Tag:Blue Jays
Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:52 pm

Expanded playoffs, and what might have been

The other day, Terry Francona was saying that if the new double-wild-card playoff system had been in effect last year, he'd still be managing the Red Sox.

That may well be true. Not only that, but if the new system had been in effect the last two years, Francona's Red Sox would be on a five-year streak of making the playoffs, and would have missed out on October just once in his eight seasons in charge.

A few other what-might-have-beens:

-- The team that would have benefited the most if baseball had gone to two wild cards instead of one in 1995: The Giants. They would have made it to the play-in game in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2009, which means they would have been in the postseason nine of the last 15 years, rather than just five.

-- The play-in game would have featured two teams from the same division a little less than a third of the time, but it would have given us an all-AL East matchup three times in the last four years. It would have been Yankees-Red Sox in both 2008 and 2010. Had that happened, would anyone have been claiming that the rivalry needed rejuvenating?

-- The second wild card wouldn't have saved the collapsing 2007 Mets, but the 2008 team would have had at least one more game.

-- The Phillies' string of consecutive postseason appearances would now be at seven years, rather than five. The Phillies would have been in the play-in game in both 2005 (against the Astros) and 2006 (against the Dodgers).

-- The Blue Jays, who haven't been to the postseason since their back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, would have made it in 1998. And the Expos, who didn't make it to the postseason after 1981, would have been there in 1996. But even expanded playoffs wouldn't have helped the Pirates (still no playoff appearances since 1992) or the Royals (none since 1985).

Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:23 pm

Less money, set-up role, but Cordero is happy

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Francisco Cordero is second to Mariano Rivera among active players on the all-time saves list.

A distant second, but still, he is second.

Over the last five years, Cordero has saved more games (194) than any closer in baseball.

And at the end of a crazy winter on the closer market, Cordero found himself with the Blue Jays -- as a setup man -- making $4.5 million on a one-year deal.

All of which, he insisted Friday, was fine with him.

"I'm still pitching, still getting people out," said Cordero. "Why would I be mad?

"Maybe if I was a new guy, I'd be upset. I was a little bit disappointed, but I'm happy with my new team. I still have a contract. I still have a place to pitch."

Cordero is 36 years old, and coming off a contract with the Reds that paid him $46 million for four years. The Reds signed Ryan Madson for $8.5 million to replace him.

"Early in the winter, [the Reds] offered me $12 million for two years," Cordero said. "We thought maybe they would come up a little, make it a little better. But then they came back with one year for $5 million."

Cordero signed with the Blue Jays for even less than that, but he said he has no regrets.

"To sign back there [with the Reds] and not be happy, that wouldn't have been the right thing," he said. "I loved Cincinnati, the people there, and the way the fans treated me, but it was time to move on."

He already seems to fit in well in the Blue Jays clubhouse, where he spends a lot of time talking and laughing with Jose Bautista and others. Cordero said he has also meshed well with Santos, who is in just his second full year as a closer.

"He's been my throwing partner," Cordero said. "I hope I can help him."

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:06 pm

Others retire, but Vizquel goes on and on

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada retired. Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez are sitting home, waiting for major-league contracts that may never come.

Omar Vizquel is here, in Blue Jays camp, fighting for a job with no guarantees.

He's 44 years old, about to turn 45 next month. He doesn't need this.

Or maybe he does.

"I'm here because I love to play," Vizquel said Thursday morning. "I just love the game."

He's well aware that other players aren't willing to do what he's doing, especially star players. Vizquel was a star, too, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop (two shy of Ozzie Smith's record of 13).

The irony now is that Vizquel needs to prove himself at shortstop to make the Blue Jays roster. Club officials clearly want him on the team, and see him as a possible mentor to starting shortstop Yunel Escobar, but manager John Farrell said that Vizquel needs to show he still has the arm strength to make the throw from deep in the hole.

"I know what I have to do," he said. "I have to have a solid spring training."

Vizquel understands that he's being asked to prove himself again, but he figures it's worth it for one more shot.

What he doesn't understand is why so many others don't think another year is worth taking a chance.

"You sacrifice a little of your pride," he said. "But I don't know why [others] don't try. If you really feel the energy, why not do it?

"It's weird to see all these guys retire, and I'm still on the field."

He says this year will be it. No, actually he says that this year "probably" will be it.

"I've been saying that the last three years," he admitted.

He already knows what he wants to do next. He turned down a chance to manage in Venezuela over the winter, but he says that managing is in his future.

And not just in Venezuela.

Vizquel would manage there, but eventually he's hoping to manage in the big leagues.

