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Toronto Blue Jays
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   Extra effort: Carlos Delgado led the AL with 99 extra-base hits last season. Tom Hauck/Allsport

By Jacob Luft, CNNSI.com

The 2000 Toronto Blue Jays would have made a terrific slow-pitch softball team.

They led the American League with a club-record 244 home runs and joined the '96 Orioles as the only teams with at least seven 20-plus home run hitters.

The problem was on the mound. Blue Jays pitchers were 10th in ERA at 5.14, almost a full run behind the league-leading Red Sox's 4.23.

Toronto gave up 10 or more runs in 27 games.

But thanks mainly to Carlos Delgado and his run at the first triple crown season since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Toronto posted its third consecutive winning season at 83-79, only 4 1/2 games out of first place. The Jays rewarded Delgado with a four-year deal worth $68 million.

Fittingly, the team poster boy was David Wells, the beer-bellied, scruffy left-hander who won 20 games and started the All-Star Game. But Wells bought his ticket out of town by insisting on having the club pick up his $9 million option year for 2002. He also ripped on Toronto fans, further alienating himself from team management.

 
Top Guns
Blue Jays 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Carlos Delgado  .344 
HR  Delgado/Tony Batista  41 
RBIs  Carlos Delgado  137 
SB  Raul Mondesi  22 
Wins  David Wells  20 
ERA  Billy Koch  2.63 
Ks  David Wells  166 
Saves  Billy Koch  38 
 
Go Figure

10.64

The major league record for highest ERA with at least 50 innings pitched, set by Roy Halladay in 2000 (80 ER in 67 2/3 IP).
 
 

Wells ended up being traded to the White Sox along with Mike DeWitt in exchange for a four-player package highlighted by 15-game winner Mike Sirotka. Rumors emerged as to Sirotka's health and there is doubt he will be able to pitch at all this season.

The Blue Jays are excited about Esteban Loaiza as the No. 2 starter (or No. 1 if Sirotka doesn't play). In 14 starts after being acquired from the Rangers, Loaiza put up a respectable 3.62 ERA while going 5-7. The rotation is shaky at best from there, with Steve Parris, Joey Hamilton and Chris Carpenter at 3-4-5. This is where the loss of the surprising Frank Castillo to the Red Sox will be felt.

At least Parris and Hamilton add experience to the staff while keeping the disastrous Roy Halladay (10.64 ERA) out of the rotation.

The Jays have a host of candidates for their bullpen but it should boil down to closer Billy Koch, Kelvim Escobar, Paul Quantrill, Dan Plesac, Roy Halladay for long relief, and either Pedro Borbon or Lance Painter.

With the fearsome lineup they have, the Jays only need a modicum of pitching success to make a serious playoff run. They were contenders early in 2000, holding onto first place from June 23-July 6 but faded in the second half as Wells went 5-6 and Raul Mondesi played in only one game after July 21.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Kevin Beirne  White Sox  Trade 
RHP  Jason Dickson  Angels  Free agency 
LHP  Scott Eyre  White Sox  Trade 
2B  Jeff Frye  Rockies  Free agency 
3B  Cole Liniak  Cubs  Trade 
RHP  Steve Parris  Reds  Trade 
OF  Brian Simmons  White Sox  Trade 
LHP  Mike Sirotka  White Sox  Trade 
Jason Werth  Orioles  Trade 
RHP  Mike Williams  White Sox  Trade 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
LHP  Clayton Andrews  Reds  Trade 
LHP  John Bale  Orioles  Trade 
RHP  Frank Castillo  Red Sox  Free agency 
RHP  Matt DeWitt  White Sox  Trade 
RHP  Leo Estrella  Reds  Trade 
RHP  Gary Glover  White Sox  Trade 
INF  Craig Grebeck  Red Sox  Free agency 
LHP  Mark Guthrie  A's  Free agency 
OF  Dave Martinez  Braves  Free agency 
OF  Chad Mottola  Marlins  Trade 
RHP  Steve Trachsel  Mets  Free agency 
LHP  David Wells  White Sox  Trade 

Spring Cleaning
 
Homer Bush
  • It's time to answer the question: Is Homer Bush a player or not? He will get another shot at the everyday second-base job despite batting .215 in 297 at-bats last season. A return to his '99 form -- .320, 55 RBI, 32 SB -- would give Toronto a ridiculously stacked lineup. Otherwise, free-agent signee Jeff Frye and veteran Mickey Morandini will be playing instead of Bush.

