Brunt, Blair, and Shi With Some Interesting Thoughts On Conner Greene and Vlad Guerrero Jr.

Shi Davidi wrote a great offseason primer post today for Sportsnet, giving Jays fans a bunch of key facts, important dates, and some interesting quotes from Ross Atkins here on the first official day of winter.

Atkins was coy about his club’s plans, as you’d expect, but did reveal some small details, none of which ought to change what anybody expects to see from the club as they get to work on their roster for Opening Day 2018. To wit:

“We have very large lists (of targeted players) that include arms and position players at every single position,” says Atkins. “Those players, we’ve worked through and have integrated the potential trades with our potential free-agent acquisitions, and preferenced those out at every position. …

“How that impacts run prevention and run creation could come in many different ways. It could come in the form of three players that impact us on the offensive side, or three players that impact us on the pitching side. It’s unlikely that we’ll acquire six major-league pieces without some level of subtraction. The most likely scenario is that there’s some type of combination of 3-6 players where we’re complementing the core that we have and making sure we’re providing as much depth as possible.”

Right now club is short a backup catcher, a legit fifth starter (sorry, Joe), and the all-important 2B-backup/everyday-LF kind of piece, so they pretty much have to to find three pieces. Beyond that is where it gets interesting — in, presumably, a pretty unsexy way — though Atkins obviously isn’t saying. (Incidentally, MLBTR just released their top 50 free agents list, and they have the Jays “landing” Jay Bruce, Eduardo Núñez, and Tony Watson. Yay?).

Where Shi’s piece got especially interesting, though, is in its link to his appearance this morning on the Jeff Blair Show. In that clip, Shi, Blair, and Stephen Brunt discussed a plethora of Blue Jays things, and had particularly noteworthy exchanges about a couple of the club’s top prospects: Conner Greene and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Let’s go to the audio tape!

On Conner Greene and the Rule 5 Draft…

It’s an interesting calculation, whether you — let’s take Conner Greene as an example. A guy who was highly valued by the previous administration, a guy who throws 100 miles an hour, but has stalled out a little bit at Double-A. Would a team want to carry him for an entire season? Could you dangle him out there and not worry about it? Max Pentecost, a guy who’s had a really good fall league, and looks like he’s healthy — a catcher who can hit, an eleventh overall pick — you’re probably not going to dangle him, but even him — would a team carry him for a year? It’s an interesting calculation to make. You’ve got guys who, they’re attractive, but maybe not quite major league ready.

I think just by the fact of the sheer number of guys that are up for there, and the number of 40-man roster spots that are already taken, there going to have to dangle a few of them. They’re going to have to take pretty educated guesses on who gets through. Conner Greene, I think, is a guy who gets plucked for sure, because he throws 100, you can stick him in a bullpen and say, “We’re going to make this guy a reliever, we’re not going to wait and see if he figures out his breaking ball and can end up turning over a lineup two or three times.”

Why don’t these guys do that?

I think they just want to exhaust the option of him as a starter. They continually see just enough progress with the curveball to say, “You know what? It might just be around the corner.” Because it’s so intriguing — he can maintain high 90s, 100, for six or seven innings — you want to make sure that you’re not giving up on that too early. And if they do have to give up on it, it should be a pretty quick transition — you just figure out a slider, you come out of the bullpen with 100 and a slider, and that’s going to play. I think that’s why they keep exhausting it.

And I think they’re going to deal him. I think they’re going to try and get some value for him — I’m not sure they’re convinced by him. I think they’ll try and keep him around and try and get some value for him — whether that’s possible or not, I don’t know. They may not want to expose him anymore, is I guess what I’m saying. He’s a funny — he’s a bit of a conundrum for them. Because I know in spring training last year he was a bit of a disappointment to them.

And I think the thing that everybody keeps scratching their heads around is that, why is this guy who throws 100 — why is there so much contact off of him? You’d expect there to be a lot more swing and miss, and that’s the riddle. I think part of the theory is that if he had more consistency with a secondary pitch, at that point guys can’t sit dead red. But you’re right, how much patience do you have for that?

The juicy bit here, of course, is Brunt straight up saying that he thinks the Jays are going to try to trade him. That’s bold!

