Where’s the money, Anthopoulos?

It’s going to be an odd prelude to the winter for Jays fans, as we wait to see how the club follows last year’s big moves, and attempts to undo some of the mess they created by flipping five of their best, closest-to-the-Majors prospects, while taking on ass-loads of payroll, in order to instantly improve (supposedly) their big league roster.

Alex Anthopoulos has spoken about his preference for the trade market– as he always does– but it’s difficult to envision how he’s going to be able to pull a rabbit out of that particular hat. Of course, we felt the same way this time last year and he managed to pull it off, but this time the stakes are higher, the pool of talent he’s potentially dealing from is shallower, and he won’t have nearly the same ability to explode the club’s payroll.

A lot of focus in the media then– and around here– has been on what strength he can manage to deal from while still improving the club in the overall. There isn’t much that can be done without creating a giant hole elsewhere on the roster– one of Anthony Gose or Colby Rasmus could be moved, so could one of a number of bullpen arms, or one of the team’s many potential back-end starters, but it would take a nifty trick to parlay those spare parts into the kind pitching that the team covets. Move anything else, aside from what remains of the club’s top prospects– which doesn’t offer a great pool of talent above A-ball– and they’ll need to either promote someone from within the organization to fill the hole created, or weaken the depth in their areas of strength to trade for a replacement, or spend money on the free agent market.

There are a lot of potential moving parts when you put it that way, and opportunities for Alex Anthopoulos to use his creativity, but what I wonder is if that necessarily has to be the game plan. As unideal as we’ve been told to believe the free agent market normally is, the conversation this winter will be different. We’re no longer necessarily talking about making massive expenditures to jump-start the fortunes of the organization the way fans were when they dreamed on names like Yu Darvish or Prince Fielder. That initial hurdle was cleared a year ago, and now the roster– whether you like it or not, whether you think the rest of the talent is there or not– needs to be filled in around a core that has, for the most part, already been assembled.

Yes, the team can continue playing the dangerous game started last winter, one that Anthopoulos had spoken about since he replaced J.P. Ricciardi as the club’s GM, and spread itself increasingly more thin, but doing so means trading future assets– and crucially, for Rogers, an even bigger portion of the cheap talent base of future incarnations of the team– in order to prevent last year’s massive investments from becoming all the more pointless.

The other way– a way that Jays fans seem to have almost been conditioned to ignore, or to think they’re powerless to demand– is to follow the path of the Boston Red Sox.

So much of the conversation surrounding this team focuses on the fate of Alex Anthopoulos, of Paul Beeston, of John Gibbons, of Chad Mottola, of Jose Bautista, of Aaron Sanchez, and of all kinds of actors in between. They’re all important, but in my view none of those people ought to have anything close to the amount of expectations heaped on them as are deserved by the shadowy entity that this winter will decide whether they really believe in the vision they’ve been paying lip service to for years, or whether they’re willing to risk letting it die on the vine: Rogers.

After years of using a small payroll as an instrument to extract extra revenue sharing dollars, while using the team as little more than a source of cheap content for their regional sports networks, Rogers appeared to have seen the light sometime in late 2012. It is surely not a coincidence that their epiphany came around the same time that league’s new collective bargaining agreement with the players phased out the old version of revenue sharing, making clubs in the 15 largest markets– including the Jays– ineligible for it by 2016, with the low-spending among those– again, including the Jays– becoming the “most motivated to increase their revenue streams over the next few years,” according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com at the time of labour deal’s announcement in November 2011. But that hasn’t stopped much of the chatter surrounding the club’s winter task from largely absolving ownership, who we’re to believe so benevolently increased spending last year, from demands that they continue to put revenues from a club, and a sport, flush with cash (especially with new national TV deals beginning in 2014, which will give each team an additional $26-million per season) back into it.

The onus, it seems, is on Anthopoulos.

The thinking, then, is– if you’ll forgive the mangled phrase– to throw good prospects after bad, rather than to throw good money after bad.

But does that actually make more sense than the other potential options? I don’t think so. Because of the cheap value provided by players in their pre-arbitration years– and, really, through all six of their big league years under “team control”– we can say for certain that a not insignificant part of what a team is giving away when it trades its prospects is future payroll flexibility. Assuming, that is, that the team is committed to winning and won’t just run replacement level players out onto the field every day, for lack of a better available option. (Being a touch too cavalier in offloading Yan Gomes, Travis d’Arnaud and Carlos Perez, for example, hasn’t just cost the Blue Jays their potentially valuable services in the future, but also all the dollars or other assets it’s going to take to upgrade behind the plate for 2014).

This is, in other words, a long way of saying that by placing a firm cap on the club’s payroll, and not allowing the front office to look legitimately, and with an open mind, to the free agent market, Rogers will very possibly hurt the club in both the near- and the long-term. And if winning, or the non-phony prospect of it, drives revenues the way it certainly seems, more movement towards a future with less depth, fewer potential impact prospects, and more bloated contracts for aging players acquired in a fashion similar to last year’s Marlins deal, would seem to have trouble written all over it– unless maybe (fingers crossed!) revenues spike by way of a healthy playoff run in the meantime.

