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Phillips: A look at the Jays not qualifying Johnson, Davis

Steve Phillips
11/8/2013 4:11:23 PM
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TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips answers three questions each week. This week, topics covered are the Jays declining to make qualifying offers for Josh Johnson and Rajai Davis, the Jays deciding to pick up options on Casey Janssen, Adam Lind and Mark DeRosa but declining to keep Munenori Kawasaki, and if a new hitting coach can make that big a difference.

1) The Jays declined to make qualifying offers for Josh Johnson and Rajai Davis. Was that the right call in both cases - the Jays will get no compensation when they sign elsewhere.

The Blue jays did not make a $14.1M qualifying offer to either Josh Johnson or Rajai Davis therefore they will get no compensation for either player if they opt to sign elsewhere.  They can still sign the players if they so desire.   The Jays decided that the risk of offering either the money is that they would take it. 

Rajai Davis has visions of getting a multi-year deal from someone who looks at him as a starter.  His stolen base numbers (45 of 51) are attractive but his on base percentage is not (.312).  As they say, "You can't steal first base."  Davis made $2.5M is 2013.  He is a decent 4th outfielder on a good team.  The Jays made the right decision not to make a qualifying offer to him.  If he wants to return to Toronto he may be worth a two-year $5M deal but I would have no interest in anything more than that for him. 

Josh Johnson made $13.75M in 2013.  He was injured half of the season and didn't perform well.  He was significantly overpaid considering his 2-8 record and 6,02 ERA.  If the Jays had offered Johnson $14.1M for 2014 he would have taken it.  Considering his health issues Johnson will most likely be looking at free agent offers that include a base salary in the $6M range with incentives to earn more if he stays healthy. 

The Jays should not try to resign Johnson for any price.  He is too unpredictable.  That is the last thing Toronto needs again is uncertainty in its rotation.  In their division the jays need bang for their bucks.  They can't afford to have dollars wasting away on the DL and they had a bunch of that this past season.  Of course, things happen and players get hurt.  But if you sign Johnson you have to expect that he will not make 33 starts for you.  That just doesn't work. 

So, yes, it is a bummer that the Jays won't get compensation for either guy but it is the nature of the beast in baseball today. 

2) The Jays decided to pick up options on Janssen, Lind and DeRosa but declined to keep Kawasaki.  Do you like those decisions? (many fans wanted to keep the younger and enthusiastic Kawasaki).

I absolutely agree with all of these decisions. 

Casey Janssen had a terrific season.  He is slated to make $4M in 2104.  That is an absolute bargain for a closer that was 4-1with a 2.58 ERA who converted 34 of 36 save opportunities.  Whether the Jays want to keep Janssen or trade him he is a real value to the franchise at that price. 

Adam Lind's salary next season is more than Janssen.  He is slated to make $7M.  That is a bargain as well, though, for a .288/.357/.497 slash line as well as 23 HR and 67 RBI.   Plus being able to have a power bat for one year allows the Jays flexibility with the payroll moving forward.   Lind is a trade chip for the Jays if it fits as well.  He gives Alex Anthopolous an option to consider moving in a trade for a pitcher.  He is affordable power.  Small, medium and large market teams alike could have interest in Lind.

Mark DeRosa will be 39 in February.  He still has value to a team however.  He is versatile.  He is a quality veteran player who understands his role and is a leader.  With a salary of only $750,000 he barely impacts the budget.  Although health was an issue last year, DeRosa still had an impact.  He is a guy that is good to have around during tough times.  He offers stability and perspective gained through his years of experience.   There will always be trade interest in a veteran guy like DeRosa   There has been some speculation that DeRosa might retire but so far his return to Toronto is likely.

I know there are plenty of fans who fell in love with Munenori Kawasaki last season His passion for the game was obvious. He doesn't hit for average or power and doesn't possess any great tool for the game beyond his passion to play.  Overall he is short on talent and talent wins in the big leagues.  His $1M price tag became too much once the decision to keep DeRosa was made.  This doesn't preclude the Jays from signing Kawasaki to a minor league deal and bringing him into camp for a chance to compete however. 

3) They Jays hired Kevin Seitzer to be their new hitting coach - the third in three years. The Jays were disappointing .252 hitters last year - can a new hitting coach make that big a difference and what are your impressions of Seitzer in that capacity?

