Pitchers and Catchers report to Dunedin in just 4 days on February 14. In honor of the Blue Jays 42nd season in the MLB, here are 42 random thoughts.
31. Speaking of training camp, there will be a unique camp in Florida featuring many of the 100 unsigned free agents. In 1995, a year plagued by a strike, there were also a high number of players unsigned and a similar camp was held that year. How many players will attend this camp is largely dependent on how many are signed to tryouts by teams and also how many of the older unsigned players, such as Jose Bautista, choose to retire? Players such as Jake Arrieta and Eric Hosmer will be signed sooner than players such as Bautista, who has been in decline for the past couple of seasons.
32. Reports suggest that the Blue Jays are looking at signing free agent Andrew Cashner. I think the Blue Jays need to add an extra starter in case of injury. We certainly don't want to see the same situation as last season where Joe Biagini was forced to start and he had an inconsistent year because of it. Cashner was 11-11 with a 3.28 ERA in 28 starts for the Texas Rangers in 2017. Other options that the Blue Jays could look at are Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66ERA in 29 starts for the Rays) or Lance Lynn (11-8. 3.43 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals). If the Blue Jays are willing to pay a bit more, Yu Darvish (10-12, 3.86 ERA in 31 starts with the Rangers and Dodgers) and Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA in 30 starts for the Cubs). It is highly unlikely the Blue Jays will go after Arrieta as he willl probably cost significantly more to sign than the other 4 starters mentioned above. Personally, I like Cashner or Lynn as targets to sign.
33. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays signed reliever and Brampton, Ontario native John Axford to a minor league deal. Axford will be looking to rebound after a difficult 2017 campaign that ended on July 31st when the Oakland A's released him. In 22 appearances, Axford had a 6.83 ERA and 21 K's. Axford's best season was in 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers when he saved 46 games and had a solid 1.95 ERA. Should Axford make the team, expect him to be called upon to pitch around the middle innings. He'll be in tough battling for a roster spot with Danny Barnes, Carlos Ramirez and lefty's Tim Mayza and Matt Dermody
34. Can Roberto Osuna rebound from a difficult 2017 campaign when he struggled with personal off-field issues that affected his play on the field? The 23 year old Jays closer notched 39 saves in 2017, however, he also blew a major-league high 10 saves. I think Osuna will be back stronger than ever. He has a good support system in place to help him deal with his mental health problems. Also, Osuna is just 23 years old and only in his 4th season in the majors. He'll only get better with time and experience. Oh and in case Osuna needs any extra motivation, he lost his arbitration case. Pitch well this season and Osuna can win his arbitration case next time.
35. Justin Smoak had a career year last season batting .270 with 38 HR and 90 RBI. Prior to last season, Smoak had never hit more than .238 in a season and his highest HR total was 20. Was 2017 an aberrant year or is it the start of a trend of becoming a better than average ball player? Smoak tailed off after the all-star break so that suggests that maybe Jays fans shouldn;t expect Smoak to do as well this season Baseball is a sport about adjusting. A batter might get off to a hot start to a season, but pitchers will look at film and adjust how they pitch to that batter. I hope I am wrong and Smoak does as well or better than last season.
36. Tropicana field may soon be replaced. This week, the Tampa Bay Rays announced a proposed site for a new stadium in Ybor City in Tampa Bay. The current Tropicana field has been widely criticized for having poor sight lines, catwalks where baseballs hit and ricochet at odd angles and fans have to walk a great distance from the parking lot to the stadium. The roof at Tropicana field really clashes with the baseball making pop-ups and flyballs a nightmare for fielders to track. Another major critique, not necessarily the fault of stadium design, is in 2017 Tropicana Field was ranked dead last in food safety at their stadium. Hopefully the shovels are in the ground soon so the Rays can have a better place to play.
37. Former Blue Jays I'll be watching: Edwin Encarnacion (CLE), David Price (BOS), Dustin McGowan (TBR), Brett Cecil (STL), Daniel Norris (DET), Brandon Morrow (CHC)
38. I am really rooting for the Seattle Mariners to end their playoff drought and make a run at the World Series. They are my second team after the Toronto Blue Jays and geographically they are my "home" team (90 minute flight from Seattle). I am really considering making a trip down to Seattle when the Blue Jays are in town as it is my birthday month. Seattle still holds the record for most wins in the regular season. The Mariners have largely the same team as last year that was playing meaningful games in September. Their rotation is anchored by Canadian James Paxton and also has "King" Felix Hernandez. Go Mariners!
39. First Manager to be fired: Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins. After the fire sale this summer, I get the sense owner Derek Jeter won't have much patience for a slow start to the season.
40. Odd trade of the off-season: Russell Wilson to the Yankees. It's highly doubtful we'll see the Seattle Seahawks QB in pinstripes. He is pretty good at football. It's possible the Yankees might give him an AB in spring training as a gimmick.
41. Perhaps the greatest 2 sport athlete was Bo Jackson. Jackson hit .256 with 32HR and 105RBI for the Kansas City Royals in 1989. He was also pretty good at football (pro bowler in 1990 and all-rookie team in 1987). Other notable 2 sport baseball players: Danny Ainge (hit .220 and had 2HR for the Blue Jays; scored nearly 12,000 points in the NBA); Dave DeBusschere (solid pitcher who threw a shutout for the Indians; 8x NBA all-star; 6x all-defensive team); Gene Conley (won World Series with Milwaukee Braves and Jackie Robinson (broke the color carrier in baseball, 1949 NL MVP and 1955 World Series Champ; 1940 NCAA Men's outdoor long jump champion at UCLA)
42. Back in October a report came out that the MLB is considering expanding to 32 teams and having a condensed 156 game schedule. Right now, the league is pretty healthy and most teams are competitive into September. The question is whether there is enough talent in the minors to make an expansion team competitive. Or would the league do what the NHL did and create a situation where an expansion team has decent players to pick from. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are right at the top of the NHL standings, thanks in large part to being able to pick the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury as their goalie and James Neal. Possible expansion locations are Montreal, Portland, Mexico City and Las Vegas.
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