Banking on that, Alex Anthopoulos could certainly eschew the free agent market and possibly still be fine for a couple years. Conversely, the club could certainly hurt themselves down the line by committing too much to the wrong players in free agency, but that’s why the Red Sox’ example could be so instructive. Over the past year, with the exception of Jose Iglesias going to Detroit in the Jake Peavy deal, Boston has held the crown jewels of its farm system while adding lower-cost pieces to surround their current core of Ortiz, Pedroia, Lester, and Buchholz– providing what they call a “bridge” to an up-and-coming generation of talent, while still being frustratingly competitive in the meantime.

The Jays, by looking at free agents aiming for just two- and three-year deals– or maybe even more, if they can find the right long-term fit–  can and should do the same. More importantly, they should be talking more about why it’s possible– i.e. because of the change in the revenue sharing system, because of national TV deals, because of the ever-increasing value of the content they provide Sportsnet, because of the highest-in-MLB growth they saw in terms of attendance this season, and because the new CBA saves them money in other ways, like the fact that MLBTR indicates that in 2010 and 2011, the club spent $22.6-million on the draft, while Baseball America indicates that for 2012 and 2013, the figure was just $12.3-million.

There have been little-noticed savings on international free agents, as well: in December of 2011 (the first time I used the image above) I figured that, though the numbers were murky, in 2010 and 2011 the Jays had spent about $20-million on international amateur players (including $10-million for Adeiny Hechavarria, plus bonuses for Roberto Osuna, Dawel Lugo, Wulimer Becerra, etc.). Because of the new CBA, in the signing period that began in July of 2012 their pool allotment limited them to spending just $2.9-million (though they could go over that by 10% before incurring a penalty that would prevent them from signing anyone above $500K in the following period), and this year their figure dropped to $2.82-million.

Fans should be demanding the Jays talk this way and about this stuff, and not just because it makes no sense for the club to set themselves up to have to spend to paper over their 2016 or 2017 rosters, after so many of their current players’ contracts expire, with the prospect pipeline unable to compensate, having had so much of its talent either failed or traded away.

Fans should also be demanding it because it follows exactly from so much of what the higher-ups have always said.

We haven’t heard a lot of comment lately, from either Rogers or the Jays, about what to expect out of the club’s 2014 payroll when all is said and done– aside from the fact that it won’t be going down– but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a whole lot of forward-looking comments over the years that it seems the appropriate time to hold the club to account for.

In August of last year, I wrote a post containing a bunch of quotes from a Paul Beeston appearance on Prime Time Sports, including his assertion that “the rebuild and the infrastructure is now complete.”

“The building of the minor leagues and putting ourselves in a position for the future, all of that has been put in place,” he said at the time. “It’s now time to return something to a) those people who’ve supported us, and b) the players themselves.”

Of course, the Jays did return something to the fans and their players. Say what you will about how badly it failed, and for what reasons, but they delivered anticipation like has never been seen in this city before– or at least not for 20 years. But in doing so they dealt away large chunks of that “finished” infrastructure of prospects. To be asked again to go that route will do even more damage, while simply making acquisitions with money– which Anthopoulos and Beeston may not ever have a better opportunity to do, given how much is riding on this off-season (plus the fact that exactly one year ago today it was announced that Beeston had signed a two-year contract extension)– would obviously leave the prospect pipeline intact.

Stephen Brunt, around the same time last year, explained the Jays situation, in light of rumours of a possible rift between Beeston and Rogers, with prescient words about how ownership must view things:

“I think the notion that this is a lock-type, we’re not going to spend another nickel, do the best you can kind of situation– that doesn’t work for the Jays, obviously, and that also doesn’t work for the owners. The better the team is, the more money they make. The brand– the value of the brand is important to them on a whole bunch of different levels: the TV, radio, all over the place. So, I think they want to win. And I think that they would spend to win at the moment when they thought spending would actually make a difference.”

That stuff is just as relevant today as it was a year ago, the only difference being that Rogers has already pitched in substantially– though maybe not as substantially as they’d like you to believe, considering the draft savings, the international free agent savings, and the national TV money that has essentially fallen into their laps.

In March of 2012, Beeston had a Q&A with Brunt for Sportsnet magazine, which I posted about, and in which he clarified comments about “payroll parameters” from Alex Anthopoulos earlier that off-season with what you might optimistically call a pledge.

“The fact is, we’ve got to win to make the fans come out, and then we spend the money. But we have to give them the reason to come out. That got lost in Alex’s comment that day,” he explained. “It was that we win, you come out, we’ll spend the money–it won’t be money we put in our pocket; it will be money reinvested in the team.”

Obviously the Jays didn’t win, and obviously Rogers did spend, but the fans held up their end of the bargain, too. And the funny thing is, if we’re to believe that the hard earned money fans spent this year won’t just disappear into someone’s pocket, we can’t allow ourselves to think too simply about where this sudden influx came from. It’s not that payroll went from $84-million to $119-million between 2012 and 2013, and so that’s how much Rogers kindly dished out. Factor in the additional national TV money they counted on being there ($26-million per season), plus the draft and international money that they didn’t, or couldn’t spend (a $10-million difference in the draft, and approximately $14-million on international free agents, over two years between 2010/11 and 2012/13)– not to mention the looming cut to the flow of revenue sharing dollars that has forced them to act like a big market club– and it just doesn’t appear to have been as significant a bump as it looks like on the surface.

