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2009 Record: 75-87 (.463), 4th AL East
Key Losses: Roy Halladay-SP (trade); Marco Scutaro-SS (free agent)

Key Additions: Shaun Marcum-SP (injury); John Buck-C (free agent); Jose Molina-C (free agent); Alex Gonzalez-SS (free agent)

Like every team this time of year, the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays are excited about their chances, but this is a team destined for the bottom of the division.

The Blue Jays traded away one of the best pitchers in the league, Roy Halladay, for a group of prospects, none of whom will be in the opening day lineup.  This is clearly a team in transition and rebuilding.

The 2009 version of the team started strong and even lead the division in wins for some time.  Slowly, the team broke down and rumors of a mid-season trade of Halladay distracted the team and led them to a 75-87 finish.  After Halladay was traded to the Phillies, the team didn’t add any big free agent names and even cut payroll.  It’s clear the front office doesn’t expect much this year.

Fortunately, their farm system is a little stronger.

The starting rotation is weak, and the opening day starter is Shaun Marcom, who missed the entire 2009 season with an elbow injury.  Marcom has a promising career record at 24-17, but he hasn’t pitched more than 159 innings in a season, more than 12 wins in a season or 123 strikeouts in a season.  He does not represent the ace a team needs and will have a lot of pressure due to high expectations.  Still, he has potential and will have a lot of opportunity as the Jays’ number one starter.

After Marcum are second year pitchers Ricky Romero and Marc Rzepczynski and two former relievers, Brandon Morrow and Brian Tallet.  The closer is Jason Frasor, who had 11 saves and 57 2/3 innings pitched.  The bullpen is unproven and not intimidating to opposing hitters.

At the plate, the Jays have….no one.  Well it’s not that bad, the team did score 798 runs last season but no one really scares an opposing pitcher and last season’s team was lucky at the plate.  Vernon Wells used to hit 100 RBI a season…used to.  His last decent season was 2006 and he has not played a full season without injury since 2003.  Left fielder Travis Snider is their most promising young player and has the potential to hit 20+ homers and 75+ RBI.

With a below average pitching staff, the Blue Jays will find themselves down early  and often in games and require a team that surprisingly hit 798 runs last season and added no amazing bats in the off-season to find a way to increase that offense to make up for bad pitching.

Couple that with the fact that the Jays live and work in the AL East amongst three of the best five teams in the American League (54 games against Rays, Yankees and Red Sox) and this team is headed for the basement of the division.

2010 Prediction: 66-96, 5th in AL East

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According to several sources on Twitter and Jayson Stark on ESPN.com, the LA Angels are in serious talks with Hideki Matsui to become their DH, replacing Vlad Guerrero.

Also in news today, John Lackey has apparently agreed to a five year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox, and the Sox are also in talks with Mike Cameron.

Also, a three-way deal that would send Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee to Seattle is “close” but “not done,” according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.

While I have the utmost respect for Matsui, the Yankees no longer needed him, especially when he expressed interest in being in the outfield more often. If the signing falls into place, I wish him best of luck.

I’m perfectly fine with the Halladay deal, that would keep him out of the AL East and the American League altogether. I’m more surprised at Boston’s activity today. After a ho-hum two weeks where the only two things they did was to sign Boof Bonser and trade for Max Ramirez, they got the top free agent pitcher to give them a formidable 1-2-3 punch, and are in talks for a quality center-fielder.

The Yankees need to step up on their activity for the outfield, and a DH bat, and perhaps an extra arm.

With the fun of hosting our first Thanksgiving at our new home, I have been unable to get online and sink myself into the Yankee Universe until now.  There are two stories I want to throw my two cents in on.

Bob Sheppard will not return

First, long time Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that he has “no plans of coming back.”  Sheppard was the voice of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium for the better part of 6 decades, announcing such stars as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

I am sad to hear this – Mr Sheppard was the voice I heard from my first Yankee game through most of my life and I know that many will miss him.  He has not announced a game since late 2007 due to illness, and the 99 year-old deserves his retirement.