  • The Blue Jays would be thrilled if one of their highly touted young pitchers felt like growing up this spring. Carpenter and Halladay were gas cans last season while Kelvim Escobar was inconsistent at best.

  • What kind of manager will TV personality Buck Martinez be? His experience as a major league catcher for 17 years, from 1969-86, should serve him well, but he better not expect anyone to do his makeup before games. He has said he will try to use more of the roster than former manager Jim Fregosi in hopes of preventing another poor second half.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    LF  Shannon Stewart  LHP  Mike Sirotka 
    2B  Homer Bush  RHP  Esteban Loaiza 
    RF  Raul Mondesi  RHP  Steve Parris 
    1B  Carlos Delgado  RHP  Joey Hamilton 
    DH  Brad Fullmer  RHP  Chris Carpenter 
    3B  Tony Batista  Bullpen  
    Darrin Fletcher  RHP  Billy Koch (closer) 
    CF  Jose Cruz Jr.  RHP  Kelvim Escobar 
    SS  Alex Gonzalez  RHP  Paul Quantrill 
    Key Reserves   LHP  Pedro Borbon 
    OF  Brian Simmons  RHP  Roy Halladay 
    INF  Mickey Morandini  LHP  Lance Painter 
    OF  Vernon Wells  LHP  Scott Eyre 
    Alberto Castillo  RHP  Jason Dickson 

    Prospects to Watch
  • OF Vernon Wells -- After a cup of coffee in 2000, Wells will be challenging Jose Cruz Jr. for the everyday center field job. Blessed with outstanding speed and a great throwing arm, he also shows patience at the plate and consistently hits the ball hard.

  • RHP Scott Cassidy -- He's made it up to Class AA despite being a non-drafted free agent in 1998. He's got velocity in the low 90s and did extremely well in Class A (9-3, 1.33 ERA) before struggling in AA.

  • RHP Pasqual Coco -- This 23-year-old prospect features a mid-90s fastball and mixes in a changeup. He made one major league start in 2000, allowing four runs in 4.0 innings, and went 12-7 with a 3.67 ERA in Class AA.

  • SS Felipe Lopez -- The scatter-armed switch-hitter was the second-youngest player to start in the Class AA Southern League last season. He's 6-foot-1 with excellent range and arm strength but his erratic throws resulted in a league-leading 44 errors. The eighth overall pick of the 1998 draft, he hit .257 with nine homers and 41 RBIs last year.

  • Best-Case Scenario
    Sirotka shows no signs of a weakened arm as he wins 18 games, easing the pain of losing Wells to the White Sox. In their first game against Wells, Carlos Delgado blasts a 500-foot home run that caps a nine-run inning and sends the burly left-hander to the showers.

    The Jays start off hot and rekindle local interest in the team, making Skydome the place to be in Toronto once again.

    Delgado wins the triple crown going away as the Yankees falter and the Jays and Red Sox finish 1-2 in the East.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    The Canadian dollar slips again, making the Mexican peso the barter of choice. Faced with tremendous revenue losses, the team is sold to WWF/XFL mogul Vince McMahon, who guarantees a Royal Rumble-esque beanbrawl at least once every homestand and random elbow drops on recalcitrant umpires.

    Running a major league club proves to be too much to handle for Martinez, who is fired on Labor Day. General manager Gord Ash says it was time to pull the plug when he found out Martinez was making calls to Peter Gammons for advice every half inning.

    "I would have let it slide but Peter and I don't even see eye to eye on situational relief pitching strategy," Ash is quoted as saying.

    Bottom Line
    The Blue Jays can't afford injuries to key players, starting with Sirotka and Mondesi. As it is, the lack of pitching depth in the rotation and bullpen will keep them out of the postseason again and in third place for the fourth season in a row.


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