Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Canadian Poker Tips from the Pros

The guy you see above is Jonathan Duhamel. He just became exceedingly rich. Duhamel was already a professional poker player, grinding out and learning how tough an easy living can be. Duhamel survived an 8 day tournament, an interminable 4 month wait, and a final table circus to take home a gaudy bracelet and a life-changing paycheck.

In Duhamel's everyday poker existence, he needs to manage his bankroll and take calculated risks. His is a world of increments. He reminds me of another swarthy dude from Montreal, Alex Anthopoulos.

Alex Anthopoulos seems to maintain a very even keel. Based on his first year of calculated moves, I feel as though AA is the type to bide his time. Not one to overvalue his hand to get in deep at a table beyond his means.

The various reports and conjecture about the possibility of acquiring Dan Uggla and/or Manny Ramirez make my head spin a little. Does Anthopoulos sense weakness in the division? Is he rolling up his stake and taking his shot now?

Considering the relative cost to employ both these two offense-only players, it might not be a bad gamble if, IF, everything that went right in 2010 happens again and all the bad things from 2010 go right this time around.

Personaly, I can't see that happening. Acquiring Uggla for one expensive arbitration year (or extending him and hoping 33 year old Dan Uggla is AWESOME) and moving him to third base (as moving Hill would be asinine) as well as signing excellent-if-somewhat-power-stricken Manny? Two moves which would necessitate at least a few more as the message would be clear: the future is now.

Realistically, how much closer do those two moves bring the Jays to competing for a playoff berth? 3 Wins? 4 tops? If Uggla puts up another 5 win season and Manny somehow puts up a 4 Win season as a DH and Adam Lind replicates 2009 without giving too much back with his glove, you could probably put the Jays down for 90 wins.

Guess what 90 wins gets you in the AL East?

Even if you think the Yankees are too old and will overpay Jeter's corpse and the Red Sox don't have any pitching beyond Jon Lester and the Rays will struggle with Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce and God knows who else taking over in the outfield, you can't assume two of those three teams will fail to win 90 games.

It just doesn't seem like that time. There are too many variables. It would be too much like 2006 for too many people's comfort. J.P. took his shot and missed. He paid a premium for a closer, determined to nail down the crucial few wins a lockdown closer represents. He upgraded third base and strengthened his rotation and it didn't end up working. The process was sound (enough), but the results didn't line up.

At the risk of torturing this poker analogy with allusions to bluffing and referencing how going all-in works every time but once, I feel confident in the FO's Zen-like Howard Lederer table image. Alex Anthopoulos doesn't strike me as the type of maniac to shove when he has a coinflip.

Playing in the AL East doesn't afford the opportunity to run around like Brian Sabean, going buckwild against weak players. AA and friends need to build their stack and pick their spots. I just can't see this being that spot.


  1. AA isn't rumoured to be making any long term commitments or trading any core pieces so I don't think this is case of sacrificing the future for the now unlike 2006 where J.P. was handing out long term deals to the likes of Burnett and Ryan.

  2. You know Drew, I'm torn. Maybe I'm slowly getting beat down by the constant barrage of "the Jays are tied to Player X this offseason" stories & believing they are that close......but I'm starting to wonder if now is the time to take a shot.

    When will the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays (as a collective) be weaker? When will the Jays be better positioned? Maybe another year of seasoning for the young rotation and Snider? But where will the rest of the AL East be in another year compared to where they are now?

    I don't know. I just don't know.

  3. I agree 100% the Jays are not ready to contend and making moves for the sake of making moves does not fit in with what AA has been trying to do. I really see no huge benefit in bringing in Manny and yesterday I wrote about bring in Uggla really only makes sense if the cost is not absurd and the plan is to move him to first. But as you said how good is 33 year old Dan Uggla going to be. I'd rather they take a flyer on some one like BJ Upton who fits into the retooling around athletic players.