Before this, Sheppard had always said he intended to return as the Yankees announcer when he overcame his illness.  Paul Olden took over for Sheppard this year and has been doing well filling those big shoes.  Sheppard’s voice can still be heard at Yankee Stadium every game – Derek Jeter uses a recording of Sheppard’s voice when he comes to the plate.

Roy Halladay talk heats up

The rumor mill is cranking about Roy Halladay and what appears to be an inevitable trade from the Blue Jays.  Will he go to the Yankees?  Will he go to the Red Sox?  Jon Heyman reports that the Jays are interested in Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero and possibly a pitcher like Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain.

I’m torn on this.  On the one hand, Halladay is a combined 37-21 with a 2.79 ERA in his last two seasons with a sub-par Toronto squad.  He was the most dominating pitcher for the first half of the 2009 season, so he does have what it takes to be a good pitcher.

But to give up a great prospect like Jesus Montero and a solid young pitcher like Hughes or Joba, is just a little silly.  Halladay is 32 years-old, and will want a 4-5 year contract at max money.  He has thrown over 220 innings each of the last 4 seasons and I am concerned he might break down at the end of a long contract.  With 32 year-old AJ Burnett already on the roster for the next 4 years, I don’t want to turn the rotation into what might end up looking like an old folks home.

 

Will the Yankees make a bigger splash in 2010 or 2011 offseason?

After last season’s hot stove signings, the Yankees seem to be pretty set offensively and in the front end of the rotation, they need an arm or two.

Mark Feinsand wrote today about the potential bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox that’s in the making for when Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee hit the free agent market next offseason.

A source with knowledge of the Yankees’ thinking said the Bombers already have their sights set on signing either Halladay or Cliff Lee if both become free agents after next season. Yankees executives, however, fear that Lee might sign a long-term deal with the Phillies before becoming a free agent, leaving Halladay as the lone target for teams looking for an ace.

And also had this to say about the Yankees view of free agent John Lackey:

Even though the free-agent market is thin when it comes to starting pitching this winter, some Yankees officials are intrigued by the idea of signing Angels starter John Lackey.

Others are wary of signing Lackey to a big contract, according to one Yankees executive, citing the righthander’s injury issues over the past two seasons. There is also the Angels’ apparent willingness to let him walk, which some see as a sign that they know something about the health of his arm that others don’t.

I’m a little skeptical of Halladay due to his age, Lee as well. Also Lackey has had two iffy seasons with injuries. I’d love to see the Yankees develop out of the farm system.  But if we get Lackey for a modest contract this offseason (3-4 years @ $14-18 mil. per year) I’d be fine. If we want to wait for Halladay or Lee, I know we’ll be paying more. A whole lot more.

The Yankees improved to 6-2 on the season against division rival Toronto after a 5-3 win at the Roger’s Center on Tuesday night.  Andy Pettitte was a ROCK for the Yankees holding the Blue jays lineup to 4 hits and 1 run in 6 and 2/3 innings while improving his record to 9-6 on the season.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

The Yankees got offense from Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui in the top of the first two take a 2 run lead.  The Yankees didn’t lose the lead for the rest of the game.  Damon and Mark Teixeira padded the lead in the 8th with back-to back solo home runs and despite the Blue Jays answering with two runs of their own in the 8th, the Yankees held on for the victory.  Tex is now #2 in the Al with 27 homers this season.

Mariano Rivera pitched 1 1/3, earning his 31st save of the year.  The Great Rivera is now in sole possession of the league lead in saves – one ahead of Brian Fuentes – whose LA Angels are mired in a 4-4 tie with the Chicago White Sox.  Oh, and Rivera is 39.  Old man river has still got it!

Despite a complete game by Roy Halladay, the jays couldn’t capitalize when they needed to, forcing Halladay to his second straight loss and his first loss in his last 10 starts against the Yankees in Toronto.

Despite all the trade talks, the Toronto fans gave Halladay a huge ovation when he walked in from the bullpen to start the game.  I was listening on the radio, so all I could hear was loud cheers.  Later I learned it was the third straight home start – basically since trade rumors began – that the home fans showed their appreciation for him.

The Yankees and Blue Jays finish up their two game series Wednesday night – the eve of a Red Sox – Yankees showdown in the Bronx on Thursday.

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