I played in the minor leagues against Kevin Seitzer in 1984.  I was in Class A with the New York Mets in Columbia, SC and Seitzer played for the Royals Class A team in Charleston, SC.  I remember Seitzer as a player almost as much as I remember the swarms of Palmetto bugs at night games and the amazing quarter beer night crowds that came out to the ballpark.

 Back then Seitzer was a smart player who had a good eye at the plate.  He didn't have much power but he did have quality professional at bats day in and day out.  He hit from line to line using the entire field.  He walked more than he struck out and was a good situational hitter.  He went on to have a solid major league career over a 12-year span.  His major league numbers never deviated much from what he showed as a minor leaguer. 

So why is a guy who had such little power in his own career a good fit for a team full of power hitters? 

Because he can instill a new fresh perspective and approach.  The Jays have been a "grip it and rip it" mentality over the last several years.  They have scored their runs via the home run.  There is nothing wrong with that but the game offers so many more opportunities to score besides the home run.  If hitters make small adjustments in their swing and their approach they can make significant improvements in certain situations. 

The Jays need to be better at advancing runners with productive outs.  Seitzer can help.  With a man on second and no one out a batter should be looking to advance the runner to third with a ball hit to the right side of the infield.  The Jays of recent past have struck out or popped up too much in those situations.  With a man on third and less than two outs hitters need to put the ball in play and drive in a run.  The Jays have been too prone to striking out in those situations.  The hitters need to think differently and cut down their swings a bit to make more contact.

Hitting is more mental than physical at the major league level.  When a batter is struggling it is rarely his swing that is the problem.  More often than not it is his head that is causing him problems.  Players over think or under think.  They get caught in between pitches; behind the fastball and in  front of the off-speed pitch; unable to hit either. 

Seitzer will be more of a hitting psychologist than mechanic for the Jays.  If they listen to him and make the appropriate adjustments they could lead the league in runs scored. 

Fair or Foul

Baseball fans are in hibernation now.  The weather is getting cold and it is the heart of the NHL season. The players and coaches have all returned to their hometowns.  They are hunting and fishing and taking vacations with their families.  The guys are able to take their kids to school and do many of the husband and dad things that they don't do during the season.  They will start getting in shape after Thanksgiving for the 2014 season. 

As a member of the front office the work never ends.  It's 162 games and then the work starts.  Alex Anthopolous and his staff don't have an off-season.  This is as busy a time of the year as there is in a baseball front office. 

Anthopolous is reading reports from his Instructional League program in Florida.  He is perusing the game reports and scouting reports from Winter Leagues in the Caribbean and Mexico and the Arizona Fall League.  He and his staff are evaluating the players on the major league and minor league rosters.  He is deciding which players he is going to protect on the roster and which he will not.  He is evaluating the arbitration values for the applicable players on his roster.  He is negotiating with agents in advance of arbitration to see what deals can be made.  Anthopolous is discussing with his minor league director the needs for his AAA team next season, as he will need depth and inventory to compensate for injuries in Toronto.  He is negotiating contracts with agents for these non-roster invitees to major league camp.  He is analyzing off-season conditioning programs for all of the players with his training and medical staff.  He is calculating his payroll budget for next season with ownership.  He is studying every team in baseball to identify which clubs the Jays match up with in trades...

... and finally he is deciding what he wants for dinner at the end of this very full day.

The job of a general manager is 365 days a year and 24 hours a day.  You are on call all the time.  If a player needs you then you take the call.  If an agent calls you always call back for fear that you could lose out on a deal.  If another GM is on the phone you drop all that you are doing just in case he has a trade proposal that could make your team better. 

Let me correct myself; it is not a job being a general manager.  It is a lifestyle.  

It takes a very understanding family.  The demands are never-ending and at times it is all-consuming.  I know there are so many of you that would kill to be a GM but just remember it is a job.  Like any other job, there are things that you like about it and things that you dislike. 

I was a GM for the Mets from July 1997 to June of 2003.   When people ask me how long I was a GM I joke that I did it for 42 years.  It was six years but they were like dog years.  I started out with brown hair and ended up with it being almost completely white. 

I for one would never take a GM job again.  The next step would be to lose my hair and I just can't take that chance.

So this off-season when you are watching hockey and you have a passing thought of the Blue Jays, please know that Alex Antholopus and his staff are working tirelessly to prepare for next season.



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