The Blue Jays aren’t planning on moving their core players this winter.
Those aren’t exactly the words of Alex Anthopoulos, and I’d feel better seeing a direct quote — though I probably wouldn’t look any less crooked at the word “planning” if it were — but that’s what it says, clearly and unambiguously, in Bruce Arthur’s piece from Friday morning’s Toronto Star.
People can throw up trial balloons about trading Jose Bautista while he’s still dominant or trading Mark Buehrle or Jose Reyes to shed the salaries, but that’s not the plan. The Blue Jays aren’t planning to disassemble this group, failures and all. Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are under contract for two more seasons, for a preposterous combined cost of $24 million. The consensus is Anthopoulos is safe for now, so he thinks the window stretches that long, at least.
It’s at that point in the piece that we pick up Anthopoulos, speaking — as we’ve heard before — about wanting to continue to build around his superstar, middle-of-the-order bats, and doing so beyond the end of their contracts.
That’s all well and good, but for me what doesn’t quite compute is what happens next: Arthur talks about the money, and how there essentially is nowhere to go.
We all know that story, of course, though the piece does introduce a couple interesting side notes — there’s the one about Bob Elliott’s mid-summer reporting of eight players who said Edward Rogers himself told the team money would be there if the club was in contention at the trade deadline, which of course didn’t happen, and the somewhat terrifying thought that “Rogers allowed the Marlins trade two years ago because team president Paul Beeston [noted math whiz, presumably wearing a green eyeshade] ran the numbers and told them the team wouldn’t lose money on it.” But what’s gets me is how Anthopoulos intends now to pull the magic trick he was unable to last winter or at this year’s deadline. Because he certainly is itching to do something.
“Do I think we’re close? Yes. Am I excited about this off-season, which is maybe the first time that I’ve said that? Yes I am. I’m excited,” he tells Bruce. “And maybe I’m excited about it because . . . there’s a good chance there’s going to be some turnover, and I’m excited about the core we have, and we have a blend of young and older players, and it could make for a really interesting off-season. Exciting.”
Yes, exciting. And it’s great to hear that at least the public intention is there to have some much-needed turnover at the back end of the roster. But can it be enough? Can several Kratz-and-Hendriks-for-Valencia-type deals end up consolidating a lot of this club’s dreck into the one or two (or three or four) quality pieces they’ll need?
It would be great if it could work, and I can completely envision a person like Anthopoulos champing at the bit to do his best impression of a kid baseball card collector trading doubles to try and complete his set. He might even have a couple of nice chips to be moved — J.A. Happ springs immediately to mind. But is that really a more effective strategy than, say, eating enough of Mark Buehrle’s salary to move him for a small piece and enough financial relief to ensure the team can pay Melky what they have to and still have enough to fill holes in other areas?
Maybe that’s where the word “planning” comes in. Well, we weren’t planning on doing this, but someone came along and blew our doors off, as they say.
But maybe not. Arthur points out the preposterously low amount being paid to Bautista and Encarnacion over the final two years of their contracts. By extension, their bargain basement salaries (relatively speaking) mean that, as a group, the Jays’ veteran core of Bautista, Encarnacion, Reyes, Buehrle, and Dickey will each average just $15.6-million in 2015 — not great, but hardly terrible for the 3.75 fWAR per player output the group averaged this season. And there’s also the fact that, with just $27-million committed for 2016, $22-million for 2017, and none beyond that, the Jays may be able to be players for Melky regardless of this year’s likely financial crunch by offering him a backloaded deal.
And, as should always be noted when discussing these matters, we also need to remember that Anthopoulos may have something of an agenda here, too — or at the very least a keen awareness of the power of his words. He’s certainly not going to tell the fans and tell his fellow general managers that he’s going to try to trade away his key guys. He’s not going to run down his players’ value by admitting certain guys aren’t worth being in the plans at their salaries.
But my sense is he really is just being honest — at least on the stuff that doesn’t reflect one way or the other on his bosses — and that’s Bruce’s too. “Maybe Anthopoulos has no choice but to be upbeat, but he’s never been a liar,” he writes.
If that means Bautista and Encarnacion are coming back, terrific. But beyond that… well… cling tight to your righteous indignation, children, because we may be in “for an interesting off-season. Exciting.”