  4. I know it's a bit simplistic to group all of the Toronto pro sports teams into the same conversation, but I have a hard time imagining that AA doesn't have a tiny voice somewhere in his head whispering that he should look over at what the folks at MLSE have been up to, and understand that sustainable winning is not a one or two year process... Even if that's not true, I have a hard time believing that he's about to push all his chips toward the center of the table. I think he only makes these splashy moves if he doesn't think he's handcuffing the franchise in the process. If he views these acquisitions as slight detours on the his map, fine, but if this represents changing the course completely, then I'm a little nervous.

  5. I see no reason other than personality/clubhouse stuff to not bring in ramirez. He only costs money.

    Uggla doesn't seem to me to be the kind of piece i'd want to give up assets for.

    Even if JPA is only barajas/buck, that is a useful piece playing for the league minimum.

  6. @jerkstore - since I feel like the personality stuff is completely overblown, might as well go for it!

    @Noisyflowers - I don't think the Ryan and Burnett deals are that bad. The opt-out made Burnett's deal three years $11 million, well below market by the time he re-entered free agency.

    As for Ryan, I read Keith Law claim that they figured they'd get three good years out of Ryan, which one could argue they just missed. Again, marginal win value. Look at the Rays with Soriano this year. They overpaid because it was a "missing piece" of a nearly complete puzzle.

  7. If I had to choose between one of Uggla and Manny, I'm taking Manny. What sense would it make to acquire a guy who just turned down a monster contract while parting with a quality SP and a prospect? I can't see AA making that move. Not now, like you said. I don't think it's our time. Travis Snider needs a full season of mashing before it's our time.

    Also, why is moving Hill asinine? Why is he locked-in at 2B?

  8. "Even if JPA is only barajas/buck, that is a useful piece playing for the league minimum."

    However that is a relatively inexpensive replaceable piece, also what if the defensive concerns are to be true? If this is the case and you can get two first round draft picks for this guy, I think you are better off with the two first round draft picks. Oh, and a season of Dan Uggla :)

  9. Bringing in Manny and/or Uggla, to me anyway, only helps The Plan along. Stick them in the lineup and if everything works out, you're making a run at the playoffs. If not, flip them at the deadline and stock up the farm even more.

  10. @Navin - Hill is locked in a second base because he's an excellent second baseman. If you're moving him for a questionably defensive replacement, you now have two unanswered questions.

    Leave Hill at second, you only have to decide if one guy can play a new position after proving he can't play his previous one.

  11. @eyebleaf If I had to choose between moving Uggla or Hill to a different position, I'd move Uggla every time.

  12. I can only see Manny being a bad signing if the team sees Adam Lind as their DH for the next few years. Otherwise, Manny only costs money and isn't taking opportunities away from anyone else.

  13. But what does he add? Other than good times and a 2 Win bat, he doesn't make the Jays much more competitive than they are right now.

  14. Well, he adds 2 Wins and good times. Admittedly, it's little, but if he's taking away nothing, then isn't he something?

    And while I usually think folks who say things like this are a little too confident in AA, maybe he can be turned into other players (in the Gonzalez model) or a draft pick (in the - hopefully - Buck model). And if he can't, no harm done.

  15. I was into the idea of trading for Uggla, seeing how the year pans out, and keeping in mind he can always be flipped as a rent-a-playa at the deadline.

    But then I remembered the Matt Holliday experiment in Oakland. To my untrained-prospect-porn-eye, the A's gave up a whole lot, Holliday kind of sucked in the East Bay, and then the package they got from St. Louis seems, so far, totally underwhelming.

    Any thoughts on this? An apt analogy? Or am I blathering incoherently?

  16. the problem with the al east is that you never know when your stars will align. i'm all for seeing if every year is our year. adding uggs and manram is only a bad idea if it compromises 'the plan.' if adding uggla means they don't swing a better deal for a 3b (like an alex gordon reclamation or something) than there isn't much of a downside.

  17. As an alternate to the Holliday deal, I think Seattle gave up very little to get Cliff Lee (Ramirez, Amounte, Gilles) and then dealt him at the deadline for better prospects (Smoak, Lueke, Lawson, Beaven). Also they could have had Jesus Montero for Lee at the deadline.