But I can’t deny that I’ve also felt that maybe Greene is a guy who has lost some lustre in the eyes of the organization, and maybe not entirely because of performance. I can’t claim to have ever heard anything to that effect from inside, but I do sometimes wonder whether the kid who pumps 100, but also has Hollywood aspirations (or modelling, or whatever) and hangs out with Charlie Sheen, seemed a little more impressive to the “scouting based organization” of the previous regime than he does to the current one, with its more holistic approach to player development. But what the hell do I know?

Whatever the case, whether there’s a trade coming or not (and to that end, @BVHJays suggested earlier today that maybe he’d interest the Padres, were the Jays to call about Yangervis Solarte — a deal that I think could make some sense for both sides), I think Brunt and Shi are right that, as long as he’s still here, he’s in line to be added to the 40-man.

Earlier I wrote a little about the 40-man crunch the Jays will be facing in the coming weeks, naming Greene as one of the guys the Jays would like to avoid exposing in the Rule 5. I think that, at the very least, Danny Jansen, Max Pentecost, Thomas Pannone, and Reese McGuire are in that category too. I’m not even all that sure beyond that, though! Could the club leave Rowdy Tellez exposed? It wouldn’t necessarily surprise me after the year he had, given some of the questions about him as a prospect anyway, but you’d sure hate to lose him and see him succeed just because you didn’t want to ditch Luke Maile or Rob Refsnyder. What could complicate this even more, though, is the fact that there might be teams out there with some interest in guys that the Jays are considering removing from the 40-man, who themselves have players the Jays could see value in.

Right now there are several names of Blue Jays players on the 40-man who it seems logical might get cut, but could there be deals to be made using those guys to bring in pieces that fit better? If the Jays can get value out of those spots rather than straight-up losing those players, they’re going to try to do so. Meaning that it might not be as easy as it looks to get prospects like Greene protected from Rule 5 selection.

Yeah, we’re just talking about the fringes of the roster, and prospects who have stalled out in “lottery ticket” territory, but these next few weeks could at least give us something to talk about. And I think we can be pretty OK with that!

On Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and 2018…

One player we don’t have to worry about the Jays losing? Vladito. He’s real good…

I may be reading too much into this, but I sensed listen to, or reading Ross Atkins quotes, over the last little while just a little bit of a softening over the rhetoric around Vladdy Jr. and whether he could play here in 2018. Because the organizational position was, “no way, no how, we don’t do that, we don’t go north with six rookies, that’s not how we operate, we don’t rush, we’ve got to develop guys.” But it seemed to me — I just felt a little bit of a waver in what he’d said about him lately. Maybe it’s because he just went down to the winter league in the Dominican, played really well there against men, but the scenario that gets him — you know, he’s got to have a position to play. Again, the scenario that gets him here is a midseason trade of Josh Donaldson for a non-contending team, so that’s not a good reason to bring him up, or not a good scenario, but I just wondered if, for baseball reasons — or, you hate to think about other reasons, like keeping people excited — about whether they might waver on that a little bit or whether he might force their hand on that a little bit.

I agree with you, first off, in that there has been a softening in the discussion — both quietly and publicly. I started sensing a little bit of a change, I’d say, maybe late August. Where there were murmurs where, “you know it just might be possible sooner than you think.” And I think that’s just because of how advanced he’s become as a hitter, that if he has another season of progress next year like he did this year, then it’s going to be a tough call for them — a very intriguing one. As much as you think they’re committed to him at third base, too, I wonder if the Jays aren’t, say, in an interesting position, and they’re doing well next year, that maybe he ends up in left field, or something like that, and comes up midseason as a boost — sort of the way the Red Sox added Devers this year. He was up a third base, his natural position, but Guerrero came to the organization as an outfielder, I don’t think it would necessarily take that much work for him, and the bat is so special that you can certainly create a bit of room for him at a position where defence is often secondary to the offensive production. So I think that’s a scenario that’s probably more on the table than it would have been even a few months ago.

Is it on the table in Spring Training, though, Shi? Because that would be a leap, wouldn’t it?

That one I can’t see. That one would be trying to jump over a chasm, and I just can’t see that happening.

I don’t have much to say about this stuff, except that it’s good to hear folks who are this plugged-in talking about the organization taking a view on Guerrero that suggests he really and truly could be the special, special prospect we all want him to be. I don’t know if it would be great business to bring Vlad up next summer, just to throw the fans a bone in the wake of a Donaldson deal, rather than waiting until late April of 2019 — holding him down like a bunch of jerks to the point where the Jays are ensured an extra year of control before he reaches free agency — but screw it! Call up Vladdy! Let’s do this!