The Blue Jays’ front office have been telling us their plan for years. We are now able to put the pieces together and see it paying off
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The Toronto Blue Jays are turning a corner in their stated goals. We are starting to see the rewards of the plan that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been insisting will pay off. While fans may have grown tired of the narrative the front office has been pushing, the reality is that we are now starting to see the fruits of their labour, making it easier to believe in.
When the Shapiro/Atkins regime took over, they were left with a significant challenge: compete in the 2016 season with an aging roster AND replenish a farm system that was stripped down for a playoff push in 2015. As much as the pair said they were excited about the opportunity in Toronto, they reminded us about building a “sustainable winner”, which was said so much, it elicited eye rolls in no time. The belief that a combination of cheap ownership and a front office whose expertise is prospect development, it was easy to think that a return to glory would be lifetime away…if it ever came at all.
Shapiro began his tenure sorta kinda maybe criticizing Alex Anthopoulos for his 2015 splurge and discussing short/long term impacts of such an approach. The key from his very first press conference was this gem: “If you want to have a championship organization that can sustain success regardless of market or payroll, then you’ve got a healthy, vibrant farm system. Sometimes, that’s to make trades like that were just made; sometimes, that’s to build as the core of your foundation moving forward. We’ll have an obsessive focus on winning and building a strong farm system.”
To many, this meant a rebuild, even though the team also made the playoffs in the year that followed these comments. And, in reality, it kind of was a rebuild. As star after star left the organization, the team sunk in the standings to the point where 2019 saw them lose 95 games and finish 36 games back. That whole time, what most fans paid attention to was the big league product losing games. The front office put a lot of resources into the minor league system, etc but that doesn’t sell as many tickets, etc as a big league team winning.
Fast forward to January, 2020 and GM, Ross Atkins told Tim & Sid, “It takes time for us to get to a point where fans can see, ‘OK, this is turning,’. You can start to see the buds popping out of the ground.” And, he was right. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio et al making their way to stardom, the Blue Jays were in a great spot with lots of young talent and money to spend. They were able to use that position to sign Hyun-Jin Ryu.
They would make the playoffs in 2020, helped out by the shortened season and expanded playoffs. But, they made it. They still hadn’t dealt any of their top prospects to get there either. The progress that they’d made led them to splurge even more and sign Robbie Ray and George Springer this past winter. We’d heard all along that when the time was right, the resources to spend big would be there. At the time, it felt to some that was lip service designed to calm fans. But, as it turned out, they were telling us the truth.
Something Atkins said in the Tim & Sid segment proves to be rather relevant when you look at this past Trade Deadline: “We haven’t traded prospects away. So, having the ability to do that — still having a very good system to trade from — that’s really what moves the needle. If we were to make a move, it’s not going to deplete our system in a way that’s detrimental.” Once again, the Blue Jays front office told us all part of the plan ahead of time and it came to fruition.
Trading top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson to Minnesota for Jose Berrios is the kid of needle moving deal Atkins was referring to as it definitely gives them a shot in the arm for the remainder of their 2021 playoff push and gives them a head start for next year’s. And, while trading Martin & SWR may have hurt some fans, there can be no doubt that Atkins would not have done so if it crippled the farm system. The Blue Jays still have Nate Pearson, Jordan Groshans, Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez and a whole host of young talent.
After focusing on building the system for years, the Toronto Blue Jays are in a position where they can really do some damage and make fans happy at the same time. Atkins acknowledges as much: “We’re fortunate that we were in a position to be able take that next step and we’ll continue to do that this off-season, at the next trade deadline, and, obviously, that will be exceptionally dependant upon us doing a decent job in the scouting and development areas.”
It appears to be a great time to be a Blue Jays fan. The base upon which the front office wanted to build looks to be in place and the resources are as well. The only thing that remained for many fans was the willingness on the part of Atkins to make the “big deal”. Well, he has done that as well. In fact, despite bemoaning comments made by this front office for years, fans are now seeing that Shapiro and Atkins were laying out their plan in a rather honest way and have followed through on it. This is not Kool-Aid drinking, this is not excuse or apology making. This is giving credit where it is due. Whether you like the front office, or not, you can’t deny they lived up to what they’ve been saying for years…and we’re about to enjoy quite a few years of good times!
*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.