It was a bump, to be sure. And with the club– as I figured last month– looking at a payroll in the $130-million range if they make no additions, it’s not an entirely insignificant one. But it’s important to see just how small it really may have been, especially if some of Beeston’s other words from that Prime Time Sports appearance in August of last year continue to hold true.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the organization, including the ownership, that doesn’t think that we should be taking it to the next level,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to be crazy, though, from the point of view of ten-year, twelve-year, thirteen-year contracts. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to go out and try to get the best players, so that we give ourselves a chance. We think that we’re close right now.”

If Anthopoulos is forced to make cash-neutral deals, or is only authorized to add to payroll minimally, it’s certainly going to lessen that chance.

More crucially– at least to those who matter– it’s going to lessen the brand.

Now, maybe the reason Anthopoulos and Beeston can’t– or won’t– yet be more firm about what is now available to spend this winter is that they don’t want to tip their hands, and don’t want unscrupulous agents to know when they’ll be able to get more money out of the club than it wants to give. Maybe Rogers sees that the way to do right by its investment in this club is to give its GM the resources he needs to strengthen the team not just for 2014, but for the future as well, and we have nothing to worry about. But even with what we saw from ownership last winter, we can only wait and see whether the corporation truly believes that sustained winning genuinely drives revenues, or if owning the club is just a means to procuring cheap content– content that’s got a strong core of consumers and can be kept profitable enough with false hope and infusions of cash every five or six years, while we all watch whoever is the current GM continue down the well worn path of his predecessors, being similarly undone by failing to produce miracles from just enough money to appear adequately lavish.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Obviously that’s not good enough. Obviously if Rogers wants to do right by the club– their product– they can’t pretend that we don’t know where last year’s money came from and, at the risk of sounding hopelessly greedy, that it isn’t enough. Over the course of the winter, the more it seems they’re forcing Anthopoulos into making difficult choices with his core players, the more we ought to remember this.

Then again, maybe we won’t have to. Maybe Rogers actually understands what tremendous value another level of spending could provide. I mean, shit, even if 2014 goes down the tubes, the more talent you acquire with money now, the better trade chips you’ll have to start rebuilding that prospect pipeline come next summer. Ugh. It’s a dispiriting though, but seriously…

Comments (81)

  1. So mid level FAs I guess

    • Johnson, Feldman, Navarro.

      • Agree

      • I dunno. I’m thinking Johnson, Arroyo, and Montero. After a monster down year I would like to see the Jays take a run at acquiring Montero for pennies on the dollar.

        • Bronson gives up way to many homers, in the N.L., what would he do in the dome? He is an above average pitcher, but he would get burnt in the dome, and probably doesn’t want to play in the A.L., unless it’s in the big parks out west.

          • He is a soft throwing, fly ball pitcher – precisely what we don’t need in our bandbox. I’d rather see us promote one of the kids then add another back of rotation arm.

  2. I juts don’t know if players are going to choose Toronto, especially when teams like Cleveland and Kansas City have had better season after they spent money and or prospects to get better the same way we did. So conceivably they continue this way and that’s two more teams that the middle FA types get to be taken out to dinner by.

    • Need to stop thinking like this. You may live there but take it from me: some people like the city of Toronto, ballplayers included.

    • Baseball is not like basketball. Even though it’s easy to say that players don’t like Toronto it is VERY difficult to find a Free Agent who did not take the most money that was offered to him regardless of location (with discounts to stay with the current team representing an obvious caveat). If the Jays offer a player a contract worth more than another team is offering, 9 times out of 10 he’ll be tearing a ligament on the turf by June.

      • I get all that, I’m just trying to say that if the only thing that the team can do to really improve itself is to sign free agents and that’s the quasi-corner AA has painted himself into then it could be a long offseason.

        • Why though? Baseball players don’t really care where they play for the most part, nor do they seem to care how good the team is. If we offer a FA more money than the other teams, the odds are incredibly high that he will be a Jay. And I’m not talking about “paying a premium” which people are so fond of saying about Toronto. There is no evidence that crappy teams in crappy places have to pay more than good teams in good places to sign free agents.

          Look at Nick Swisher. At the time the Indians were even worse than we were and they play in a completely empty stadium. And yet, Nick Swisher is in Cleveland now. If AA wants to sign a free agent, the only problem he will have is whether Rogers will give him enough money to sign him. Period.

    • As an American who has visited Toronto about a zillion times, I can assure you that I love the city. Toronto has no peer when it comes to aura and atmosphere. I think the number one turnoff for players at the present would be the turf at the Rogers Centre. In the Blue Jays championship years there were numerous stadiums with painted concrete for a playing surface, so signing top tier free agets wasn’t an issue. Today the Rogers Centre is the last of those dinosaurs left. Players know they only have so many years to earn big league bucks. Protecting your body from the rigors of that turf would have to be priority number one.

      • My point has very little to do with geography and more to do with a last place team, albeit with more talent then most last place teams, needing to sign a considerable number of free agents to plug holes. I know Boston did it last season but Boston is a different animal and I also know pretty much anyone would be better at 2B and C but its still a considerable risk made worse by a small prospect list of players who could conceivably even play at the major league level next season.

      • Tampa Bay has a turf field, so the Jays aren’t the last. TB can’t really afford to sign FAs though, so…

  3. If they weren’t going to spend more, they would have traded significant pieces at the trade deadline.

    There has to be money to spend.

