Bird Seed: Tanaka Saga Continues, Coaching Change, Gibbons, Jays “in the lead” For Top Pitchers
Bird Seed is your regular recap of recent baseball happenings, information, rumours, and how it all affects the Blue Jays.
Hey all, glad to be back after taking last week off for the holidays. Hope everyone had a great winter break, and for those of you that are back at work or school: I feel your pain.
Starting us off, the Blue Jays have announced that Pat Hentgen has “stepped aside” as bullpen coach, and that AAA pitching coach Bob Stanley will take over for him. Hentgen, 45, spent all but 4 seasons of his career with the Blue Jays, winning a Cy Young in 1996. Stanley was the AAA pitching coach in 2012 for the now-Mets affiliated Las Vegas 51s, and served the same role for the Buffalo Bisons in 2013. Stanley was drafted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox, and has the notable distinction of giving up one of the most famous groundballs in MLB history.
As it stands, according to our friends at BlueBird Banter, the coaching staff is shaping up to be John Gibbons at manager, DeMarlo Hale as bench coach, newly hired Kevin Seitzer as hitting coach, Pete Walker as pitching coach, Luis Rivera giving the signals in the third base box, and fellow new hire Tim Leiper at first base coach, along with Stanley in the bullpen.
The Angels have agreed to a minor league deal with southpaw Mark Mulder. It was reported December 10th by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that the 36 year old Mulder was making a comeback, having not pitched since 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals, for all of 1.2 innings. In his last full season (however full 93.1 IP can be), Mulder put up an ugly 7.14 ERA and 4.52 xFIP for the Cardinals. His peak came during the Moneyball era in Oakland, putting up 18.0 fWAR in his 5 seasons with the Athletics, spanning from 2000-2004.
Masahiro Tanaka is a name you might have heard at some point in the offseason, if you browse, well, any baseball-related website. The latest news on the ongoing Tanakafest has a few tidbits that I will sum up very briefly.
- Tanaka has until January 24 to come to an agreement with an MLB club, meaning he has less than three weeks to sign.
- The Diamondbacks are making Tanaka their “#1 target,” according to the trusty Ken Rosenthal. The Diamondbacks have been in hot pursuit of a big name pitcher this offseason, targeting names such as David Price and Jeff Samardzija, along with others.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Tanaka is looking for an annual salary of at least $17 million, a rather hefty price tag that doesn’t even include the fee teams will have to pay to Tanaka’s Japanese team upon signing.
John Gibbons’ option for the 2014 was guaranteed with the passing of the new year, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Gibbons also had a 2015 option created because of the provision in his contract, an anti “lame duck” provision. The provision makes it so that Gibbons’ contract becomes guaranteed if not fired by December 31st, and a new option with identical circumstances is created for the following season, making the contract a perpetually renewing deal until Gibbons is fired.
Again citing the ever-reliable Ken Rosenthal, the Blue Jays are reportedly in the lead to sign Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. Rosenthal had this to say about the Jays’ search for starting pitching:
The Jays are a leading candidate to sign either Santana or Jimenez; they have two protected first-round picks, Nos. 9 and 11, and would sacrifice only a second-rounder and the accompanying poolmoney for one of those free-agent right-handers.
The team also remains involved in trade discussions for Samardzija and other starting pitchers; a rotation of, say, Santana, Samardzija, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow would be much more formidable than they Jays had last season.
Jimenez, who turns 30 in a little over 2 weeks, is coming off an excellent season for the Indians in which he posted a 3.30 ERA over 32 starts. Jimenez posted a 3.62 xFIP as well, with excellent peripherals, but was quite mediocre the 2 seasons before that. Steamer projects his to put up 2.5 fWAR in 2014, whereas our own Chris Carruthers’ Breaking Blue projections aren’t quite as rosy, projecting 2.1 fWAR. Santana, 31, is coming off of a very nice season himself, posting a similar 3.24 ERA in an identical 32 starts. His FIP wasn’t as shiny, at 3.93, but his xFIP made that look a little better, at 3.69. Santana has always been homer prone, though, and gave up the most in the MLB in 2012, accompanied with a 5.16 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s projected for 2.6 fWAR by Steamer, but only 2.0 fWAR by our Breaking Blue projections.
A brief final two tidbits: According to Bob Elliot of the Sun, Dirk Hayhurst may be leaving Sportsnet. In his column, he threw in this juicy tidbit:
Campbell calms the waters in the can’t-miss Jays pre-game show whether it Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst or strictly Zaun, which will be the case next year as Hayhurst is headed elsewhere. He does not pretend to be the expert, he throws it right down the middle for Zaun to take deep.
And finally, a hearty thank you goes out to BlueBird Banter for their shout-out the other day. They’re an excellent site with many well-written and thought-provoking articles that I personally read very often.
Have a link that you think should be in Bird Seed? Tweet me @JacobDanovitch and let me know.