It was revealed prior to the All-Star break by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet that the Jays never actually made a formal contract offer last winter to Carlos Beltran, who is enjoying a great season for the St. Louis Cardinals– news that was greeted in some quarters as yet another affront to the good faith of the club’s fans, who only want to see quality Major League players brought into the team, regardless of cost.
It wasn’t, of course. Beltran’s unwillingness to go to an American League club that primarily, or even as a part-time solution, saw him as a DH, rendered the Jays’ interest moot– and the fact that a formal contract was never drawn up doesn’t mean in the slightest that Beltran, or his representatives, didn’t understand where the Jays were willing to go with him. Nor does it mean– to my mind, at least– that we ought to think twice about giving the club credit for having interest or being willing to spend.
What it does illustrate, however, is one of the main problems the Jays have when it comes to acquiring players on the free agent market. As a team still not yet at the level of serious contender, players may not be as willingly shoehorned into the Jays’ lineup as they would be with the Yankees or the Red Sox, for example, and– just in case you didn’t already realize– the club also faces issues regarding playing in Canada, playing on turf, playing in an outdated, too-often-empty stadium, and constantly looking upwards at the best teams in the toughest division in baseball.
Sure, they could overpay to overcome some of these obstacles– though there seems to be a trend among players away from signing with whoever bids $1 more than the next guy– but on principle the Jays don’t, and as much as certain types of fans love to slay them for it, it’s not difficult at all to see why, as overseers of a business with their eyes on long-term success, they hold so tightly to their valuations.
When it comes to trades, however, the rules of the game change significantly. Except for the few with no-trade clauses, players have little-to-no say in where they end up, and are acquired in exchange for a kind of capital that the Jays have in abundance. The need to add dollars to compensate for Canadian tax rates or to keep a player from choosing the Yankees does not exist; the Jays simply have to make the best offer to the club that’s looking to deal.
Trades are essentially straight-up auctions, with few extenuating circumstances in play– though intra-division deals are still exceedingly rare. They’re not unlike last winter’s Yu Darvish situation, which, I kinda seem to recall, appeared so favourable to a team in the Jays’ position that one or two people around here may have gotten a little worked up about the possibility.
Of course, the Jays had plenty of prospect capital to use on the trade market last winter, too, and failed to make a deal for starting pitching. Those failures, along with the failure to splash cash on Darvish, has made a lot of fans insufferably negative in their speculation about the club’s intentions– and especially insufferable when they try to extrapolate from last year’s non-dealings what they expect will happen in the future. Some people just can’t process failure without raging out against whatever ghosts swim closest to their grasp, I suppose, but fortunately for them and their fragile ability to comprehend long-term thinking, 2012 looks very much like the year when things are going to be different.
It’s certainly the year when things should be different.
Read the rest of this entry »