I’ve weathered many years of being called an apologist for arguing in the past that it was understandable when the Jays didn’t go after significant — or, frankly, any – free agents because of the hard lessons learned at the end of J.P. Ricciardi’s tenure, when ownership began to balk at the notion of throwing good money after bad. The absurdity of the posture, given that Rogers could buy the whole of Major League Baseball and still not bankrupt the fucking company, was immaterial; that’s the way they operate. So, with that in mind, the fear of Alex Anthopoulos having followed his predecessor down that same futile path after last season’s huge rise in spending has become increasingly palpable over this long, dim winter.
That the Jays didn’t land Masahiro Tanaka today makes it all the more so. But, of course, the winter isn’t over yet, and the Jays still have time to stop hiding behind narrow talk about value and nonsense about contract length. It would be premature of us to go rant and rave about this, our heads full of fear for what might be happening behind the scenes at Rogers with respect to payroll. But… uh… probably going to do that anyway.
It would be especially off-base if we did so, as fans sometimes have the tendency to do, forgetting that everyone operates under some conception of which costs are palatable, relative to valuation — even the Yankees, who walked away from Robinson Cano and last year from Russell Martin, and the Dodgers, who failed to make good on their reported bluster about not being outbid on Tanaka.
It’s not unfair that Alex Anthopoulos says that he values players only to a certain point. I’d say, then, that what’s frustrating is how often it seems that where he’s willing to go in an offer to a player falls short, but actually that may just be selective memory on my part and the part of other fans. For example, he overpaid, and fended off other suitors, in landing R.A. Dickey last winter, and it’s a safe bet he was the first to blink and offer an extra year to get a deal done with Maicer Izturis, and possibly did the same with Melky Cabrera as well. Ironically, those three deals are likely as reviled as any Anthopoulos has made, by the exact same sorts of people who today are aghast that the club didn’t explode the doors off the barn and go all-in on Tanaka.
The reality is, it’s easier for the Yankees or the Dodgers to blow past their valuations on top end players like Tanaka, because they have the willingness — not the resources, because just about every teams has those — to spend the money, and the understanding that more money will be there to be spent when they need another piece, or, inevitably, one of their big money deals goes terribly bad.
The Jays insist that they have the resources — Alex Anthopoulos was on the radio last week saying that there were deals he could have had done that night, if he thought the value was there — but so far they’re not showing the willingness.