    The difference is that you have a better chance of competing with the Stud player from the start of the season, as opposed to hoping everything comes together will a bunch of reclamation projects.

    It's a win win situation:
    a) Jays make the playoff, Uggla leaves as a free agent and they get 2 picks
    b) Jays suck and they either trade Uggla or get two picks when he leaves as a free agent.

    Either way you don't really hurt the teams future. The mistake would be in signing Uggla to a long term contract. Of course I guess Uggla could suck or get hurt, but I believe it's worth the risk.

  18. Very good post - I'm sort of on the opposite side of the debate as you, but you've laid out the "don't do it" argument better than anyone else I've read.

    I just don't see the risk in the two moves, unless you feel like asking Rogers to shill out what may be $15-20M for the two players is going to sour them on AA if the Jays don't succeed this year - which frankly, may be accurate.

    But Manny, on a one-year, reasonably priced deal is pretty much all upside. As long as he hits well, he'll be movable at the deadline if needed, and may even return a compensation pick at the end of the year.

    And Uggla - if AA finds the price asked by Florida to be reasonable - is somewhat similar. He'll also be movable at the deadline, and almost certain to return Type A compensation, and that includes very likely an actual first round pick, unlike what we've gotten for Scutaro, Burnett, etc.

    The Jays have two holes to fill for next season anyways, though they have flexibility in how they do it. They need to add a DH or 1B, and they need to add a 3B/RF/2B. Sure, they can go for real value-buys, and bring back Lyle Overbay for first base and bring in Orlando Hudson or Pedro Feliz or whatever, but if it's just a price AA finds reasonable (in terms of money and what Florida expects in return for Uggla), then why not go for the upside of a chance to compete (even if its unlikely) and adding two good pieces that should bring in nice returns?

  19. Just a spitball here, but couldn't a little PR love from Manny Ramirez help the Jays current profile in the T.O. sports scene? I don't live in the country anymore, but I was under the impressions the pecking order went 1) Leafs, Tie 4th) Raptors/FC/Blue Jays 5th) Argos. It would be nice to see the Jays mve back towards the top of that list.

  20. Let's not forget that the Jays just dropped ~$40MM from an ~$80MM payroll. After all arb cases, and including adding Uggla and Manny, they would be under $70MM. Yes, less than last season's payroll.

    And besides, as Peter D and InfieldFly rightly point out, these guys could turn into major farm pieces (especially considering AA's army of scouts) through deadline trades or FA compensation. Manny could well be a major trade chip, and/or a Type A at season's end (as could Uggla, obviously).

    In poker, you always have to allocate resources to pots that have a high potential for a return. If some clown is loose as hell, and I have a marginal hand, I will rinse him more times than not. I just have to take that calculated risk.

    The same applies for Justin Upton. Alex may have to go to the wire with BOS and NYY, because, can he really afford to allow them to take the biggest pot of all?

  21. Well now that we've seen the return that the Marlins got for Uggla, I think it's clear that we should have been very involved. Looks like he could have been had for very little. Either Florida's GM is dumber than a stump or we all greatly over-valued what a year of Uggla was worth.
    As for Manny I have to think that the Jays may tread those waters carefully. I don't think based on previous statements by AA that a Manny-type and a squadron of DHs is really his MO. I agree that Manny only costs money but that only happens to be true if you believe Lind as a 1B (which personally I don't).
    Given the apparent availability of Justin Upton, I would think that Manny only makes sense in combination with that sort of acquisition and Lind being a piece going the other way.
    Just my random thoughts, as always great post Drew.

  22. Damn. Doesn't that seem like the Marlins got hosed?

  23. Uggla was severely over-valued. By everybody.

  24. I'm just going to call it right now: Arencibia will turn into the Joe Mauer of the Jays, Lind and Hill will bounce back and have monster seasons, Bautista will put up another 100 rbis/40 HR, the Yankees will overpay for Cliff Lee and he'll spend half the season on the DL, the Sox will take the division but the Rays will suck and the Jays will be in it for the wild card right until October.


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