Alex Anthopoulos has already pulled an impressive trick this winter, I think. His passivity on the player acquisition market maybe shouldn’t have been as stunning as we’ve made it– this is, after all, a GM who, we once lamented, spent an entire calendar year on the job while adding only seven non-relievers from outside the organization to his big league roster: J.A. Happ, Aaron Laffey, Jesse Chavez, Jeff Mathis, Ben Francisco, Yorvit Torrealba and Omar Vizquel– but beyond those sorts of fans who are going to bleat out horseshit regardless, just for the sake of hearing their own entitled, know-nothing voices, there seems to be an odd serenity he’s created.
The consternation and anger that welled up in the weeks following our pretending that the fucking Red Sox didn’t win the World Series seems to have abated, though certainly not in the way that last winter Anthopoulos re-energized the fan base with his splashy moves and ability to get Rogers to make gigantic financial commitments.
Our old friend the Tao of Stieb thinks that it’s apathy, but I’m not so sure. And if it is, what this book presupposes is, maybe it shouldn’t be.
Admittedly, things would be different if the top end of the pitching market had budged yet, but apart from the Tigers’ bizarre and disappointing move of Doug Fister, it really hasn’t. That leaves lots of room for Jays fans to fantasize about the club landing one of the remaining big targets, and while the worry in this city is always there that such daydreams are mostly built on total delusion, as I wrote last week, there remains plenty of reason to think that the Jays won’t stand pat.
In that piece I focussed on how the club ought to be able to make the money work, and how badly it is to their advantage to make a play now for a free agent. In essence: for all the words Alex Anthopoulos has spilled about not creating roster holes by dealing key big league pieces in order to fix positions elsewhere on the diamond, by shipping away what little upper-end pitching prospect depth he has (especially the ones with front-line potential, like Sanchez and Stroman) he’d simply be setting up similar holes on future rosters, which will likely have to be filled in expensively via the market anyway. So why not just spend now and keep the prospects?
Waiting out the market with that sort of a pursuit in mind wasn’t necessarily the only course of action the Jays could have taken this winter– we know this for a fact thanks to a rumour that arose during the Winter Meetings, suggesting a deal had fallen apart earlier in the winter, which would have moved Sergio Santos (and presumably more) in exchange for a starter– but it makes sense why the club may be stridently following such a path now. Not only would it enable them– as I argued in last week’s piece– to save their prospect capital, and mitigate potential future rotation woes, but precedent suggests that the longer they wait the more the prices for the free agents they covet may come down.
This year’s market may buck that trend, as it’s so late-developing due to the Masahiro Tanaka situation, but the advantages for the Jays are still adding up: many teams have already spent themselves out of the picture or filled their rotation through other means; many won’t touch guys who’ll cost them a draft pick, or already have and won’t want to blow their 2014 draft any further; and while it’s hardly a buyer’s market, Rakuten finally making the decision to post Tanaka has brightened the picture by adding to the available supply of top-end arms in a huge way.
It’s hardly a certainty that the club will be able to find a quality starter who’ll take their money, however. And it is perhaps with that in mind that the club has been subject to such paralysis when it comes to addressing their other areas of need. Maybe I’m being too hopeful and too quick to construct a narrative that conflicts with some of the things Alex Anthopoulos has openly said this winter– and, as with his stated preference for the trade market, that he has demonstrated time and again in the past that he truly thinks– but I tend to believe that he is actually intentionally holding all of his bullets. He’s holding money to make sure he has room in his budget to fit the free agent he’s aiming to go after, and he’s holding prospects (which could be used to make upgrades elsewhere– most glaringly at second base) to make sure he doesn’t deal away anything that could be used to net a top arm on the trade market, just in case he misses out.
The concept works in one sense because it insulates him better against missing on the kind of difference-making pitcher he so badly needs.
It works in another, though, because as desperately as it seems like he needs to make an addition, Anthopoulos can take the posture that he can stand pat a lot more confidently than I suspect a lot of fans realize. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he really did believe he could get away with doing nothing.