  4. Well written Stoeten.
    I don’t think the numbers suggest that the increase was as revenue neutral as you state.
    With the increase in national TV money along with the savings (50 mil) there was a decrease of the revenue sharing of 20 to 30 mil.It still would represent roughly a twenty mil increase.
    The fact that they spent previously to improve the organization, without the benefit of increased TV money or the savings from the draft shows that the commitment should be still there.
    The results of that spending are increased attendance,tv viewers and decently rated content across all Rogers platforms.
    It worked.The Jays are relevant.
    The job now is to keep them relevant and to increase that awareness even more.
    Hence, IMHO,the Jay’s will spend in the right areas without hamstringing themselves for the future.

  5. Great article. I agree 100% that the best way to move forward should be to fill the holes via free agency so that the prospect pipeline isn’t ruptured. A massive benefit is that prospects don’t need to be rushed up to the majors to fill in holes and they can mature their games in AA and AAA.

  6. Good point about the draft and international costs being down.

    I think at this point any deals under 4 years – at any cost – are worth it.

    Either it works and we have playoff baseball and they more than make it back.

    Or it doesn’t work and we unload. There are very few deals for 1-3 years that can’t be unloaded. I know there are notable ones, but they’re actually a very small % of the total deals. The majority of 1-3 year contracts can be given away to a team desperate at that position. If you get something in return: bonus.

    I even bet you we’ll unload half of Romero’s contract this winter to some hopeful NL team.

    • no way we could unload Romero’s contract unless we are giving up talent of equivalent value to his contract in return. because, everyone knows, romero’s contract is total dead money.

  7. … so what you are saying is they should sign …

    Japanese Pitcher guy

  8. One aspect I do worry about is that every team is seeing that sudden influx of moeny this year due to the tv agreement coming into effect which may serve only to inflate the price of free agents for this offseason and negate a teams ability to utilize that money to plug numerous holes in the roster.

    • Let me ease your worrying: that is simple supply and demand economics. Meaning you are right. It is inflationary to a degree. Offset by luxury caps. Offset by teams that just want to pocket the gain. Offset by the limited number of roster spots in baseball and plethora of guys wanting to be pro ball players.

      • Ya, what I meant was that the players that the Jays are going to be targeting (ie. not scrub, 25th man on the roster type players) are going to be targeted likely by multiple teams, and the market value of those players will be going up compared to previous years because of the extra cash people have to spend this fall, or rather, teams will be willing to overpay more this fall than others. Therefore, the extra cash the Jays would have to spend is negated by likely having to go further above market value than usual. Meaning that it may be more difficult for the Jays to plug holes this year than it was for Boston last year. Admittedly this is my somewhat naive understanding of market economics coming in to play here, but it seems a likely possibility.

  9. All this organization is missing is Steve Buscemi. He can be to the Jays what Drake is to the Raptors.

    • Brilliant. I’ll bet that Nucky Thompson could keep the Rogers Centre flush with booze all season long for a good price.

  10. Totally agree with what you’ve written here. The problem is the timing of the wallet-opening. There were much better options to spend cash on the previous 2 off seasons. The strategic thing to do would have been to add Darvish and perhaps Sanchez and a real 2b.

    The calculus on prospects was the same in 2011 and 12 as it is today. Earlier use of cash would have obviated the ‘need’ to trade Escobar, D’Arnaud, Wojo, Rollins, DeSclafini, etc.

    • Darvish, Dickey and Josh Johnson are all in the same conversation about risk.

      For wildly different reasons.

      Hindsight says Darvish was the best bet. Dickey has not proven to be a bad bet yet. Johnson was probably the least risky of all 3, yet turned out the worst.

      I wish they got Darvish – but 100M could fix so much more than one pitching spot.

      • It is obvious but bears repeating: Darvish cost only money, there was no added risk of the acquisition blowing up bad while the assets sent the other way blow up good. The part that’s hindsight is Darvish turning out to be worth the total the Rangers paid (to date).

        • Wrong. If Darvish had been signed by the Jays for $100MM, would they have been able to extend Encarnacion? Would they have been able to get Reyes (and the payroll baggage of Buerhle that came with him)? It was putting all their eggs in one basket, and yes, with the benefit of hindsight we can see that it was a good basket to put their eggs into, but had it not worked out it would have tied them to an albatross. And worse, one that they couldn’t predict its value because he had been playing in Japan. Signing Darvish for the price the Rangers paid was a high-risk move; it’s just that it worked out for Texas is all. I’m ok with the fact that the Jays weren’t the ones that took that risk.

          • @ Winfield, maybe you’re missing my point. I’m saying if the Jays are going to wind up shopping the FA market anyway, they should have done it when there was a good market. Obviously the argument has to take into consideration the budget the owner gives management to work with, an issue on which Stoeten attempts some educated assuming in this piece.

            But the flip side of that last point is that if ownership indicated some time in 2012 that they’d bump payroll for at least 3 years, management may have been better off retaining young assets, added FAs first, then used the trade market when the FA market was bereft of talent. I admit this is hindsight talking now.

        • the problem is we don’t have a time machine. what is done is done. we have to make decisions on things we can do now, not lament the past.

          • @yeah Sure there are no time machines to go backward but I can’t imagine it’s that hard to project what the free agent market would look like even 5 years out. Obviously, you’d revise your projections based on all current information including extensions.

            • Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

              As for the projecting a free agent class, one can do that to a certain extent. But with little to no assertion that those players will ever make it there in 5 years. I mean, with extensions and injuries, a franchise would be pretty dumb to ‘wait’ for a FA in 5 years rather than make a decision in the here and now.

              • I’m saying you can have hazy forecasts 5 years out but your 2- year and especially 1- year forecasts should be pretty accurate, no? If you look back to the off season after 2011, you could pretty much see who’d be out there last off season.

              • Further, it’s fully possible the Jays do this. For example, AA was targeting Johnson and obviously had his contract status in mind, knowing the Marlins wouldn’t be able to sign him after 2013.

                My bigger point is that if they wind up shelling out for FAs anyway, this isn’t the off season to do it, and the weakness of this FA class was foreseeable. Anyway, my comments are contingent on the Jays actually adding a SP from the FA market rather than trade.

  11. Roger’s profits are in the bandwagon jumpers. Real baseball fans will put up with crap year after year come what may. The fans who now drive the sport are those who want to be a part of something beyond the game itself. They need hype and if that isn’t provided for in the off season, and the sooner the better, Rogers will see the results in the decline of ticket sales long before opening day. Right now it is about marketing, and the product they can put on the field right now has past its due date. Real baseball fans know we are dumb to be the only people with any loyalty anymore, and we willingly suffer it for the sake of the game. The casual fan is as loyal as a Boris free-agent and they won’t back a perceived loser. The opinion of their peers will not let them. Go big or go home.

  12. They need to aim for a 100 billion dollar payroll.

  13. If they’re going to spend, I’d take aim at Ubaldo – he was quite great in the second half, and the draft pick comp. he’ll have stuck on him by Cleveland will hurt his market. The Jays can use their protected picks to a big advantage and hopefully land him on a 3 year-deal or so.

    I keep saying Carlos Ruiz is my pick for behind the dish if they go to free agency. I think with those two additions, then you can take a flyer on a little-upside 2B like Nick Punto or Mark Ellis will fall-backs in house, and you can even take a chance on a bounceback pitcher like Johnson to fill out your rotation.

    If they’re willing to spend in free agency, there’s a lot of options that won’t require crazy, long-term deals (they don’t need Cano or Tanaka or McCann, even if they’d be wonderful).

  14. I think this team is real close (maybe one season) to being put in the same position JP Ricciardi was in at the end of his tenure.

    IMO, Ricciardi did OK until the 2006 offseason when he was given a payroll bump, and blew most of what he was given in one shot. He made one more investment the next year (Thomas), and then we were forced to endure the likes of Kevin Mench, Brad Wilkerson, and a bunch of reclamation pitchers as the farm system was too thin to make any actual deals (or supplement the major league roster) and payroll was to a point where adding any player of impact was unattainable.

    Can I see that situation unfolding, especially if AA is under the gun to do something ‘or else’? Maybe. I hope not.

    Spending money now makes the most sense, since (as Stoeten pointed out) if it still doesn’t work, at least there’ll be a foundation of young players to fall back on. If he goes the trade route, takes on salary and it still doesn’t work? Yikes.

  15. What about Saltalamacchia? I mean, you probably have to overpay a little bit to get him out of Boston (any team, not just the Jays), but I’d at least make that call and check.

  16. The only FA SP’s they should be inquiring about are:
    - Scott Feldman
    - Matt Garza
    - Ubaldo Jimenez
    - Tim Lincecum
    - Ricky Nolasco
    – Josh Johnson (obviously)
    If they aren’t gonna spend on any one (or two) of these guys, then trades are the only way to improve this ballclub.

    • Sons, look at this list. This is my point – the time was any of the last 2 off seasons to acquire pitching off the FA market. You think Darvish and Johnson and Dickey are risky? The top FA pitcher this off season is Matt Garza!

      • This is a list of risk, shit and false hope.

        • I would certainly take my chances with Dickey, Buehrle, Ubaldo/Nolasco, Johnson & Morrow…. It couldn’t possibly be any worse than 2013, could it?

          • Wasn’t people saying that about how the 2012 season couldn’t of gotten any worse? :D

          • It could be worse. Depends on whether they can upgrade on Kawasaki while also replacing his joie De vivre and choreography skills. A tall order.

  17. If he’s even half as good as advertised, Tanaka is the guy to pursue.

  18. I fully agree…no more emptying the cupboards. we need to build up a pipeline of prospects who can play for us for cheap for years to come. This is how all teams (other than the Yankees) do it. You can’t build a WS team purely on FAs unless your payroll is > $200 mil.

    • Actually, the Yankees are the best example of this. They spent big on free agents, sure, but the core of their team for the last two decades was built around homegrown guys — Jeter, Posada, Cano, Pettitte, Rivera, Bernie Williams. The first three were the real key ones due to the importance every team places on building up the middle. When you can pencil in three HOF or near-HOF talents into shortstop, second base and catcher for all those years, you’re playing with house money at that point.

  19. I’m also uncomfortable trading Rasmus (and to a lesser extent Gose). If we lose Rasmus we will be incredibly thin at the CF position….it could be a blackhole position for us for years to come, similar to what we had to endure at SS for a while.

  20. This is going to be a long post. I’m sorry guys!

    I’m not as convinced as I was a while back that either Beeston or AA are up to the job they have. This has a little bit to do with the Trade and the other deals from last off-season. I don’t think any president of GM could have seen that mess coming but I think it might have been mitigated a little.

