For the third consecutive season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the running for a European goaltender. This year, they are one of the two front-runners (the other the San Jose Sharks) for Djugarden (of the SEL) standout rookie goaltender, Mark Owuya.

Owuya, only 21 years of age, had an outstanding season after stealing the starting reigns early in the year. In a full-time starter’s role, he responded very well, posting a 2.18 GAA and .927 SP. For comparison’s sake, current Maple Leafs puck-stoppers Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas posted lines of 1.97/.932 and 2.46/.907 in their contract years.

One thing that could shy Owuya away from signing in Toronto is that he would be adding to the overwhelming amount of depth Toronto has at the position.

With the tandems of James Reimer/Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens/Jussi Rynnas set for the Leafs and Toronto Marlies next year, Owuya would be in tough for playing time with the top two clubs, most likely getting most of his ice time in the ECHL with the Royals.

However, this could prove to be a non-factor as numerous European free agent goalies haven’t had a problem signing down the depth charts in the past. You can look at the Antti Niemi, Rynnas, and perhaps even Gustavsson (even though he had more job security than the others) signings for reassurance he could sign, no matter the situation in the crease.

For a little about of a scouting report on Owuya, he has drawn some comparisons to Tim Thomas.

Despite being tall at 6’2, he can be more of a flopper than more of a technical stand-up or butterfly goalie most are at his height. Nonetheless, despite his lack of technicality, he does possesses tremendous work ethic and a confident demeanor on and off the ice, things that often can not be taught to young, aspiring goaltenders, whereas the technicality of the position often can. He can also cover the bottom of the net very well, despite his lack of an orthodox style of play.

Contract discussions are still in the preliminary rounds, and nothing will be confirmed most likely until after the playoffs unless Toronto or another non-playoff team signs him.


Leafs looking for defense

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

After trading Tomas Kaberle, the Leafs are in a position many anticipated they would be in after trading the puck moving blueliner – looking for a replacement. It was harshly exposed to Brian Burke and co. on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, as the Leafs’ PP unit was a disaster without the stability on the puck Kaberle brought to it.

Burke has reportedly been dangling the 3rd round pick he acquired in the Kris Versteeg trade to other teams for a potential replacement, but to no avail.

As broken down by Garrett Bauman over at MLHS, the Leafs could be seeking a young, stable defender – which would cost much more than just the pick – or they could be seeking a project type defenseman, in which a 3rd rounder would be just about right.

According to many insiders on Twitter (@bergerfan590, @dougmaclean, and @real_espnlebrun), the Leafs have inquired about the availability of Avs’ defenseman John-Michael Liles as well as the known availability of Thrashers’ blueliner Zach Bogosian. The asking prices though are supposed to be to high, with the Avs asking for a young forward and a first rounder in return, and while Atlanta’s price is not known, logic would suggest it be similar to that of Erik Johnson’s price tag after his recent deal.

Fitting into the more cheaper options would be Chris Campoli of the Senators. The defenseman has struggled in his time with Ottawa and could be had should a respectable deal be put on the table. Something along the lines of the 3rd rounder + a later conditional draft choice could get the deal done. Campoli’s even strength play hasn’t been the most impressive during his career, but with evidence when he played in a set role with the Islanders, his puck handling abilities are above average. In Ottawa, he has the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Filip Kuba, and David Rundblad ahead of him, diminishing his role considerably, thus expecting full results from him during his time with the Sens is unrealistic to ask. Perhaps the only thing holding the Senators back from dealing him is the reason that they forfeited a 1st round pick to acquire him, and dealing him off for lower picks may not be of god value to them.

Cody Franson and Jonathan Blum could also be had for considerably cheaper than Bogosian or Liles as well. The two are young defenseman that the Nashville Predators may want to swap for younger forwards due to their depth on the backend. Again, the third round pick will most likely not suffice with GM Dave Poile, but including a prospect like Luca Caputi or Josh Nicholls may be intriguing enough to pry one of the two away from the music city.

