The Toronto Blue Jays front office has made several comments in the media and it is leading to more frustration than anything else
Is it just me, or is the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office getting more and more frustrating every time they talk? From comments on free agency to financial flexibility to assessing their 2019 season, it is juts getting more and more difficult to listen.
Let me be clear: I have always defended the Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins led management. I think they’ve done an excellent job of re-stocking the farm and putting themselves in the position to have a rebuild that doesn’t last forever. They are smart people doing smart work. And, I still think this is true. But, listening to some of the things they’ve said to start the winter has me scratching my head.
The offseason started with management telling the world that they had money to spend. That makes sense considering the youth they possess. With the bulk of their roster making little money, they should be able to use their financial ability to land improvements. They did that when they traded for Chase Anderson, taking on his $8.5M.
But, telling people you have money to spend means that fans will look for some major upgrades. That is especially true when it is combined with a change in stance on surrendering draft pick compensation, which Atkins acknowledged ‘won’t be a deterrent’. It whips up a bit of a frenzy for those in a hurry to have some kind of moves that will improve on 95 losses. After all, the 2015 euphoria is still kind of on everyone’s minds. It makes people think you’re going to be active and aggressive.
It’s a line that Atkins maintains with recent comments. ““Now we’re in a situation where it just makes more sense to be a lot more aggressive than we were last year.” Well, firstly, just about any sort of aggression would be more than last year, but these kind of comments could serve to build up expectations.
So, then when things get reported like the Blue Jays pursuing Zack Wheeler, even the most skeptical among us thought there MAY have been an outside chance at Toronto landing themselves a big fish. On the one hand, there was doubt that it would ever happen, but if one were to allow oneself to take the words of the front office at face value, one could be forgiven for getting excited.
Of course, that dream fell flat on its face as Wheeler signed in Philly for $118M. But, even after that, the comment from Atkins was that he absolutely has the flexibility to spend $100M
FWIW, asked Atkins about an hour before the Wheeler deal was announced if he had the flexibility from ownership to offer a 100-plus million deal (general Q, not specific to Wheeler). His answer: "Yes, we have that flexibility." #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@GregorChisholm) December 4, 2019
And then he fueled the free agency shopping fire with this:
Atkins on whether #BlueJays see more opportunity through trade or free agency right now: "I would say probably a little bit more in free agency than trade and that being because of where we are as a team…"
— Gregor Chisholm (@GregorChisholm) December 4, 2019
So, what is a fan to believe? The team continues to insist it has money and is willing to spend it, but they continue to miss out on guys like Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, who they were said to have met with, or even Jordan Lyles, who our Jeff Q said would be a good match long before the starter ended up signing with Texas. At some point, the front office’s talking points are going to have to bear some fruit, right? The fact that they haven’t yet makes the words ring rather hollow. Yet, they continue to say: “There’s not a free-agent pitcher we haven’t touched base with.We have been aggressively trying to understand every opportunity, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Obviously, signing free agents is not as easy or quick as it might be in a video game. There is a lot that goes into the process and there are other teams to compete with. I get it. But, if this is the case, stop building up expectations. It is only going to serve to backfire and create more resentment in a fan base that has not exactly been on management’s side since they took over. Every time someone from the front office speaks, it actually adds fuel to the fire.
For example, Atkins dropped this little gem recently:
#Bluejays GM Ross Atkins on the disastrous 2019 season: "We didn’t chose to have 2019 occur. That’s not what our vision was. Our vision was trying to do everything we could to extend that window with the parameters that we had."
— Rob Longley (@longleysunsport) December 4, 2019
We didn’t choose to have 2019 occur?! Um, what did they think would happen? If they were really going to extend the 2015/2016 window, they would have been as aggressive then as they claim to be now. Sure, the way Alex Anthopoulos stripped the farm left them without much in the way of trades to make, but they could have brought in some elite talent. Instead, they brought us Kendrys Morales. The focus was always on ridding the big league club of those aging, expensive contracts while restocking the farm. The situation they were in was not their doing, but the undoing was certainly there’s to own. And, they did it rather efficiently. But, don’t try and say that the goal was to extend that window. It just doesn’t make sense.
Look, there’s lots of offseason left and there are multiple ways this front office could go about making some real gains over 95 losses. But, the constant appearances to say that ‘we’re going to spend money’ and ‘we’re going to be aggressive’ and ‘we are going to be better’ are all getting a little tiresome. I’m sure the goal is to try and be as open as possible with fans in the hopes that you’ll gain their trust (and their ticket purchases), but things are starting to become more and more frustrating, which could end up having the opposite effect.
Of course, all of this could become moot if a couple of big moves are made. Until then, it’s all talk.
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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.