Ross Atkins doubled down on his John Gibbons vote of confidence last night by saying that he’ll finish up the year as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, and after that, his future with the club will be “revisited.” Earlier this month, Atkins told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that Gibbons was part of the conversations about the club’s future.
What’s important to know here is that this isn’t a one-sided decision. Gibbons has said as recently as this month that he might not want to start fresh again, and after what he’s gone through the past two years, I don’t think any of us can blame him. His second stint with the club has been a rollercoaster, with the heartbreak of 2013, to the mediocrity of 2014, the fireworks from 2015 and 2016, to the flat team we’ve seen in 2017 and 2018. Despite the layers of crap that we saw with this team bookending it, he’s still one of the best skips this franchise has seen. A manager in baseball is only as good as the tools he’s given, and on the list of people that deserve blame for these non-playoff seasons, his name is nowhere near the top.
This all started with a Ken Rosenthal piece from the Athletic, in which he said that the team “seems destined to move on from Gibbons.” In it, he wondered aloud about the idea of teams looking for a new manager this fall electing to go with a solidified baseball name to fill the vacancy and listed Joe Girardi, John Farrell, Mike Matheny, and Dusty Baker as potential suitors. Sure, we might know those names, but I’m not sure any of those guys would be the right fit for a young Jays squad.
At the time of writing, 15 members of the team’s 25-man roster has spent time in the Blue Jays minor league system. For a team that isn’t close to competing, and has more young MLB-ready talent that’s on the way, I don’t think any of those aforementioned names will be most effective. Instead, I would expect the team to look internally for a replacement if both the Blue Jays and/or John Gibbons decide to part ways.
Marcus Stroman has a blister.
The team placed the right hander on the Disabled List Saturday after being bothered by a blister in a third straight start. If you remember, Stroman’s seven-inning two-hit masterpiece against the Red Sox on August 7th was ended due to that same blister. Since then, Stroman has pitched a combined nine innings in his last two starts.
Let’s look at Aaron Sanchez as an example: In 2016, he threw curveballs 16.2% of the time. According to Brooks baseball, 15.6% of those curveballs were swung at and missed, and opponents slugged just .262 against it. In 2017, he had the same issue on the same finger. He threw curveballs pretty much the same amount – up from 16.2 to 16.7 percent of the time – but his whiff rate fell from 15.6 to 9.8, and predictably, that slugging percent against went from .262 to .429.
Marcus Stroman isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He uses a five-pitch mix to induce ground balls. The problem with trying that while having a blister is that it heavily impacts your curveball, because the 12-6 movement on it is generated by the “snapping” motion with the pitcher’s index and middle fingers.
Were there signs of this? In his last two starts against the Rays and Yankees, Stroman threw just 3 curveballs combined. In the month of August as a whole, he really eased off his curveball use throwing it nearly 24% of the time in June, to 12.4% in July to just 4% in August.
Was this a sign of problems before the Red Sox start, or a notorious tinkerer just tinkering? Either way, a depleted rotation takes another hit as Stroman will be out for at least a minimum of ten days.
Apparently Josh Donaldson still plays for this team. The 2015 AL MVP left a late May game against the Boston Red Sox and was considered day to day with left calf tightness. 82 days later, he still hasn’t suited up in a game. The Blue Jays Donaldson trade deadline transaction was moving him from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL, instead of fetching a king’s ransom of prospects, like many fans hoped back in the winter.
Jon Heyman reports that Josh Donaldson may start a rehab stint next week and then hopefully try to trade him.
Donaldson has played in 38 games this season, slashing .234/.333/.423. Even if the Jays eat all of his salary, I don’t imagine the return will be much by this point. Their options right now are to either sneak him through trade waivers this month and deal him, give him a QO in the winter, or just let him walk for free after the season’s over.
Speaking of which, there’s this from earlier on in the week:
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) August 17, 2018
The value of Donaldson has plummeted so much that Shi Davidi thinks the Blue Jays are worried that he’ll actually come back and make around $18 million a season, which would actually be a pay cut from the $23 million he’s making right now. Your gut undoubtedly says that him accepting the QO is good, but friend of the site Andrew Stoeten gives you some food for thought:
One way to look at the Donaldson qualifying offer situation is like this: it's $18M and you can't trade him until mid June. How confident are you that you can get $18M of prospect value back for him next July? Because he doesn't hold a lot of other value for you at this point.
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) August 17, 2018
Personally, I’m completely team JD2019 for many reasons. First, Vlad Jr. is on his way and this sort of lets you ease him into that third base role. Second, Josh Donaldson is a franchise hero at this point, becoming just the second in team history to win the MVP and giving fans three seasons of elite level play. Lastly, and this is most important, teams will be frothing at the mouth to bring Donaldson aboard. You may not get a ton of value back for the 33-year-old next July, but there’s a fair shot that he’s not as awful as he has been this year, and it’s certainly better than losing an asset for nothing this winter. On top of that, I don’t think the team is necessarily going to allocate that $18M anywhere else given their current state. It’s not like letting him go is the precursor to a big free agent splash that will take them back to contender status.
Cam wrote about it here, so I won’t drag this on.
At the very least, bringing the third baseman back ensures everybody gets another few months use out of their 20 jerseys, right?