Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have grown frustrated over the winter, but the reality is that the front office have done their jobs
The Toronto Blue Jays front office started the offseason by saying they had money to spend and a deep desire to spend it. This, of course, led to many among the Blue Jays Faithful to get caught up in the silliness that can be the MLB Offseason. I am one of those people who wanted so badly to once again see winning baseball in Toronto that I set logic aside and gave in to the emotional optimism of ‘what could be’ this winter.
Immediately, I wanted Zack Wheeler to be signed, regardless of cost. I knew that Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg were out of the question, but I allowed comments from the front office and from social media to convince me that it was possible. Like so many others, I watched big name free agents fly off the board as my favourite team were connected to many of them, but were never able to land any of them.
I wrote that the front office needed to stop talking because they were getting people all excited and set up for disappointment. It just wasn’t fair. They were talking us into a frenzy. Of course, that can’t really be pinned on them since people are responsible for their own actions, even in the context of social media. To make matters worse, further mired in my frustration, I wrote that the front office’s methodology had shot themselves in the foot this winter and made their jobs that much more difficult. For what it’s worth, these pieces were not designed to bait clicks, so much as express frustration with an offseason where words and actions did not match.
That all changed Sunday night when the Blue Jays signed the best remaining free agent starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was linked to the club for most of the offseason and was probably the more realistic target out there. The runner up to the 2019 NL Cy Young award comes with significant risk due to past injuries, but massive upside for a Blue Jays club that is looking to take a step forward. It’s a move I’d lost faith in the club making, but one that shows a commitment many have questioned.
Hearing that the Toronto Blue Jays were looking to be aggressive in improving for next season and had money to burn led me to set logic aside, which was easy to do since it wouldn’t take much for them to improve by as much as 15-20 games. With that in mind, it was easy to dream on maybe even seeing this team challenge for a Wild Card spot, even though it is not a realistic dream.
Instead, it is more likely that this offseason is really a spring board for future winters where the Blue Jays really have one or two needs and look to address them by adding the top talent available. This winter was more about looking for talent that could bridge the gap to that time and maybe even be around for a season or two of real competitive baseball; whereby the Blue Jays challenge for the division title. That said, this offseason presented a higher caliber free agent crop than next year’s looks to, so if Toronto was going to for it, it would make sense to do so now. But, that’s not where they are, at the end of the day.
It is very tempting to point to the young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes, Gurriel Jr, Danny Jansen and say the time is now to supplement said core. But, the truth is that, as good as these guys are, there is still room for growth. This group is talented enough to bring the Blue Jays close to playoff contention on their own, but they have some progress to make. Jansen needs to find his big league bat, Vlad Jr needs to reach his potential, Bichette needs to play a full season at a high caliber, you get the point.
So, while it would have been awesome to see the Blue Jays throw their money around, it just didn’t make sense for them to be as IN on every player I, or we, expected them to. It’s easy to criticize them for not landing Cole or Wheeler, but we have to be willing to accept that so much goes into making a decision for a free agent that Toronto really may not have had a chance from the beginning, even if Ross Atkins worked very hard to get them to change their minds. Once caught up in the drama, it is too easy to dismiss any efforts the club makes. It’s either sign Player X or it’s failure. The point is that even if Atkins was in on as many players as we’d like, there is no guarantee they are signing. We (with the help of mainstream media) create this impossible scenario for the front office.
The truth is that the moves this winter have raised the talent level of the Toronto Blue Jays. Adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Ryu make the rotation better, which was the most important task for this winter. No more starts for someone like Edwin Jackson! Adding Shun Yamaguchi adds much needed pitching depth, whether it is for the rotation or the bullpen. Anthony Bass is a solid pick up for the bullpen. Travis Shaw could prove to be a sneaky signing if he can bounce back in 2020. He is a versatile defender, which is something the Blue Jays needed.
The Toronto Blue Jays have gone about addressing their needs in frustrating fashion. We’ve heard that they’ve been connected to many players and probably connected to many we haven’t heard about. They’ve been working hard to improve on 95 losses. Granted, hard work doesn’t always pay off, but the way it has panned out for this offseason (thus far) has resulted in positive gains. On paper, if the front office had done nothing, they were likely poised to win more games. The moves they’ve made have given us hope that they will win even more. And, the future financial flexibility remains. It isn’t over yet, but it’s been a rather productive offseason for Ross Atkins & Co.
I have been a supporter of the front office since they took over. They’ve been smart, analytical and effective in rebuilding their farm system. They’ve gone about a rebuild that looks to be rather short. However, I lost my way and got caught up in the frenzy that is the offseason. The Toronto Blue Jays’ front office deserves an apology and I am giving it wholeheartedly. They’ve made clever deals, they’ve spent money and have a better product for 2020 than they did in 2019. And, there’s plenty of offseason remaining.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.