Holy shit, people.
Alex Anthopoulos is slow-playing the off-season and apparently it’s breaking brains.
Of course, not helping the increasingly poisonous situation out here among the unwashed masses is the fact that he appears to believe exactly what a whole lot of right-thinking people were saying at the end of the season: that the collection of talent he’s assembled is better than it played in 2013, and could be significantly better by simply upgrading certain positions from total dogshit to at least passable.
Better enough? I’m not sure. And obviously that’s not a sexy approach for “a 74 win team,” as you’ll not-infrequently hear bellowed at the club’s defenders from the gaping maws of negative suckholes. The number, of course, is technically correct, but that’s a pretty jaundiced slant to put on things, given that the assumption therein is that the results of 2013 weren’t thoroughly warped by injury and under-performance. Plus, while I get that nobody wants sunshine blown up their ass after watching the Red Sox win the World Series and the Yankees unload hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents, it’s not like those teams don’t have flaws of their own– the Yankees’ entire infield and back of the rotation are both pretty spotty, while Boston, as it currently stands, are relying on a trio of very-good-to-excellent prospects (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and Will Middlebrooks) to hit the ground running, which they didn’t exactly do in the big leagues in 2013 (the Sox may, however, re-sign Stephen Drew, which would mitigate their risk in that regard substantially).
Pointing out those flaws is not to suggest that Jays fans should be doing cartwheels here, but a little perspective goes a long way to keeping the nonsense in check. I tried to do that back in late August, reminding us, as it was being announced that Brandon Morrow and Melky Cabrera were getting shut down for the season, that “Morrow, Johnson, Dickey, Cabrera, Reyes, Lawrie and Izturis– seven players who accumulated 21 wins above replacement in 2012, per Baseball Reference, … this year have been worth -1.6 combined.”
It looks like I might have had a math error in there, actually, because if you remove the departed Josh Johnson from the equation it turns out that per Baseball Reference the remaining six players accumulated 21.7 WAR in 2012. The year before that the group was worth 19.9 wins.
In 2013? Just 6.4.
Sure, some could get hurt again, some may never again hit the peaks they reached in the previous two years, and obviously the team could suffer from a drop in value elsewhere– will Rasmus, Encarnacion, Buehrle and Bautista all repeat their excellent seasons?– but the point is, realistically the Jays are starting from a better spot than the “74 win team” stuff suggests. And with that sort of thing in mind, so much of the current angst– and there is a shit-tonne of it– seems maybe a little over the fucking top. And is maybe getting a little bit too insufferable.
After a certain point, at least.
Does it kinda suck to see Alex Anthopoulos have to keep holding his bullets for a pitcher while a like Omar Infante gets signed? Or a perfectly reasonable second base upgrade like Mark Ellis? Sure, it sucks a little. I mean, yeah, you’d think that hearing payroll was moving upwards and knowing that $14-million that had to at one point be earmarked for Josh Johnson is now free would maybe mean the club could do more than resting their entire off-season on the risky proposition of tamping down expectations while secretly trying desperately to get a deal done with Ubaldo, Garza, Santana, or (once he’s available) Tanaka– as it seems like they may be doing (though I still think it’s too early to say that for sure, and the fact that Alex already had a trade in place that moved out Sergio Santos to bring back a starter strongly suggests otherwise).
But the thing about how missing on Ellis and Infante maybe sucks it’s… it’s Mark Ellis and Omar Infante.
Yes, they’re both upgrades, but so is pretty much anybody, at this point. And while I’m not going to sit here and suggest that I don’t have my own angst about things like how Ben Nicholson-Smith, in his look at remaining second base options at Sportsnet, wrote today that “the Blue Jays don’t appear to be bluffing when it comes to Goins’ chances of becoming an everyday player”– because that just about ruined me– I’m not sure it needs to be as thick as it sometimes comes off.
In his morning piece at Getting Blanked today, Drew wrote that Ellis going to the Cardinals is “a clear example of success inertia. The Cardinals winning environment allows a player like Ellis to turn down the possibility of more playing time or even more money for a chance to chase a ring with a top-notch organization.” It’s a similar reason– though pitching environment is a big factor too, I’m sure– to why Gavin Floyd chose to sign with the Braves in another move that caused some angst among Jays fans, despite the fact that, y’know, it’s Gavin fucking Floyd.
