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.

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Comments (120)

  1. Nothing like a little history to get in the way of logical progression with the Jays fandom.

    2011 was a “see what you got” year.
    I don’t want to go down the whole lineup  and debate each player but
    Hill,Lind, Snider,EE at the beginning,Rauch,Dotel,FF,Davis,Patterson,Reyes and Drabek didn’t perform as expected.
    Romero,Bautista,Escobar,Molina met or exceeded expectations.
    I speaking about players who broke camp at ST.
    You’d figure one of the three relievers woulda stepped up.Either Patterson or Davis shoulda been okay in center.Reyes or Drabek, at least on paper,shoulda been emerging. One of either Hill or Lind shoulda rebounded to their previous form ( thinking that 2010 was maybe an off year).
    Add to this a rookie ( and I do mean rookie) manager in Farrell.With player development and pitching coach extraordinaire on his resume,you’d think he’d be able to evaluate what he has and how to use it,improve it and motivate it.His  game strategy seemed to be lacking at points.
    If Drabek emerged,if Morrow put it together,if Snider emerged, if one of 3 became the closer,if Lawrie didn’t break his finger, if Farrell didn’t take the majors home run hitting champs and turn it into the small ball team he desires.
    Then maybe the Jays increase their win total from 85 to 91 or more.
    It’s not really a wonder why AA wasn’t more active in the FA market.

    PS.
    2012 looks like it will have as many question marks as 2011, with not too many sure things,but a lot of potential, IF players rise to the level they’ve been projected.

  2. Indeed. It’s also not absurd to believe that a full season of Lawrie, Rasmus, and Johnson all NOT meeting expectations would still be a 4-5 WAR addition to the 2011 team. 

  3. Agree with everyone who’s said this. This blog has gone from a fun place to an amazing resource over the last couple months. Stoeten’s done an excellent job in the off-season. Great work. 

  4. Rogers also has, what, 5 sports networks? MLSE brings LeafsTV and NBATV (I think), and there are two TSNs with Bell… I can’t see how, even with all four major teams as content there would ever be a time when all four couldn’t be on TV simultaneously. 

  5. It difficult, if not impossible, to make a direct comparison between any other business and professional sports. Businesses, when adding a resource, need to be concerned with the marginal return on investment, meaning dollars. 

    Sports team have the same concern, but it gets muddled in the fact that it could mean either on-field performance or revenue, or more likely both. Would adding Fielder increase either? Maybe, but enough to justify the expenditure? And wouldn’t a high-ceiling, cost-controlled player do both, but with a greater marginal monetary return?

    I also don’t think Beeston or AA are explicitly saying “Come out, and then we’ll win”. I think all there moves are saying “We’re upgrading, we’re a much better team.” They’re trying to win more right now, and making it clear that some of the revenues that generates will be reinvested in the payroll.

    Anyway, I don’t disagree entirely with anything you’ve said. I just think there are complicating factors when it comes to professional sports teams because asset management that are less apparent in other business models. 

  6. Agreed for the most part, the more I think on it, I can understand the reluctance to really go balls out in the FA market. Sure I think they could eat a year’s salary for those two guys while they continue to progress but that is a lot to ask when it’s that much money. Unfortunately, there’s nearly as many questions going forward as there was last year. That’s got to be a huge headache for AA and I am sure it’s slowed the progress of his plan. The book’s still out on Lind, Snider, Morrow, Cecil and McGowan for sure. Maybe add Thames, JP and Alvarez to that list, even Lawrie since they’re all rookies and you never know if you’re going to get improvement or regression. What you end up with is a lot of uncertainty. Yes the talent is definitely there in those players, that’s without question. The real question is, can they put it to use in a meaningful way for the entire season?

  7. They asked for money to sign Bautista to a long-term deal and were told
    no, unless they cleared enough off the books that the total payroll
    would be less than or equal to what they currently had.

    Do you have anything to substantiate this claim? Those moves could simply be shrewd baseball moves and nothing more.

  8. Law thinks the As didn’t get near enough for Cahill. I know nothing about the prospects, but looking on MLBTR, it looks like they’re getting a stud pitching prospect, and a couple other guys with a much lower ceilings.

