The Toronto Blue Jays should part with manager John Farrell only if they can do two things:
One, hire a comparable replacement. Two, make the Boston Red Sox pay dearly.
Otherwise, there can be no deal.
The Red Sox created their mess by hiring Bobby Valentine; why should the Jays bail out one of their principal division rivals?
Farrell, the Sox’s former pitching coach, is under contract to the Jays through 2013. The Jays prevented him from going to the Sox last offseason by instituting a club policy forbidding lateral moves to other teams.
But of course, there’s a price for everything.
If Farrell wants to leave, and if the Jays believe that first base coach Torey Lovullo or someone else can be just as effective a manager, then Toronto should at least listen — and make the Red Sox beg, if only for fun.
I would start by again asking for right-hander Clay Buchholz, who was the player the Jays wanted for Farrell last offseason.
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But the Jays aren’t the ones who are desperate here; the Red Sox are. They know that Farrell can motivate their pitchers and handle their market. He is more valuable to them than he is to other teams.
The danger for the Jays is if Farrell informs them that he won’t sign an extension — and the Red Sox, through back channels, become aware of his position. At that point, the Jays would lose leverage and face being left with an unhappy lame-duck manager.
Farrell, though, is viewed throughout the game as a person of integrity — people who know him find it difficult to believe that he would try to force his way out of Toronto. What’s more, this is not an Ozzie Guillen situation. The Jays, from all indications, value Farrell and do not want him out.
Which is why the price the Jays exact must be higher than what the White Sox got for Guillen (infielder Ozzie Martinez and right-hander Jhan Marinez) and what the Red Sox got for former GM Theo Epstein (pitchers Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz).
A manager is not like a player. Farrell is an integral part of the Jays’ baseball operation. He also is a central part of their brand, as a leading spokesman for the organization.
Injuries wrecked the Jays’ season, but the franchise — as evidenced by the long-term signings of right fielder Jose Bautista and first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion — is not going backward.
Their payroll is rising. Their farm system is strong. If the Red Sox were out of the equation, Farrell probably would have no problem signing an extension. Heck, he might have no problem signing one, anyway.
The Red Sox, though, could be a quick fix. They regained financial flexibility in their trade with the Dodgers. And the Yankees could be even more vulnerable next season, making the division wide open.
People forget, but the Jays play in that division, too.
They are not in business to groom managers for the Boston Red Sox.
Profar the pitcher: Remember?
Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, the game’s latest teen sensation, followed a slightly different path than Bryce Harper, who seemingly was groomed to slug from the time he was in his crib.
Profar, 19, also was a pitcher in his formative years, leading Curacao to the Little League World Series title in 2004 when he was 11 and the championship game in ’05 when he was 12.
Most major-league teams wanted Profar as a pitcher, but the Rangers liked him as a hitter — and Profar wanted to play shortstop. The Rangers worked hard to build a relationship with him, committed to playing him at short and offered him $1.5 million to sign him at 16.
Texas GM Jon Daniels recalls pitching coach Mike Maddux seeing Profar’s arm during an early workout at Rangers Ballpark and asking, “Why not put him on the mound?”
A.J. Preller, the Rangers’ senior director of player personnel, joked, “Keep your hands off him.”
Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens, a native of Curacao, said he did not think that Profar’s bat would come this quickly — particularly because Profar only began switch-hitting three years ago.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” Meulens said. “And then he hits first big-league home run left-handed, and it goes 20 rows up.”
Profar, according to baseball-reference.com, is the only teenager since 1918 to produce multiple games with extra-base hits and RBI within his first three career games.
Meulens notes that four players from Curacao could be major-league shortstops within the next several years — Profar, the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons, the Reds’ Didi Gregorius and the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop.
What happened to the Pirates?
I wrote Friday about how the Dodgers are finding it difficult to jell after acquiring so many players in the middle of the season. The Pirates, one rival executive says, might have created the opposite kind of problem, disrupting their chemistry with their trades.
Uh, not buying that one.
The Pirates’ pitching has faded — the team ranked fourth in the NL with a 3.47 ERA before the All-Star Game, but is only 11th with a 4.26 ERA since. The team’s best player, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, also has tailed off.
And the offense, as a whole, has produced the highest strikeout rate in the NL, third-worst walk rate and second-worst stolen base percentage (only the Mets have attempted fewer steals).
Only one of the four — infielder Casey McGehee for reliever Chad Qualls — was truly a dud.
Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has produced a 3.50 ERA in 46 1/3 innings since joining the Pirates, while outfielder Travis Snider and first baseman Gaby Sanchez both have contributed offensively. The team can retain Rodriguez through 2014, Snider and Sanchez through ’15.
McGehee, who batted .230 with a .674 OPS for the Pirates, became expendable when the team acquired Sanchez. Yes, he was part of what the team accomplished in the first half, as was right-hander Brad Lincoln, who was traded for Snider. Yes, Qualls has produced a 6.48 ERA in 10 appearances with the Pirates and also spent time on the disabled list with left toe irritation.
But let’s just say there are bigger problems.
The Indians: a hot mess
From the Things Change Dept:
On Saturday, I said in my Full Count video that the Indians do not seem inclined to fire manager Manny Acta unless they collapse in September.
Scouts following the team in recent days, however, say that Acta is displaying poor body language, almost as if he is resigned to the team’s fate. Not a good sign.
The problem with firing Acta is that it won’t make the team better. Entering the season, Indians officials knew that a poor season was possible, particularly if their starting pitching cratered the way that it did.
Scouts like the Indians’ up-the-middle talent, but the team is certain to entertain offers for right-hander Justin Masterson, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and closer Chris Perez this offseason. Rival teams also wonder if they might listen on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be starting a two-year, $16.5 million contract.
But Perez, who also ripped Indians fans earlier this season, isn’t helping his trade value with his outbursts. And he is only year removed from his curious 2011 season, when his strikeout and groundball rates plummeted.
MacPhail deserves credit for Orioles, too
I’ve written more than once about how the aggressiveness of first-year Orioles GM Dan Duquette has helped contribute to the team’s success. But let’s not forget the work of Duquette’s predecessor, Andy MacPhail.
“I’m not sure he made a bad trade during his tenure,” one Orioles person said.
That tenure lasted from June 20, 2007, to Oct. 7, 2011, and included the selections of two Orioles cornerstones, catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado.
MacPhail’s best trades include:
• Minor-league pitchers Brett Jacobsen and James Hoey to the Twins for infielder Brendan Harris and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
• Lefty Mike Gonzalez to the Rangers for right-hander Pedro Strop.
• Righty Koji Uehara to the Rangers for infielder Chris Davis and right-hander Tommy Hunter.
• Righty Hayden Penn to the Marlins for infielder Robert Andino.
• And last but certainly not least, left-hander Erik Bedard to the Mariners for outfielder Adam Jones, right-hander Chris Tillman, left-hander George Sherrill, right-hander Kam Mickolio and left-hander Tony Butler.
MacPhail later flipped Sherrill to the Dodgers for third baseman Josh Bell and right-hander Steve Johnson, who is now part of the Orioles’ bullpen.
He also sent Mickolio and righty David Hernandez to the Diamondbacks for third baseman Mark Reynolds and a player to be named; Reynolds, for all his faults, has hit 58 homers in two seasons and produced an .800-plus OPS.
The Nats and their bountiful future
The Nationals are intriguing for 2013 and beyond not simply because of the youth and strength of their rotation. They also possess multiple options at numerous positions, and can pick and choose going forward.
Consider first baseman Adam LaRoche. Sure, the Nationals would like to re-sign him, but LaRoche, 32, could decline his end of a $10 million mutual option. As a free agent coming off a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, or something very close to it, he likely would command a three-year deal in the $33 million to $36 million range.
The Nationals need not go there.
They can play move Michael Morse from left field to first base for one season — Morse is a free agent after ’13. After that, they could go with Tyler Moore at first, or move Ryan Zimmerman to the position to clear third for Anthony Rendon.
Bryce Harper’s strong defense in center field only has increased the Nationals’ flexibility. Harper rates as the fourth-best defender at the position this season, behind Mike Trout, Michael Bourn and Denard Span, according to the plus-minus ratings on Bill James Online.
If the Nats keep LaRoche, they also can stay with their outfield of Morse, Harper and Jayson Werth next season. Harper, though, is not necessarily the long-term solution in center. That distinction belongs to Brian Goodwin, who is at Double A and could reach the majors by 2014.
At one point, the Nats were viewed as the favorites to sign Bourn as a free agent; they might not view such a move as necessary now. Manager Davey Johnson says that Harper “is a hard runner, not a glider,” chuckling that Harper slams his foot into first base even when he is out. Eventually, the Nats will need to move Harper to a corner to take the pressure off his body, but what is the rush?
