Notes: Batista an elite closer?
Ricciardi will evaluate the state of the Jays in the offseason
TORONTO -- Different opinions, different perspectives.
There may be a growing mass of public sentiment calling for Miguel Batista's job, but the men who gave him that job have entirely different expectations. Toronto's closer has blown eight saves this season -- six since the All-Star break -- but he hasn't been out of line with the team's hopes for his performance.
"We don't have one of the elite closers in the game. The elite closers blow three [saves] a year," said J.P. Ricciardi, Toronto's general manager. "We never thought we had an elite closer. We thought we had a guy to fill that role, which is what we've gotten out of that."
Batista may not be elite, but he hasn't been average either. There are 24 big league closers with at least 20 saves, and 20 of them have more successful conversions than Toronto's relief ace. No closer has more blown saves, and only three of those pitchers have posted a worse ERA.
What's more, only two relievers in that group -- Danys Baez and Francisco Cordero -- have matched Batista's eight blown saves, and they've both outpitched him in terms of ERA and successful saves. Batista still has one more season left on his contract, but that won't stop Ricciardi from looking for potential replacements this winter.
"We've had four different closers in four different years. Nothing's set in stone," he said. "We're all about winning, going forward. There's nothing getting in the way. When people say 'This guy's off-limits or that guy's off-limits' -- we're not that good that we can say that, outside of [Roy] Halladay. Outside of Halladay, we've got to make ourselves better."
Ricciardi means that comment, but he doesn't necessarily mean it right away. The Jays will probably keep giving Batista the ball in save situations -- largely because they don't have a better option. Toronto manager John Gibbons has kept most of his decisions close to the vest lately, and the Batista dilemma is no exception.
"He's pitched three days in a row. He won't be in there tonight," he said, when asked for an appraisal of the future. "Tonight he's not going to be, but yeah, he's still the closer."
Home improvements: All the talk about the bullpen got Ricciardi talking about this winter, when he'll have nearly $30 million in available funds to improve his roster. The former scout said that built-in raises will bring his existing payroll to approximately $55 million, and he plans on spending $80 million on next year's team.
"We have that much more money available, but that doesn't mean we're going to spend it just because we have it," he said. "We can bring the same team back next year. With Halladay, maybe we're an 85-to-87-win club, and we want to be better than that."
Spending the money isn't a problem -- but spending it wisely might be. Ricciardi has often ruminated on the difficulties of getting players to come to Canada, and he said that won't change just because he has more money to spend.
"We're not the first choice on everyone's table," he said. "We have to target the guys we think will come here -- and have the resources available to put those guys there. I've been looking forward to the challenge since I got here. Why should it stop now?"
Temporary relief: Dustin McGowan has been successful as a hard-throwing option in late relief, but Gibbons doesn't expect him to spend his career in that slot. The manager said McGowan has much potential as a starter to immediately place in the bullpen.
"Look at his arm, his age. He's got a chance to be a very good starter," said Gibbons about the 23-year-old. "I don't think we're even considering the bullpen right now. He's got too much going for him the other way."
Does the current stint hurt his long-term potential? What exactly is McGowan gaining from a September with the parent club?
"He's chalking up innings and experience," Gibbons said. "You've just got to watch him, since he's been a starter. It's tough to bring him in in the middle of an inning -- you've got to give him plenty of time to get loose."
Quotable: "I need cookies." -- Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun, distractedly mumbling to himself as he left the clubhouse before batting practice on Tuesday.
Coming up: The third act of the Seattle series takes place Wednesday, pitting Toronto's Dave Bush against 19-year-old phenom Felix Hernandez. Hernandez has drawn comparisons to former Cy Young Award-winner Dwight Gooden, and he's the main attraction in an otherwise difficult year for the Mariners.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.