    I wonder if AA was in on this. I like Cahill a lot… Could have been an interesting addition.

  9. Yeah im surprised the jays werent more interested. Maybe they were. I’d rather have cahill than gio. Plus, cahill is locked into a very reasonable contract thru 2016. Cahill seemed like the perfect match for AA. He’s young, has upside, and reasonable contract. What’s the Parker eqivalent in the Jays system? Hutchison? Sanchez? Nicolino? I probably wouldve offered 1 of them along with gose and 1 of some other lower level propsects

  10. everything AA does is with the intention of being a shrewd baseball move. he has done it time and time again, and i can’t think of one instance where he hasn’t.

    even with the napoli trade, the one he supposedly lost, AA still got his comp pick, paid less salary, turned an asset of surplus into an assets of need, didn’t impede the growth/development of a potentialy really good asset in JPA. 2 short term reasons, and 2 long term reasons.

    anyone who says that he blew that trade just doesn’t get it. many gm’s would have made the deal just for one of the reasons i cited above. AA does it for 4 goals, accomplishes all 4. 

  11. The only thing I worried about with Cahill was his health. He looked like a dominant ace when I say him in Toronto in April but he kind of fell off a cliff later in the year. I figured the A’s would never trade a player who was going to be under control for that many years at a decent price. Maybe they had the same health concerns about him too.

  12. I can understand why the casual fan is jumping off the ledge with this payroll parameter talk. But I can’t understand how the fairly intelligent fans that frequent this site can think anything has changed.

    If the team makes ZERO upgrades the rest of the offseason, this is probably an 85 win team in the toughest division in baseball. I fully expect, at the least, enough upgrades to push this into the 85-90 win conversation and fringe contender status.

    Not the “everything has to go right” and “if everyone can just stay healthy” bullshit JP used to sell; SOME things need to go right, and SOME players need to emerge. Just like, you know, Ellsbury emerged for the Red Sox and Shields stepped up for the Rays.

    Looking at the flip side, there simply aren`t many positions that are likely to get worse in 2012. Bautista and Escobar are the only impact contributors and while obviously any player can slide, there isn`t a reason to believe either of these players will be significantly worse in 2012.

    CF, 3B, 2B can UNDERPERFORM projections and STILL be much better than the shit the Jays through out for the better part for 2011. Same goes for LF.

    Adam Lind, at the least, deserves to be put in the `who knows what we`ll get`Vernon Wells boat. He was very good in 2009 and the early part of 2011, his first year playing 1B since college. Even if he doesn`t improve, he probably isn`t going to be any worse.

    There is also no reason to think Catcher or DH will be any worse (logically, E5 could be better since he doesn`t have to play 3B regularly and JPA was only a fucking rookie last year). Granted, the backup catcher is likely worse…I`m not sure how much that is worth or if it’s a significant difference-making type downgrade.

    Romero overperformed his peripherals and Morrow underperformed them. Cancel them out and you have a couple of solid pitchers. Behind them, without a trade or FA signing, it`s hard to say with a straight face that the #3-5 pitchers will be worse regardless of who makes those starts from the current ML and minor league roster.

    Other than perhaps another left hander, the bullpen should be better. Santos is an upgrade on what they had and Janssen, Villaneuava, Listch, Carreno & Perez were all decent out of the `pen (and hopefully Villaneuva, Litsch and Perez all stay in the `pen this year).

    As is, I wouldn`t peg this as a playoff team. However, I think it’s pretty close and if the Blue Jays are a little better, it means they should win more games vs the big 3 of the division which will lower the amount of wins it takes to make the playoffs. I could see 3 teams around 90 wins battling for the wildcard (or 2 wildcards).

    This is a longwinded way of saying Anthopolous DOESN’T need the fans to come out in significantly higher numbers because of a free agent splash and the buzz it creates. If he keeps on his current path, the fans will come simply because this will, at the least, be a team that is a fringe contender (like the 2006 & 2008 glory days of JP).

    So calm the fuck down.

