Tom Dakers from Bluebird Banter and I exchanged valuable scouting info on each others' organizations this week in preparation for this weekend's series between our beloved Redlegs and the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are in the same boat as the Reds were last week, hovering around .500 while occupying 4th place in the loaded AL East. My answer to his questions can be found here, while his answers to my questions are after the jump. His answer to #5 simultaneously made me laugh and cringe from flashbacks. To prepare you for the series I bring you Kelly Gruber, who wasn't nearly as good over his career as I remember him being:
1. Given that Scott Rolen and the trade two years ago will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion all weekend, how do you guys feel about the trade? How has Edwin Elpidio Encarnacion (known affectionately as E5 'round these parts) been, and do you see a future for Zack Stewart?
Well, much as we liked him, Scott wanted out. He wanted to be closer to home and it is hard to blame him. Considering they had to trade him, the Jays likely did as good as they could have for him, though Josh Roenike really didn't turn out at all.
Edwin has been, well , I guess frustrating would be best way to describe him. Last year, playing third, he made too many errors but as the season went on he seemed to improve at the position. In the off-season he was put on waivers and the A's picked him up. After a few weeks they thought better of it and released him and we signed him again, stating that he wouldn't play 3rd, he'd DH and maybe play a bit of first. That plan lasted right through spring training, then, 2 days before the start of the season, manager John Farrell announced that EE would play third. He said Edwin came into camp in better shape and was moving well, etc. That all might be true but he didn't get time to workout at the position in spring. He made a couple of errors in the first couple of games and it went down hill from there. Now he's a full time DH and the last couple of weeks he has been hitting well. He'll never be a fan favorite.
Zach Stewart was called up from Double-A this week and made his first start for the Jays yesterday. It went quite well. He kept it in the strike zone and gave us 7 good innings, allowing just 2 runs. It was against the Orioles who aren't exactly the best offensive team in our division, but it was a promising start to his MLB career.
2. Also regarding Rolen, there has been some discussion on our site of late as to whether or not Scotty is a Hall Of Famer? What do you and your readers see his chances being?
Rolen was loved as a Jay. He quickly got the nickname 'the Greatest Jay Ever', a little tongue in cheek but he was loved. I kind of think he's a borderline Hall of Fame choice. He's never had a MVP award and his counting stats fall a little short of the usual numbers. But he does have 8 Gold Gloves. Voters might decide that his defense can carry him in. If he had played for the Yankees for a few years he'd be in for sure. He can have my vote.
3. It's well known that Joey Votto is from the Toronto area and grew up a Blue Jays fan. How much is made of that up north and given that he's only under contract through 2013 can you see the Blue Jays ponying up the cash to bring him home?
I think it depends where we are at that moment. The Jays have said they would be willing to spend if they figured it would put them over the top. But then we have a first baseman, Adam Lind, under contract, though he could be moved back to DH. You'd like to think the 'hometown boy' thing would help attendance but not near as much as winning would, but he'd help with that too.
4. What should we expect from Jo Jo Reyes, Brandon Morrow, and Carlos Villanueva this weekend? And forgive me for being ignorant but how does the Blue Jays bullpen shape up?
Jo-Jo, as you likely know, is just off a streak of 200 straight starts without a win (ok, 28 starts). Now, he has won 2 of his last 3 starts. Jo-Jo is ok, as long as he keeps his pitches at the bottom of the strike zone and if he gets the calls there. If he has to bring his pitches up, it isn't good, but he's been keeping the ball in the park. In his last three games he has gone 9, 7 and 7 innings.
Brandon Morrow, I really don't know what to tell you. He is throwing hard, he has good movement on his pitches, he isn't walking a lot of batters (for him) and yet batters are hitting .358, on balls in play, against him. It seems like either they swing and miss (he is striking out 10.9/9) or it falls for a hit. He started last season with a high BABIP too, I'm hoping it comes down like he did last year.
Villanueva has been a bolt out of the blue. We picked him up for cash from the Brewers and I didn't figure he would make the team out of spring training, but was great this spring and started the year as our long man. He did a terrific job and with some injuries and some ineffective starters and he got promoted to starter. He's been really good, 3-0 as a starter, though his ERA hasn't been as good as when he was relieving (4.76 as a starter, 1.48 relief). He throws the usual stuff, fastball that might hit 90, change, curve and slider. What he does best is throw strikes and hopes they will be hit at someone.
5. Corey Patterson has magically morphed into a decent player since coming to Toronto. Can someone over there please explain how this happened?
Well, Corey had a really good start to the season, but of late he's looked more like the player you remember. In May he hit .30/.325/.470, so far in June he is .233/.258/.283. He has 1 extra base hit this month. If he would take a walk more than once a week I'd like him more. I'm really not a fan of him batting second in the order, it seems like every time there is someone on base and less than two outs, he bunts. Some of the time he beats it out but if the best thing your number 2 batter can do is lay down a bunt, you are messing up.
6. The Blue Jays have managed to shed over $27 million in payroll over the last three years. Do you see the payroll going back up and better yet do you see it being possible to compete in the AL East with a payroll under $100 million?
I think the payroll will work it's way back up. The team is trying to improve the farm system and build up from the bottom, at the moment, and they haven't been cheap about going over slot or signing international free agents. I think that when the team gets to the point where a player or two might put them over the top, they will go after them. Our ownership, Rogers Corp., must be as rich as any ownership group in baseball and Toronto isn't a small market. If the team competes I think the fans will come.
It is possible for a team to compete at under $100 million, the Rays have been doing it, but then it helps that they have had draft picks in the first few spots for 10 years in a row. In our reality, we'll have to get to the $120 to $150 million area to have a chance at the big boys. Or some change in the rules of baseball. Or maybe a change in divisions, would you go for a switch? Think of the attendance boost with all those games against the Yankees and Red Sox.
7. Lastly, Adam Lind has been on fire recently. Besides him and Jose Bautista who should the Reds most worry about in the Toronto lineup?
Yunel Escobar has been moved to the lead off spot after Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson showed they aren't up to the job. He's been a bit up and down with a couple of minor injuries in there, but he is swinging the bat well again over the last few days. Aaron Hill is hitting the ball a little harder lately, and is slowly bringing his average up.