There is zero excuse for the Blue Jays to not sign a free agent pitcher this winter. None. Not when their position is so advantageous when it comes to the guys with draft pick compensation. Not when cheap jack Baltimore feels a contract is worth giving up the 17th overall pick — and associated pool money — for, but the Jays won’t give up pick 49.
I don’t even necessarily love the contract the Orioles will give to Ubaldo Jimenez — assuming he passes his physical — or the idea of locking him up for four years. I also don’t think it’s nearly as far fetched as many fans do that Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond, Kyle Drabek, and whoever else may end up filling out the rotation can be very good for this club. There is a tendency to forget just how very pedestrian relied-upon AL East pitchers like Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster, Jason Hammel, Scott Feldman, Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Jeremy Hellickson, and Roberto Hernandez have been while in the rotations of very successful teams. All of them — save Feldman (15), Norris (9), and Phelps (12) — made at least 23 AL starts last year. And all of them failed to generate one full -win of value, according to Baseball Reference.
But we all understand that a club has a better chance to make it through the grind of a season with more, better options in the rotation. We all know how vital it is for a team to accumulate quality assets, even in areas of depth, and the possibilities that opens up.
The Jays could still “line up on value” — as Alex Anthopoulos is fond of saying — with Ervin Santana, but he is now their final hope to turn the 49th pick in next year’s draft into a tremendous win-now market advantage, and teams like the Mariners are reportedly lurking. To piss the opportunity away and expect us to open wide and swallow shovel-fulls of P.R. tripe is an affront to a fan base so beaten down by years of mediocrity that the only bar they ask their club to hurdle is that they at least just fucking try.
It would be premature, and I’d be too taken by inchoate rage right now if I wagged my finger about the club coming to regret yet another hammer blow to consumer confidence, or tried to conjure a grim financial future for the club coming out of this possibility. The fans aren’t going to disappear, the TV numbers will be strong until the club fades, and if they manage to be competitive, all will be forgotten. Not much will change for the failure to land one of these truly unsexy pitching names, but that almost would make it worse. I mean, isn’t it preferable to be lovable losers who at least try than to be losers who can just kind of go fuck themselves? Soulless, corporatist, bottom-line worshipping scum of the earth, searching with no dignity for value in the narrowest possible terms?
The world is full of that kind of stuff at every turn, of course, and to keep our sanity we all try our best to work out livable compromises with the behemoth, but when it repeatedly punches our guts in one of the few places we fans turn to for escape, it’s hard not to get awfully bitter about the experience. You’re playing in the fourth largest city in North America, in an un-capped league, in a sport where TV rights deals are worth many multiple billions, and this is really all you can give us? Indifference to your product or any connection with our psyches beyond piddly, bush league marketing and game ops, and the patronizing admonishment that we should be happy you at least tried last year?
That’s a lot to put on the failure to sign one of two pitchers who each could quite reasonably be fairly crappy, but to me that’s what it would signal, and some days I have less confidence than others in any of the inept, manipulative handlers of this organization to identify, let alone care enough to reverse the rot.
Granted, for all our eye rolling about value for value’s sake, the Anthopouloses of the world are right that it’s dangerous to let such big picture considerations matter so much when it comes to roster construction, but they do matter.
Again, though, it’s too soon to say any of this. The signing of Ervin Santana could still come along and erase this potential narrative. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t — worries about payroll parameters or the Canadian dollar remain reasonable yet entirely unfounded at this stage — but if it doesn’t, I can’t help but think that the club will again show to have been blind to its own failures of messaging. Whatever downsides would come with blaming stingy ownership or a sinking dollar seem trivial, to me, compared to the disgust, disappointment, and, worse, the apathy that will come from the insistence that they needn’t do anything, and that they trust their young arms so much more than Baltimore does their own, much better prospect, Kevin Gausman.
That sort of moment, should we run headlong into it in the next week, will fade into memory like they all do, I know. Surely the club will weather it like they always do. But for fuck sakes, here we are again, like November 2012 never happened. And how many of these moments — even just these potential moments — must we endure? It’s not a whole lot of fun leaving so much emotional investment to the mercy and whims of humourless corporate shitheels, even when there’s still a chance they might do right by it. Anthopoulos, for all his good intentions, sometimes seems as powerless as we are, and with payroll supposedly so inextricably linked with the revenue the club can generate, I fear that maybe this time the diminishing returns on selling false hope will genuinely start to be felt if this is the path they choose to take.
I mean… who needs this?