Ellis I do like, but I’ll totally buy that he wasn’t coming here, except maybe for a crazy overpay. As for Infante, is the angst even justified? Consider this:
Player A: .269/.331/.372, career wRC+: 91; Player B: .279/.319/.402, career wRC+: 92; Player A’s deal: 3/10; Player B’s deal: 4/30. GO!
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) December 13, 2013
Those players are, of course, Maicer Izturis and Infante. And by the defensive metrics, before Izturis crouched down and laid a giant, steamy C.H.U.D. on the fugly Rogers Centre carpet this season, they were fairly close too– more than close enough to make you think twice about the difference between them, given the two contracts.
We can’t just pretend last year didn’t happen, of course, but it’s pretty remarkable: this time a year ago, over the previous three seasons the two were nearly identical by wRC+ (96 to 94 for Infante), and by UZR/150 at second base (6.1 to 5.3 for Infante). Looking at just WAR, Infante had been nearly twice as valuable… in nearly twice the amount of playing time. Extend the sample by two years and Izturis is actually pretty clearly the more valuable of the two.
That shouldn’t make it any less frightening that the Jays might actually go into the season hoping on a rebound, or– as Drew said on Friday’s podcast– that this off-season, of all the off-seasons in his life, is the one where Ryan Goins is going to learn to hit. But could it maybe take the edge off a bit?
Could we maybe avoid the unoriginal eye-rolling garbage when the Jays make a triple-A depth signing– as they did today, according to a tweet from Jon Morosi, picking up 28-year-old quad-A third baseman Jared Goedert (who hit better than Ryan Goins last year– and Anthony Gose for that matter)– and acting like it’s the club’s big winter splash and not exactly the same kind of move every team makes all the time?
Can we not insufferably link the club’s decision to take their Winter Tour to vital southern Ontario markets this year– as they will do, according to a press release (and this piece from Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com), hitting Oshawa, Kingston, Peterborough, London, St. Catharines, Mississauga, and Toronto– to travel budget parameters, hockey deals stealing money, and abandoning of the rest of the country?
Can we– some of us, at least (myself included when it comes to Ryan Goins, I think)– just stop being crybabies so damn much? Or pretending that the off-season ends tomorrow and Alex has already been left holding the bag? Or that it’s somehow a terrible thing that the people who see the club’s pitching prospects up close and know them best are reluctant to give them away just for the sake of making something happen?
Heaven for-fucking-bid they actually like their back-end options enough to not block them with shitty fodder from the free agent scrap heap!
I mean, there are potential outcomes still in play that are very easy not to like, for sure, but do we seriously have to act like they’ve happened already? There will be plenty of time to lose our shit if the club really does end up doing something stupid this winter.
It’s easy to get worked up, I know. Especially when certain media type pour gasoline on the moron fire, with their rushing to paint every acquisition by another team as some kind of major piece that the Jays have let slip away, or their discussions– like the one on Friday on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports– that zoom past the legitimate, obvious (read: boring) issues that sunk the 2013 Jays into bullshit about Jose Bautista’s clubhouse attitude– newsflash: highly competitive athlete less fun to be around when losing– and empower the kind of absurd, lazy notions of “analysis” that, when the layers are peeled back, essentially suggest the club is wanting for extra gooey clubhouse magic, and not, y’know, pitching and defence.
But how about– I don’t know– we try to remember how excited we were last year for essentially the same team, and think a little more about how obvious it is that the 74 wins isn’t necessarily reflective of what it’s capable of, and how much can still be done, and in small ways already has been done– both behind the plate and at second base (where, like it or not– and I do not– their current options should at least be better than the league-worst -2.1 WAR and the league worst -13.8 by the defensive component of WAR, if not the league-worst -39.6 mark on the offensive side, that Jays second basemen put up in an absolutely putrid 2013).
It’s hardly a perfect roster, and it’s not wrong to be pining for more, but it’s probably better than you think, and believe it or not, the chances are still excellent that more will be added before the off-season is said and done. So… uh… maybe relax a bit?