Monday, November 27, 2006

Zaun's Gone

Let it be known that over the past few seasons, one of favourite players to wear the Blue Jays' uniform has been catcher Greg Zaun. Maybe it's because we love the underdog (and Zaun was an underdog. A career backup who finally got his chance to shine and ran with it), or maybe it's because he always had a clutch hit in him, but either way, we loved Zaun.

He had his belated coming out season in 2005 when he assumed the full time catcher spot for the Jays, after a career of bench warming. It was a good season for Zaun, and he proved he could handle the role day-to-day.

Then came last season, in which Jays management delivered a slap to Zaun's face in the form of hefty Bengie Molina. We held our tongue at the time, because Molina was a quality catcher, and it really did look like a move in the best interests of the club. It definitely wasn't in Zaun's best interests though, and he found himself back in the backup role he had once been so accustomed to. Well, it was more like "back-up with benefits", but you get the idea.

Which brings us to the current off season, in which both Zaun and Molina found themselves free agents. There was never any speculation that Molina would be returning, it was only ever going to be a one and done deal, but it looked like Zaun and the Jays would pick up where they left off in '06.

Except today they signed catcher
Rod Barajas, a fairly generic sounding guy to a two year deal worth 6 million peanuts. That's how many peanuts the Jays had on the table for Zaun, and he passed. No more Zaun. It's a sad day (We hear he might end up playing second fiddle for the Red Sox or Yanks, in which case we take back all the nice things we've ever said about him).

Looking on the plus side, this means more play time for Toronto's former third string catcher, Jason Phillips, another one of our Favourite Blue Jays. He's an under-appreciated player, and he should get some good at bats as the potential number two guy.

Looking ahead for the Jays' off season (because looking back involves thinking about Frank Thomas) they will probably start focusing on pitching now, Ted Lilly being the big bulls-eye they have their eye on. Free agent spending being what it is, Toronto will have to reach deep to afford Lilly, who, with 15 wins last season, suddenly becomes one of the premiero pitchers on the market. We'd love for Lilly to come back, but we'd love it even more if J.P Ricciardi had enough to re-sign Vernon Wells when the time comes, and if those two ideals should happen to clash...

Until the next time the Jays overspend on a free agent,


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