jays don’t think Osuna will need a rehab assignment before he returns and that they could create a pitching environment to help get him ready, if needed.
Coghlan gives the Blue Jays a replacement on the outfield depth chart, and also reinforces the infield as well, all on a minor league contract. He had initially signed with the Phillies earlier this offseason, but ultimately left because of a reported disagreement over a contract stipulation. The Phillies’ loss is the Blue Jays gain in this case.
Because Coghlan was willing to sign a MiLB contract, the Blue Jays have the luxury of starting his season in Buffalo, which allowed them to keep as many depth options as possible. As mentioned above, Goins is out of minor league options, which means he could have been picked up by another team on the waiver wire. The same goes for Ezequiel Carrera, who the Blue Jays started in left field on Monday in the opener.
Coghlan was the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, but things haven’t gone quite as well since. Last year he finished with a slash line of .188/.290/.318 over 99 games between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s. After moving to Oakland, his performance fell apart, as he went .146/.215/.272 in 158 AB’s with the A’s. This performance ultimately lead to his having to sign an MLB deal.
The same way Encarnacion thought he was going to get $100 million and five years. He got three years and $60 million.
And there was little action on Bautista, who signed a one-year deal with all kinds of options. It was a far cry from the $100 million-plus he was seeking over five or six years.
The Yankees picked up 41-homer man Chris Carter for $4 million — or $125,000 less than the Blue Jays are paying Justin Smoak.
Last season, there were 5,610 home runs hit in baseball, a number up from 1,424 from just two seasons back. That is a giant jump. More home runs are being hit right now than any year since 2000, the heart of the steroid era. And baseball is paying less for them than ever before.
“Really, it comes down to all front offices, baseball executives, thinking more about the complete player in a more objective way,” said Ross Atkins, the Blue Jays’ general manager. “It’s an interesting topic that is getting a lot of attention these days.
“We have more information about the complete offensive player and what that means. The home run is just one piece of the equation.”
It’s the piece that defeated the Jays on opening day. It’s the piece that sent them on from the wild-card game last October. It is the piece that had Carter touching them all, Joe.
“Across the industry, teams are doing a better job of understanding how a player who doesn’t hit home runs can impact a roster versus one who does,” said Atkins, who is more numbers-inclined than home-run believer.
The precise amount that the Jays owed Upton was not easy information to pin down. There was quite a bit of confusion about it over the winter, but Shi Davidi of Sportsnet confirmed in mid-January that the Jays owe just $1 million of Upton’s $16.45 million salary. The Jays’ ranking in the CBS/Sportrac list, then, is based on a number that’s $15.45 million too high.
Here’s where a funny thing happens, though: subtract that $15.45 million from their listed Opening Day payroll figure and they drop to $162,345,368. That puts their ranking just a hair behind the Baltimore Orioles, and in 11th place — four places and $20 million better than the AP has it.
That number is close, but not the same as the site that I trust most on these issues, Cot’s Baseball Contracts, which is now part of Baseball Prospectus. Cot’s has the Jays’ 25-man roster Opening Day payroll at $163,381,937 (and yes, they have accurately adjusted for Upton’s retained salary). According to the main BP Compensation page, that also means the Jays rank 11th in this regard, just behind Baltimore.
The difference here seems to be in how the two different sites consider Lourdes Gurriel. Cot’s is including his salary on the active payroll, Sportrac isn’t. So even two sites that get it right and show their work don’t quite agree!
More importantly — or, at the very least, more comfortingly — if we look at the rankings at BP/Cot’s, though the Jays are in 11th, the difference between their payroll and the seventh-ranked Angels is just $3 million.
The Blue Jays traded for international-bonus slots and were able to avoid completely blowing out their bonus pool to sign Guerrero in 2015, instead spending in a range that only benched them from big international spending for one year instead of two. While most 17-year-old international signees spend their first pro season in the Dominican, Guerrero was advanced enough to come stateside. Not only that, but after spending time in extended spring training (and often hanging around and attentively watching Jays’ Florida State League games at night in April and May), Guerrero skipped the GCL and was sent to the Appalachian League, where he was dominant.
I’ve spoken with several sources (both with Toronto and without) who think Guerrero will be in the big leagues before he turns 21. He has elite bat speed and power potential, with surprising bat control for such a high-effort swing. His approach at the plate is, predictably, epicurean. But embedded deep within his genealogy is an ability to make this approach viable, and even when Guerrero is poking at balls just a few inches above the dirt that appear totally unhittable, his strength/bat speed is so good that the ball still jumps off his bat and into the gaps. It looks like he’s going to hit, hit for power, and walk quite a bit, too. There’s 30-homer potential here.
Guerrero worked out as an outfielder as an amateur but moved to third base after he signed. His thick build at this age indicates a likely move to first base at some point. That said, he’s improved his arm strength (once a question mark, now a 55 or 60) and might stay at third base for a little while, perhaps following a similar defensive path as Miguel Cabrera (though Vlad is already bigger than Cabrera was at age 20-23) or Edwin Encarnacion. Nobody seems to care where he plays, everyone thinks he’s going to hit enough to play anywhere and be a middle-of-the-order force.
“He has a fastball with above average major-league velocity,” said Blue Jays pitching coordinator Jeff Ware. “It’s a swing-and-miss fastball that plays hard. It looks hard. It seems to jump on the hitters and they don’t seem to pick it up very well.”
Romano’s fastball was so good often times he didn’t need to use anything else.
He’s worked hard to turn his slider into more of a power pitch, and he continues to refine his changeup, a pitch he was hesitant to use at times in years past. Ware, the pitching coach at Lansing last year, forced the righty to throw ten changeups a game, knowing it’s a pitch he’ll need as he advances through the minors.
“I never wanted to throw it. I felt like my fastball and my slider were so much more advanced,” Romano said. “But this year, I’m pretty confident throwing it. It’s still my third-best pitch, but it’s not third by far now.”
MLB.com Blue Jays reporter Gregor Chisholm joined Scott MacArthur talking about the Jays 3-2 loss in Baltimore on Monday and shared his positives and negatives on the loss.
Even though the Jays’ loss came in a scenario that wouldn’t necessarily have had closer Roberto Osuna in the game, and even though the five relievers that saw action were generally solid, the concern over the bullpen ace’s absence won’t go away.
The good news for the Jays, however, is that Osuna isn’t being shut down because of the neck injury that has him on the 10-day disabled list. Osuna was throwing on the field on Monday to help keep his fitness and arm strength.
“It’s more that (stiffness in his neck) just hasn’t gotten out,” Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “It’s not a complete shutdown, but a shift in his routine.
“There will be a lot less intensity because he’s not having to get ready going into a game. We felt like, with a moderate continuation of his development, that we had a better chance to have him put his best foot forward the day he pitches.”
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if manager John Gibbons alters his approach for fill-in closer going forward. Joe Biagini was strong in 1.2 innings of setup work, while Jason Grilli took the loss with the slider Trumbo rocked out of the park in the bottom of the 11th.
If the game had continued, we had Ryan Tepera and Dominic Leone left in the pen, two pitchers who could go multiple innings and, if one of them had to go 3 or 4 innings, both have options, they could be sent down to get a fresh arm (not as big a deal with today being an off-day.
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