So it took until January for the Blue Jays to make their first plunge into the free agent market and, after all the rumours of this first baseman and that middle infielder, the team came away with … Octavio Dotel?
Nothing against the perfectly serviceable 37-year old, but it isn’t an easy signing to get excited about and, in fact, his $3.25 million contract raises questions whether or not he is expected to close for the team this season.
If he isn’t expected to be the closer, then it seems to be an awfully large amount of money for an aging reliever, albeit with the relatively low commitment of a one-year deal. Still, it would represent a rather sharp change in bullpen philosophy to have a guy, however talented, making over $3 million as part of a relief corps that also includes low-cost veterans like Chad Cordero, Carlos Villanueva and Wil Ledezma, all of whom were added this summer and unlikely to make seven figures.
If he is the closer, it’s hard to see him being anything other than a stopgap measure, seeing as how Alex Anthopoulos can’t seriously expect him to serve as a bullpen anchor as the team develops. Aside from the age, the only clubs to have trusted Dotel as a closer in the past six years were bottom feeders Kansas City and Pittsburgh. His numbers coming into his Jays’ stint (22 saves in 68 appearances with a 4.08 ERA last season) were comparable to those of Kevin Gregg before he came to Toronto (23 saves in 72 appearances with a 4.72 ERA), the same Kevin Gregg who the team didn’t want back this year.
We’re No. 4!
Baseball America recently released its 2011 prospect rankings for each MLB team, identifying the Blue Jays as having the fourth-best farm system in all of baseball. It’s a credit to Anthopoulos and scouting director Andrew Tinnish that he has taken a farm system that ranked No. 28 prior to last summer’s Roy Halladay deal and brought it to its highest rating since 1999.
The Jays’ system now has depth and blue chip talent in the form of Kyle Drabek, Deck McGuire and Anthony Gose, the top three Jays prospects according to BA. In fact, six of the top ten-ranked prospects were acquired in the year-and-a-bit-old Anthopoulos regime. And that fails to include middle infield prospect Brett Lawrie, who was still with the Brewers at the time of the rankings, and Cuban phenom Adeiny Hechavarria, who is still adjusting to living and playing in North America.
Baseball America highlighted Anthopoulos’ increased focus on scouting and development, pointing to the $11.6 million spent on signing 2010 draftees (McGuire, Asher Wojciechowski and Aaron Sanchez were included in the top ten despite being drafted just last year) and an aggressive approach towards international signings (Hechavarria, Arodis Cardona and Gabriel Cenas). This year, the Jays will have five picks in the top 50 and seven in the top 73.
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Written by Ben Fisher