  13. And there’s the issue.
    Unlike 3 years ago, the minors are stacked.Just like any team,the Jays have on paper, a ton of talent.Unfortuately,the talent doesn’t always emerge under the pressures of the Majors.Speak to any major league player and they will tell you about some of the guys they played with, that were much better than they were,but didn’t make it to the Show.
    Remember Ruiz,PCL batting champ,MVP.Didn’t stick and last seen not doing the greatest in Japan. There are many more examples.
    The difference between JPR and AA, is that now at nearly every position,there’s a prospect banging on the door.Maybe not next year but definitely the year after.
    So it’s like a contract year for those on the team.
    Rasmus,Snider and Thames had better perform or Mastrioanni,Sierra or Gose will be knocking.
    Escobar has Hech.
    Etc.
    The option,of course is trading the prospects for upgrades.
    These options weren’t available under JPR.

  14. Contrary to Stoeten’s post, it’s actually a fundamentally flawed business strategy to suggest revenue must increase before you’re willing to invest in improving the product.  That thinking is completely, entirely, and irretrievably backward – especially when the product is the reason revenue sucks in the first place.
    Name another entertainment business that promotes itself by saying: “If more of you come to watch this shitty product, we’ll do our best to put on a better show in the future.”  Good luck with that.

    Of course the Jays have a payroll budget.  Every business does.  But any business leader worth their salt knows a quality product precedes a growth in revenue.  The Jays haven’t had a truly quality product in nearly two decades.

    I’m not suggesting it’s wise to sign Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, or anyone else really, to an outrageous contract.  They certainly can’t spend themselves into oblivion.  But I don’t think a $65-million payroll plays in the AL East. And if the Jays aren’t willing to spend until revenue increases, they’re in for a long wait.  And so are we.

  15. As Butch pointed out up-thread, there is no guarantee that the ‘final piece’ will be available when we need it.  And the final piece philosophy makes me uncomfortable.  I get that a lot of free agents don’t want to come here seeing as how it’s foreign and all.  I also get that going the highly-priced free agent route isn’t a real good idea.  However I hope and pray that AA takes some of those blue-chip prospects he’s been compiling and uses them as trade-bait to retool into a team that may have a hope of reaching the play-offs sometime before 2014.  I would love the likes of Lind, Snider, Thames and E5 to prove me wrong.  But as of right now I don’t think any of them have any business at all on a team that hopes to make the play-offs from this division.

  16. Re: However I hope and pray that AA takes some of those blue-chip prospects he’s been compiling and uses them as trade-bait to retool into a team that may have a hope of reaching the play-offs sometime before 2014. 

    didn’t AA just do that type of move with the molina for santos deal?

  17. That was one  cost-effective move.  Suppose he wants to trade for someone whose contract is a little less front-office-friendly.   I hope he has the ability and the will to do that.

  18. You make a very similar point to one I’ve been making the last couple of days. No business anywhere says buy shit from us first then we’ll make it better. They invest upfront and ahead of time, take on debt, take a risk, and recoup their investment over time. If they do a good job, it’s done at a profit.

    Look at Rogers itself, in the 80′s and early 90′s the company took on so much debt to build out its business and at the same time get into the cell business. Without taking on that debt, and the risk that came with it, they never would have been able to build a service that people wanted and continue to want today. Where would the company be today if they took the approach of come pay first then we’ll build it. They ponied up. They took the huge risk of going bankrupt and in the end they profited from far more greatly than if they just stuck to doing things the safe and prudent way.

    Saying all that, I am happy with AA’s plan in general. If it’s another year or so before we can contend so be it. I  just have trouble buying Beeston’s poor excuse for not spending. I’d prefer him to just say we don’t believe we’re ready to spend this year and that’s that. Tell it like it is. I was ok when you said you were going to rebuild and do things differently. However, don’t dangle possible investment scenarios in front of us while holding back on all the conditions that come with it. That’s just dishonest. More importantly, don’t try and tell me the onus is on us, as fans, to give you the security to make a profit. If Rogers is the one that’s ultimately going to reap all the profit, then they need to be the ones taking the risk, not the fans.

    What Rogers seems to be  forgetting is that the money people spend on the Jays is entertainment dollars. Dollars that can be spent just as easily elsewhere. The Jays aren’t the only entertainment out there, even though the spend first, build later attitude leads one to think that Rogers pretends it’s otherwise.

  19. Thanks, Sammy. I appreciate that.

  20. No chance at the wild card.

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