    Here are my concerns.

    – The Darvish Disaster. Whatever else it was, it was horrible public relations. There was no need to let the media and the rumour mill whip the fans up into a whirling frenzy when the front office more-or-less knew they were not going to get him. Finally, too little too late, they briefed Bruce Arthur from the NP and he wrote an article the day before the announcement saying it was by no means certain that the Jays had gotten Darvish. All they needed to do to keep things calm was to reiterate that lots of clubs were interested. That no one knew where he was landing. Maybe simply brief Bruce Arthur the same way but much earlier in the process. The way the whole thing ended was too messy and the fans felt let down. Which was totally avoidable. I said that at the time and so did a bunch of other posters.

    – The Farrell mess. Again, the mess wasn’t of their making. Farrell wanted out. But they knew that from the end of the 2011 season. As the 2012 season went on and things went from bad to worse with the Red Sox and Valentine, the Boston press brought Farrell into the story every chance they got. (And let’s not forget that there are reporters on The Boston Globe who are mouthpieces for the Boston front office on numerous occasions.) So what happened at the end of the season was in no way a surprise. However how they handled it was. I assume–I hope–that in mid-season Beeston and AA got together to discuss the situation and what to do. If they were going to allow Farrell to leave and go to a division competitor they really needed to work out how to handle the situation to make sure the Jays didn’t look like 70 lb weaklings getting sand kicked in their faces by the big guy. In hindsight I think they should have made him work out his contract. At the time people said and I agreed that this would send the wrong message to other employees. Now I think I was wrong and the front office was wronger. This was a disloyal employee. They could have said to him ‘stay here John and we’ll try and make this team into your dream job. We won’t re-sign you right now because of events in the past. But we will attempt to give you a winning ball-club and see how it goes in 2013.’ However they didn’t do that. OK. So they could have decided to let Farrell go if this was still an issue at the end of the season. And that’s what they did. But given the exhaustive list of people they interviewed, I can’t imagine they didn’t have someone in mind they could give a quiet heads-up to. Instead we had the unseemly vision of the team wrangling with an openly amused Boston club over which journeyman they wanted for their manager. Then we had the infamous ‘thanks for the internship guys!’ Boston press conference. It would have been mitigated if the front office announced ‘we are letting John Farrell ‘follow his dream’ and he has left the organization. Here is his replacement who starts work immediately’. So we lost Farrell and the club twisted in the wind a little while and looked weak and ineffective. Then it started to make some trades. Then some more trades and we were all thrilled. And we still didn’t have a manager until John Gibbons ambled up to interview for another position and AA had some kind of an epiphany and thought ‘This Is My Guy!!!’ Maybe it was less random than it sounded but it sure sounded random. And in the interviews that AA gave he came off as a bruised ex-boyfriend, dumped by the prettiest cheerleader on the squad who has reached out to the plain girl with the spots because he knows she won’t abandon him. Which Gibbons probably won’t. Because *no one* is reaching out to hire him away. That may make AA feel more secure but it may not have been the best hire for the team.

    – Now JPA. This time last year, JPA told Toronto sports media that he could relax. Ain’t no one trading him. No how no way. How and why did he know that? Whoever told him had to be believable. So even if he hears it from a coach, he has to know it comes from the front office. I don’t think it’s for any player to be told they are untouchable. But here’s JPA. Not only is he untouchable, he’s our everyday catcher. Even when it becomes increasingly clear to everyone that he isn’t up to any of the jobs he has to do. He is so much our catcher that we got rid of a bunch of other catchers. Mike Napoli. Yan Gomes. Carlos Perez. Travis d’Arnaud. What the hell kind of Big Mistake was that? And it was down to AA who made it and to Beeston who rubberstamped it.

    More and more I’m looking at the Trade and everything else as an outcrop of the Farrell mess. The Jays brand had been really tarnished by that and if I were Rogers brass I’d be livid. So the front office set about to make things better by gutting the farm. And again, I was happy. Hell, we all were happy. But now we are hearing that AA ‘didn’t pay enough attention to defence’ on the turf which everyone knows is hard to defend. If he’d paid more attention to defence maybe we would have saved a lot of runs and a few losses.

    Stoeten, a little while ago you did a post questioning the front office. I think we *have to* question the front office. Two out of the points above were issues of public relations but those issues weren’t subtle. Anyone could have predicted them. And they were both handled so badly that maximum crap came back on the team. Keeping JPA as everyday catcher was a suicidal move in my opinion that may have had a knock-on effect on the pitchers. Not hiring a good defensive 2nd-baseman was not a bright thing to do. Maybe, looking back, wrenching all those Marlins away didn’t do the team as much good as we hoped. And while it was splashy, perhaps a smaller trade may have allowed the team to get their hands on a couple more players who had had experience in the AL and had played on turf occasionally. What I see, looking back, is a lot of reactive moves and not too many proactive moves. I’m not sure there is a clear and substantive vision for what this team should be. I think the front office needs to step back and take a very deep breath. I also think the team can be competitive next year and the year after if they hire the right couple of pieces to make it competitive. But I’m not sure I trust them to do that.