First, though, he's hoping to win a job from a manager he batted against two decades ago. For the record, Vizquel was 4-for-14 against Farrell, with all four hits coming in 1989.

"Yes, I remember," Vizquel said. "Is it funny to play for him now? It's funny to play for anyone. I played for Ozzie [Guillen]. I played for Eric Wedge, and he's younger than me."

Farrell points out that Vizquel helped Elvis Andrus with the Rangers, and Alexei Ramirez with the White Sox. He also points out something that's clear to see, which is that Vizquel is still in great shape.

"He's gained two pounds his entire career," Farrell said. "His body looks just like it did when he was 25."

He's not 25. He's almost 45.

And hoping he's not done yet.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 21, 2011 1:30 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2011 12:52 pm

Darvish is gone, but plenty of starters available

Among teams and agents with starting pitching for sale, there was some hope that the Yu Darvish decision would spur movement in a market that has been slow to develop.

That could still happen. But for now, there is still so much pitching available that it's hard to understand why any team would feel the need to panic.

The free-agent market still offers Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, among others.

On the trade market, Jair Jurrjens, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Wandy Rodriguez, Matt Garza and more are all believed by other teams to be available, albeit at what buyers still consider to be inflated prices. Even with Mat Latos already having gone to the Reds, John Danks signing an extension with the White Sox and Gio Gonzalez gone to the Nationals, it's a long list (and others such as the Mets' Jon Niese are also out there, along with longer-shot names like James Shields).

Compare that to last July 31, when the Tigers were able to trade for Doug Fister and the Indians got Ubaldo Jimenez, but many teams trying to deal for pitching found no one of real value available.

Now, the question is the high cost in prospects, at least based on what the Padres and A's got for Latos and Gonzalez. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, Marlins, Blue Jays, Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Yankees, Rockies, Orioles and others are hoping to add at least one more starter this winter.

And the market is still so fluid that one person who talked to the Red Sox this week reported back that they are "in on everybody."

In part because so many pitchers are still available, many rival officials continue to think that the Padres did very well in what they got from the Reds for Latos, who is young (24), cheap (not even arbitration-eligible yet), controllable (can't be a free agent until 2016) and talented, but also is regarded as having questionable makeup.

The Reds would no doubt argue that the price for any top pitching remains high, and for now it does.

The question is where the market goes from here, particularly with so many pitchers available.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:38 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 7:16 pm

Fighters will accept Darvish bid tonight

Yu Darvish is so big that there's an announcement of the announcement.

The star Japanese pitcher's agent wrote Monday morning on Twitter that the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters will announce late Tuesday morning Japan time (Monday night in North America) whether they have accepted the bid. CBSSports.com has learned that the Fighters have decided to accept the bid, with an announcement planned for early afternoon Japan time (likely around 10 or 11 p.m. ET Monday night).

Once the Fighters officially accept the bid, Major League Baseball will reveal which team made that bid.

While people in baseball have speculated that it is either the Blue Jays or Rangers (with more people saying Rangers on Monday), the actual information has been so tightly held that it can't be sure that the speculation is accurate.

The winning bid is expected to be very high, and could even challenge the record $51.1 million posting fee that the Red Sox paid five years ago for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Once the Fighters formally accept the bid, the winning team will have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Darvish. The posting fee is only paid (by the winning team to the Fighters) once a contract is agreed to.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 15, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 9:21 pm

Darvish: Fighters expected to accept Tuesday

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are expected to accept the posting price on star pitcher Yu Darvish, but not until just before the Tuesday 5 p.m. ET deadline.

That means another five days of waiting to find out which team has won the right to negotiate with Darvish, the 25-year-old right-hander who wants to come to the major leagues after a brilliant career in Japan. Once the Fighters formally accept the bid, the commissioner's office will reveal the name of the winning team (even the Fighters don't know which team it is), and a 30-day negotiating window will open.

Ever since the bidding period ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday, rumors about which team won and how high that team bid have been flying around baseball. Talk in the game is that the winning bid was above $40 million, and possibly even above the $51 million that the Red Sox paid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

As for which team won the bid, speculation continues that it was the Blue Jays, although it is also thought that the Rangers put in a strong bid. The Yankees were said to have put in a "modest" bid, and thus it's considered unlikely that they were the team that won the rights.

Waiting until near the deadline before accepting a posting bid is not unusual. The Seibu Lions did the same thing five years ago, after posting Matsuzaka. And while there was much speculation then about which team made the highest bid, the winner wasn't known for sure until after the Lions officially signaled their acceptance.
Category: MLB
Posted on: December 13, 2011 8:28 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 5:40 pm

Tigers, Red Sox among teams in on Gio Gonzalez

When the bidding window for Yu Darvish closes at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, one team will come away with the chance to sign one of the best remaining pitchers available on the winter shopping market.