Harper doesn’t even turn 20 until Oct. 16.
Rangers’ ‘pen again looks strong
The Rangers are going easy on their relievers, backing off them when possible, even placing lefty Robbie Ross on the disabled list with a strained left forearm in something of a precautionary move.
The team also pushed back lefty starter Matt Harrison to give him two extra days rest and could skip him for a turn later, just as it did last September.
The good news: Righty Yu Darvish, in his first major-league season, seems to be stronger, pitching into at least the seventh inning in 13 of his past 14 starts and producing a 2.52 ERA in his last five.
While some perceive the Rangers’ rotation as vulnerable, the bullpen looms as a powerhouse in the postseason.
The quintet of Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan might be the best in the game; Adams broke out a curveball in August, making him even tougher.
After those five, the Rangers can choose the rest of their bullpen from a group consisting of Michael Kirkman, Scott Feldman, Martin Perez, Roy Oswalt and Koji Uehara.
Quick turnaround in Milwaukee
The Brewers, thanks to their recent surge, suddenly look like an interesting team for 2013.
The team will need to sign at least one starting pitcher to go with right-hander Yovani Gallardo, but the emergences of Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers and the potentials of Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburgh give the club a number of younger options.
The position players are practically set — the Brewers acquired shortstop Jean Segura in the Zack Greinke trade and his backup, Jeff Bianchi, on a waiver claim from the Cubs. Catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado both are just 26. Carlos Gomez is sitting on a career-high .756 OPS, and his defense only adds to his value.
Fixing the bullpen will be paramount; the Brewers committed too many spots to veterans to start the season, losing flexibility. But some decent pieces are in place — a revived John Axford, right-hander Jim Henderson, left-hander Manny Parra.
Henderson is one of the better comeback stories of the season. The Cubs released him in March 2009. He was 26 that season, and spent part of it in A ball. Now, at 29, he finally is in the majors.
One team at home, another on the road
The Giants’ offensive profile includes the following National League ranks: Eighth in doubles, first in triples and last with 83 homers.
Think that’s odd?
The Giants lead the NL in runs on the road by a considerable margin, averaging 5.17 per game. But they are next-to-last in the league in scoring at home, averaging 3.55.
Meulens, the Giants’ hitting coach, said pitcher-friendly AT&T Park is not psyching out his hitters.
“It’s not in their heads,” he said. “It’s just tough to hit here.”
Uh, Dad, I have some, uh, news
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Paco Rodriguez, the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the majors, says he could barely even speak when he called his father, Sergio, to inform him of his promotion.
Sergio, a family practitioner in Miami, told Paco, “I can’t understand you.”
Eventually, Paco said, “He finally figured it out.”
Paco, 21, had quite an ascent — he finished his collegiate career on June 16 pitching for Florida in the College World Series. He was the Dodgers’ second-round pick, and 82nd overall.
Around the horn
• If the Rays qualify for the postseason, it will be their fourth appearance in five years. The achievement would be notable not only because the Rays play in the rugged AL East, but also because of the difficulty that low-revenue teams face in sustaining success.
The Twins reached the postseason six times in nine seasons between 2002 and ’10, the Athletics five times in seven seasons between 2000 and ’06.
The payroll disparities have only widened since the start of those runs — and the distance between the haves and have-nots threatens to grow even larger as high-revenue teams continue to negotiate massive local TV contracts.
• One rival executive makes an interesting point about the Nationals’ shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, saying that all the team needed to do was reduce the pitcher’s workload by six innings per month to preserve him for the postseason.
If the Nationals had manipulated Strasburg’s innings accordingly, he could have entered the postseason with say, 130 to 140 innings, giving him the chance to pitch and still remain under 160 to 180 innings for the season.
• A scout said of Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer, “he’s not real far behind (Justin) Verlander.” That might be an exaggeration — Verlander’s ERA-plus is 144, while Scherzer’s is 109 — but it’s still quite a statement.
“Nobody says a word, but their pitching coach (Jeff Jones) did a real good job with this guy,” the scout said. “The guy is so much better now than he was two years ago, it’s incredible. He’s cleaned up his (mechanics) a lot, is more on line to the plate.”
Scherzer leads the majors with 11.23 strikeouts per nine innings. Strasburg is next at 11.13, followed by Yu Darvish at 10.40.