    • You’re blaming AA for letting go of Napoli that was almost 3 years ago?!? This was when JPA looked ready to take on full time duties and there was no room for a very mediocre catcher that was thrown into the Vernon Wells trade.. Nobody saw the breakout season that Napoli had in Texas coming.

    • I’m not entirely convinced that management should jump whenever the media starts its inevitable frenzy of speculation, rumour and gossip – based on minimal hard facts. Yes, the media had Darvish in a Jays’ uniform with a contract signed, sealed and the parade route mapped out….but should management have to respond to every bit of media masturbation?
      As for Napoli, etc…yeah, that hurts – but at the time there was every reason to assume that JPA’s performance would improve incrementally as his experience. So, AA made the move to dump Napoli, and the rest of the Jays’ catching depth to put his eggs in the JPA basket.
      Well, JPA’s numbers not only plateau’d, they nosedived in some aspects as well.
      But I see your point.

      • +1

      • It’s not a question of jumping for the media. It’s more trying to prevent a steamroller before it really starts to head downhill. The Bruce Arthur article should have been written a number of days beforehand. The Farrell pr disaster was entirely predictable and could have been handled much much better.

      • Plus, Napoli is not really a catcher. In the three full seasons since the Jays dealt him to Texas he’s only started 126 games behind the plate. That’s still a LOT of JPA you’d be seeing.

        And Napoli has gone through free agency already, so it’s not like we can just assume he was going to be here for 2013 anyway. Plus they got an extra draft pick out of the deal, which– based on his numbers at the time– they probably didn’t figure they would have if they had any inkling of how the system was going to work under the new CBA.

        Also, regarding the original comment, I have no idea why we should care about the PR aspects of the Darvish and Farrell things at all. And the revisionist history about the trade coming out of the Farrell saga is a bit silly. We all knew the Jays had to make major moves last winter, whether Farrell was here or not.

        Here’s what I wrote at the time (full post: http://blogs.thescore.com/djf/2012/10/22/the-farrell-saga-ends/):

        “There’s an elephant in the room whenever anyone lets shit dribble out of their mouth about how harmful this is to the Jays’ brand, or what a public relations disaster it must be: the fact that the transactions that will take place– or fail to take place– the next two months are so infinitely more crucial to the team and the brand that there is no earthly way a poorly-received end to the Farrell saga registers even a blip on the radar of most fans by the time all is said and done.”

        Yes, it registered enough for people to be upset with him, but the brand came through the winter stronger than ever because of the trades– exactly as it was understood at the time.

    • Hypothetically, let’s say by the All Star break next year, the Jays still suck and are heading for yet another disappointng season, do you begin the rebuild and start selling all your assets?

  21. Also it’s not just that they got rid of Mike Napoli. Sure, that hurts but shit happens. It’s that they got rid of everyone else as well. And they did it at a time when JPA’s numbers were nothing wonderful at all. Catcher is the most important on-field position yet they trusted a hyperactive kid with occasional power and not much else and they got rid of everyone who could back him up. That makes no sense to me at all.

    • At the time, Management was expecting JPA to improve based on his AAA performance and the tiny sample he provided when he got called up. People forget that his ceiling was high, more so for his offense. The Jays were rebuilding at the time, so there wasn’t any reason to not give him the keys to handle the catching duties.

      Believe me, I’m no JPA apologist. His 2013 season was a complete disaster and would love the Jays to improve the C position by adding someone else. I’m just saying that there was excitement and great expectations from JPA at that time when AA got dumped Napoli and there wasn’t any room for him.

    • A bit of revisionist history there, again. And a bit of poetic license on the personality stuff, which we have little idea of– nor do we have any reason to believe Arencibia was actually told he wouldn’t be traded. Certainly can’t take his word for that.

      But anyway, the revisionist history bit. Arencibia’s line in 2012 was .233/.275/.435. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s was .222/.288/.454 (which was nearly identical to his previous year). Is the difference between those lines honestly the difference between shrewd and suicidal? People should have seen this year coming from a former minor league MVP who played much of 2012 hurt, and was a year younger than Saltalamacchia?

      I’ve never been a huge fan of JP’s, even at the level he was at in his previous two years, but still, we can’t pretend like it was obvious that he was going to go so badly the wrong way.

      • Andrew, we couldn’t have expected JPA to go this far wrong. But surely prudence suggests that you keep another catcher around in case. And previously the catchers they had were more experienced. You could make the argument that they had Molina as insurance for Arencibia and as a bit of a mentor as well. But then they assumed that he would improve and become a veteran himself with no need for a mentor. However nothing we saw from him in 2011 and 2012 suggested that he was becoming any more mature or any better as a defensive catcher. In those circumstances, to get rid of every other catcher to the point where we needed to bring in Thole and Blanco was not an advisable move in my opinion.

        As for the other pr stuff. I’ll agree to disagree with you. I thought both of those events were a disaster that needn’t have happened and it always pisses me off when I see avoidable stuff happening on the Jays when so much unavoidable stuff happens. Over the past couple of years I’ve been getting a deer-in-the-headlights feeling from the front office that I wish I didn’t have.

        • This was Arencibia’s age 27 season and his third as the full time starter. The time for mentors would kind of seem to be gone by that point, no? However, they did have Henry Blanco, so maybe that fits exactly with what you wanted.

          Also, yes, he did improve defensively between 2011 and 2012.

