This, I think, despite it’s unseemly J.P. Ricciardi-ishness, is actually a good thing– despite what Bob Elliott will try to suggest to you through the power of all-caps in his latest for the Toronto Sun. In that piece, after dropping the Colby Rasmus rumour that I addressed in the previous post here, he tells us, rather sarcastically, that “in other news” the Jays are “one year into a five-year window.”
He goes on:
Somehow, we remember from last December general manager Alex Anthopoulos saying the trades gave the Jays a chance to win the next three years.
“I said three-to-five years,” said Anthopoulos during his daily briefing.
Indeed, we’ve all been using the three-year bit of it, but AA’s right! Ken Davidoff of the New York Post certainly added the “five year” bit in a piece back in January, and Elliott suggests there are other instances, as well. And that’s a great thing!
Why, you ask? Because even though Elliott says that “the Jays HAVE to contend next season” (see what I mean), they really don’t. I mean they should, and a lot of jobs would be in jeopardy if they didn’t, and we obviously all want them to, but “have” is a bit of a strong word, and “HAVE” is plainly ludicrous. Like… what would happen? Pestilence???
Fortunately for all of us– though he may feel more desperation than he lets on in his posturing– Alex Anthopoulos quite obviously gets this. Elliott explains:
The new news about this new, five-year window came when Anthopoulos was asked since the 2014 season is of more importance compared to last year or any other year, why he would not trade prospects for immediate help?
“It depends, I don’t look at it that way, if that was the case we would trade everybody (prospects),” Anthopoulos told reporters. “You have to balance the short terms vs. the long term.”
This is who you want running your team, folks– provided, that is, that you don’t have an Ilitch or a Steinbrenner at the top. Certainly not media guys egging on the braying moron set into championing causes against their own interests– which, it turns out, papers like the Sun are kinda good at.
Flags fly forever, I know, but even last year’s “all in” wasn’t really all in– I mean Aaron Sanchez is still here, isn’t he?– because there needs to be balance, and that the GM appears to have it– in the face of pressure that might make a person in his position behave a bit recklessly– sounds like a tremendous thing to me. Unless, of course, you’re getting Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, in which case you just give up all of the prospects.
Moving on, Elliott’s piece also addresses the issue of The Policy– the Jays’ supposed limitation on free agent contract length. Ben Nicholson-Smith looked at it earlier in the evening for Sportsnet, as well.
Elliott takes the too-easy path, explaining somewhat sardonically that “the Jays are playing with a 55-yard field (or 50 if it’s the NFL) in that they won’t go longer than a five-year contract on free agents, thereby eliminating their chances for big-name free agents demanding eight- and 10-year deals.”
He is, of course, missing the entire point of what Anthopoulos said about it today. Benny Fresh gets straight to the nut: “Alex Anthopoulos has some wiggle room,” he says. “The Toronto Blue Jays general manager would prefer not to sign players to contracts of more than five years, he has the flexibility to do so.”
Speaking in general terms, Anthopoulos made it clear that he doesn’t want to exclude the Blue Jays from the bidding for players simply because of a team policy that limits contracts to five years.
“There’s no question that if you limit yourself, there’s just some guys that aren’t going to be available to you,” Anthopoulos said. “You can’t deny that. But I think if you look at all of the examples, in the long run you’re probably going to be better off.”
That last bit speaks to exactly what I’ve been trying to say about this issue. The Jays don’t see the value in going that long on a deal. It’s not necessarily that they won’t if they did, and Anthopoulos essentially admits as much by acknowledging the wiggle room– even leaving the door open ever-so-slightly for going beyond six years, saying simply, “I don’t see that occurring,” rather than something more emphatic.
Later, Ben tells us that “Anthopoulos acknowledged that the Blue Jays had at least one conversation about offering a player a six-year term last winter,” which ought to be enough to shatter the illusion right there.
The converse of that comes in the next sentence, though, where we’re told that Anthopoulos “also noted that one former Blue Jays target indicated that he’d sign in Toronto for five years and a higher average annual value before landing a longer-term deal elsewhere.”
Shit, so am I wrong? Did the policy really take a free agent out of the team’s hands???
No, because a higher average annual value doesn’t mean a whole lot if there’s a big disparity in years.
Think about it this way: say this was Prince Fielder and the Jays’ offer was $30-million per year for five, while the Tigers ended up getting him at a shade under $24-million per over nine. Was the Jays problem here that they limited themselves to an arbitrary term, or was it the fact that they were only going to guarantee the player $150-million over the life of the deal as compared to the $214-million he received?
Gregor Chisholm writes about it for BlueJays.com, quoting Anthopoulos as he explains that “If we’re going to go seven times 10, or go five times 14, it balances out at the end of the day.”
It sure does, just not for the player.
Think about it: if being offered the exact same amount of money, but being given the choice of reaching free agency again in five years or in seven years, or ten years, what player in his right mind isn’t going to take the five and give himself the best chance possible to re-enter the market before his skills erode so he can cash in once again?
It makes no sense whatsoever that the Jays would be losing out on these kinds of deals because of term. If they’re losing out, it’s because they’re not willing to offer as much total money. Period.
Or… not exactly period– they could also lose out if the dollars are close and the player prefers the other destination, or a cost-of-living adjustment factors in– but pretty damned close to period.
I understand why they do it, though. It’s very obviously effective to let people distract themselves by getting wrapped up in quibbles about The Policy, and I don’t doubt that they really do prefer to limit the deals they sign to five years or less. But to talk about it like they’re blindly, stupidly cutting themselves off at the knees with a completely unnecessary and unbending policy instituted to save themselves from themselves is just ridiculous. It’s a way to get around constantly having to answer questions about big-time free agents with, “We can’t or won’t spend the kind of money necessary to land that guy.”
It’s really, really, really, really simple.