This offseason has shown that the Toronto Blue Jays front office is interested in winning, now and in the future. That should make you happy
The Toronto Blue Jays front office may never win over a certain section of fans. These outsiders from Cleveland came in and took over from the suddenly popular (and not so suddenly Canadian) Alex Anthopoulos, who broke the playoff drought by going all in at the now famous July 2015 Trade Deadline. AA was determined to “go for it” and bring a winner to Toronto. It wasn’t his first attempt, but it was his successful one.
But, it flies in the face of how the new guys would do things. And, they have made no secret about that, which is not exactly going to be the first thing a new fan base wants to hear. In fact, there have been several sound bites that have reached the masses only to increase the disdain. It is to the point where just about every move Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro make – never mind that there is a whole team involved in making decisions, something that Shapiro has stated is very important to being successful – will somehow be spun into a story of how they don’t care about winning and/or those who buy tickets.
This is problematic. Firstly, it is exhausting seeing all the #FireShapkins takes. More than that, if we take a step back and apply logic (I know!), there is plenty to like about this front office and how they are addressing their needs to win now and in the future.
When the New York Yankees go out and kick off the offseason by landing the super human that is Giancarlo Stanton, it sends waves of fear and panic across the land. That fear is multiplied when he was basically gift wrapped and left on the Yankees’ doorstep by the Miami Jeters. The Yankees followed up their surprise run at the playoffs by landing a baseball science experiment and the Blue Jays had done nothing to respond. We should also add that the Yankees have a history of spending at will to win now. This is taking up permanent residence in the back of the minds of Blue Jays fans.
Atkins did not counter by landing his own big fish. Instead, he went about his business following the unsexy methodology of “raising the floor”. It is a term that is bound to get an eye roll or two from those looking for news of Toronto landing its own baseball freak of nature. Eye rolling aside, it is an approach that very well could prove to be enough to compete with the Yankees.
Think about the increase in wins the front office provided compared to the 2017 total. Toronto finished 76-86 last season. Before we even get into the moves made, we have to think about how many more wins healthy versions of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki add to this roster. Since there is no “move” available to make to ensure this, the front office went out and got some insurance. The tandem of Yangervis Solarte (projected at ~1 fWAR in 2018, but capable of ~2 if playing every day) and Aledmys Diaz (projected at ~0.5 fWAR, but also capable of ~2 if playing every day) is an upgrade over Ryan Goins (-0.3 fWAR in 2017) and Darwin Barney (-0.6 fWAR in 2017). A possible 4 fWAR, but likely ~1.5 from the two new guys sure does beat -0.9 fWAR.
Jose Bautista put up -0.5 fWAR in his weird 2017. As an side, hopefully his eyesight has been addressed and that is all it takes to see him perform closer to what we’re used to, even if it isn’t in Toronto. Newly acquired Randal Grichuk, who looks to replace him is projected at ~1.5 fWAR, but is capable of 2 or 3, especially if the combination of him buying a pitching machine to work on offspeed stuff and hitting in the AL East pay off. That is an upgrade. Adding Curtis Granderson and his projected ~1 fWAR to the outfield mix could limit the negative value of playing Steve Pearce out there and possibly limit Ezequiel Carrera‘s negative defensive value. Again, an upgrade.
Hey, maybe we should consider what kind of an impact having Aaron Sanchez joining the rotation will have on the team. Having him make even 20 starts (a full 30 would be nicer) means that there are certainly ten more games that could result in wins that didn’t last year. What about having Josh Donaldson healthy for more of the season? He put up 5 fWAR and missed 49 games. He’s projected to put up anywhere from 5.9 to 7 fWAR. A rough (and definitely flawed) way of thinking is that all of the above has increased the win total by upwards of 15. Again, this is a very simple, and, admittedly, likely very mathematically poor. But, the premise stands.
Without landing any “big fish”, the Blue Jays look to be a better team in 2018. I know, I know. At the end of January, it’s only on paper and games have to be played, so perhaps this foolish optimism over the front office is premature. Maybe that’s true. But, if it is true for Toronto, it is also true for the Yankees, who could see Stanton miss time due to injury and find that Aaron Judge may regress. So, if the Yankees won the offseason on paper, I say remember that it is just on paper. How many times under AA did the Blue Jays win the offseason?
What makes this offseason even better is that, so far, they have managed to keep their top prospect talent in the organization. They very well could have made a few deals that would have landed a “big fish”, but at what cost? Let’s take the Christian Yelich situation. Atkins made no secret of his intentions of getting Yelich at the Derek Jeter Yard Sale. As it turns out, his offer came in second to the Brewers. We don’t know exactly what Toronto offered, but we do know that Vladimir Guerrero Jr was asked for and Atkins promptly denied the request, keeping the future stud firmly in the system.
The Yelich trde is an interesting story because it certainly reveals a lot about wanting to win right now. After all, Toronto was very serious about giving up what would surely be a hefty price. But, it shows more about where the club wants to go in the future. All but saying Vlad Jr is off limits certainly helps. But, there’s more. While some in the major media would have led you to believe that Bo Bichette was offered if someone, anyone, would take Kendrys Morales and his money off Atkins’ hands, the reality is that that rumour being proven incorrect shows us even more about the front office’s operations.
The fact that Toronto was willing to take on money to protect its prospect capital should make you very happy for two reasons. Firstly, the high end talent that this system has remains in tact. You cold argue that it lost Conner Greene in the Grichuk deal, but by several accounts, Greene was having trouble finding his polish. Toronto has “raised the floor” and not tapped into its major prospect capital, which means that we can look forward to Vlad Jr, Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson and others being young studs in Blue Jays uniforms.
Secondly, if Atkins was willing to take on money in the form of a Starlin Castro of Martin Prado, perhaps there is more of it than we originally thought. As Andrew Stoeten pointed out, this front office using its financial muscle (such as it is) as leverage is rather encouraging. We know that they have other needs to be filled, which money very well could solve. The rotation could use an addition. The bullpen too. But, here, Atkins is trying to use money to land a player that fits neither of those needs and use money to do it. This not only speaks well of the future, but the present as well.
Look, no matter what anyone types, fans are going to think the way they think, feel the way they feel and tweet the way they tweet. That is true about anything, not just baseball. But, if you’re a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, maybe it isn’t as bad as you previously thought. Sure you might not agree with the way Mark Shapiro says things. You might not agree with signing Morales instead of Edwin Encarnacion.
However, this front office has done enough to prove that they are not, in fact, trying to ruin baseball in Toronto. They are going about their business in a manner that might not be what some people want. But, they are making moves that put them in a better position to compete now and in the future. You may not like this front office, but you should for this reason.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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