After recent comments from Blue Jays President, Mark Shapiro, JFtC got together for a little chat about when this club will actually compete again
The President of the Toronto Blue Jays, Mark Shapiro, made some comments about when he feels his team will be ready to compete in the toughest division in baseball. And, listening to the boss talk, the group at Jays From the Couch got together and had out own little chat to discuss the reality of this team and its readiness to compete.
Stephen Brown: Anyone think that should have been said a long time ago? I mean maybe he did, and I’m forgetting. But I like drawing from other sports. The NYR a few years ago sent an open letter to their fans telling them the team was going into a rebuild and saying to expect the names they grew to love to be traded. They thanked everyone and everyone understood. The motion was supported from top to bottom. In December 2017 Shapiro said they were keeping Josh Donaldson because they wanted to remain competitive for the fans. When the fans knew the writing was on the wall and would have understood then. Hell, Brendan Shanahan did it with the team down the street after they were already in rebuild mode for the previous 10 years. People just wanted it done right. My frustration is that the team lacked a clear direction until they were forced into committing to rebuild 100%.
Mueller: My counterpoint is that people hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. In 2017 the FO actually seemed like they felt the team would ‘compete’ for the 2nd WC. When it became clear they weren’t it was too late to move pieces because they were either hurt or underperforming. Anyone who follows this team knew how this front office would go about rebuilding….through the draft and International Free Aagents. What they didn’t come out and say was their lack of desire to hold onto Aaron Sanchez or Stroman as possible building blocks for the rotation. I don’t think the fans would like/dislike them any less if Shapiro or Atkins wrote a letter outlining their blueprint to a successful rebuild. Fans are fickle.
Shaun Doyle: There has definitely been a sense of dishonesty. But I think that is because the honesty would have meant telling a massive audience that fell in love with the team in 2015 that the players they love are not part of the plan…years in advance. I don’t think Jays fans would simply accept that. And, it would negatively impact returns in potential trades.
Jeff Quattrociocchi: I’m a firm believer that bad luck has been the single most important factor in all of this. An early “we’re rebuilding” announcement wasn’t an option because it looked like the team could compete for a WC spot in 2017. Fangraphs gave Toronto the 4th best odds to make the playoffs in the AL before 2017, but a lot of guys production was well below expectations due to injury and underperformance. Before 2018, FG had us 5th in playoff likelihood. Again, that didn’t work out. Ultimately, I feel like, once the team truly entered rebuild mode this past off-season, the FO was pretty frank about that (recall Atkins’ “2019 won’t be competitive, 2020 might be, 2021 will be” comments). Fortunately, the good work they had already done meant that 2019 should be the only season written off before it starts. That wasn’t the case in 2017-18 and I don’t think it’ll be the case in 2020.
Mueller: Doyle, you are right, good teams overcome injuries and under performance with depth. It could be this lack of depth which created the rift between Mark Shapiro and Alex Anthopoulos. As we remember, it was rumored that Shapiro was not happy with how AA gutted the system to make those two playoff runs. Obviously, very few have come back to haunt our former GM but it did make the current FO’s job a little tougher.
Doyle: True. Nothing that was given up was a big loss, if at all. Yes, it did leave the new regime with a rather bare cupboard, but that doesn’t mean it was a mistake. Do it again 100 times out of 100. But, Shapiro is right to not like it as it sets the franchise back years.
Mueller: And while the fan base may not like how the FO operates, it looks as though the ‘rebuild’ phase may be short. The club has a nice core of 5 position players and bunch of 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s for the rotation. If Nate Pearson can become that #1 in 2020 and 2021, than the ‘build’ phase could be just as short. If this club is close to .500 in 2020 and competing for a WC spot in 2021, than this FO has done a good job….in my opinion.
Doyle: And, I think that is realistically close to happening.
AJ Andrews: Jeff’s right that the residual core of those playoff teams gave the FO a thought that maybe they could make it back there. But was it really happening? You can argue that some of the signings they made to keep that window open worked out (J.A. Happ, Steve Pearce) but some definitely did not (Kendrys Morales, the return of Joey Bats, Jose Bautista). Someone said to me on Twitter that winning games 10-8 all the time wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t, 2017 proved that. I think the FO’s mind was made up in 2018 but Rogers made them try to contend, even with a patchwork bullpen and an offense that was clearly regressing. Do I have faith that they will make the signings necessary to make 2020 a winning season? No. Not with this class. Not unless Gerrit Cole is walking through that door. 2021? Maybe. They won’t have to look for hitting if Derek Fisher and Rowdy Tellez/ Billy McKinney/ anyone pans out. And they have shown signs at being great at finding FA pitching. All the bullpen signings and Matt Shoemaker make their track record look good. So am I expecting a playoff push in 2021? Absolutely. They could have Pearson, T.J. Zeuch and Alek Manoah all ready by then. Their rotation will not be the cavalcade of DFA’d arms we are seeing now.
Mueller: There is no certainty that this core will win a World Series, but the framework is there and if the FO continues to build from the draft and IFA with some supporting cast FA signings they should remain competitive.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.