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  Thu, September 2, 2004


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Time to play moneyball
Bob Elliott thinks Ted Rogers should open his wallet and sign Delgado or a reasonable facsimile
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Think the Blue Jays offence has sputtered worse than a 1986 Pinto?

Wait until you see 2005, if the Jays don't re-sign first baseman Carlos Delgado.

The Jays are 12th with a team batting average of .263, sit 11th in runs scored and are dead last in home runs with 111, entering last night's game.

Take out Delgado's .252 average, 24 homers and 75 RBIs and how anemic will the Jays be?

This is a team that put DH Josh Phelps on waivers and dealt him to the Cleveland Indians because he couldn't hit. Phelps was leading the Jays in RBIs at the time of the deal for Eric Crozier.

Will Crozier be at first base on opening day next year or will it be Frank Catalanotto?

"I'd say it's 50-50 whether Carlos returns," Vernon Wells said.

And if he doesn't?

"Well, I'll have a better year," Wells said. "Orlando Hudson is having a good year and we'll have Alex Rios for the whole season. I think there is a will on our part to bring him back, but I don't know whether the money is there.

"I know there is a will on Carlos' part, maybe moreso from his end."

Delgado has 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 48 games since returning from the disabled list with a rib-cage injury that cost him 33 games.

When he returned we asked him about his streak of six consecutive 100-RBI seasons coming to an end.

"You can never tell what will happen," Delgado said in a non committal way.

Reminded of his conversation and the fact he has 25 RBIs away with 29 games remaining, Delgado said "check back with me on Oct. 3 (the final day of the season)."

Delgado entered the final month of his four-year, $68 million US contract yesterday, one day after Paul Godfrey's fourth anniversary as Jays president.

"We'll speak to Carlos and his agent when the season ends," Godfrey said. "He has been a Jay his whole career. We hope we can find a common ground."

If Delgado leaves then the Jays have $19.7 million to spend on free-agent hitters. We'll bet a Diet Coke, or a Coca-Cola Lite, as they say in Athens, that Rogers Communications will not spend $19. 7 million on hitters for next season.

One misconception about Delgado -- written here -- is that the most the Jays could cut his salary is 20% from $19.7 million to $15.76 million, as per the terms of the basic agreement between the players' union and Major League Baseball. That's true if the Jays and Delgado go to salary arbitration.

What also is true is that as a free agent, Delgado can sign for any amount of money.

The Los Angles Dodgers, the Boston Rod Sox and the Florida Marlins expressed interest in Delgado at the trade deadline. The Seattle Mariners may be another possible suitor and if the Montreal Expos relocate they'll need someone to sell tickets.

"Trying to replace a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy, which he could be even though he was out for a month, isn't easy," said Rene Lachemann, who managed the Florida Marlins and the M's and is now their bench coach.

"The White Sox are finding how difficult it is to score without Maggilio Ordonez and Frank Thomas. Unless they have an Albert Pujols in the minors or they sign some big-time free agent."

Which leaves the Jays up the Humber River with one oar in the water.

"We'll have to find some guys to replace Carlos," Wells said, "guys will have to step up."

The easiest way for someone to step up, considering the way the Jays revamped bullpen has performed, would be for owner Ted Rogers to expand his budget.