Burke did state yesterday he would like to have a defenseman acquired by tonight’s game against the New York Islanders, however that now seems almost impossible considering we are only a few hours from puck drop. Perhaps this is for the better, as Burke will have a few more days before the Leafs take on the Canadiens on Thursday to acquire a defenseman, not rushing him into a overpaying for someone he could have gotten a lot cheaper should he had waited a few days longer. Now, this is also speculation on who to think about acquiring, so reports Burke could be seriously interested in adding a defenseman could be over valued.

Bautista deal makes sense

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Earlier this evening, we learned that the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista’s request to extend their arbitration hearing date was for good reason. Enrique Rojas of ESPN reported the two sides are close on finalizing a 5 year/$65 million contract, paying Bautista an annual salary of $13 million.

And though you may scoff at the idea at first, the deal is an accomplishment for the Jays.

In 2010, Bautista was a +7 win player. He smashed over fifty homers, and 120 ribbies. What’s most important about the contract is that it doesn’t suggest that Bautista will be expected to repeat his 2010 numbers. In fact, the contract reportedly being handed to him expects him to produce much less.

According to Dave Cameron over Fangraphs, this is what the slugger will be expected to give the Jays in terms of WAR over the length of the contract. The value Bautista is expected to return to the Jays is also based on his age:

2011 – +3.4 WAR, $5 million per win, $17.5 million value
2012 – +2.9 WAR, $5.25M $/win, $15.23 million value
2013 – +2.4 WAR, $5.51M $/win, $13.23 million value
2014 – +1.9 WAR, $5.69M $/win, $11.00 million value
2015 – +1.4 WAR, $6.08M $/win, $8.51 million value

That totals out to just under $65 million, and those expectations aren’t nearly as lofty as a first glance at the deal would suggest.

In terms of home runs, batting average, etc., what’s expected of Bautista isn’t too high either. If you consider Bautista getting payed $13 million a season, 25-30 HR, 100 RBI, and in and around a .280/.330/.455 slash line should be expected. Not too bad at all.

Many on Twitter also seem to be comparing this deal to the albatross of one Vernon Wells received, suggesting that the Jays are virtually in the same position as they were before the Angels trade.

That’s just ridiculous to say, simply because the contracts are not comparable but any standards. Wells’ contract gave him an annual income of $18 million, which expects him to be a 5+ WAR player and hit 32-37 HR, 115 RBI, and a slash line of .300/.365/.500.

Now, those are just rough estimates, but it’s clear the expectation placed on Wells with his contract is nowhere near the pressure going on Bautista.

Also, Tweeters seem to be saying that what if Bautista fails the first two years on his deal (failed first year + failed bounceback opportunity)? The Jays are then stuck with three years of Bautista at $39 million.

I reply with – if the Jays found a way to get out of Alex Rios’ and Vernon Wells’ contracts (which were worth much, much more than that), wouldn’t it be accurate to say that this type of money left wouldn’t be an issue to move? And I bet you Alex Anthopoulos would still receive solid value for it.

I’ve heard that signing this deal would be too big a risk for the Jays, that a 2 or 3 year deal is much more logical economically and baseball wise. However, signing that short a deal would be too risky for Bautista, as he knows if he fails to reach respectable numbers during the contract, he’s an MLB-journeyman again.

And on smaller scales, the Jays receive other things too. One being that they get a player who they can drain every last penny out of by marketing him as their superstar. Secondly, they’re also getting the truth from Rogers that a $150 million payroll could become a reality. And lastly, maybe they’ve finally found a stable third baseman?

The Jays most likely could have gone a million or two cheaper on the annual term. However, leaving the decision to sign him long-term until the end of this season would have hurt the Jays more than helped them. Bautista’s salary expectancy would have most likely risen to larger amounts and the Jays might not have been able to compete with his prices.

So, for that I praise their decision to get it done. And for the value Bautista is expected to give back, this deal makes perfect sense.

