Daily Duce: Updates from WinterFest… Grichuk and Giles on the Astros, Vlad’s off-season work, the pursuit of infielders, and more!


The Blue Jays were in town over the weekend for the organization’s annual WinterFest festivities, meaning we have a whole bunch of quotes to unpack. I touched on the new (old?) jersey reveal already and Good Content Boy Hayden Godfrey put together an excellent piece on Anthony Alford, so we’ll head right into the other stuff.

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Gregor Chisholm did a piece over at the Toronto Star in which he spoke to former Astro Ken Giles who, of course, was a beneficiary of the team’s sign-stealing endeavours, as he holds a 2017 World Series ring. Giles didn’t want to talk much about the entire situation, maintaining his focus on the present and future.

“The punishment has been sent out,” Giles said. “My main focus is right here in Toronto.”

I was curious if Giles would say anything about the whole situation given his fractured relationship with the Astros. When the Jays dealt Roberto Osuna to Houston, it was a swap of problems, though Toronto’s was a lot worse. Giles had been sent down to Triple-A after getting into a barking match with manager A.J. Hinch and never really seemed to thrive in Houston.

He’s been absolute nails in Toronto since being acquired (and he was great in Philly to kick off his career), so I always wondered if there was something ugly going on with the Astros. Still, it isn’t all that surprising he didn’t want to offer a comment. He obviously doesn’t want to lose his world series ring and, given the amount of vitriol being thrown at whistleblower Mike Fiers, speaking ill of the team wouldn’t go over well. Giles, who could have a big payday coming up this time next year, likely just wants to avoid the distraction.

I mean, I don’t really blame him for staying quiet, but take a look at the reactions of Astros fans online right now. It’s some of the most cringeworthy shit you’ll ever see. “Thanks for not being a whistleblower, Ken, here’s a clip of you punching yourself in the face because playing here sucked ass.” Fucking weirdos.

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On the other hand, Randal Grichuk was happy to speak about how the Astros got off way too lightly with their punishment. Gregor mentions in his post that younger players were a bit spooked out to talk about the entire thing, which, again, isn’t surprising. But the established veteran Grichuk sounded off, suggesting that the Astros should lose their rings.

“It’s frustrating. I think a lot of guys around the league that I’ve talked to, we thought they were so good, kind of head and shoulders above, maybe their talent’s better, maybe this or that, they have an analytics department that’s just better, they beat the curve.

“To find out this, it’s definitely saddening. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is how much it actually affects the game, not just wins and losses, it affects the guys in Triple A trying to get an opportunity, it affects guys that are compared to them in arbitration, how much they make, so now they are going to make less. I just think it’s just bad for baseball.”

One of the worst things, for me, is watching the Astros (and their fans) parade around with some kind of victim’s complex, thumping their chests about how they’re going to prove everybody wrong and how they’ll have this amazing underdog redemption arc. Like, rather than, you know, apologizing or admitting it was a garbage thing to do, they’re doubling down and acting as though they’ve been wronged, when, in reality, they’re literally the only ones at fault.

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Yes, we’re all jazzed up for the heart-warming Disney movie in which the rag-tag Houston Astros, fresh off of being caught for needing to hear somebody bang a garbage bin to hit a baseball, come back and show the world that they’re actually a pretty good team who can, you know, hit the baseball the old fashioned way like everyone else! Wow, truly epic stuff!

Anyways! Enough of that! On to things that aren’t as aggravating, like our Large Adult Son’s svelte figure.

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As the Tweet above points out, it’s been talked about quite a bit how Vlad Jr. went into the off-season with expectations to get into better shape. He wanted to challenge himself to have better conditioning and the front office was clear to him how important it was. Vlad spoke at WinterFest about getting into shape and his goal of playing in 150 games in 2020.

“I’m just following the routine that the team has given me and we’ll make some adjustments, some changes, and thankfully I feel a lot better and it’s been working good for me,” Guerrero told reporters through a translator. “I just feel a big change in me, I feel lighter. And I will continue with that. Still one month to go, pretty much, to spring training so I’m not done yet.

“The goal here between the front office staff and myself is just [for me] to be out there in more games, trying to play 150 games at third base, and I think we’ll accomplish that. The most important thing is I’m just starting to [feel healthier] and I feel a lot of strength right now in me. I think I’m gonna have a good start.”

Another big story was how the team’s young core was excited by the front office’s dedication to improving the team this winter. I think we all know Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins wouldn’t be able to completely build the team up into a contender through trades and free agency in one off-season, but getting started and showing the young core that they believed in them was an important message to send.

“It’s really cool to see the front office realize what we all thought we had,” shortstop Bo Bichette said. “We all thought, in the clubhouse, that we had a chance to be good this year. We wanted to take a step forward and we wanted the front office to help us with that. For them to kind of agree with us, and show us that with the moves they made, is really exciting for us.”

“The word ‘rebuilding’ kind of shows people to be patient,” Cavan Biggio said. “With some of the development of Minor Leaguers who have come up here like Vladdy [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.], Bo, Danny [Jansen] and Reese [McGuire], there’s a lot of them there. I think it kind of pushed the envelope with the front office. It’s encouraging to see that we’re going to try to win right now.”

Sticking with Bichette and Biggio, the front office remained in touch with their two young infielders about the moves they were working on. In the case of Bichette, according to Shi Davidi, Shapiro and Atkins met with him to make him aware of their pursuit of free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorious.

Shapiro and Atkins assured Bichetted that they made it clear to the veteran Gregorious that Bichette was their shortstop long-term, but they wanted to keep him in the loop to avoid a miscommunication had he heard about it through the media. If Bichette were to go on Twitter one day and see the Jays were kicking tires on Gregorious, it would be awkward. Bichette also said that while he wants to remain a shortstop long-term and that he’s worked hard to do so, Gregorious is the type of player he would switch positions for.

Gregorious, of course, ended up inking a one-year deal with the Phillies. The Jays also apparently kicked tires on Francisco Lindor, a guy Shapiro will be familiar with. Lindor, the four-time All-Star was drafted eighth-overall be Cleveland when Shapiro was there. Given the fact he’s headed to free agency in two years and Cleveland is cheap, he’ll likely be dealt before the end of the 2020 season.

Adding an infielder like Lindor or Gregorious would also have an effect on Biggio, as one of those new guys would either take over second or push Bichette to second, thus pushing Biggio into a super-utility role. Biggio said that Atkins communicated with him during the off-season about remaining versatile because the front office’s potential options were all over the place.

“I was talking to (Atkins) about something totally different and he just kind of slid in that I might be moving around some more and then dropped in centre field,” said Biggio. “He didn’t say anything about Didi, but he just told me that he didn’t want to limit himself in free agency. I was like, ‘Go get who you need to get.’ … Whether it’s moving around a lot or being mainly at second base and occasionally moving around, it just helps the team.”

The kids are ready to win.