          As for PR, when it has any relevance with respect to baseball operations, maybe it’s time to think about it. No evidence that it has yet. The Darvish thing happened because they refused to comment on things, which is an understandable thing to have happened. The Farrell thing was rather simple and blown completely out of proportion, largely because of the Boston media. So what?

          • So this. It’s what you wrote a few days ago.


            I agreed then and do now. Only I would add the pr disasters that bother me and don’t bother you. However both of us seem bothered by the circumstances of the Gibbons hiring. You see it as a curious flippancy. I see it as a front office that reacts rather than proacts. Either way I’m not sure I trust these guys and I did trust them. For a very long time.

            • @isabella

              +1. The PR disasters with Darvish & Farrell were very dispiriting.

              +1 that at times the team doesn’t seem to have a plan

  22. Excellent analysis.
    Hopefully Rogers will ( or already has ) upped the ante.
    I got my ticket renewal email the other day.
    I posted about it with #lovethisteambuttoosoon, but who am I kidding. I’ll re-up.
    Hopefully I’ll get my tickets in the mail like I did last year on the same day a major move was announced.
    And then I can get all giddy walking past the Dome in December and feel all antsy.

  23. What the fuck ever……..just buy a WS championship already yo!

  24. Last off-season everyone had the same issue with the Jays in terms of what they were going to look like going into the next offseason. People had questions about “payroll parameters” and injury concerns. We all know how last off-season went with this front office blowing all of us away making moves nobody saw coming.

    Looking forward to the next few months before spring training I see this team doing similar things to what they did last year in terms of making moves nobody can predict. This team needs to compete for a full season or AA and Gibbons are probably going to be shown the door and I’m sure they are aware of this. In the post you mentioned last year Beeston signed on for 2 more years so I’m assuming 2014 will be his final year? In that case I’m sure he wants to go out on top.

    Don’t fear Jays fans only good things to come.

    • @JJ


      I think Rogers is aware that the fans came out in 2013. Ratings were pretty good despite poor performance.

      I would expect at least a 20 million bump in payroll

  25. dude, that’s one seriously long post that deserves to be behind a pay wall. well done. (wiser’s slow clap.)

  26. Good post Andrew. It’s funny people pay almost no attention to the financial aspects of the team. While things on the field took a step backwards in 2013, the financial success of the team has been simply outstanding since 2010.

    Attendance is up over 1 million in that time period, at his end of the year press conference AA felt that they could hit 3 million if they were more competitive.

    Rogers Sportsnet numbers are up 25% in the same time frame appearing to be near or at the top of all the MLB. Team executives openly speculate that they could go from the 500,000/game viewer range to topping 1 million if they started winning more ( both attendance and TV numbers slumped badly in August/September when the team for all purposes was out of it, this should show the bean-counters the importance of selling hope).

    Times are good at Rogers with the Jay’s portfolio and the company deserves some credit for being more aggressive in their handling of the team. Just imagine how good things would be going financially if the team was actually winning.

  27. It’s early.

  28. The hell that was 2013 for Jays fans has been replaced with a fabulous post season.
    Too bad for those who let the season die on Sept 30. The Jays have a solid core lets hope we can finally stay healthy ? Hey why does no one ask that. We are hurt all over. They will add but something has to come from within or we are screwed. Hutch, Ricky, Kyle someone has to emerge to win 10-12 and eat some innings. Add a B+ fa pitcher and a catcher and a 2B MAYBE A NEW MANAGER and Bobs your Uncle.
    Plan the parade

  29. I imagine the Jays offseason transactions will be a combination of both free agent signings and trades. But their FA spending will probably be dependent on what they are able to get via trade first. the D-Backs could benefit from the Jays BP depth with guys like miley, corbin, cahill or Macarthy, and they have owings who could play a good 2b with a better bat than goins. Gose for Lance Lynn might be something.

    If they could get a Lynn or Corbin via trade it would make sense to add a fifth starter through FA like johnson, Nolasco or Fieldmen

    Wouldn’t mind S. Drew at 2nd on a 2 or 3 year deal. Catcher will be the hardest position to up grade but can live with a platoon of Navarro and soto.

    In the big picture I agree with stoeten that it would be better for the organisation if they spent money on “bridge” contracts 2-3 years long to allow the jays drafts under AA become mlb ready

  30. Great read.

    I’ve been thinking this for a while now. Logically I don’t see any other move for Rogers to keep the Jays relevant and (potentially) competitive.

    I don’t think you will see a Cano, Garza or McCann deal. But going the route of the Indisns might make sense. Swooping in to grab a couple QO FAs in the Bourn/Swisher/Lohse mold with your protected pick could happen.

  31. I’m getting a kick out of Seitzer potentially become the new hitting coach. “They go way back” yeah exactly! To a losing franchise. There’s a reason they were both fired by the same losing organization. But the jays believe Gibbons and Seitzer will deliver. Hope they’re right. However the good coaches bring out the best in their players. I don’t see a track record here except for the odd exception.

  32. Do you wanna know what I think?

    Well do ya…

  33. I wouldn’t mind seeing Brandon Philips if he can be had cheaply, say for Maicer and a second round pick–word is the Reds are shopping him and his 4 year/50 million contract. I also wouldn’t mind if they gave Goins a couple months to prove himself as long as they seriously upgrade at catcher and pitcher. Standing pat is clearly not an option for the Jays this offseason and Philips has 3 or 4 good years left I think.

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