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UPDATE, 7:08: McKenzie says that Burke is trying to package the third rounder for a roster asset. He intends to keep the first. Versteeg also guessed Philly earlier in the day and expected a trade, so it wasn’t a surprise by any means to him.

Also, with Burke fetching a less than spectacular return for Kris, a possibility could have been that Versteeg wanted out, preventing Burke from completely cashing in on the versatile forward (for example: James vanRiemsdyk).

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Toronto Maple Leafs have dealt winger Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a first and third round draft picks, both in the upcoming NHL entry draft.

Versteeg scored 14 goals and 15 points in 53 games with a -13 rating for the Buds this season, after being acquired from the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks for a trio of prospects, including Viktor Stalberg.

Ironically enough, Versteeg is dealt to the team he helped beat in the Cup final last year, the Phildelphia Flyers – who are considered one of the few favourites to win Stanley’s mug this season.

With the trade the true, complete rebuild seems to be underway in Toronto after Brian Burke has dealt two of his current best roster players for prospects + picks (first being Beauchemin for Gardiner).

Jays a playoff team in 2011?

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

1. Rajai Davis, CF

2. Yunel Escobar, SS

3. Jose Bautista, 3B

4. Adam Lind, 1B

5. Mike Napoli, DH

6. Aaron Hill, 2B

7. Travis Snider, RF

8. J.P. Arencibia, C

9. Juan Rivera, LF

After analyzing the above batting order along with a decent rotation, I was quite shocked to see that the Jays could be  right in the mix to fight for a playoff spot this season. The Jays are most likely going to view each game as more of a home-run derby than a game, as every batter we have is capable of hitting 25+ home runs. They might not all do it, but they are capable of doing so, giving no reason to believe that the Jays at least have the potential to make a run at the post-season.

And perhaps this season maybe the most opportune time with the Rays roster being decimated and the Yankees having rotation having some major holes. The Jays also have a serviceable bullpen, with veterans Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel leading the way for the revamped ‘pen.

Anyway, like I said this is more of a musing than anything, but I thought I would at least throw the idea out there.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of completing a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The deal would see center fielder Vernon Wells be sent down south in exchange for catcher/1B Mike Napoli.

The deal comes as a huge shock to many, as Wells’ contract was once thought to be untradeable after signing the 7-year, $126 million deal back in December of 2006. Wells had a resurgent season last year, belting 31 home runs while driving in 88, to produce his best season since the first year of the ginormous contract.

Reportedly coming back to the Jays is backstop Mike Napoli. Napoli has been with the Angels since being drafted out of high school in the 2000 MLB draft. He has hit 92 home runs and has a career .251 average in five seasons with Los Angeles. His best season was last year, when he hit a career high 26 homers and had 68 ribbies.

The Angels have been reportedly looking to trade Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera for sometime, and Rivera could potentially be also included in the deal.

Did you know Gil Meche retired?

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

And I shouldn’t expect you to.

Gil Meche was drafted in the first round of the 1996 amateur draft, by the Seattle Mariners. He was highly doubted at the time and many questioned the Mariners’ decision on selecting him so high. Meche, who made his MLB-debut three years later, went on to pitch 10 full major league seasons, garnering 84 wins to go with a 4.49 ERA. Perhaps his best season was in 2008 when he led the put together a winning record on a very weak Royals’ ball club, going 14-11 with a 3.98 ERA while pitching over 200 innings.

Some of the his memorable moments would be his 2009 complete game shutout over the Arizona  Diamondbacks, where he pitched 130 balls at Arizona for the victory, and being the competitive mentor for Zack Greinke when he first entered the league, allowing him to find his groove in the major leagues. Other traits that will be remembered about Meche by those that knew him were his competitiveness, and his heart – pitching the last season and a half injured for the Royals.

You will (and maybe you should) ask why I would write about such a small thing? Well, Meche was one of my favourite major league pitchers for his attitude towards the game – “you have to earn the money you’re being payed” as he put it. This is just a small tribute for a great pitcher and an even greater man. Cheers Gil Meche, and enjoy your retirement!