The Winter Meetings have mercifully come to a close, and while the Jays weren’t the prime movers and shakers that a lot of us thought they would be, but that doesn’t mean there was any shortage of storylines. Most, however, were rather nebulous. But we at least know for certain that the Jays have themselves a second baseman for 2012, six picks before the end of the second round of next June’s draft, and a closer for as many as the next six seasons.
Kelly Johnson surprisingly accepted the Jays’ offer of arbitration late in the day on Wednesday, meaning that he’ll be back for 2012, due a non-guaranteed raise on the $5.85-million he made last year. This happened despite the fact that in mid-November Aaron Hill re-signed with the Diamondbacks for two years and $11-million. The market for Johnson’s services was presumed to be higher than that, but with a number of low-cost second base options signing early in the free agency period, evidently it wasn’t greater by a whole lot– if at all.
I’m of the belief that it’s almost always foolish to pass up guaranteed money in hopes of earning even more at a later date, but Johnson and his representatives obviously didn’t feel that way. I’ll grant them that if he makes in the neighbourhood of $7-million next year, he could be almost as bad in 2012 and still be in line for at least something like the $4-million he’s left on the table if there was any kind of Hill-like deal out there.
It was a win-win situation for the Jays… sort of. Johnson’s acceptance of their offer means that they’ve got as good a second baseman as there was available, and they haven’t had to give up any players to do so. Then again, had he declined, the Jays would have received an extra two early-round picks in the draft, which especially under the new CBA have become extremely valuable.
Alex Anthopoulos put on a brave face and told reporters on Thursday that Johnson accepting was his preferred outcome, as he felt that he would have had to give up more in trade to acquire a second baseman than the two draft picks are worth. I’m a highly skeptical he really feels that way– Johnson only fills the spot for a year, which would not have been the case for whoever he was likely targeting in trade (Gordon Beckham, let’s say). Surely he could have found someone reasonably decent at a cost far less than two top-end picks.
That said, I’m not exactly complaining. The move makes the Jays better in 2012 and is mitigated by the extra draft picks the club will receive as compensation for losing Jose Molina, Frank Francisco, and most-surprisingly, Jon Rauch.
Yes, the Mets made news on Tuesday night, signing two key pieces of the Jays’ fucktacular 2011 bullpen, Francisco and Rauch, both of whom the Jays had offered arbitration to. It was a near-certainty that Francisco, after a fantastic second half of the season, would decline the Jays’ offer and sign elsewhere. Rauch? Not so much. So it was much to the delight of Jays fans to hear that the Mets had inked the pseudo-closer prior to the arbitration decision deadline, removing all doubt that the Jays would get themselves a pick in return for his loss– and more importantly, making it so that Jays fans didn’t suffer through Rauch’s vomitous 2011 for nothing.
The club’s biggest move, however, came earlier in the day on Tuesday, when they acquired closer Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox. The price was steep, double-A pitching prospect Nestor Molina, but there was a lot to like about the deal.
Molina had fantastic results after his promotion to New Hampshire this year, and looks to have a bright future, but nobody is for certain that it’s in the rotation. His delivery is a bit violent, reportedly, and some evaluators have been unimpressed with his stuff, but he’s got great command and an out-pitch splitter that should at least play in a Major League bullpen down the line, and as a converted shortstop he’s new enough to pitching that his other stuff can develop. That said, Keith Law called him “maybe the sixth best pitcher” in the Jays’ organization, while granting that he’ll probably become the first- or second-best overall prospect for the White Sox– the Jays’ system is that good. And while he absolutely dominated double-A hitters for a month, Santos has been doing so– though not quite to the same extent– at the Major League level for two years.
Also new to pitching, the converted shortstop Santos is on a ridiculously cheap, team-friendly deal that could have the Jays control him for up to six years. His fastball sits at 95, and he throws a wipeout slider, which enabled him to strikeout 92 batters in 63 innings in 2011. There aren’t a lot of miles on his arm, either.
Santos fills a hole in the immediate term that Molina may have some time down the road, and while the White Sox would be the clear winners in the deal if Molina develops into a solid mid-rotation starter or better, it seems to auger well for 2012 that for once the Jays chose not to take the long view here. The other side of that equation, however, is that the tight-fisted Jays have simply avoided paying money for a closer, instead giving up a key prospect for one.
The whole money issue is, of course, where things got murky– especially when Alex Anthopoulos pulled a JP Ricciardi, dropping a mid-meeting PR hand grenade on his own foot, mentioning his being restricted by “payroll parameters” for the first time.
Of course, nobody could have possibly thought that this wasn’t the case, but the timing– in the middle of the league’s free agent bonanza– was odd. And when Paul Beeston followed Anthopoulos up by explaining that once fan interest grows, driving more revenue, they’re going to be able to invest more in the club, the fact that he’s said such things before wasn’t enough to stop the narrative from taking an ugly turn on the Jays.
Cue hysteria. And another helping of it today, as Rogers’ part in the acquisition of MLSE coincides with the supposedly sudden tightening of purse strings in one of their other divisions.
Thing is, the Jays simply don’t believe it makes sense to burn one- or two-hundred million dollars on free agents to jump-start a process that they believe– and that Alex Anthpoulos and Paul Beeston sold Rogers brass on when they took the job– will take place naturally, and a whole lot less expensively, with the way they’re building the club.
Fans ache for the Jays to jump into the market for players aiming for mega-contracts, failing to grasp both how difficult it would be to convince a player to sign with a club in the Jays’ position, and the true impact that they’d have on the club. It’s easy to think that, on paper, a big bat and a front-line pitcher could instantly vault the Jays into contender status, but with the clubs they’re competing against in the American League East, it’s never as easy as that. And if the club doesn’t meet its on-field goals, if they don’t generate the playoff revenue or playoff race revenue to justify the signing, what then? Rogers agrees to throw more good money after bad? Hardly.
The notion that revenue needs to grow before massive expenditures are made– a rather sound business principle, once you take off your fan-coloured glasses– isn’t being insisted upon because of the ridiculous notion that Rogers, the company who just splurged on a $1.32-billion co-acquisition, are cheap fucks. It’s about job security. Anthopoulos and Beeston are in no danger of losing theirs, and in no danger of seeing the rebuild blow up in their faces. The club is getting better, the fan base and buzz about the Jays is growing, and despite a bunch of fucking windbag dickhole pseudo-fans posturing like it’s now or never, there’s no rush.
But once they start spending money that needs to be justified with playoff revenue and filled stadiums, there sure as shit will be. Fans may not like it, but there’s nothing sinister behind it. It’s pretty simple, really.
Thanks for following this week’s coverage of the Winter Meetings, and welcome to any new readers we may have picked up along the way. Be sure to follow @DrunkJaysFans on Twitter for the links to all of our posts, or to follow Parkes and I individually– @AndrewStoeten @DustinParkes– for the same links and a whole lot more personality.
Follow our friend Drew from Getting Blanked– @DrewGROF– while you’re at it. And, since you’re getting all social media-y, why not like us on Facebook too.