The others can turn their attention back to Gio Gonzalez.

The 26-year-old A's left-hander remains the hottest name on the trade market, with the Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds among the teams chasing him. Gonzalez will be arbitration-eligible in 2012, but a team acquiring him would have him under control for four years before free agency, which adds to his value.

For now, though, the A's are asking a sky-high price.

How high? Well, when the Marlins asked about Gonzalez at last week's winter meetings, sources said that the A's asked for budding star Mike Stanton in return. Understandably, that conversation was brief.

The Tigers could have something of an edge in the Gonzalez hunt, because A's general manager Billy Beane is said to be enamored with young Tiger right-hander Jacob Turner. The Tigers would be willing to deal Turner for Gonzalez, according to sources, but they balked at the A's request that they also include top prospects Nick Castellanos and Drew Smyly, as well.

The A's don't see much depth in the Tiger system, and may not agree to a deal that doesn't include both Turner and Castellanos, at the very least.

The Red Sox have been mentioned more often as interested in A's closer Andrew Bailey, but sources said they have shown just as much interest in Gonzalez. Adding Gonzalez to a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz would give Boston a very strong top four.

Similarly, the Tigers like the idea of adding Gonzalez to a group that includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello.

The Rangers and Blue Jays are two teams whose interest could be affected by the Darvish decision, as both have been mentioned as heavily interested in the Japanese star. The Darvish market is tough to call, because in a system that relies on blind bids, teams have even less reason than usual to signal their intentions publicly, and even more incentive to send out misinformation.

The Reds are searching for a top starting pitcher, too, and have been in contact with the A's, as well as the Rays (James Shields and others) and Braves (Jair Jurrjens). But the A's asked the Reds for a huge package headed by Yonder Alonso.

The Phillies also talked to the A's about Gonzalez, but the A's weren't overly excited in a package that would have included Domonic Brown and some younger, lesser pitching prospects.

The A's have told teams that they want only young, inexpensive players back for Gonzalez and Bailey, preferably players with less than one year of big-league experience.

They have also said that they don't plan to trade Gonzalez and Bailey as a package, because they don't believe that any interested team has enough available players to get both of them.

Posted on: December 12, 2011 5:09 pm

As Brewers move on, Cubs, Mariners look at Prince

With Monday's signing of Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers seem to have moved on from Prince Fielder.

But where will Fielder move on to?

The Cubs and Mariners are both in on the Fielder market, new CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman reported Monday. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Marlins, Orioles and Nationals, among others, could also be interested.

Fielder could be a particularly good fit in Chicago, especially with Dale Sveum as the new Cubs manager. Sveum was the Brewers hitting coach, and has a very good relationship with Fielder.

When Theo Epstein came over from the Red Sox to run the Cubs baseball operations, the thought was that he would stay away from high-priced free agents this winter, because the rebuilding process at Wrigley Field is expected to take several years.

But Fielder is just 27, young enough to fit into a long-term plan. Also, new rules that limit spending on draft and international signings leave the Cubs unable to speed up the process by outspending other teams on those markets.

The Mariners desperately need offense, and Fielder has long been considered a possibility. Like Sveum, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has ties to Fielder. Zduriencik was the scouting director who drafted Fielder for the Brewers.

The thought among many in baseball, though, has been that Seattle won't be Fielder's preferred landing spot. It's as far as possible from his Florida home, the Mariners are unlikely to contend, and Safeco Field isn't friendly to power hitters.

The Rangers, with a team that has gone to the World Series two straight years and a ballpark that favors hitters, would no doubt be an attractive destination. But club president Nolan Ryan has played down any interest, insisting that he likes first baseman Mitch Moreland and that Fielder would be a difficult fit in the Rangers' budget.

The Blue Jays will eventually need to play on free agents like Fielder if they're as serious about being a big-market team as they say they are. But Toronto people have also suggested that they don't want to give out the type of long-term contract that Fielder will command.

The Marlins have given conflicting signals about their possible interest in Fielder, but at this point it seems safe to say they're not as excited about him as they were about the possibility of signing Albert Pujols.

The Orioles have long liked Fielder, but it's unclear how much money owner Peter Angelos is willing to spend this winter, and also uncertain how interested Fielder would be in going to a team that has shown little sign of being competitive in the American League East.

Nationals officials repeatedly insist that they won't pursue Fielder, but others in the game look at the team's strong working relationship with agent Scott Boras and wonder if that could change. The Nationals have Adam LaRoche signed to be their first baseman in 2012, and the long-term plan is to move Mike Morse from left fielder to first base.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com