I do a lot of radio appearances throughout the year, most of which vanish into the ether. Every now and then a station will post the audio. TSN 1200 in Ottawa is one of those stations. They booked me Thursday morning to talk about Opening Day, the coming 2018 season, and the Blue Jays, specifically. However, shorty before my segment, we all learned of the passing of Expos and Mets great Rusty Staub. As a result, this appearance opens with a remembrance of Staub, and it was my great honor to be able to pay tribute to Staub in a city so close to Montréal. We proceed to the regularly scheduled preview material from there, starting with the Blue Jays and broadening out to work in the Red Sox, Indians, and Shohei Ohtani, among other things. Enjoy.
Tag Archives: Toronto Blue Jays
My latest for Sports on Earth rounds up the most significant trades and signings thus far this offseason. Below you can find my quick takes on the remaining moves in which a free agent signed a deal worth $1 million or more or a player was traded from one team’s 40-man roster to another’s prior to Friday, Dec. 8.
Tigers sign CF Leonys Martin for $1.75M/1yr plus up to $1.1M in bonuses
An excellent fielder in center, Martin is quite valuable when he hits. The trouble is, he rarely hits. The Tigers may find use for his left-handed bat in a centerfield platoon with righties JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook, but more likely the 30-year-old Martin will simply serve as a safety net at the position.
Rangers re-sign RHP Tony Barnette for $1.5M/1yr
After six years with the Yakult Swallows, righty reliever Barnett returned to the Major Leagues in 2016 via a two-year deal with the Rangers. He posted a 2.09 ERA in 53 games in year one, and a 5.49 ERA in 50 games in year two, but was closer to average than those extremes in both seasons (combined 4.04 deserved run average). The Rangers declined his $4 million option last month, but understood the quality of his underlying performance, which included 36 outings of more than three outs over the last two years, and brought him back at his 2016 salary.
Royals sign RHP Wily Peralta for $1.525M/1yr plus $3M option (with $25K buyout) and up to $1.25M in bonuses
Formerly a heralded rotation prospect, Peralta regressed steadily after his 17-win sophomore season in 2014. The Brewers finally gave up on the 28-year-old this past season, bumping him first to the bullpen, then off the roster. The Royals, more interested in Peralta’s upper-90s velocity than his 11.94 ERA in 11 relief outings for Milwaukee this summer, are hoping a full-time move to the bullpen can unlock his potential.
Angels acquire RHP Jim Johnson and $1M in international spending capacity from Braves for LHP Justin Kelly
Despite a spike in his home run and walk rates and a drop in his groundball rate, Johnson wasn’t as bad as hit 5.56 ERA this past season. He won’t close in Anaheim, but he should be a reasonably reliable set-up man. Lefty reliever Justin Kelly is a non-prospect who was drafted in the 33rd round in 2016 and spent time at five different minor-league levels in 2017. More significant that perhaps either player is the financial side of this deal. The Angels assume Johnson’s $4.5 million salary for 2018 while also receiving $1.21 million in international spending capacity from the Braves. The Angels, one of the seven finalists for Shohei Ohtani, have since added another $1 million in capacity via a minor trade with the Twins and now have more than $2.3 million to offer Ohtani as a bonus, up from the $150,000 they had available prior to these trades.
Blue Jays acquire SS Aledmys Diaz from Cardinals for CF J.B. Woodman
Cuban defector Diaz seized an opportunity as an injury replacement in early 2016 and stole the Cardinals’ shortstop job only to play his way out of that job in 2017. That job is now firmly in the grip of Paul DeJong, who is three years Diaz’s junior. The Blue Jays, burdened with an injury-prone shortstop of their own in fragile veteran Troy Tulowitzki, hope that, if and when the opportunity arises, Diaz can repeat his 2016 magic, which included a trip to that year’s All-Star Game. That doesn’t seem likely given that Diaz, now 27, was no better in Triple-A after a late-June demotion and had been dropped from the 40-man roster prior to the 2016 season. Still, Diaz arrives with five team-controlled years remaining, while Tulo has just three guaranteed years left. Woodman was the Jays’ first second-round pick in 2016. A college product, he struck out 157 times in 96 games in A-ball this past season and will turn 23 next week.
Rangers sign RHP Doug Fister for $4M/1yr plus $4.5M club option (with $500K buyout)
Joining his fourth team in four years, Fister, who will be 34 in February, is a depth move for the back end of the rotation of a team in desperate need of that depth. Fister arrives in Texas with an 8.73 ERA in seven career starts in Arlington.
Tigers sign RHP Mike Fiers for $6M/1yr
Fiers is a year younger than Fister, less well-travelled, and heading to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark (he has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts in Detroit), but he’s not significantly better. He’ll be an innings-eater on a bad team. In the best-case scenario, he’ll have some good luck and the Tigers can get something for him at the deadline.
A’s sign RHP Yusmeiro Petit for $10M/2yrs plus club option for $5.5M (with $1M buyout)
Swing-man Petit had a career year working primarily out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2017. He cashes in here, landing set-up job with the A’s, who traded away Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle in July.
My latest appearance on MLB Now was my most enjoyable yet. I got to spend more than two hours having extended and often playful conversations about a variety of baseball topics with Brian Kenny, Sean Casey, and John Smoltz. Unfortunately, most of the country didn’t get to see it. Let me explain.
When the MLB Network airs a mid-week regular season day game, they can’t air a competing broadcast of that game in the home markets of the two teams involved (indeed, they typically just pick up the broadcast of the home team), so they have to air a similarly timed “B game” in those markets. Of course, the two games don’t sync up perfectly, one is bound to end before the other, so coming out of those games, the Network is temporarily split into what they call the A-Net and B-Net, the former broadcasting to most of the country and the latter broadcasting only to the markets of the two teams playing in the A game. The show scheduled to follow the games, which is typically MLB Now, begins after whichever game ends first, but doesn’t go fully national until the end of the other game.
On Wednesday, the A game was the Nationals’ 11-inning win over the Yankees, while the B game was the Blue Jays 7-2 win over the Marlins. The Nats game started at 1pm and lasted three hours and 36 minutes, leaving us less than a half hour for the portion of the show that was seen by most of the country starting around 4:40pm Eastern. The Jays game, however, started at 12:30 and lasted just two hours and eight minutes, meaning we actually went on the air in New York and Washington and the surrounding markets around 2:40. As a result, we did two hours of show that only 26 percent of the MLB Network’s viewing audience saw and two hours and twenty minutes total of what is, on non-game days, only a one-hour show.
On top of that, once the Nationals game reached the bottom of the ninth inning with a tie score, we had to stay on the air (meaning not in commercial) as long as the home team (the Yankees) was at bat, because if the game ended, they needed to come straight out to us. The led to some particularly lengthy discussions which took place after we had already been on the air for an hour and a half. Unsurprisingly, things got loose and a little goofy.
Fortunately, those two hours on the B-Net weren’t resigned to the dustbin. MLB.com has posted three clips from that portion of the show. Our interview with Blue Jays beat reporter Arash Madani, whom our producers collared without warning to help us fill out that extra time, was pretty straight forward, and relatively early in that two-hour stretch, but here’s a six-minute conversation about the shift (watch for my Julio Franco impression as we throw to commercial):
And here, perhaps best capturing the spirit of the show, is a nine-minute conversation about no-hitters stemming from Chris Heston’s no-no the night before in which Smoltz looks back in anger at two near misses from his own career: